Summer 2011: Newsletter #4

Greetings once again from Lower Baker, where we’re entering the second full day of 2011.2. Yesterday morning saw occupations getting quickly out of the blocks, and the afternoon re-started the trip program with a four-mile walk on the Appalachian Trail for some full season veterans, augmented by new arrivals Nathan Tempro, Will Jones, and Grady Nance.

Lower 1 and Senior 1 paddled across the lake for supper, while Matt Turner and Junior 5 found their way up to the Pemi Hill Shelter for the night. Today, as the heat wave that has been baking the Midwest slogs into our neighborhood, Lowers 4 and 6 will be dining al fresco, but I think we may cancel all Pemi Hill-ton reservations for the night. The prospect of successfully stalking Morpheus in a snug sleeping bag in these temperatures is daunting. The heat, though, won’t stop Andy Bale and Dan Reed from taking an avid group of nature photographers to scenic Franconia Notch to capture the beauty of The Basin and Flume on their (What is it now?) memory cards. We’re off to a good start.

Let’s devote the rest of this letter, though, to some special events in the closing days of the first session. 2011.1 boasted an excellent 3 ½ weeks, and it finished off in a blaze of engaging and sometimes innovative activity. We hear first from correspondent Dwight Dunston on two signal activities.

On Thursday, July 14th, the entire Senior division went along with Reed Harrigan, one of the Pemi’s professional drivers, to Campton, NH, where we lent our services for the afternoon to the Campton Historical Society and to the Campton community. The CHS is a non-profit organization geared towards protecting the town’s heritage by obtaining and maintaining artifacts and documents and making these items available to the public. The group was split in two and tackled three jobs on the day. The first group, of which I was a part, worked at the Campton Town House to help prepare a flagpole for painting, sanding it down and removing all of the rust that had accumulated over the years. We also dug a fire pit that will be used to cook and store beans for the upcoming Home Day, a town-wide event featuring various engaging activities for the 3,000 residents of Campton.

Down the road from the Town House, a number of other campers went with Reed and Senior 3 counselor Alex Reese to help clear an area of the town that was once used as a collection point [“pound”] for lost sheep and other animals but that had become a bit overgrown of late. The group of about 16 boys did in 90 minutes what would have taken two people a full day’s work, and their effort contributed substantially to the task of beautifying this charming mountain town.

Although we missed rest hour for the day, it was wonderful to see the boys enjoying each other’s company while working towards completing a worthy goal for the day. Seeing how happy we made the people at the Campton Hostorical Society was a huge added bonus. Great work, boys, and what a way to have a positive attitude and impact on the community around us!

Amen! And now Dwight again, on a more purely recreational topic.

Thursday evening, forty-four members of the Week 3 comedy improv occupation gathered together to perform in front of the rest of the Pemi community in the 2011 Comedy Olympics. After participants split into two teams, blue and white, the comedy athletes played a host of improvisation games that kept the crowd roaring with laughter for a little over an hour. The blue team was captained by Senior Dan Fulham, while the white team was led by Senior Thompson Bain, and all of the campers came equipped with wonderful imaginations and well-stretched funny bones to entertain the crowd. Sean Denson, Jeremy Keys, and Dwight Dunston officiated the event, giving the audience a quick introduction to each game that was played. They even lent their own improvisation skills at times. In the end, the evening proved to be fun for both the athletes and the observers, and we hope to have a similar event during the second half. Great job everyone!

Friday saw Pemi’s annual visit to Camp Robin Hood for their storied multi-camp archery tournament. Coach Carlos Yeung – who in fact resides not far from Sherwood Forest – escorted a dozen stalwart long-bowmen close to the Maine border, where they acquitted themselves extremely well. While the overall results are not yet in, we were impressed that the 15s finished with a total of 1294 points out of a possible 1800 and the 12s with 1057 out of 1800. Top archers in each division were Nathaniel Kaplan (with a sizzling 262/300), James Richarsdon (228/300) and Luke Mawell (220/300) for the 15s; and Max Crummy (191/300), Dylan Cheng (187/300), and Kai Soderberg (182/300) for the 12s. As far as we’ve been able to determine, no apples were involved in anything other than a digestive role.

Saturday we were visited by roughly thirty-five families of full-season campers, who enjoyed a near-perfect couple of White Mountain days re-connecting with their sons, watching some spirited athletic competitions with Camp Moosilauke (we went 5 and 5 in the results department), patronizing some local eateries (including the ever-popular Fat Bob’s ice-cream emporium), and enjoying a lively and entertaining campfire. Sunday, for the first time ever, we asked the Seniors to organize a camp-wide activity for the hour when the parents said their good-byes. The thinking was to re-engage all visitees quickly and robustly in the camp program, and by all odds the ploy worked wonderfully, thanks to the commitment and energy of our oldest campers. Strikingly dubbed “SuperAwesomeDay DAY,” the event bore a vague resemblance to Pemi Week’s traditional Games Day, but as you’ll see, it bore eloquent testimony to the whimsy and imagination of our 14s and 15s. Here’s a rough outline of the events, as framed by the promoters. Ask you sons for details.

Frozen shirt race: James Richardson distributing shirts, Carl Pohlman blowing the whistle as Official Starter, Harry Cooke tabulating results. Materials: Frozen t-shirts (preferably short sleeve cotton with the owner’s name in it). Goals: The whole team will work together to unwrinkle a frozen t-shirt and put it on a team member. The first team to do so wins.

Sentence relay: Run by Sompy Somp and Zach Popkin. Materials: Markers, paper, space, clipboards x5. Goals: Each member of the team will run one by one with a marker out to a distant piece of paper. They will each write only one word on the paper in order to write a complete sentence. Speed, sentence completeness/grammar, and humor are rewarded.

Apple fork: [Not actually conducted through a wise judgment call by staff on implicit risk of mayhem, but worth mentioning as an example of the innovative thinking involved in the whole endeavor.] Materials: Apples, forks x (a lot). Goals: One member of the team will toss an apple to another member of the team. The receiving person is holding a fork and attempts to catch the apple by spearing it with the utensil. Each team gets 3 attempts to fill the apple with as many forks as possible. One attempt ends when the apple is not caught with the fork. Apples will probably become progressively more mangled as each turn goes on. Complete this one cabin at a time to minimize the need for forks and maximize the time it takes. [As we said, this contest was sensibly scrubbed – but we absolutely love the realistic assessment of the apple’s chances of surviving! Better chance with Robin Hood!]

n+1 legged race: Run by Carl Pohlman, Nick Pennebacker, and Nathaniel Kaplan. Materials: Rope, n people. Goals: Tie one leg of each individual together. Have them race against the clock through a course. [Made a traditional three-legged race look like Nureyev and Fonteyn in their most refined pas de deux!]

Group knot: Run by a gaggle of semi-sadistic adolescents. Materials: People. Goals: Have the team stand in a circle. Have each person hold the hands of somebody not standing next to them. Without breaking any handholds, have the teams untie the knot they’ve created. It always works! [Confidence is everything!]

Frisbee Toss: Run by a gaggle of hip and laid-back adolescents. Materials: Frisbees, trash barrels. Goals: Each individual from the cabin will attempt to throw frisbees into a trash barrel from different distances. Rate of success will be the criterion for victory. [NB – we encourage the boys to do the same thing with their trash.]

As with any innovative activity, there was a learning curve involved; and when we do it again, there may be some refinements. But for sheer inventiveness and public-spirit, the event was truly commendable and we expect to see a semblance of  SuperAwesomeDay Day come Visiting Week-end II, in August.

Sunday evening, as Division Heads Ted McChesney and Henry Eisenhart fired up the grills for the Sunday cook-out, Ryan Fauver gathered the Silver Cornet Band on the porch of the mess hall for the closest thing Pemi has to the Proms. As the boys lined up for their marinated chicken breasts and hot dogs, potato salad, etc., Ryan led his charges in forty-five minutes of compelling tunes. Jackson Smith reprised their slick solos from the Fourth of July vaudeville on alto sax and French horn – Jackson in John Coltrane’s “Blue Trane” and Miles in Robert Grabill Jr.’s Pemi-scribed “Wear Your Pemi Blues.” New to the musical spotlight, though, was Jivan Khakee on clarinet, rocking Grabill’s “Work It Out.” We doubt there are many other camps where, in a setting this beautiful with Mt. Carr glowing distantly in the setting sunlight, a full jazz band regales diners with American and home-grown classics alike.

Speaking of regaling, Ian Axness stepped to the front of the Lodge for that evening’s meeting, basically entitled “How I Stopped Being Bored by Slow Movements and Learned to Love Adagios.” Surely some of the folks in the room were already classical music fans. But for those whose tastes run to Coldplay and Adele more that Chopin and Albinoni, to have Ian admit that he had once been impatient with slow movements but then matured into loving them may have provided to many of us just the prod they needed to give the classics another listen – a good listen. Playing excerpts from Haydn’s Surprise Symphony and a handful of Beethoven sonatas, Ian parsed the slow movements, suggesting the images and connecting narratives one might hear in them. “The Moonlight Sonata,” for example, evolved almost Fantasia-like into the prospect of a moonlit lake with tiny waves lapping on the shore while a pair of owls hooted in response to one another, each sound represented by something insistent in the music itself. We’ve sat through any number of musical presentations on Sunday nights, and none have surpassed Ian’s in candor, imagination, or instructiveness. When the program closed with Ian at keyboard and Larry Davis on flute playing the adagio from Khachaturian’s Spartacus, visions of the weary warrior dreaming of his past exploits in a slow-motion dream surely danced in the heads of many.

Monday’s most festive event was our annual Birthday Banquet, replete with roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and all the rest of the fixin’s – Thanksgiving in July. As the title suggests, the meal affords us not only the chance to put a culinary capstone on the first session but also to honor all of those Pemi citizens whose birthdays fall while they are with us. Everyone gets a Pemi cheer on their actual birthday, but at the banquet all are celebrated with a decorative poster bearing their name hiung high in the rafters (Thanks for those to Deb Pannell) and a birthday limerick custom scribed by Ian Axness or Peter Siegenthaler. The latter were especially entertaining in 2011, and we offer the following Siegenthaler creation as an example.

One thing I share with Alan Garcia:

Without glasses, we hardly can see ya.

It works out in the end,

My bespectacled friend:

The girls love you and guys want to be ya!

Word! (as people younger than we seem to say for some reason.)

Finally, an account of Monday’s multi-camp track meet. Once again, the information comes from the thumb-drive of Dwight Dunston.

On Monday, July 18th, fifty-eight track and field athletes loaded up in the Pemi van and bus and traveled an hour away to our rival sports camp, Camp Tecumseh, to take part in the annual Jim Gibbons Track Meet. The team was a bit short-handed in the Senior division, as 10 full-season seniors were away on the always anticipated Allagash Canoeing trip [on which more next week], but the Seniors present represented their age group well. Carl Pohlman, Sparky Brown, and Nick Pennebacker ran a very impressive 440yd race for the 14yr-olds, pacing the field before making a late charge to secure a 1, 2, 3, victory. Pohlman then took a quick break, hydrated, and hit the track again for the 880, once again coming in first. He also placed in the top 3 in long jump and high jump.

In the 15yr-old age group, Zach Popkin, James Richardson, and Alberto San Roman were the only representatives, and each had to double up on field and track events in order to make sure that Pemi had a chance to score some points. Popkin placed in the top 3 in the long jump, and Daniel Reiff, age 14, stepped up to compete with the 15’s in the shotput and put forth a valiant effort.

For the 13’s, Nick Bertrand and Ben Chaimberg took turns dominating both the track and field events as Bertrand placed 2nd in high jump, and Chaimberg placed first in the long jump. Both boys medaled on the track with Chaimberg winning the 60m dash and Bertrand coming in among the top three in the 440. Nick Schiciano also ran in the 440 and placed in the top five. Ned Roosevelt was a presence in the shotput arena, placing in the top five on the day.

In the 12’s division, highlights include Thomas Bono’s first place finish in the 60-yard dash, Jamie Nicholas and Ben Williams taking first and second respectively in the 880, and a 4×200 relay team consisting of Charlie Scott, Jamie Nicholas and both Leo and Chris Schmitz. The relayers were unable to beat a strong Tecumseh team, but still took second. In the long jump, Thomas Bono once again struck gold while Jamie Nicholas claimed second. In the shotput, Bill O’Leary won by a margin of eight inches.

In the 11’s division, highlights include Patterson Malcolm’s 2nd place finish in the 440-yard dash followed by his 3rd place finish in he 880-yard dash.  Dylan Cheng had an excellent day as well, taking 3rd place in the 440 and anchoring the 2nd place relay of Patterson Malcolm, Nick Todalagi, Sam Berman and Dylan Cheng.  Sam Berman also had a 2nd place finish in the 60-yard dash

Finally, for the 10’s, Diego Periel led the way with a phenomenal showing in the shot put, taking away 1st place with a throw of 24 feet, which was a foot further than the second place finisher.  Jack Elvekrog threw 22 feet to come in 3rd place for the shot put.  In long jump, Ben Burnham led the way with a 3rd place finish.  The 10’s relay of Andrew Kanovsky, Ben Burnham, Robbie McDonough, and Jakey Cronin had an excellent run as well, taking 2nd place honors.

Great job Pemi Track and Field!

We could go on with an account of session’s-end awards in the Lodge, or the hilarious final Bean Soup of the stanza, or Charlie’s Malcolm’s useful but equally hilarious talk about how to pack for departure in a way that doesn’t destroy the planet, or some allusion to the group of ten Seniors navigating the Allagash Waterway in Maine, or the Lowers treading another crucial section of the Appalachian Trail between Zealand Falls Hut and Crawford Notch – but let’s instead draw this epistle to a close with a simple nod to a session well-finished. Parents of both full- and first-session campers can look to receive reports from their boys’ counselors within a week or so.  Everyone else can look forward next week to a rich and informative  missive from Assistant Director and Program Head Kenny Moore on occupations. Until then, relish those adagios!

— Tom and Danny

Summer 2011: Newsletter #3

We are currently enjoying one of the most spectacular  days of the summer – cloudless blue skies without a trace of humidity, mercury in the mid seventies, and a mild zephyr whisking down the pond with just enough gusto to raise four-inch wavelets. Perfect weather for being anything other than a duck.  In extolling today’s conditions, I suppose we’re running the risk of suggesting the other weather we’ve encountered hasn’t been particularly good. Au contraire! If every first session were blessed with the days we’ve been having, we’d count ourselves very lucky indeed. If the ratio of sunscreen applied to firewood consumed is an indication of a great year, 2011 is truly a great one.

Lots has been happening the past week, as some of you have no doubt been informed by your boys. Last weekend saw a very successful day of athletics with Camp Kingswood, our friends and rivals just over the hill. We fared very well in the Win-Loss columns, but more importantly everyone who chose to compete did so with heart and commitment, and they displayed the kind of sportsmanship that we extol and treasure. Occupations continue to be inventive and remarkably varied (more on this from Program Head Kenny Moore in two weeks). Rehearsals for this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Mikado, are beginning to promise some truly stellar performances come August. And the trip program is running flat out. Today, we have Lowers 5 and 7 up Mt. Cube for a day hike, Upper 1 continuing a four-day that began at Greenleaf Hut and is continuing over Garfield and the Twins, Upper 2 crossing the Franconia Range after spending the night themselves at Greenleaf, a group of Lowers wrapping up a three-day on Mt. Potash, Junior Tent and Senior 2 heading off across the lake by canoe this evening for some sylvan dining, and Junior 4 hiking up to the Pemi shelter for the night. As for our bid to traverse the whole of the Appalachian Trail within New Hampshire, by week’s end nearly 100 walkers will have logged roughly 100 miles of the 189 we’re aiming for. Several boys have over twenty miles under their belts (boots?), with Pierce Haley holding on to a slight lead over Crawford Jones. All very exciting.

The bulk of this newsletter, though, will cover two topics, one of them treating a broad component of the program, the other something relatively minor. We’re extremely proud of the both, however, and expect that you’ll appreciate hearing a little more.

First, a survey of the Music Program at Pemi, coming from its very heart and soul, Ian Axness, whom we’ve been lucky enough to have at the piano and podium for five years now.

Greetings, listeners and music-makers!  The first half of Pemi 2011 has already yielded a tremendous creative output from all sides of the visual and performing arts, and music is no exception.  We may not have the knitted hats or 8×10 prints or Adirondack chairs to prove it, but the harmonies drifting out over Lower Baker Pond have been top-notch.  Vocal rehearsals for The Mikado, this summer’s Gilbert & Sullivan production, are in full swing, and dozens of campers have already participated in music occupations, including Silver Cornet Band, A Cappella, and Soundpainting, a method of instrumental improvisation.  (Think sign language mixed with orchestral conducting, with a splash of free jazz.)  The A Cappella group has flourished under the direction of Zach Barnard and Dorin Dehls, and they performed a fantastic new arrangement of Doc Reed’s “Clam Shell Song” at Vaudeville, to the delight of all. Some boys— and even some counselors— decide to start learning piano at Pemi, and they may very well be playing Mozart or Coldplay or “Don’t Stop Believing” by the end of the summer.  In short, Pemi’s climate of musical enthusiasm and curiosity is alive and well.

At the most recent Saturday campfire, the Pemi community heard a poignant Modest Mouse cover from senior Dan Fulham and an original song by counselor (and M.A. candidate in poetry) Dwight Dunston, in addition to the latest ditty from the A Cappella group.  Counselor and Bean Soup editor Peter Siegenthaler also performed a song on guitar, accompanied by Bridgid Ruf on viola, and junior Eli Brennan led a rousing sing-along of Mess Hall favorite “Are You From Wooster?”  Counselors Sean Munck and Henry Eisenhart rounded out the music for the evening with instrumental solos on guitar and tenor saxophone, respectively.  The variety and quality of music at the campfire circle never fails to astound and inspire.  And speaking of astounding and inspiring, last Monday’s Bean Soup featured one of the best song rewrites in recent memory: “Teach Me How to Dottie,” re-written by Jeremy Keys and Dwight Dunston.  The accompanying dance moves will undoubtedly be remembered in Junior Camp for weeks to come.

As for my own playing, I can’t decide which venue I prefer: the Mess Hall (accompanying college fight songs and Pemi originals, sung with abandon by the entire camp) or Sunday Meeting (classical music, usually Beethoven, to ease the masses towards contemplation).  Fortunately, both are equally important in keeping alive the musical spirit of Pemi.

I can think of few spaces dearer to my musical soul than the main dining room of the Pemi Mess Hall.  My knowledge of the connections between music and health is limited, but I can say without a doubt that spirits (and, certainly, vocal cords) are strengthened as a result of Mess Hall singing.  In this way, music exists as a living record of tradition, just like the plaques and trophies that hang on the walls.  The unwritten call-outs, the pauses and ritardandi learned by rote and repetition, the Jones Junior High song— these are all a part of our shared Pemi musical foundation.  And this foundation, like the root system of a huge tree, is always growing slowly: a few weeks ago, on the first game day for the “Flagship” 15s Baseball team, Coach (and Director) Danny Kerr led an exciting double chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Just a few days ago, Tom Reed, Jr. added a second part to the end of perennial favorite “Mabel” which segues into the old American war song, “Over There.”  A startling contrast of styles and subject matter, but cohesive and exuberant nonetheless.

Sunday meetings, on the other hand, are an opportunity for the Pemi family to gather together in the Lodge and listen to words and music that speak to our collective spirit of personal integrity.  (Also a good excuse to wash up and wear a collared shirt!)  I’m always glad for this opportunity to expose campers to short pieces from the classical canon, be they Beethoven piano sonatas or Mozart flute quartets or Khatchaturian flute transcriptions.  This Sunday’s meeting will be all about music, in fact, as I attempt to illustrate the unusual creative merits of slow movements, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Adagio.  I’m hoping for a good audience jolt from Haydn’s Surprise Symphony.  The Sunday evening convocations are a wonderful time to experience the wordless, mystical imagination of the great composers.

Music is everywhere at Pemi, and it always has been: even now, as I write this article for the newsletter, I hear Taps being played out on bugle over the Intermediate Hill.  And then, seconds later, Taps in Junior Camp.  Played by a real person, not a loud-speaker.  This is unique— and it’s particularly special in today’s age of electronic music players and limitless digital sound manipulation.  Music at Pemi communicates feelings of joy and sincerity, performed and heard in a fresh, natural context.   And I’m glad to say that our central musical motivator is curiosity— the simple (and simultaneous) act of playing and discovering.

Many thanks to Ian for that richly descriptive piece. By the way, it has to be said that Maestro Axness is one of the most dynamic and inspiring music heads we’ve ever had at Pemi. It’s now hard to imagine a summer without Ian’s manifold contributions to the culture and joy of the community, given his dual role as musician-in-chief and Bean Soup editor. If any of you can give us a lead on a “winter job” that would leave him free to return to Pemi for decades to come, please, please, please do so! Seriously!

Now a word or two from another of our infectiously enthusiastic and talented staff members, Deb Kure – Associate Head of the Nature Program. Nobody brings more energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm to the task of teaching at Pemi, and Deb augments her contributions with her oversight of our Recycling Program. Here she describes a recent – and recurrent – initiative which she oversees.

5 A.M. on Saurday, July 9th, found 12 campers being awakened by Assistant Counselor Wes Eifler and Nature Staffer Deb Kure to volunteer with the 30th annual Prouty fundraiser. “The Prouty” typically involves 1,000 volunteers, 4,500 bicyclists, and $4.5 million raised for Cancer Research and Patient Services through Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, a good neighbor in Hanover, NH. Pemi boys host a SAG stop at nearby Mt. Cube Farm, providing food, water, and shouts of encouragement to riders 28 miles into the 100-mile route option.

Nick Gordon and Nathaniel Kaplan fulfilled the Community Service portion of their quests to become Pemi Braves, as Ezra Nugiel did for the start of his efforts towards being a Pemi Chief. Thompson Bain, Daniel Bivona, Harry Cooke, Rodrigo Juarez, Luke Maxwell, Sam Papel, James Richardson, Matt Sherman, and Ridley Wills volunteered for the sheer enjoyment of being involved with a local community event known for its team spirit, athleticism, and life-giving research value.

Our campers were in full production slicing fruit, mixing Gatorade, keeping water jugs filled, and making specialty sandwiches for hundreds of riders – for four hours non-stop. Nick Gordon “yelled” every rider up the ascent to the SAG station, shouting sincere encouragement and “Welcome to the Best Party on the Prouty!” for hours on end. Riders commented repeatedly that our stop is their annual favorite, and that Pemi campers make the best sandwiches on the Prouty!

We’re extremely glad to be able to involve our campers with such a spirited and worthwhile community event, planting the seeds of volunteerism for their years to come.

Amen. And thanks again to Deb for spearheading the effort. By the way, this editor drove Matt Sherman up to Mt. Cube Farm shortly after 8 AM, after Matt had graciously agreed to accompany a Junior cabin up Pemi Hill as a “big brother” for the night and had just come down the trail. As we approached the SAG stop, against a steady flow of very buff riders, the early morning sun lit the scene with magical clarity and sharpness.  Off to the right stood the lushly forested ridge of Mt. Cube itself, on an apron of which stands the farm. As I parked the van, I could see distant Mt. Moosilauke off to the north as clearly as though it were riding shotgun. I opened the door, and the chatter of the riders, milling here and there in their tight and bright attire, filled the air, punctuated by Nick yelling his greetings. There must have been 200 participants there at the time, and one could absolutely feel the force of their will and determination and collective spirit sweeping up everyone in their draft. To see Deb and Wes and the Pemi boys there, so clearly sensing the human nobility of the effort and equally clearly being appreciated by the athletes brought some moistness to the eye. We wish you could have been there. If your boy was, ask him to share. It was a rich experience.

With that we will close for the week. We look forward to seeing many parents of full-session boys tomorrow, in the first of our annual visiting days. Please, if you would, take a moment to review the Parents’ Handbook on “the drill.” Others of you we will see on Tuesday as you come to pick up your campers. We’ll be happy to see you but sad to lose your sons. They have been part of a wonderful first session and, while we wish them all the best for the rest of the summer, we hope equally to see them back soon. A bientot.

-Tom and Danny

Download this newsletter as a PDF.

Summer 2011: Newsletter #2

Well, our cozy little community of 250 has now been dwelling on the shores of Baker Pond for well over a week now, and the program is at full throttle. The weather has been extremely helpful – mostly sunny days in the mid-seventies and low eighties – and the lake has warmed enough that many of us are electing to continue our Polar Bears after the obligatory first week. We’ve enjoyed two days of athletics with our neighboring camps. Over fifteen trips have already been logged, with six more slated for today (Thursday), including a group of Seniors headed for the newly-renovated Madison Hut perched in a stony col at the north end of the Presidential Range. The Mikado has been cast, and rehearsals are underway. A second week of occupations follow hard on the heels of the first, with Deb Pannell’s hugely-popular art offerings setting a torrid pace for interest and productivity. The Beginners’ Caving Trip departed this morning for New York State for a tour of three separate caverns, an activity very rare in the camping world and certain to provide its participants with memories to last a lifetime. 2011 is well out of the gate and picking up speed in the first turn.

For the second Sunday meeting of the season, Danny Kerr manned the lectern for a talk entitled “Nothing Is Impossible,” based on his training for and successful finish of the New York City Marathon in 2005. Complete with charts of a sixteen-week training regimen and photos of the route and various participants over the years, Danny’s presentation gripped the room with its simple and direct messages. The journey is as important as the destination; if you want to get somewhere or achieve something in life, take the first step, commit yourself to the next one, and patience and persistence will ultimately deliver the goods. Danny then invited Senior Max Livingstone-Peters to the front of the room, and Max added to Danny’s examples with an account of his own battle with and triumph over nagging homesickness during his first season at Pemi. The third speaker was Trip Leader Sylvia Parol, whose participation in the Pemi West Mountain Leadership program in Washington State truly stretched her limits but quickly brought her to the same realization as Danny’s and Max’s. A number of striking photographs of Olympic National Park put the exclamation mark on a compelling evening that left no-one in the room missing an extremely useful developmental point: confidence and determination for young and old!

The Fourth of July celebration got off to a leisurely start with an 8AM reveille and 8:30 breakfast. After a hearty rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (joined melodically  by our British staff singing “God Save the Queen”), counselors and boys headed back to the cabins to plan their floats for the annual Pee-rade. We honestly can’t remember  the results being any more creative and entertaining as your sons and their mentors mounted a dramatic procession that was half Kate and William’s wedding half Benny Hill.

As always, the Junior Camp led the way, three of their number (British counselors Ben Ridley, Alastair Bowman, and Matt Turner) marching in under the Union Jack in a convincing likeness of a Redcoat fife and drum corps. No sooner had they broken into “God Save the Queen” than the sound system thundered out the opening notes of “Born in the USA” – and the rest of Pemi’s “infant prodigy kids” burst in from every direction in their all-American gear, each of them gyrating in immaculately choreographed moves. It was like some opening ensemble spectacular on “Dancing with the Founding Fathers.”

The Lower Lowers featured L1 with a witty rendition of “The Night before Pemi,” with Andre Altherr starring as a first-time camper all snug in his bed while visions of Polar Bears danced in his head. L2 whisked us back to colonial and pre-colonial times to witness Columbus’s non-discovery of India and the first Thanksgiving, all accompanied by Robert Loeser singing “America.” L3 followed with the first of several “Jeopardy” take-offs of the day, also being the first to weave Danny’s “Nothing’s Impossible” speech into their drill. (It’s always nice to know the boys hear us, even if it’s not always clear they take us as reverently as they might.) L4 in turn evoked the longstanding (if utterly unfounded! We swear! Honest! Hope to die!) legend of Bakey, the Freshwater Shark, said to lurk in Lower Baker Pond. Played by Ben Williams with chilling verisimilitude, Bakey ultimately convinced all who doubted his existence that there is more in heaven and Lower Baker than is dreamt of in a naturalist’s philosophy. (First Hamlet allusion of the year, in case you’re counting.) The musical accompaniment? The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” naturally.

The Hill Tent led the way for the Upper Lowers with an unusually cerebral “Short Story about American Foreign Policy,” featuring Tristan Smith as John Adams crossing the Atlantic (aptly represented by a non-PBA Nalgene) to seek foreign favors. The skit took full advantage of Andrew Virden’s flawless French and Pepe Periel’s native Spanish to lend linguistic credibility to the story. Per Soderberg, as a gentleman from the Netherlands, offered up some Dutch to round out the language table. L5 uncovered the long-concealed truth about what really goes on at Pemi after Taps as, despite Nick Ridley’s Big Brotherish presence, the boys in his cabin conducted a lively late-night trade in black market goods, including chocolate milk swapped for two minutes of “Angry Bird.” L6 delved into Pemi’s past with a rendition of the first post-hike “dope stop” in 1919 (“dope” being then as it is now “New Hampshirese” for carbonated soft drinks) – only to follow with a decidedly Gangsta permutation reputed to reflect current practice and an avid craving for Monster. Wrapping up the Lowers was another “Jeopardy” clone, featuring Joe Robey as MC and asking stand-ins for Zander Buteaux, Fitz Steuber, Danny Kerr and the like, “What is the ideal reason for coming to Pemi?” Once again, Danny’s recent “Nothing is impossible” swam back into our ken, but the correct reason for being a camper turned out to be “To have fun, grow as a person, and do things for others.” [Editor’s question: Was last week’s Harrison “Paradise” Potts writing their material?]

Upper 1 tapped Americana with Thomas Bono as a hapless  Charlie Brown, moping through “the worst Fourth of July ever” while Miles Donnelly did a spectacular job rendering the appropriate “Peanuts” themes on French Horn. In what may be the most legally actionable skit of the Pee-rade, U2 then skewered Pemi’s reputation by presenting brutal tyrant Jamie Marshman as a counselor who forces his boys to do everything from taking Polar Bears in a bone-chilling lake to playing Frisbee-Running-Bases despite their being “covered with bruises.” As a last straw, this convincing simulacrum of a staff ogre read his charges to sleep thus: “And then the monster tore their heads off and fed them to the kids. Good night!” Yikes! U3 turned to recent Bean Soups for the latest number of “Gee Whiz, It’s News!” exploring the hypocrisy not only of Charlie Malcolm’s recent and totally unexpected concession that lacrosse is not “The Devil’s Game” – but also Danny Kerr’s alleged banning of peanut butter and sugary drinks in an attempt to horde all such delicacies for himself. U4 closed for the Intermediates with an inventive “Rap about the Pemi Kid,” which comically mined TRJR’s initial Sunday talk for various silly bits and pieces of Pemi lore.

The Seniors were as creative and risible as they have ever been. S1 set the bar impossibly high with what was, by our count, the day’s third evocation of Bakey the Shark. This time, though, the hideous aqueous creature, armed with huge, slathering jaws consisting of a blue Crazy Creek, devoured Danny Kerr and Tom Reed, Jr. before being vanquished by Nature maven Deb Kure (played by Thompson Bain with a bubbly effusiveness fully worthy of the genuine Deb). Bakey was then duly taken off to the Nature Lodge, no doubt to become part of the “What Is It?” contest. S2 followed with its own eye on tele-culture, presenting “Pemi’s So You Think America’s Got Idol Dancing with the Voice Stars Talent.” The so-called talent? Representations of the improv trio of Dunston, Keys, and Denson, Kenny Moore, Zander Buteaux and the like. Stealing the show, though, was TH Pearson as Jeff Greene, attributing his distinctive voice to having as a youngster been struck in the throat by a toad – and never sounding quite mellifluous since. S3 followed with its “Concise History of America,” featuring King George III (played with frightening tyranny and lunacy by Dan Fulham) dispatching Lord Jeffrey Amherst to the Americas not to found a highly selective liberal arts college but rather to slaughter the indigenous natives. (How squeakily post-colonial Pemi has gotten these days!) Best line of the skit goes to James Richardson as a falling Native American: “Ow! Bullets are my only weakness!” Finally, Lake Tent dipped into the history of the nation and the camp alike, representing the Founding Fathers morphing into the Four Docs and deciding that, while it may have been difficult to get everyone to sign on to The Declaration of Independence, putting one’s John Hancock to The Declaration of Pemigewassett was a no-brainer. Once again, the creativity and dramatic flair displayed by your sons was little short of breath-taking. We wish you could all have been here to witness it.

The 2011 resumption of the fabled Shrimps vs. Sardines baseball rivalry occupied the Juniors after Rest Hour. (Your humble correspondent captained the Sardines in 1958, while Pemi Board President Peter Fauver led the Shrimps. Plus ca change!) Lowers played Barrel Ball and Wiffle Ball, while the Uppers enjoyed assorted lawn games and the Seniors slicked up with sunscreen for a Beach Party. The highlight of the afternoon, though, was the dread Counselor Hunt, when our highly-paid and highly-educated staff flees from the Lodge to find a secure hiding place before hordes of paying customers seek them out like Jack Russells ferreting out a mole. Fun and harmless as it all is, there really is a place in your heart that is reached and racked as you hunker like some helpless critter sought out by waves of yelling boys. You should all try it some time.

Kudos for inventive evasion go to Corey Fauver, who shaved his mountain man-beard and donned female garb in hopes of escaping notice as anything other than a visiting bloomer girl. Unfortunately for Corey, the hunters had seen his “Year of the Beard” video on You Tube (half a million hits and counting – check it out) and knew what he looked like smoothly shorn. Meanwhile music instructor Dorin Dehls donned a Phillies cap and escaped the clutches of one camper who walked up to her, called her “Dude,” and then took her word that there were no staff members – male or female – in sight. So much did Dorin resemble a Senior camper that we’re tempted to send her dad a bill for tuition.

Once the ten minutes of chilling predation had ground ever so slowly to a close, the entire camp proceeded to the Senior waterfront, where the captured staff members were obliged to walk the plank on the high dive. Corey was a figure of Isadora Duncan grace as he fluttered towards the waves in his ankle-length chiffon skirt. First prize for the plummet, though, goes to Carlos Yeung, who backed out onto the very edge of the board before delivering a nearly flawless triple back flip, rarely seen and richly applauded by the boys at lakeside. In response to the constant and compelling calls for “Belly flop! Belly flop!” some wisely ignored the pressure, while others took one for the team, bobbing back to the surface amidst gasps and laughter and wild clapping. In sum, a good is vaguely chilling time was had by all.

Evening brought our second all-camp cook-out, and the entire camp family feasted on pulled pork and/or marinated chicken sandwiches while the sun once again painted the valley in warming tones of green. As Division Heads Ted McChesney, Henry Eisenhart, and others finally closed down the grill, the boys wandered towards the Lodge for our annual Fourth of July vaudeville. MC’d by Ian Axness and Corey Fauver (as fresh-faced now as George Stephanopoulos), it was a banner show, kicked of by the awarding of silver Revere bowls for those campers and staff for whom 2011 is their fifth summer at Pemi. This year’s cast is comprised of: Ian Axness, Thomas Bono, Daniel Bowes, Harry Cooke, Nancy Cushman, Ned Darling, Betty French, Oliver Kafka, Jamie Nicholas, Ezra Nugiel, Carl Pohlman, Zach Popkin, Daniel Reiff, Chris, Sargent, Will Sargent,  Nich Schiciano, Charlie Scott, Per Soderberg, Tommy Tranfo, and Andrew Virden. Now every one of them has an elegant and memory-inducing place to keep their spare change and thumb drives.

The show itself was an extremely entertaining one, launched by the first appearance of the year by the Silver Cornet Band, featuring camper soloists Miles Donnelly, Kevin Lewis, Jackson Smith, Ben Pinheiro, and Noah Belinowitz on Robert Grabill, Jr.’s “Wear Your Pemi Blues” and John Coltrane’s “Blue Trane.” Pounding out the rhythm was J2 camper Emmanual Abbey, for whom this was a first-ever performance on percussion. The show-stealer for serious acts, though, was Thompson Bain, whose smooth and assured rendition of Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” brought down the house. We knew Thompson had a guitar, but none of us had a clue of the vocal and instrumental talent he brings from the West Coast. As always, the evening was brought to a rockingly hilarious close by an appearance of “The Little People” – you know, arms as booted feet and your buddy behind you as arms – with Will Clare and Zander Buteux as the hapless demi-Hobbits variously eating, shaving, and brushing their teeth while (behind them under their ponchos) Henry Eisenhart and Ben Walsh did their best to gag them for the public good. Clean-up lasted longer than the act, but the impact made the mayhem well worthwhile. We’d bet a good dozen boys in the audience resolved to return to Pemi as staff simply in order to take up the torch as the next generation of Little Folk.

Well, that seems enough to have said about an especially solid week at Pemi. As noted, the program has really picked up momentum, and the few cases of minor homesickness we witnessed for a few days have dissolved into laughter and smiles and the sweaty brows of active boys. More in seven days or so.

Staff bios were posted on the Pemi Blog, and if you’re one of the savvy, you’ll have subscribed to the blog by now (see the upper-right corder of the page), so that these epistles and other postings of note are delivered straight to your inbox.

— Tom and Danny

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Summer 2011: Staff Bios

Photo © Jim Mauchly

Pemi’s greatest asset has always been the remarkable staff that dedicates itself, each summer, to making the Pemi experience rich, unique and nurturing for each boy, and this summer is no exception. While for a few of the staff this is their first summer at Pemi, the vast majority has years and years (and in some cases, years and years and years!) of experience on the shores of Lower Baker. We are grateful for their dedication and work ethic, impressed by their multitudinous talents, and humbled by their dedication to Pemi.

Cabin Counselors

J1— Zach Barnard: I just finished my Sophomore year at Boston University, where I am pursuing a degree in Ethnomusicology. I can’t wait to get involved with the Nature program, as well as return to the Music program, potentially bridging the two disciplines to create some great interest among the campers. I’m excited to be a member of the Pemi family once again!

J2— Ben Ridley: I am from a small town called Hexham in the North of England.  This is my first summer at Camp Pemigewassett and I am looking forward to teaching music, art, and different sports activities, including track/field, rugby, soccer and swimming.

J3— Jeremy Keys: I’m from Downingtown, PA and just graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA where I took part in many activities from running on the Track Team to doing Improv comedy and singing with an A Capella group.  This is my second year at Camp Pemi in the Junior camp.  I hope to coach come soccer, basketball and track, to teach some music and help the Junior Campers have a good time at camp and develop valuable friendships with other campers.

J4—Alastair Bowman: I’ve spent most of my life in Scotland where I have just finished my first year at University of St Andrews studying philosophy and psychology. This will be my second season at Pemi as a counselor where I will be involved in the music and nature programs. My aim this year is to help and encourage the campers to try new activities.

J5— Matthew Turner: I am from Birmingham in the UK and am currently studying Law at the University of Nottingham. I will be teaching in Pemi’s nature program and assisting with trips as well as serving as a cabin counselor. I want to make sure that the campers have a really great time at Pemi, as they learn and try new things, have fun, and develop as individuals.

J6—Zander Buteux: I grew up in Madison, NJ and am entering my Senior Year at the University of Denver. This is going to be my ninth summer on the shores of Lower Baker. As a lacrosse and soccer coach and as an art instructor, I hope to be a link between the arts program and athletics.

JT— Conner Scace: I just finished my first year as a graduate student working with Dr. Larry Davis at the University of New Haven and currently live in West Haven Connecticut. This will be my second year as a nature occupation instructor and camp counselor. Last year I ran insect occupations (with a particular interest in the ant occupation) as well as basketball occupations and was a Junior basketball coach. This year I would like to add Mound Builder Ant and Ant Lion activities to the insect occupations.

L1— Dan Reed: I grew up in Carlisle, PA, and enjoyed 2 academic years in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am a rising sophomore at Middlebury College, where I am focusing on Geology but am enjoying an array of other subjects.  This will be my 19th summer at Pemi: eight summers as director’s son, eight as camper, one at Pemi West and two on staff.  I hope to teach photography, nature, archery, and some tennis, and I look forward to another great summer.

L2— Henry Eisenhart:  I’m from Natick, Masschusetts and am a rising senior at St. Lawrence University.  There I am majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Music.   This is my ninth summer at camp and third on staff.  This summer I’ll be the Lower Division Head, and will spend time teaching athletics and music.  Pumped for a great summer.

L3—Sean Munck (Co-counselor): I am a native of Carlisle, Pennsylvania and am a rising sophomore at the Schreyer Honors College of Penn St. University.  This will be my first season at Pemi.  As an instructor, I will focus on wood shop and the music department, but I will also be assisting with various other occupations.  I really hope to teach guitar to as many campers as possible, and I am very excited for the season to begin.

L3—Robert Kerr (Co-counselor): this is my first summer at Pemi.  I am originally from outside Philadelphia but my parents recently moved to Keene, NH.  This winter I will be a sophomore at Colorado College.  Some of the areas in which I will be working this summer include Baseball, Arts and Sailing.  I am super excited for this summer, and cannot wait to meet all of the campers.

L4— Charlie Shiverick: I graduated from Colgate University last spring where I studied Mathematics and spent this past winter in Vail, CO operating a Snocat. This will be my sixth summer at Pemi, and my second as a counselor. This summer I hope to be helping out on the waterfront, as well as coaching baseball, and teaching waterskiing.

HT— Peter Siegenthaler: from Providence Rhode Island.  I’m a graduate of Roger Williams University, where I studied Photography and Art History.  Fourth summer on Staff; instructor in Nature and Arts; Emergency bugler.

L5—Nick Ridley: I am back for my 3rd summer on the staff this year.  I knew immediately after camp closed last year I’d find it difficult to stay away.  I live in the UK. Chemistry at Edinburgh University, however I’ll be in the states until August 2012 completing an internship in Chicago with the Ridgley Company.  I’ve have really enjoyed the relationships I’ve built with the boys in my cabin in the past.  I can’t wait to get going with the guys in L5 this summer

L6—Willy Rittling: I live in Boston MA and am a rising sophomore at Clarkson University. This will be my 6th year at Pemi including Pemi West. I will be helping out in the woodshop and windsurfing. This year I hope encourage campers to try new things and get everything possible they can out of Pemi.

L7— Will Clare: I am from Manhattan, New York.  This is my 11th summer at Pemi.   I am 21 years old and am looking forward to another great summer teaching Lacrosse, Waterskiing, and a variety of other sports.

U1— Fitz Stueber: I’m a native of Cleveland, Ohio. This is my 7th season, 2nd on staff. I am going into my senior year at Washington & Jefferson College where I am on the Mens Soccer Team. With the skills I have acquired over the years, I will be teaching soccer and other athletics this year along with anything else I can help out with. Creating a fun and interesting summer for the camp community is my main goal for this year.

U2— Sean Denson: I live in Clementon, NJ and am a rising senior at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. I am excited for my first summer at Pemi, where I will coach campers in Track and Basketball, my two favorite sports. I hope to help each camper realize his full potential.

U3— Ted McChesney (Co-counselor): I am 22 years old, from Richmond, VA, and just graduated from the University of Virginia (and am looking for a job.)  This is my 11th summer at Pemi, 5th on staff.  This summer I will be the Upper Division head and involved primarily with the sports program.

U3—Galen Ryan (Co-counselor): I was born and raised in Riverside, IL and I am now a rising sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. This will be my first year at Pemi and I am looking forward to it. I love to swim, play ultimate Frisbee, and lead an energetic life in general. My goal for the summer is to teach campers the importance of leading an active life.

U4—Ben Walsh (Co-counselor): I am excited to spend my 10th summer at Pemi; this will be my 4th on staff.  I am a rising Sophmore at Carleton College where I played on the Soccer and Baseball teams and did homework on occasion (you can take this last part out).  This summer I hope to share my appreciation of camp with campers old and new.

U4—Carlo Yeung (Co-counselor): I’m from Newcastle in England, and graduated from the University of Essex last year where I did Sport and Exercise Science. This is my first time at Pemi and in the U.S.  I’m a specialist table tennis coach but what I really love is Xtreme martial arts and mental stunts.  I hope to inspire the kids to do something they would never normally do.

S1—This will be my twelfth season at Pemi, including Pemi West. I will be the head of the windsurfing program this summer, in addition to coaching soccer and ultimate Frisbee. I’m a rising senior at Carleton College. “This year I hope to assist the senior campers in taking leadership roles across camp.”

S2— Sam Johnson: I’m from the South East of England, and just finished my final year at the University of East Anglia in Norwich where I studied History and International Relations. I play several sports including soccer, field hockey, and golf, and I like to think I am a pretty good table tennis player too! This summer I will coach soccer and help out with drama, and I hope to share some British culture along the way. My goal is to teach kids new skills as well as to encourage them to learn from one another, and doing so, experience the reward that comes from helping others.

S3— Alex Reese: I grew up in Wyomissing, PA and will return to Johns Hopkins as a junior next fall. This is my 9th summer at Pemi, 4th on staff.  I look forward to spending lots of time on the tennis courts preparing for Tecumseh Day.  Among my goals are to enable each boy to maximize his experience, to find new avenues for returning campers, and to welcome first-year campers into our rich and diverse community.

LT— Dwight Dunston: I am originally from Philadelphia,PA.  I recently returned to America from Norwich, England where I completed an MA course in Creative Writing. This will be my third consecutive summer at Pemi. I will be coaching basketball and track, and I also will be leading poetry and comedy improvisation occupations. I hope to once again provide an exciting and safe atmosphere for the campers, where they are in the best position to learn from counselors, and also from each other.

Assistant Counselors

J1— Jay McChesney: I am from Richmond, Virginia and recently graduated from St. Christopher’s High School.  I am 18 years old and I play squash and Lacrosse,. In the fall, I will attend school just a few hours from here, at the University of Vermont.  This is my 8th summer at Camp Pemi and I’m very excited for the upcoming season.

J2— Adam Sandler: I am 18 years old, from Westchester, New York.  This will be my 9th summer at Pemi, and my second summer as a staff member.  This summer I look forward to contributing in lax world, on the waterfront, in the art program, and with frisbee.

J3—Wesley Eifler: I grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut and this will be my 9th summer at Pemi. I just graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall, and will be attending American University where I will be studying journalism. My goal this summer is to coach baseball and instruct in sailing and photography. I also hope to promote everything Pemi has to offer.

J4—Andrew McChesney: I am from Millburn, NJ and I will be a freshman next year at Trinity College. This will be my 6th year at Pemi and my second on staff.  My goal this summer is to teach sailing, lacrosse and to help the campers have the best summer possible.

J5—Richard Komson: I am from New York City, just graduated from Loyola High School, and will attend Boston University in the fall. This will be my 9th season at Pemi and my second as assistant counselor. I will be doing the majority of my occupation and work as part of the Nature staff and will also be part of the archery program and help the physical fitness occupations. As an assistant counselor I hope to aide on a few trips as I also went to Pemi West two years ago.

J6—Mike Plecha: I will teach basketball, baseball, soccer, and swimming, A capella, and anything else I am asked to help with.  I graduated this spring from Lake Ride Academy in North Ridgeville, OH, and will be studying Music Industry at Northeaster University in the fall.  As a first-time counselor at Pemi, I am excited to work with the wonderful kids and staff that make this camp special.

L2—Charlie Pannell: I’m from Tiburon CA and will attend UMass Amherst in the fall. This summer I’ll teach in the Nature and Art programs, help drive the ski boat, and serve as lifeguard. I’m looking forward to an awesome summer.

L4—Ryan Fauver: I’m from Chatham NJ and will be a freshman at Skidmore in the fall. I’m the camp bugler and will be teaching music. I’m very excited for a great summer.

L5— Payne Hadden: I am 17 years old and grew up in Weston, MA.  I am currently enrolled at St. Paul’s School, a boarding school in Concord, NH, where I will be a senior in the fall. Though this is my ninth summer at Pemi, it is my first on staff.  I am excited about helping out with the lacrosse, soccer basketball and swimming programs.

L6— Andrew Brummer: I live in Chatham, NJ and I am a rising senior at Newark Academy, where I play Varsity Soccer and Tennis. This will be my 8th summer at Pemi. This summer, I hope to help instruct campers in tennis, soccer, and swimming as well as encourage them to try something new in an unfamiliar field.

Bridget Ruf: I’m from Southport, CT and this will be my third summer at Pemi. I just finished my first year at Wellesley College, and I am looking forward to teaching music occupations, performing at campfires, and spending time in the junior camp. I’m excited to be back again this summer and hope to encourage the campers to take advantage of all the opportunities at Pemi.

Kelsey Wensberg: this will be my third year at Pemi.  I am from Darien, CT  and will be attending Villanova University in the fall.  This year I will work in the art and music departments, and will help out with swimming and various other occupations. I am looking forward to an amazing summer with the boys and can’t wait to see how this season unfolds.

Olivia Walsh: My family lives in New Canaan, CT but I go to boarding school in Northfield, MA (NMH). I just finished my Junior year there and am beginning the college search process. This is my second summer at Pemi as an assistant counselor (though I don’t live in the cabin) and I join two of my brothers. I look forward to spending time on the waterfront teaching sailing and swimming, as well as playing soccer.

Trip Leaders

James Andrews: I grew up in Columbus, OH, and will be entering my senior year at Kenyon College. This will be my 13th season at Pemi, and third year as a trip counselor. Going on hiking trips with Pemi as a camper made a huge impression on me, and I hope that I can continue to teach younger generations to enjoy the outdoors.

Sam Day: This is the first time I’ve ever been to the USA! I grew up near London and study History at the University of Leeds. My life’s passion is travelling and adventures; I travelled the world last year and am a trip leader this summer. My goal over the next few months is to share new sights and experiences with like-minded, adventurous campers at Pemi.

James Finley: I am an instructor and doctoral student at the University of New Hampshire, studying American Literature. This will be my seventeenth summer at Pemi and while I regret that my time here will be limited, I’m looking forward to leading the Katahdin trip, fifteen years after climbing it as a camper.

Sylvia Parol- I’m from Worcester, MA and I just finished my first year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I’m studying Interactive Media & Game Development and I also play on the Varsity field hockey team. I attended Pemi West in Olympic National Park in Washington two years ago. I’m very excited to be a trip leader this summer. I hope to foster a love of the outdoors and backpacking in campers and to have a lot of fun!

William Sargent: I am from West Hartford, CT and just finished my freshman year at Union College.  This summer I will be a Trippie.  I am very excited to take campers out this summer to hike in and explore the White Mountains.


Ian Axness (Head of Music):  I will be teaching piano, ensemble improvisation, and Gilbert & Sullivan occupations this summer, in addition to accompanying singing in the Mess Hall, auditioning acts for Campfire, and writing/editing Bean Soup.  Born and raised in Los Angeles, I attended Oberlin College and moved to New York City, where I work as a freelance pianist and music director.  I’m currently doing a close reading of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas— plenty of material for Sunday meetings! This will be my fifth summer at Pemi.

Andrew Bale:  I was born in Hummelstown, PA and I am a fine art photographer and photography teacher.  I became a photographer because a teacher challenged, inspired and encouraged me to see the world differently through the lens of a camera.  It is my goal to pass along that same creative eye to campers.

Deb Kure (Associate Head of Nature Programs): After studying Geology at the University of Rochester and learning how to teach kids in the outdoors— at Pemi’s first Nature Instructors’ Clinic in 1993—I’ve been grateful to have taught outdoor science in rural, urban, and wilderness regions, all over the US. I currently live in Austin, Texas, and teach with Camp Fire USA, but I’ll take moose over armadillos any day!  Glad to be back for my fourth summer with Pemi!

Larry Davis: Director of Nature Programs and Teaching. A.B., A.M. in Earth Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis. PhD in Geological Sciences University of Rochester. Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New Haven. This is my 42nd year on Pemi’s staff. Flutist, caver in chief, wild foods chef, collector of waterfalls, lover of all things “natural.”

Dorin Dehls: I am from Woodstock CT, and I am very excited to student teach in the fall as a Music Education major! This will be my third summer with Pemi, and I am so happy to return as a member of the music staff. In the past I have worked with the Gilbert & Sullivan productions that are performed at Pemi each year. I can’t wait to start working with the rest of the camp staff and the talented boys coming to camp this year as we prepare for The Mikado!

Emilie Geissinger: I grew up in Darien, CT but now live in Bismarck, ND. I am a rising sophomore at Bates College where I study Biology, swim, and play water polo. This is my first summer at Pemi and I will be working on the waterfront as a swim instructor, sailing instructor, and lifeguard.

Jeff Greene: (Director of Tennis). This is my 13th consecutive summer at Pemi. I first coached at the high school level in 1985, and then went on to coach at the intercollegiate level for 20 years. During the winter, I teach tennis at Queens College and during the spring and fall, I run an after-school tennis program in Westchester County, NY. Described as having “a distinctive raspy voice and a unique sense of humor,” I am always on the lookout for Pemi’s next tennis star, but enjoy teaching and encouraging campers at all skill levels.

Harry MacGregor (Head of Shop) – I grew up in Lowell, MA and for the last 30 years have lived in Canaan, New Hampshire.   I have had a long career in commerical, industrial and residental construction.   I have owned my own business focusing on custom woodworking.  My focus at Camp Pemi will be to bring my knowledge of woodworking to the campers.

Brian Mitchell: I will be returning for my 12th summer at camp where I have had the opportunity to serve many different roles.  This summer I will be back to help coach soccer and lend a helping hand where ever it is needed for two weeks in July.  I recently completed my seventh year of teaching and my second at The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland.  At BL, I am the 9th Grade Dean, I teach Upper School Mathematics and I coach both soccer and lacrosse.

Ken Moore – Assistant Director and Head of Program Born and bred in Lakewood, Ohio, I teach 9th grade history at Lake Ridge Academy where I also serve as Director of Alumni Relations.  This is my 19th summer at Pemi, some as a boy, counselor and Division Head, and more recently as Waterfront Head and this year taking the role as Head of the Mess Hall, Head of Program and Assistant Director.  My BA is from Kenyon College and my MAED is from University School’s Teacher Apprentice Program.  My primary goal for the summer is to create an instructional program that allows our boys to try new activities as well as to learn and develop specific skills in a specialized area.

Deb Pannell (Head of Arts): I am delighted to be teaching art at Pemi this summer! I live with my husband, Jim, and our sons in Tiburon, a small town north of San Francisco where I teach elementary school. I am the mother of Ethan (13), a Pemi camper, and Charlie (18) a Pemi counselor. My goal this summer is to get to know every single boy at camp and to involve as many boys as possible in the creative fun that will be taking place in the art studio.

Abby Reed (Co-Head Junior Camp): I’m from Carlisle, PA, and just graduated from Middlebury College. In the fall, I’ll be attending a master’s program in literature at the University of Cambridge. This will be my (7th?) summer at Pemi, including Pemi West. In addition to being co-head of the Junior Camp, I also will teach swimming and nature.

Paige Wallis (Head of Swimming): I grew up in Norwich, Vermont and will be a senior at the University of Vermont this coming fall. I spent the past semester studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. This will be my second summer at Pemi and my first year as the head of swimming. This summer my goal is to encourage and inspire campers to develop  their skills in and out of the water.

Johanna Zabawa (Head of Staff, Co-Head Junior Camp): I’m from Afton, Minnesota and work as a family support worker at the elementary school in West St. Paul, MN.  This is my 7th summer at Pemi.  I’m looking forward to a new role as Head of Staff along with continuing as Head of Junior Camp.

Summer 2011: Newsletter #1

“Welcome to Paradise!”

So did Harrison Potts – nine-year-old denizen of Junior Two back for his second summer at Pemi – greet new campers on opening day. It might have sounded like propaganda coming out of the mouth of a counselor (let alone a director), but coming from Harrison, who could question the sincerity? To be honest, its hasn’t quite been Paradise yet. The New York/Darien bus broke down on I-91 en route to camp; we’ve had a little bit of rain now and again; some boys are predictably wrestling with a little homesickness; and Pemi’s athletic teams are no longer undefeated in 2011. That being said, Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm quietly observed yesterday evening, “You know, camp has a good feeling.” If you know Charlie, you’ll appreciate both his sensitivity to a community’s spirit and his high standards. If you don’t (yet), you can take our word that his judgment is a good sign.

So what’s been happening? Well, JRB Bus Lines got a replacement coach to Putney with reasonable dispatch, and the NY/CT contingent made it to Pemi in time for the traditional inaugural pizza supper. (More on food in a minute!) While they were waiting, however, chaperones Rob Verger, Richard Komson, and their charges were lucky enough to fetch up in the front yard of the West Hill Shop, a bike store right next to the Interstate. The owner not only invited them to make themselves at home on her lawn and in her shop, she graciously let the campers help themselves to cups of cold water. After another guest in the shop found a Frisbee for the boys, the result was the first Official Pemigewassett Frisbee-Running-Bases game ever played outside the state of New Hampshire. Rob and Richard report how great it was to see Pemi kids so primed to be at camp that they were ready to plunge into one of our most sacred rituals seventy miles short of Lower Baker Pond. The other gratifying part of the story, obviously, is the remarkable hospitality of the West Hill folks. Without being cynical, it’s hard to imagine a Walmart manager being so thoughtful and, well, “Pemi”!

Saturday evening witnessed the first Campfire of the season – held in the Lodge owing to threatening weather. Talented musicians on our staff from Music Director Ian Axness to outstanding vocalist Dorin Dehls to the new “British Invasion” of Nick and Ben Ridley and Sam Johnson wowed the crowd with their varied stylings, while veteran Improv genii Dwight Dunston and Jeremy Keys were joined by fellow Dickinsonian Sean Denson in a little international skit that brought the house down. Campers played second fiddle to no one, though. Dashiell Slamowitz warmed up for Master Riddler Nathaniel Kaplan with a few brain-teasers of his own, followed by Nathaniel himself. Rookie camper Jakey Cronin strode to the keyboard for a forceful rendition of “The Pink Panther” theme, quickly establishing himself as a true player on the Lower Baker musical scene. Andre Altherr took a night off from his quirky ditties of yore, but told a few jokes instead, as did Jack Elvekrog and Carter Sullivan. The show was stolen, though, by last June’s surprise performer of the year, Robert Loesser, who delivered a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” with breathtaking presence and technique. For those who hadn’t heard Robert, think Simon Cowell hearing Susan Boyle for the first time.

Sunday brought routine health checks, swim tests, and special divisional programs (scavenger hunts, soccer round-robins, and the like) followed by the first all-camp cook-out of the season. The weather was perfect, as the descending sun painted the fields in front of the Mess Hall a glowing green, and Mount Carr stood luminously at the base of our valley like a benevolent parent to us all. Evening brought an illustrated talk on Pemi’s history by Tom Reed, Jr., who was struck by how readily and accurately the audience answered his questions on the camp’s past. Our veterans know their stuff, and it’s fun to watch the new boys get their first real taste of the lore and traditions that complement the range of activities that are camp.

Monday kicked off those activities in earnest, including occupations, athletic contests, trips, and the first number of Bean Soup’s 102nd volume. 15’s Ultimate Frisbee was the first athletic team to hit the pitch, and Charlie Malcolm sounded just the right note announcing the match, acknowledging that no sport surpasses Ultimate in the stress it places on good grace and sportsmanship. “Let’s always play hard to win,” Charlie urged, “but Pemi is also known for how high we set the bar for conduct. Make us proud.” Winning two contests and dropping one, the 15s did just that, paced by stellar performances from Dana Wensberg, Sparky Brown, Max Livingstone-Peters, and Dan Fulham. Meanwhile, back at Pemi, the Nature Lodge and Art Center were humming with activity – the former as it always does, the latter with a singularly new vibrancy brought this summer from the West Coast by Arts Head Deb Pannell (mother, actually, of camper Ethan and Staff member Charlie.) Keep an ear cocked to news of Deb’s initiatives; early money has her as a threat to match our other Deb, Deb Kure of the Nature Program, in creativity and inspirational energy.

Monday afternoon the first van of hikers rolled out of camp, bound (believe it or not) for Hanover, that trendy little town that hosts Dartmouth College. No, we weren’t going to scarf a Vermonster at Ben and Jerry’s or hit the Reference Section at Baker Library but rather to walk the first five miles of the Appalachian Trail. It was the first leg of this season’s bid to have one or another Pemi person walk every inch of the fabled footpath that lies in the state by closing day. We succeeded in the task a dozen years back, and it seemed like a good time for a repeat. Crossing the bridge over the Connecticut River, the group encountered some challenges that don’t normally confront wilderness travelers: cars pulling out of driveways and temporarily splitting the group; having to wait at the corner for the traffic lights to change. In some ways, though, it was a perfect way to start the trip season, as we quickly moved from the definitively urban space that most of our boys routinely inhabit into woods as varied and lovely as one can encounter in the Granite State. Charlie Scott, Hayden Simmons, Thomas Moore, Bodie Avery, Diego Periel, Crawford Jones, Max Crummy, Pierce Haley, Jakie Cronin, Jamie Acoccella, Wilson Bazant, and Andre Altherr were real troopers on what turned out to be a more arduous walk than had been anticipated, pausing now to remark on the beauty of the sun dappling the russet needles in a piney grove, now to listen to the liquid notes of a hermit thrush ringing through the cooling forest as the afternoon matured. We made it back to camp just in time for supper with legs tired, hands in need of washing, and souls refreshed.

At 7:30 everyone crowded into the Lodge for the inaugural Bean Soup of the season – Pemi’s 102-year-old equivalent of The New Yorker, Sportscenter, and The Daily Show combined. Chief Editor Ian Axness (easily as deft with words as he is with notes) was joined by co-editors Peter Siegenthaler and Dwight Dunston in as camper-friendly a first number as we can remember. The trick is to fill the soup tureen with enough goodies to last 45 minutes, and with the boys having been on premises only 48 hours, that’s traditionally been difficult Week One. This year, however, the content was consistently pitched to young and old, rookie and wily veteran alike. We learned about Harrison Pott’s above-mentioned salutations, about the foibles of the management hierarchy at Pemi (in terms that have Danny and Tom’s attorneys exploring the possibility of a libel suit), and about the presence at Pemi of an Invisible Boy that some of us had unaccountably managed to overlook. Look for the bound copy come this December to catch up on the fun yourselves.

Tuesday featured a 10’s soccer tournament at Pemi and 12’s hoops and 13’s baseball at Camp Moosilauke, just up the valley. Results were varied (the 10s, for example, winning the first of three matches, while the 13s mastered their foes 13-4 behind the strong pitching of Hugh Grey, Mac McCaffery, and Zach Leeds.) As usual, though, everyone on the squads saw playing time and the sportsmanship was exemplary. Our oldest and our youngest campers gathered on the beach after supper for the first of our Big/Little campfires, catered with S’mores and matching Seniors and Juniors, one-on-one, for an evening of cross-generational carbo-loading and companionship. These cordial bonds tend to last the season, mirrored as they are by the strong relationships that develop between those boys who wait table in the Mess Hall and their younger charges. It’s one of the things we think we do well at Pemi, and the infrequency with which it happens in a scholastic setting makes it all the more important to us. As the Juniors walked back to the Junior Camp, they passed a mammoth Frisbee-Running-Bases game just wrapping up on Intermediate Hill – less formal than the campfire but engaging Lower and Upper Intermediates alike in Pemi’s signature hybrid sport.

As you can see, lots of traditional things have been transpiring at Pemi. We’ve witnessed a few innovations as well. Jeff Greene has brought in “Beach Tennis” for the first time, supplementing his popular and highly successful “regular” program with yet another sport that adds to our suspicion that everything cool comes from Malibu or Venice Beach and is designed to turn the rest of America into East California. More consequentially (if you can believe it!), Pemi has for the first time in its history hired a food service, and the results (whether one considers the quality or quantity of the meals coming out of the kitchen – or alternatively the cheerful and professional ambience in that same kitchen) seem likely to exceed our hopes and expectations. We’ll let your little and bigger gourmets be the judges, but the re-launching of Chez Pemi is most promising.

Other innovations? A new office wing that finally makes the Lodge look more like Notre Dame than Chartres (though scarcely like either, if truth be told.) A new morning calisthenic dubbed “The Pemi Kid.” (Ask your Pemi Kid!) A new route for distance swims (on which perhaps more will follow)! But when  all is said and done, Pemi is in David Byrne’s immortal words “Same as it ever was” – with a little more horsepower injected by all the boys and staff who are with us for the first time, inspiring even the most jaded veterans with the zeal of the recent convert. Charlie’s right. Camp has a good feel. We’re glad to be here – in what is at least a semi-Paradise.

Two more notes. First, some of you may have received in the last day or so what we in the camping industry call “The Letter.” Whatever its specifics, it paints a relatively less rosy picture of camp’s opening than this epistle has done, and it is often scribed by boys who naturally miss the warmth and love and familiarity of their own homes. For every five boys who have sent “The Letter,” four are by now most likely feeling completely adjusted and leaping from bed every morning with the proverbial glad cry. Most of the others will be there in a day or so. Just remember that when they are happy and engaged, the last thing they think of is writing home. If they experience a down moment, picking up pen and paper is their first reflex. Enough said, perhaps. As always, though, if you have any doubts and concerns, please be in touch with Danny, Dottie, or Tom. That’s why we’re here.

Stay tuned for 2011’s staff bios, in which Pemi’s talented and committed staff introduce themselves in their own words. Happy reading!

— Tom and Danny

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