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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

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