Summer 2011: Newsletter #7

Thank you for your patience in waiting for this last of 2011’s newsletters. We closed just a week ago, and the days since have been filled with putting the camp to bed for the winter, a staff banquet and farewells, a wonderful memorial gathering for Tom Reed, Sr., the 29th annual Rittner Run, board meetings, and closing up the kitchen. This, too, hard on the heels of Pemi Week, with its tennis, soccer, triathlon, pentathlon, swimming, and archery championships; Games and Woodsdudes’ Days; two performances of The Mikado; the final Art Show; a lavish awards banquet; the final Bean Soup (at which counselors Jeremy Keys and Nick Ridley shared the coveted Joe Campbell Award), and the final Campfire – not to mention packing for travel home. It was a hectic but most satisfying close to a banner season. We wish we could recount all of the specifics here, but time and space militate against that. We’ll content ourselves, instead, with reproducing the approving review of the Gilbert and Sullivan show – recommending that you grill your sons for information on everything else. (Assuming, that is, that they haven’t already cornered you and delivered the goods with the tenacity of the Ancient Mariner.)

Clive Bean Reviews The Mikado

Jeremy Keys as Katisha

This year’s G &S production, The Mikado, opened triumphantly on Tuesday night last before powering to a tie for the longest run ever by a musical drama in the Pemigewassett Opera House – two. This reviewer honestly can’t recall a production that packed more energy and polish than this one, as the large and well-drilled cast rocked the stage with their dramatic fervor and melodic panache. Stealing the show was first-time leadJeremy Keys as the bloodthirsty femme fatale, Katisha, whose aggressive taste for younger men makes Cougartown look like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. JK’s powerful falsetto and over-the-top antics served notice that if Lady Gaga ever hangs up her act, Jeremy is the right man to slip into her meat mini-dress. Katisha more than met her match, though, in the Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko, played by veteran lead Jamie Andrews. Ko-Ko’s reprehensible ethics, stretching all the way from bribery to lying to marital opportunism, doesn’t speak particularly well for the moral qualities of Jamie’s college, Kenyon – but no-one on the stage threw himself into a role more thoroughly than Andrews, whose ear-splitting screams of anguish and despair must have been practiced on especially tough days on the trip program.

Thompson Bain as Pish-Tush

Thompson Bain was smooth and professional as Titipu elder Pish-Tush, proving that his chops aren’t limited to Weezer and Eagles covers, while Sam Day and Zander Buteux took a walk on the wild side by donning lipstick and ladies’ clothes and nailing their roles as two of the Three Little Maids from School, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing. Sam more than evidenced his extensive university background in musical theater, complementing a solid vocal performance with some stunning acting. And Zander’s mom, who caught the second show, confessed that she might actually prefer her number one son as a girl. Larry Davis excelled as Pooh-Bah – a corrupt and arrogant official who allows that he “was born sneering.” Rumor has it that there were opposition-party operatives in the audience who were so impressed with Larry’s dramatic style that they approached him after the show asking if he was interested in a presidential run in 2012. Larry’s response was evidently unprintable. Tom Reed, Jr., was predictably type-cast as the unhinged and malicious Emperor of Japan and managed to scare everyone in the Opera House except his fawning lackey Peter Siegenthaler, whose innate fear of his master was overcome by bribes of candy.

Zach Barnard and Dorin Dehls

The romantic leads were played splendidly by Dorin Dehls, as the curiously named Yum-Yum, and Zach Barnard, as imperial runaway Nanki-Poo. Dorin brought truly professional vocal skills to the part – as impressive as this reviewer has ever heard in this venue – but added to her triumph with as nuanced and convincing an acting job as could be imagined. Meanwhile Zach – who supplemented his stage work with hours and hours of tireless work behind the scenes – presented Nanki-Poo with the vocal perfectionism we’ve come to expect of him and an understated dramatic flair that was perfect for the part of the only sane man in the whole pack. The two worked the charming kissing duet with unmatched timing and wit, turning what is sometimes one of the awkward and cloying moments of the show into a true highlight.

The chorus of schoolgirls

When all is said and done, though, it was the choruses who set the standard for the performance and sustained the energy throughout. Andre Altherr and Robert Loeser were camper stand-outs in the girls’ chorus (as anyone who’s been to campfires won’t be surprised to hear), while Sylvia Parol burst onto the Pemi dramatic scene with some remarkable singing and acting. Meanwhile, Ted McChesney, cast as the biggest girl, Mutton-Chops, got into his role so thoroughly that days later he’s still mincing around camp giggling. On the Noble side, Dan Fulham filled the stage (literally!) with his dramatic flair and booming baritone, while Dan Bivona annoyed the heck out of everyone with a laugh that sounded like a hamster getting an unexpected root canal.


ian Axness

Final and top kudos, though, must go to Maestro Ian Axness, whose deft and dedicated management of so many aspects of the production made a spectacular show possible. Aided and abetted by Producer/Director Penelope Reed Doob and a host of other dedicated folk, Ian hit the balance between making demands and being supportive in a way that allowed everyone in the cast to reach their full potential. Who more than Ian earned that big smack on the cheek from Sam Day during the final curtain call? Ian, you rock! Mikado, you’re a great show. Pemi, you’re a lucky community. This year’s G&S run was a triumph!

Wish you all could have been there. There IS, however, a DVD of the show available. If you’re interested, please contact us.

We’d like to offer one more insight into the last week or so – the toast Danny offered at the start of the Awards Banquet. It suited the event to a T, and seems like a fitting way to wrap up our newsletters for the year.

Danny Kerr

May I propose a toast…

Here’s to summer 2011 at Pemi, a summer that began more than nine weeks ago for some, when it still felt as much like winter as summer, a summer that ends with the days growing shorter and the first hints of autumn in the air, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.

Here’s to over 270 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, campers from half way around the world, campers from 20 miles away in Hanover, campers from more than ten different countries, campers in their first year at Pemi and campers in their eighth.

Here’s to the amazing counselor staff at Pemi in 2011, cabin counselors, AC’s, program staff, administrators and program heads; here’s to the hard-working crew that Chris Jacobs leads so vigorously each day, to the folks in the office who never get enough credit, to the kitchen staff that takes on the herculean task of feeding us three times a day and, of course, the Reed Family and the Fauver Family who, in their loving and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from all of us each and every day.

Here’s to the wonderful program at Pemi and the fine teaching that helps to facilitate it, to the arts and the athletics, the trips and the music, the nature program and tennis and all of the great things that happen down on the waterfront.

Here’s to the weather this summer, so many beautiful days, long days with crisp mornings, blazing afternoons and the peaceful golden haze across the pond at day’s closing. Here’s also to the brief heat wave that we endured (which revived a bit of Chillin’ with Lit), here’s to the powerful rain storms that sent us scurrying indoors and the all-clear signal that sent us scurrying back out.

Here’s to athletic contests against our friendly rivals in the Baker Valley, contests hard fought, the victories, the ones that got away, and a Tecumseh Day that ended in a tie but which reinforced what I think we already knew, that it’s OK to win and that anything is possible.

Here’s to the things that are so uniquely Pemi, Polar Bear, caving trips, sound painting and comedy olympics, FRB, all camp capture the flag, counselor baseball, distance swims, graffiti art and 161 miles completed on the Appalachian Trail.

Here’s to all camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we’re loud and we laugh at ourselves, Camp Fire when we’re creative and artistic, and Sunday Service when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as history at Pemi, the importance of written letters, the beauty of music, life in foreign lands and the belief that “nothing is impossible.”

But most importantly, here’s to the understanding that Pemi is the perfect place to try new things, a place where you may very well make the best friends you’ll ever have and a place where we so often become the person we most want to be.

Here’s to Pemi 2011. Good luck, long life and joy!

Well, that’s a wrap. Parents of second-session campers will receive a final report from their boys’ counselors within the couple of weeks, and Danny will be writing to parents of full-season boys very soon as well. For everyone fourteen and younger, applications for the 2012 season will be available in October. As for fifteens, interest in Pemi West 2012 has already begun to mount, building on the remarkable success of this year’s Washington-state session. We’ll be in touch with details on the application process. For now, thank you all so much for your trust in Pemigewassett. It’s been a truly wonderful year!

— Tom and Danny

The True Legend of the One-Armed Brakeperson

From the Pemi archives comes this wonderful poem by Tom Reed, Jr., originally written in the 1970s but shared more recently at campfire. The subtitle is A Sentimental, Moral, Melodramatic Tragi-Comedy in Tetrameter Couplets. We hope you enjoy this poem, which begins with the conventions of the ghost-story genre– and ends with an unexpected twist.

In former years, a woman’s fate

Was sadly in the home to wait

While menfolk ventured forth each day

To earn their daily bread some way.

But now and then a female few,

In search of something bold to do,

Abandoned dresses, skirts, and shawls

To seek a job – in overalls.


In New York town, in 1910,

One woman thus hood-winked the men

And won a job for all her pains,

One working New York Central trains.

She tucked her hair up in a hat

And bound her chest down extra flat,

Said “Dang” instead of “goodness sakes,”

And joined the crew that manned the brakes.


It went just fine for several years:

She’d join the boys for days-end beers,

Then hurry home to spend her nights

Engaging in a woman’s rites.

She’d let her hair down, brush her curls,

Adorn her throat with broach and pearls,

And now and then bewail the strife

Occasioned by her double life.

She had respect, and weekly pay,

Secure employment day to day –

But what a price to pay for these –

To curb all femininities!


By middle June, in 1912,

She’s almost vowed her job to shelve

And find a line of work, perchance,

That called for persons, not just pants.

But times were changing far too slow

To give our friend an option, so

She soon resolved one Saturday

To force the issue, come what may.


To soothe her soul, it was her plan

To start one work day as a man

But change her clothes to skirt and blouse

Before the train left stationhouse.

She’d do her job just as before,

But play the man she would no more.

“It’s as I am I’ll work,” she said –

But hearken what befell instead.


The train was packed that fateful day

With campers bound for far away,

In flight from Gotham’s filthy air

In search of sylvan settings fair.

Among the throngs that boarded then,

A group of stalwart Pemi men

And neophytes, yet to be boys;

The coaches rang with joyous noise.

The whistle blew. They took their seats,

Descending on the fruits and sweets

Their mothers had, with loving care,

Provided for their travelling fare.

Some told of summers spent before

Along the Lower Baker shore,

While others boasted, proud and flushed,

How old Tecumseh’s teams they’d crushed.


They passed through Greenwich, Stamford too,

Then north towards Hartford fairly flew.

The day was clear; the rails were fast;

New England’s landscape hurtled past.

The engine belched out smoke and steam;

‘Twas bliss to hear the whistle scream.

Said engineer to fireman, “Son,

It’s apt to be a record run.”


Then suddenly, above the din

Of racing engine, whistling wind,

There came a sound he knew too well –

The dread alarm, the brakeman’s bell.


With brakes engaged, he throttled back.

The engine’s wheels locked on the track;

With thund’rous crash and deaf’ning squeal,

There rose the reek of scorching steel.

Inside the coaches, standees stumbled.

Ladies screamed as luggage tumbled.

All surged forward with a rush,

Then all was still – a deathly hush.

The engine whispered, idling there;

The smoke rose straight in still June air.


The train crew, shaking off a daze,

Back through the coaches made their ways

To find the one who’d stopped the train

By yanking on the braking chain.

Between two cars they found a lass –

Her eyes were fixed, and glazed as glass.

She knelt upon the platform there.

Tears coursed her cheeks, bedewed her hair.

“He almost fell,” she murmured then,

Her voice most strange – so thought the men.

“He wandered out. I saw him go.

I didn’t know his purpose, though.”

Again, that voice – familiar sound:

The men gazed quizzically around.

A little boy was standing there,

A Pemi cap on tousled hair.


“I almost fell. I came so near.

She saved me. Her. This lady here.”

The woman stood. They eyed her face.

A sudden silence seized the place

‘Til, to a man, they recognized

The wench who’d worked with them, disguised.

“What’s this?” asked one, the engineer.

“I smell a rat. It’s Joey here!”

“Not Joe,” cried one, “Perhaps Joanne,

A tom-boy dressed up like a man.”


Some laughed aloud, some quipped and joked,

But others felt their anger stoked

And scorned the woman who could deign

To hide her sex to work the train.

“You had no right,” they yelled with rage.

“You should know better, at your age:

A woman’s place is in the home.

This world’s for men to rule and roam.”


‘Midst slurs and insults such as these

She crumpled once more to her knees.

They turned to leave – but then the lad

Cried, “Please, sirs, look. I think it’s bad!”

The woman knelt, just as before –

But there, advancing, ‘cross the floor,

A crimson fan, a scarlet flood –

“Oh God,” said one – “I think it’s blood!”

“It’s not just there, look over here,”

Sighed the conductor, drawing near.

“That bumper’s covered with the stuff!

Oh no, please God, I’ve seen enough!”

The others turned, then staggered back,

For there, stretched out upon the track,

Half wound in fabric, drenched in gore,

A human arm – attached no more.


A hammer blow, straight to the brain,

Could not have dealt these men more pain.

Their words of cruelty echoed loud

For e’en the harshest of the crowd.

In silence there they stood as dead,

‘Til bowed by grief, the fireman said,

“We’re sorry ma’am. We didn’t know

The crashing cars had hurt you so.

We didn’t mean those things we spoke.

Forgive us please. Our hearts are broke.”


“Forgive?” she sighed, with distant air

While staring at each train man there.

“I think I’ve heard too much today

To give forgiveness any play.”

With that, she lost all consciousness.


They cared for her, I must confess.

They put her in a doctor’s care

And paid for all expenses there.

Once she was well, and passing strong,

They asked if she would come along

And join them daily, once again,

As brakeman on the New York Train.

With cool politeness, she declined.

She said, “I’ve got a yen to find

A place where I can change the ways

That men treat women all their days.”


Her task was hard, her search was long,

As any quest to right a wrong,

But now and then her thoughts returned

To the Pemi lad whose loved she’d earned.

To make an epic story short,

She soon resolved her best resort

Was haunting woods on Pemi Hill –

No, not to torture, maim, or kill

But just to do the things she could

To banish wrong and foster good.


So Pemi men, and Pemi boys,

When next you hear an eerie noise,

Examine well your heart and mind

And tell us, truly, what you find:

If you think women equal, peers,

Compose yourself, allay your fears;

The one-armed brakeperson is here

To bring you comfort, joy, and cheer.

But if your way’s to take a poke

At womankind, in tale or joke,

Prepare yourselves – for one night soon,

You may be moved to change your tune.

For though she’s loathe to slash and bind,

The one-armed brakeperson’s inclined

To sit you down and lecture you

Until you for forgiveness sue.


In midnight woods, ‘midst bugs galore,

She’ll let you know what lies in store

For domineering males and those

Who make of half our race their foes.


So there you have it, straight and true –

What one-armed brakepeople will do:

They seldom terrorize the place.

Their task? To heal the human race.


–TRJR (possessed by the spirit of someone)

© 2011


Summer 2011: Newsletter #6

The bulk of this latest number will be Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm’s summing up of Tecumseh Day 2011. Those who’ve kept a close eye on Sportscenter will already know the results – but we won’t spoil the suspense for the rest of our readers here. After a week’s focus on preparations for T-day, however, the current week has seen a burst of activity on the trip front; we now stand only 21 miles short of completing our Appalachian Trail Quest, with 144 of us having trod at least a mile of the fabled pathway. Uppers Three and Four logged seven spectacular miles on the Franconia Ridge, and a select group of seniors seven equally stunning miles on the Presidential ridges (in perfect weather). The best staff-camper ratio by far, however, was found on the second of two trips in the Mahoosuc Range, as Trip Leader Sylvia Parol and Pemi West veteran Richard Komson accompanied Sparky Brown on the most far-flung miles of the AT in NH – including the most difficult mile of the entire 2,000 in Mahoosuc Notch. Were it not for “The Quest” I doubt the trip would have gone, but we’re on a bit of a mission, and Sparky’s walk was especially well-supervised as a result.

As one more stall before Charlie’s account, we’d like to say that our boys continue to make the kind of impression on the trail that we like them two. Our seven stays at Appalachian Mountain Club huts have thus far elicited two email compliments, out of the blue. The first came from a random guest at Greenleaf: “I would not normally follow through on commenting on such things, but your campers/staff were exemplary in their conduct and interactions both on the trail and in the hut. We encountered four other camp groups during our trek, and your Pemi boys were the most polite, inquisitive, and appreciative group we came upon. Plus one of your leaders came back to thank the hut crew before leaving! Sounds so elementary, but even the crew said that doesn’t happen often. If our three boys weren’t all grown up, I would have enrolled them at your camp.” The second came from an AMC employee: “I was at Zealand Falls Hut Tuesday night filling in for the hut croo and wanted to pass on my compliments to the Camp Pemi group who stayed there. I worked in the huts for years and have led camp trips myself and those kids were among the best I’ve seen – polite, friendly, interested, and respectful. They also seemed to be having fun!” (What a relief to hear that last!) Music to our ears – and we hope to yours. Now, over to Chas.

Pemi and Tecumseh have been competing against each other for over a hundred years.  Only gas rationing during war time and an influenza outbreak in the 1920s have interrupted this storied tradition.  Tecumseh, a camp dedicated to the pursuit of athletics, is always a formidable opponent, having won a majority of competitions over the last forty years.  Pemi’s last victory was in 1998, when a group of veteran counselors (Phil Landry, Ethan Schafer, Sky Fauver, Zach Rossetti and others) and great senior leadership pushed Pemi to victory.  It was these very ingredients that were in place for this year’s contest with Tecumseh.

Pemi enjoyed successful athletic days against Moosilauke and Kingswood in the first half, but at change-over, Pemi welcomed close to a hundred new boys to our teams.  Our coaches worked tirelessly preparing teams in five age groups (10-and-under, 11s, 12s, 13s and 15-and-under) in baseball soccer, swimming, and tennis.  As momentum began to build at Pemi, with each cheer in the mess hall getting a tad louder, the Seniors played a central role in getting the younger boys ready to compete with a camp singularly dedicated to winning what they call “Pemi Day.”

Down at Tecumseh, “Doc Nick’s Wonders” (“the junior division!”) played in what annually has been one of the closest contests of the day.  Willie Noble took the mound for Pemi and delivered a gem (5 IP, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 3 BB).  Pemi spotted Noble a 2-0 lead when Andrew Kanovsky, Mikey Suski, and Matt Cornell delivered base hits.  Tecumseh battled back to take a 3-2 lead, but Pemi mounted one last attack in the top of the 6th inning, loading the bases before the final out was recorded.  The 15s Tennis team dropped their match 6-1 to a very talented and poised Tecumseh team.  Peter Traver and Austin Dorsey delivered Pemi’s sole victory, but Eric Herbert and Alex Dietl both fell only in super tie-breakers after winning a crucial second set to even up their respective matches.

In the second morning events at Tecumseh, the 10’s soccer team held a 2-1 halftime lead on two goals by Mikey Suski, the first coming off a beautiful serve from Jackson Welsh.  After Tecumseh scored three second-half goals to take a 4-2 lead, Pemi scored twice on free-kick shots, only to have the official call the goals back for off-sides.

The “flagship”15s baseball team sent Danny Murphy to the mound for his sixth and final voyage against Tecumseh.  After the team spotted Murphy four runs in the top of the first with several base hits and six stolen bases, Dan found himself in an early jam with the bases loaded and no outs.  He responded gamely, though, and struck out the side, crushing Tecumseh’s hopes of getting back into the game as our team cruised to a confidence-building 7-0 victory.  Matt Sherman and Daniel Reiff had great days in the field and at bat while Dana Wensberg called a brilliant game behind the plate and Eric Rolfs anchored the infield beautifully.

At Pemi, something that we hadn’t seen in quite some time was brewing from the opening whistle of almost every contest.  The 13s swim team fell quickly to a very deep and talented Tecumseh squad despite great efforts from Cole Valente, Julien Webster-Hernandez ,and Jack Purcel1.  In 11s tennis, however, Pemi defeated Tecumseh 5-2  behind singles victories by Carson Hill, Jonah Roque, and Robert Loeser and doubles victories by Patterson Malcolm/Johnny Seebeck and Owen Fried/Jack Wright.   A talented Pemi 12s soccer team withstood some early Tecumseh pressure as a goal-saving tackle by sweeper John Galbreath and several tough saves by Will Harned kept the game knotted at 0-0.  In the second half, it was all Pemi as Charlie Scott jumped on a Jamie Nicholas cross and pushed the ball home for a 1-0 lead.  Nicholas would send Scott in alone for the second goal before scoring one of his own for a 3-0 victory.

While the 12s took care of business on the pitch, the 11s baseball team was locked into an incredible pitcher’s duel.  Oscar Tubke-Davidson struck out 15 of a possible 18 batters (outs) for Pemi.  Tecumseh loaded the bases in the top of the sixth when a high towering fly ball was lofted towards right fielder, Greg Nacheff, who caught the ball for out number three while falling to his knee.  Unfortunately, despite having the winning run on third base in three different innings, Pemi could not scratch home the winning tally and settled for an agonizing 0-0 tie.  In the last of the home morning events, the 13s Soccer team provided the Pemi faithful with a spectacular game.  Pemi scored first when Julian Webster-Hernandez sent a ball to Nick Bertrand in the box and Nick drove a shot to the upper-right corner for a 1-0 halftime lead.  With Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Charlie Parsons, and Nat Healy shutting down the potent Tecumseh attack, Nick Bertrand made the save of the day as he pushed away a Tecumseh free kick headed to the corner, preserving the 1-0 victory and sending Pemi into a 5-4-1 lead after the morning events.

Lunch at Tecumseh was unusually subdued as Tecumseh found themselves trailing Pemi for the first time in several years. Meanwhile, at Pemi, there was boundless confidence after the boys of Lower Baker went 4-1-1 in the morning and demonstrated they could c-o-m-p-e-t-e.   Each camp met with their respective age groups after lunch with the day up for grabs and encouraged their boys to dig a little deeper.

Any veteran of Tecumseh Day knew that our friends from Winnepesauke would answer Pemi’s challenge with incredible purpose.  At Tecumseh, our 15-and-under soccer team ran into one of their most complete and talented line-ups and quickly gave up four first-half goals.  Eric Rolfs provided the 15s with an inspiring effort in the second half, and the boys only conceded one more goal for a 5-0 loss.  The 10s tennis team lost handily 6-1, with Spencer Hill winning at first singles in convincing fashion for Pemi’s lone victory.

Back at Pemi, the 12s baseball team jumped out to a 5-2 lead after two innings, powered by John Galbreath’s two-run triple.  But Tecumseh scored five unanswered runs in the third and fourth innings, powering their way to a 7-5 victory.  On the soccer pitch, the 11s also found themselves down 2-0 at halftime after giving up an own goal and yielding to a carefully-placed shot on a breakaway.  Much like the 12s and 13s soccer teams that played in the morning, though, the 11s responded with an incredible effort in the second half.  After Wes Farley set-up Carson Hill for the first goal, Patterson Malcolm sent Ted Orben in on the left side and he hit a brilliant ball off the far post for the game-tying goal.   With the Pemi fans urging the boys forward, Jonah Roque nearly scored the game-winner when he headed a ball off the cross bar, but the team settled for an inspiring 2-2 tie.

Pemi’s effort in the 11s game was a marvel to all in attendance from both camps, but what transpired in the 13s tennis match was equally so.  Victories by Florian Dietel at number-four singles and doubles victories by Nat Healy/Ned Roosevelt and Mac McCaffery/Max Pagnucco tied the match at three apiece.  It was in this high-pressure situation that Jeremy Roque found himself in one of the great tennis duels since Bill Pruden and Mac Cushing came from behind to deliver “The Hat” in 1967.  Roque, a wiry French lad with the heart of a lion and the slyness of a fox, was up against an outstanding athlete and competitor from Tecumseh.  Each rally lasted an average of 25 strokes while both players were surrounded by vocal, respectful supporters lining the fences.  As the boys kept the ball in play conservatively on their way to an 8-8 tie, Jeremy read his opponent perfectly and changed his strategy once he sensed an ounce of doubt in the Tecumseh player, as he began to aggressively serve-and-volley his way to a victory in the final game.

With the 11s soccer draw and the 13s tennis victory, Pemi entered the final baseball game and swim meets of the day trailing by only one event, 6-7-2.  Any time the outcome of the day is in doubt heading into the last events on the schedule, the boys have clearly had an opportunity to participate in a transformative athletic experience.  Anyone fortunate enough to see our boys compete couldn’t help but gush with pride as Pemi put together one inspiring effort after another.  The 13s baseball team, behind the commanding pitching of Ned Roosevelt and the outstanding coaching of Ben Walsh, won a convincing 8-2 baseball game.  Great defensive plays by Zach Leeds, Nick Bertrand, and Charlie Parsons never let Tecumseh back into the game.  The 11s swam hard but fell to Tecumseh 40-15 despite excellent efforts from Noah Belinowitz, Carson Hill, Wes Farley, and Johnny Seebeck .  The 12s swim team, however, delivered an impressive 37-18 win behind dominating performances from Colin Alcus, Sam Grier, Harry Tuttle, and Alek Novikov.

With the score tied at 8-8-2, Pemi anxiously awaited the results from Camp Tecumseh.  The 10s and 15s both faced Tecumseh’s strongest age groups and were collectively 1-5 after three events. It would have been easy for both Lower Baker teams to fold in their last event of a very long day.  But something magical happened at the Tecumseh waterfront that ultimately epitomized the meaning of the day.  With every member of the Pemi contingent cheering the 15s and 10s to victory, the boys put on a spectacular effort.  The 15s kept the meet close until the very end, when Tecumseh’s power and depth allowed them to pull away for the victory, 34-21.  Max Livingstone-Peters, Danny Murphy, and Will Oberlander swam particularly well for Pemi.  Then, with the 10s trailing by one point heading into the final relay of the day with both the meet and outcome of the day hanging in the balance, the freestyle team of Spencer Hill, Gray Farley, Byron Lathi, and Jeff McKee delivered a legendary performance.   As McKee entered the water for the last leg of the race and day, the raucous Pemi crowd screamed encouragement in unison, and erupted with amazement and joy as McKee gave every ounce of his energy to beat his valiant Tecumseh opponent by .3 seconds, securing Pemi a 28-27 victory and a stunning 9-9-2 overall record for the day.

There were clearly plenty of individual heroes who scored big goals and runs or won crucial matches and races – or teams that found the magic to reach their collective potential – but by the end of the day we had all learned something about our camp family and what it takes to compete at the highest levels.  In fewer than two weeks since changeover, Pemi became incredibly unified and the boys were able to discover joy in an extremely competitive environment with a community that was 100% invested in their success and well-being.

That joy and that sense of accomplishment is still sustaining us, potent evidence that success is absolutely relative. Everyone would like to have come out unquestionably on top. But on balance, we have rarely seen an effort that so markedly exceeded what we might reasonably have expected – and one where the support from the sidelines so clearly had a positive and instrumental impact on the active participants. Our personal memory of Tecumseh Days stretches back over half a century, and this really was one of the great ones. ‘Nuff said.

— Tom and Danny


Summer 2011: Newsletter #5

Well, after almost four weeks with hardly any rain to speak of, we’ve finally had what is passing in 2011 as an inclement day. Nothing especially lingering, just an evening and night of on-again-off-again showers and a day of even less aggressive precipitation. It’s hardly held us back at all in a busy week when that finds us preparing for our upcoming day of competition with Camp Tecumseh. Scads of teams practiced yesterday for one of the twenty contests scheduled against our perennial rivals (soccer, baseball, tennis, and soccer matches in five age groups), and three overnights headed off into the mountains. Seniors Alex Baskin, Sparky Brown, Max Borges, Nick Butler, Nathan Tempro, and James Richardson set off with Trip Counselors Sylvia Parol and Will Sargent for a challenging three-day in the rugged and remote Mahoosuc Range right on the NH/Maine border. Meanwhile, travelling to the base of Mt. Carrigain in the company of Sam Day and Richard Komson, were Lowers Andre Altherr, Nick Gordon, Kai Soderberg, Oscar Tubke-Davidson, Sam Berman, Kevin Lewis, and Nick Oribe, poised for an ascent of the mountain today. Not to be outdone by their older colleagues, Juniors Dean Elefante, Dashiell Slamowitz, George Cooke, Henry Jones, and Darren Mangan eagerly joined Jamie Andrews and Ryan Fauver for a five-mile jaunt along the Appalachian Trail, staying at the remote Ore Hill shelter (in the company, we’ve learned, of a good handful of Maine-to-Georgia through-hikers.) It warms this correspondent’s heart that, even in a week when Pemi becomes about as much of an “athletic camp” as it ever does, boys are still sufficiently committed to the full breadth of our program to sign up for trips like these. That a committed and talented athlete like Alex Baskin should jump at the chance to spend three days hiking just as Tecumseh Day approaches as quickly as the Maine border says a lot for him and for Pemi’s sense of proportion. Alex will play in multiple sports on Friday and play extremely well, but he’ll also have stored away some wonderful memories of backwoods adventure to savor over the coming months and years – perhaps long after he’s forgotten the score of the Fifteen’s soccer game

Speaking of Pemi’s broad program, herewith the promised report on the occupation program from Kenny Moore, Assistant Director.

The Pemi program is a machine to behold with many moving parts, levers, and pulleys.  Athletics, trips, nature, arts, music, and special events are all key components; however the main engine is our daily instructional periods called occupations, presumably named in the early years of camp as wholesome activities to occupy the boys’ time. Daily instruction is the hallmark of our system as the boys have the opportunity to try new activities as well as to hone a particular skill in one specific area.  Given intentional designing for such a progression, a boy can take Beginning Archery in the first week of occupations having never shot a bow and arrow and then, weeks later, progress to Advanced Archery shooting for his Bowman or Jr. Archer.  We offer over 70 occupations over four hours (periods) of instruction.  We have over 60 program staff to mix into the fold before assigning roughly 170 boys into their three and possible four hours of daily instruction.  In our fourth week of occupations this summer, 621 assignments were given to campers and 248 for the staff.  We love that ratio: approximately 1 program staffer to 2.5 boys, allowing us to offer excellent and personalized instruction in all areas, from athletics to nature to arts and music.  Our program staff, many of whom are professional educators, excel in direct instruction and are able to relate to each boy, whether they respond best to verbal instructions, to a visual or kinesthetic example, or to the chance to practice by themselves.  Overall, the boys respond extremely well to this custom-tuned model of teaching.

Below is a snapshot of one specific hour of instruction to further illustrate the depth and breadth of Pemi’s program.  As I traveled through camp during 3rd Hour, I witnessed some remarkable examples of our excellent pedagogy.

In Mixed Media, Florian Dietl watched Deb Pannell’s sewing technique to adequately stitch together his Ugly Doll (a 3-Dimensional stuffed felt doll, designed and created by each artist.) Andreas Sheikh’s Ugly Doll was a strategic masterpiece, coming together after Andreas had carefully sketched a plan before he deployed the fabric scissors for non-traditional cuts.  Beware, parents, of many Ugly Dolls coming your way in a few weeks! Forewarned is forearmed.

In thirteen-and-older Lacrosse, Zander Buteux and Will Clare led a hearty group of ten boys in warm-up drills, working on direct passes and ground balls.  Ryan Murray and Cole Boland followed Zander and Will’s lead by calling, “Ball down!” effectively communicating to their teammates.  Next, Zander and Will explained the necessities of “dodging,” an evasive skill used to beat your defender in order to open a shooting lane; change of speed, body position, juke-move, stick control, etc. were all skills demonstrated and then gained by the attentive sudents.

Next, I was off to check in with Cory Fauver and Alastair Bowman in Environmental Sculpture, a relatively new occupation that stimulates  the boys’ creative juices to produce visually-pleasing and –arresting artistic concepts using natural elements.  At first, the boys worked in the Nature Lodge library, sketching the idea for the day.  Soon the group voted on a concept and a location, a fantastic collaborative venture!  By the end of the period, a concentric stick circle had been created behind the Woodshop that entices any passerby to stop and contemplate their natural existence in the alluring spirals of a kind of woody nautilus.

Speaking of the Woodshop, I couldn’t resist stopping in and seeing what Harry McGregor and his team were constructing.  Each boy (unfortunately participants must remain anonymous in case surprise gifts may be coming your way!) was thoroughly engaged, working with Harry on the sander or Adam Sandler with the wood burners.

In A Cappella, Dorin Delhs, Zach Barnard, and Mike Plecha were putting the final touches on their rendition of The Whiffenpoof Song, a classic everywhere from the Mess Hall in Wentworth to Louie’s Lunch in New Haven.  The energy and enthusiasm was inspiring, and as I observed them, Greg Nacheff followed Dorin’s lead in the Soprano section, while Daniel and Peter Traver helped Mike anchor the bass.  The choreography was as impressive as the singing, illustrating tremendous collaboration from a wide range of boys.

Our athletic instruction provides a clear example of the positive benefits of small ratios and direct instruction from knowledgeable and committed instructors.  In 13’s Tennis, Jeremy Roque received pointers from Alex Reese to perfect his serve, and after four attempts, showed remarkable progress. In 12-and-Under Baseball, outfielders worked on catching pop flies on the move – then planting, and throwing, in order to hit the cut-off man.  Jack O’Connor and Nate Blumenthal showed great range, always delivering the ball to the cut-off with pop, much to the delight of counselors Ben Walsh and Wesley Eifler.  Athletic Director and Northfield/Mt. Hermon boys’ varsity soccer coach Charlie Malcolm led the charge for the 10-and-Under soccer juggernaut with a precise progression of skill development and live-action practice throughout the week.  Initially, they opened up with a 3-versus-1 keep-away drill in a small grid, as the boys were encouraged to move without the ball to improve passing angles after watching Jeremy Keys’ and Ben Ridley’s flawless example.  After establishing critical passing triangles, Charlie increased the grid size and had the boys play keep-away 4-versus-2.  As the boys knocked the ball back and forth, their coaches prompted them to look for opportunities to split the two defenders.  The final practice progression had the boys playing a small-sided game of 4-versus-4, with two neutral players attacking and defending goals. This allowed the boys to have constant passing options if they continued to move the ball.  This progression yielded major dividends, as it was clear that the boys picked up and developed this vital tactical skill.

Whether it was Charlie’s instructional progression on the soccer pitch or the conclusion to the Environmental Sculpture occupation, having the boys end with a culminating, capstone project is essential for the success of any occupation.  The A Cappella group performance at campfire was a magnificent example to the importance of the culmination activity for the boys, as they felt a sense of accomplishment for their work put in during the week.  The learning atmosphere that occupations foster is the creation of the Pemi Program Machine, as every member of Pemi learns and develops individual skills as well as teamwork.  The final two weeks of occupations will no doubt produce the same results, and your boys should return home better for having been part of our program.

As a coda to Kenny’s portion of the newsletter, here’s a brief account of the recent Allagash Canoe Trip, penned by trip leader Andy Kirk. This is one of Pemi’s banner trips, and every year takes our oldest campers on a extremely ambitious odyssey through some of the least-developed areas of the Northeast. The outing requires a week’s worth of training in a trip-specific occupation; selection to join the crew is an honor; and the challenging experinence is usually one of the highlights of a Pemi career.

On Sunday, July 17, ten campers and two counselors (Andy Kirk and Sam Day) rose at 5:00 A.M. to embark on a four-day canoe trip down sixty-two miles of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a nature preserve reclaimed from a long history of logging and farming along its State-O’-Maine banks.  Great was the enthusiasm of campers and counselors alike, and they were unfazed by the seven-hour road trip to meet Katahdin Outfitters, who supplied us with canoes—and another three-hour drive through Baxter State Park (and within throwing distance of Mt. Katahdin) and numerous logging roads.

After camping at Churchill Dam, we got an early trial by fire in a set of Class 2 rapids, and the campers demonstrated the capsize-recovery skills they had learned from guest canoe instructor Doug Hill (Porter’s dad) the week before.  Ridley Wills and Dana Wensberg set the bar high early on with some powerful paddling even with some heavy loads.  Dana later showed ingenuity in repairing a tent, and his only trouble was with the Tabasco sauce that occasionally blighted his meals.  Rodrigo Juarez kept the humor up throughout the trip and was always a good source of conversation.  Brendon Armitage got right back to basics on this trip: work hard, sleep hard, sparing no effort during the day and wasting few opportunities for shut-eye in the afternoons.

The group was up early every day and made good time; all campers helped willingly with chores, particularly Tommy Tranfo, Dana Wensberg, Max Livingstone-Peters, and Sam Harrigan.  The latter two distinguished themselves in two others ways.  At the 1/3-mile portage around Allagash Falls, an older gentleman canoeing alone needed help with his canoe, and Max helped him out right away.  Sam, throughout the trip, regaled his companions with arresting observations and rhetorically posited philosophical questions.

The weather was pleasant, and there were many opportunities to swim and enjoy the northern flora as well as sightings of bald eagles, moose, and other fauna.  Snack stops were frequent—something of an ongoing dope stop [Ed.: ancient Pemi terminology for a post-trip stop for soda pop, formerly called by Granite Staters “dope”] —with Matt Sherman most often piloting the candy barge, the most important canoe, and one for which all travelers had pledged to give their lives to protect and rescue.  No harm came to the candy though it was all eventually devoured.  Sam Papel came through as a motivated mover at the portage, energetically pushing and dragging canoes, often single-handed and doing extra work along the way.  Dan Fulham astonished all as he hoisted one fully-loaded canoe on each shoulder, carried them most of the way, and heaved them the last fifty yards into the water, holding forth on the writings of Kurt Vonnegut throughout. [Shades of Paul Bunyan? We think Andy, a Harvard grad, may be exaggerating a bit here!]

All in all, the trip was a success, and Pemi Seniors demonstrated all the finest qualities of Pemi men.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for our next number, which will feature Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm’s account of Tecumseh. For now, enjoy the next seven days in your own little corner of summer.

— Tom and Danny

Download this newsletter as a PDF.