Soups Up! Bean Soup: Going Digital

Pemi must really be coming out of the Stone Age, if the most determinedly Luddite of its institutions, Bean Soup, is in the process of digitizing all of its past numbers. What’s next? Virtual Polar Bears? Infrared webcams for night patrol? Spy satellites in stationary orbit over Camp Tecumseh? Tweets from the One-Armed Brakeman? Actually, Bean Soup began its descent into the technological maelstrom several years ago when editors Josh Fischel, James Finley, and Ian Axness regularly slunk to the front of the Lodge on Monday nights with laptops in hand, leaving many of us wondering whether they had actually written the material they were reading or if it was simply streaming from internet sites like The Onion, Al Jazeera, or Damn You, Autocorrect! But it’s true. Eat your heart out Bob Dylan: we are scanning and digitizing all of our back pages. Moth and worm may corrupt all those thousands of paper copies strewn out across the decades and the time zones, but nothing short of solar flares that muscle out past the orbit of Mercury will take all those incomprehensible Junior One articles, all those oh-so-politically-incorrect Ogontz (or Wyoda, or Lochearn, or Merriwood) Day articles, all those endless strings of Tecumseh Day articles out of our collective ken. For former campers, it’s going to be like having every day be candy day. For former counselors, it’s going to be like having days off four times a week and nights the other three. For former Bean Soup editors, it’s going to be like a nightmare where you can never, ever escape your lurid past. Seriously, this is a GOOD THING for reasons even cynical Bean Soup humor can’t obscure. We all owe a special vote of thanks to the folks who are making this happen, Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano, Ander Wensberg, and especially Robie “Calvin” Johnson. Their efforts (and the support of the Pemi Board) have been remarkable.

Here’s the deal. We’re going decade-by-decade, generally working from the present back into in the past. In case those moths and worms have been active in your own personal bookshelves, any of you who were eligible for a print copy of our esteemed journal in any past year can request a searchable pdf copy of the same. Blast notification will go out as each decade becomes available, and if you want to exercise your digital option, simply email Nikki. We will also occasionally re-publish select sections of various numbers for celebratory or informational reasons – and anyone interested in a legitimate historical or familial project that requires access to larger portions of the archive is welcome to request that. We’ll do our best to oblige in ways that appropriately respect the privacy of past campers and staff.

Nikki informs me that each decade’s release will feature a preface (or perhaps a legal disclaimer) from a distinguished Bean Soup editor of the past: the likes of Justin Thompson-Glover, Sky Fauver, Brad Saffer, or Karl See. For this first notice, she’s asked what Rob Grabill would alternatively call “an extinguished ex-editor” – that would be me – to do the honors. Well, I was indeed an editor for portions of three decades, beginning in the late sixties and ending in the late eighties. (If you don’t believe me, look at how much hair I’m missing.) Adding to that my earlier years as a camper and counselor and subsequent years as a director, I can say that I have laughed (and sometimes grimaced) my way through over fifty years of “Monday Night Fever.” When I think about Pemi, I think about campfires a lot. I think about Gilbert and Sullivan and singing in the messhall. I think about Tecumseh Days and hut trips to the Presidentials. But, in many ways, Bean Soup is the single thing that – if it could indeed be described to anyone – I would offer as a window into the soul of Pemi. Sure, part of the reason is because it documents a lot of what we actually do and say and think at camp (and a lot, too, of what we most certainly never did or said or thought!) But it’s the flow of good feeling, and common engagement, and masterful language, and often wicked humor that we witness every Monday up there that says it all – or, if not all, then at least so, so well. In the words of Doc Reed’s Campfire Song, Bean Soup often enough documents “mistakes of the head” – and it may, in fact, be guilty of a few of its own. (There have been times when a few folks here and there may have thought the Beans had been traded in for the Means. In fact, way back when, new campers were told to carve those wooden spoons because there would indeed BE bean soup served up at 7:30 in the Lodge. It was a bald-faced lie!) But “good will in the heart” has almost always prevailed, and more boys (and now gals) than I are likely to have learned how to be observant, and smart, and cutting but caring as much from Bean Soup as from anywhere else in life. What a blessing to come to a place like Pemi where you can do so much, meet so many worthwhile and welcoming people, grow in so many ways – and all with the constant reminder that you can care a lot about a lot of things without taking yourself too seriously.

So, let’s all take a moment to celebrate the Joe Campbell’s, and Rollie DeVere’s, and Bill Westfall’s, and Rob Grabill’s who have over the years invented the sport of Gummidge, and the Adventures of  Doorlock Sholmes, and Things to Look For, and the Ol’ Perfessor and Clive Bean. As Doc Nick used to say about Pemi’s history in the first Sunday Meeting of the year, “Yea, it is a goodly heritage.” (I think, in fact, he was plagiarizing from the Bible!) So it is with Bean Soup’s own storied history. Here’s to its rebirth in a form such that “age cannot wither it, nor custom stale its infinite variety.” (I think I may be plagiarizing, too. Just can’t quite remember.)

And now, on with the Soup.

~      Tom Reed, Jr.


Were you at Pemi during the 1970’s?  If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1970-1979, please let me know. I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form.  You may contact me at alumni. Stay tuned for future releases.  ~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano

5 thoughts on “Soups Up! Bean Soup: Going Digital

  1. As I read that I knew there could only be one author possessing the skill and information to transform a bit of great news into a story with great bits: TRJR!

    My parents’ house burned to the ground in 2004, along with my archives, which included my cherished Bean Soup editions. As such, I look forwarded to revisiting those issues, even my “Camper of the Year” award, given when I was an assistant counselor . . . another character building exercise from the shores of Lower Baker Pond. Hopefully, I am the only one to posses that unfortunate “honor.”

    I will pass your articles to my daughter, presently an aspiring writer (and summer camp counselor, extrodinaire) who will benefit from your style, form and content!

    Nonetheless, thank you for your decades of service and I certainly hope you received, directly or indirectly, my condolences for the loss of your father.

    Best regards,

  2. Rob, thanks so much for your kind remarks — kinder by far than that decision (not mine, I hope) to name you Camper of the Year even when you were pulling down a salary. Your fond recollections of my father did indeed come through and were much appreciated by Betsy and me and the rest of the family. I tried to answer all the emails, but (as you can imagine) there was such flood of cards and letters that I’m afraid we didn’t do very well responding to them. They’re all in a wonderful book of tributes, though, which Betsy continues to relish.

  3. Bean Soup going digital is a wonderful thing. I always attended Bean Soup as a Pemi Camper. I only missed Bean Soup twice in six years as a camper, because I wasn’t in camp on a Bean Soup evening. I am missing Bean Soup books from 1973, 1976, and 1977. I would like copies of those if possible. I was only late for Bean Soup once. In 1975 my cabin (Lower 6) went to Hurricane Brook for dinner. We arrived back in camp, just after Bean Soup had started. Dan Murphy was camper of the week, for his cheer that evening in the mess hall. Only two more,(days til Ogonst Day) I do remember Rob as camper of the year in 1978. That was my final summer as a Pemi camper. Many of you remember I lost my father last october 5. I received many nice sympathy cards, and I still have them. Bean Soup actually had a future predictions. Die hard baseball fans know that MLB has had interleague play for quite a few years now. I think that is great for the sport. Here is the prediction. In 1973 there was a Bean Soup article, After taps in Lower 6. Conversation between Dan Murphy, and Dave Walker. Walker-Quiet I got a game. (on radio) Murphy- Who is it? Walker- The Angels and The Braves. Murphy- But they’re in different leagues. Walker- I don’t care, I still got the Angels and Braves. That is my memory for everyone.

  4. Great to hear/see about digital!

    I haven’t seen my hard copy Bean Soups in many moons. Delighted to be 2nd of 3 generations of Pemi people.
    1979 and 81 seem to be my Pemi years. Wonderful G & S, porch ping-pong, mountaineering.

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