Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man

Tom Reed Jr. and Bridgid Ruf introduce “Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man”

Singing in the Mess Hall is a time-honored staple of Pemi life.  Noon and night, we rock the building’s rafters with a healthy variety of tunes, many of them written for camp by Doc Reed, many of them borrowed from distinguished U. S. colleges and universities, many of them plucked from the general American Song Book. We’re an old camp, catering solely to boys, so some of our numbers predictably contain fossilized evidence of a certain male arrogance and exclusiveness. We like to think that we have attained some humanizing perspective on any such lyrics, and that the civility, admiration, and respect with which we treat our many female staff members argue compellingly that we’re far more enlightened than we might once have been; that our singing these “traditional” songs is, in part, to acknowledge that they are in fact “dated” in many ways. Truth be told, if you examine one of our signature tunes – “Pemi” (which we tend to sing the very first night of the season) – Doc Reed himself seems to have realized that the male exclusivity of Pemigewassett was just that, artificially exclusive, something that needed to be acknowledged and kept in mind as we moved forward. The lines in question go, “There we sport on land and water, far from Eve’s disturbing daughter.” Hmmmm! But then, as a crucial coda, he added “Though, perhaps, we hadn’t oughter.” Some folks are perceivers and fans of irony, some not. (On which, more below.) But are we wrong to assert that this is humorous posturing; not actual, blatant, unqualified gynophobia? We hope we aren’t.

In any case, it recently occurred to us that, while we sing the songs of many traditionally male and now co-ed institutions, we had never, ever learned and chorused anything from a womens’ college. Given one of our current staff is Bridgid Ruf of Wellesley, why not, we wondered, ask her to research some tunes from her alma mater and introduce them to the Pemi Songbook? Bridgid was game to follow up. She went online, downloaded a dozen Wellesley tunes, and vetted them with the help of Music Head and messhall pianist Ian Axness. They evidently reached a quick consensus, choosing “Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man,” penned in 1939 when the male editor of the Harvard Lampoon went in drag and crashed Wellesley’s May Day hoop-rolling contest, winning by a fair length. Reminiscent of catching the bouquet after a wedding, the victor was traditionally expected to be the next Wellesley bride. Ned Read, however, was unlikely to enjoy that fate. Instead, when his curly wig tumbled from his head, he was revealed as a fraud and hurled ignominiously into Lake Waban.

Here are the lyrics. Know that the tune is quite jaunty.


“Peggy” Read

Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man

Oh! Many an old alumna will remember with a thrill
The First of May when ’39 was gathered on the Hill,
For among the smiling maidens, like a serpent in the grass,
Stood a masquerading Harvard man who cried, “They shall not pass!”


Sing hey the handsome Harvard man who posed as a Wellesley lass,
Sing hey the Senior gown that made him one of the Senior class,
Sing hey the Harvard Crimson flashing so triumphantly,
But tra-la-la tra-la-la tra-la-la-la!
The Wellesley Blue for me.

He murmured as he took his place at 7:23,
“My little sister, Mary Smith, has saved this place for me.”
Not hoops nor rhododendrons could check the villain’s stride.
He won the race, was crowned the class’s best prospective bride.


But as the crown was placed upon the wig that had concealed,
It slipped from off the May Queen’s brow; the rascal was revealed.
From many mouths the cry arose of, “Treason! She’s a man!”
The pseudo-queen grew deathly pale; he quickly turned and ran.


The crowd pursued him to the lake; they threw him in the drink.
They laughed and said, “It’s up to you, either to swim or sink,”
And then returned triumphantly to crown the rightful queen,
On the most historic May Day that our alma mater’s seen.


Ned Read, Pemi alum

So are you all lovers of irony? Here’s where it truly comes in. Pemi makes, in this case, a game effort to nod to the distaff side in our messhall singing. We introduce a song (premiered lustily in mid-July) about females rising up against male arrogance and deception. The mild shocker came when the rough shape of the tale rang a bell with us, and we looked further into details. The Ned Read in question was, in fact, the editor of The Harvard Lampoon. He had also been a frequent contributor to Bean Soup!!! During his days as a camper at Pemigewassett!!! Ned’s sons Bunk and John were campers here in the late fifties and early sixties, and John was one of my best friends and cabin mates, returning to the staff in 1967 as an editor of Bean Soup.  Remarkable coincidence? Machination of fate? Ironic it is (as Yoda might say) that we go to some lengths finally to bring the woman’s perspective to the Mess Hall songfest and – lo and behold – a Pemi boy irrepressibly pops up in the song, if not as the hero, at least as the villain. Makes you think the cards are stacked against political correctness.

Well, we won’t stop striving to bring our institution squarely into the 21st century. But we thought you’d enjoy knowing the novel twists and turns of this particular iteration of the effort. Guess it’s just proof that you can’t keep a good Pemi boy in the shadows of anyone, either man OR woman.


Summer 2012: Newsletter #5

As promised, this week’s newsletter comes from Assistant Director Ken Moore, in charge of Pemi’s general program.

“The beauty of our programmed instructional time is that the boys become accustomed to making choices.”

Life is full of choices, and Pemi boys can speak firsthand about making thoughtful and good ones.  Each week, boys sit down with their counselor to sift through the upcoming occupation schedule.  They navigate through offerings in athletics, water activities, nature, music, and art.  They must choose among the twenty or so activity areas that are offered, and are required to make a choice for each hour.  “Should I keep working on my serve in tennis?”  “I’ve never water-skied, maybe I should try that?” “Larry mentioned some occupation called Wilderness Survival, which sounded pretty cool; maybe I’ll choose that.”  These are the questions the boys find themselves asking, as each of them independently chooses what he would like to pursue for the week ahead.  The beauty of our programmed instructional time is that the boys become accustomed to making choices.  Guided only slightly by his counselor, each boy is tasked with designing his own program.

Walking around camp during the 3rd hour of our fourth week of occupations, you gain a good sense of the choices available.  Head of Staff and basketball enthusiast, Dwight Dunston, opened up the 10s Basketball occupation by asking the boys the keys to winning a championship.  The responses were varied, but the boys eventually nailed his three keys: defense, lay-ups, and free throws.  Yesterday, the focus was on defense; today would be the fundamentals of lay-ups.  Dwight had the boys line up on the right side from the 3-point line extended. With a smooth fluid motion, boys took the necessary time to line up their lay-up to bounce off the backboard, using the square to guide their shot.  Ethan Elsaden and Kevin Miller showed extra focus by launching off of the left foot and using only the right hand.

On the archery range, Jon Belinowitz announced that he just hit his first bull’s eye.  Sasha Roberts added that he had just scored his first yellow shot, a 9 out of 10.  The boys left the shooting line to retrieve their arrows only after the appropriate “go ahead.” Safety is always paramount.  Instructor Adam Sandler reminded the boys about the procedures for removing an arrow from the target without ripping the fabric or damaging the arrow.  As they began to shoot again, the instructors gave individual attention to the boys’ stance, checking that their feet were a shoulder-width apart and that they had an upright posture and straight arm.  The combination of safety, strong instruction, and recognition of progress are hallmarks of Pemi’s commitment to our instructional program.

During this one particular hour of note, four nature occupations were meeting, exploring and discovering the world around us.  Deb Kure led the Animals and Animal Homes occupation, this week preparing the group for an upcoming trip to a porcupine den, now vacant in the summer months. Matthew Cornell and Will Olsen investigated the porcupine quills, eagerly awaiting more information from Deb.  Within a stone’s throw was Ponds and Streams, a classic nature offering that has been extremely popular this summer.  Each boy carried a net through the stream, actively seeking organisms native to the stream habitat.  Ty Avery uncovered a salamander, while Jack Wright and Will Noble caught water spiders.  The boys were eager to share their discoveries with the group, and intently listened to what the others had to say about their findings.  Inside the Nature Lodge Library, the Nature Drawing-Water Colors occupation was underway, led by Kristen Cole.  Music played to set a creative mood, helping the boys in find inspiration from their natural surroundings.  Michael Kelly colored a mountain scene reflected off of a pool of water, using high-quality water color pencils as his tools. Caleb Tempro, while canoeing earlier in the morning, had found a flower on Lower Baker Pond and began to trace its basic shape before painting in the details.  The final nature offering was the ever-popular Wild Foods, led by Larry.  This group was off-site collecting their next tasty ingredient for a delicious – and unusual – upcoming meal.

Going full tilt further down the camp road in J-Ville was Deb Pannel’s Art World, today focusing on African Mask making.  The boys, of all ages I might add, had constructed the basic frame of the mask using cardboard and were in the paper mache process when I stepped in.  Lots of unique artistic visages were taking shape before receiving the final coat of paint.  Henry Seebeck explained his design, as he chose to create a round nose, triangular mouth, and a yet to be decided eye.  Eli Brennan’s choice in eyes was clear –  only one – as his African Mask was a cyclops¸with a long nose and almost bunny-shaped ears.

In the Junior Lodge, Ryan Fauver and the Advanced Music Class were practicing their riffs.  This music occupation, like African Mask making, was a mixed-age activity with Senior Jarrett Moore on the drums, Lower Jivan Khakee on the clarinet, and Junior Nick Holquist on the trumpet.  The group listened to Freddie Hubbard’s piece “Red Clay” and made a game effort to emulate the patterns and the chord changes. The potential was clearly there for a hip performance at an upcoming vaudeville or campfire.

Just outside was the Knee/Wakeboarding occupation, one of Pemi’s most popular and sought-after activities.  Graham Struthers, on his second day on a wake-board, successfully stood up and traveled the full loop around the lake.  Devin Hohman showed improvement in jumping the wakes, a more advanced maneuver, and was very pleased with his progress.  Perhaps in an effort to beat the heat of this summer, windsurfing has become a close second to this last activity in terms of its popularity.  Alex Sheikh was caught grinning ear-to-ear while carrying his sail out of the water.  He commented on the strength necessary to pull the sail up and the balance and touch needed to surf properly.  He advanced on the learning curve every single day, explained Alex, who was clearly enjoying his time on what we used to call a sail board.

Back on land was Jeff Greene, our Head of Tennis, who had a small army of 12-year-old tennis players improving their net game in a version of King of the Court.  In a best-of-three-point challenge, partners needed to win two points while approaching the net.  If the winners, the Kings, held their court, a new duo would step up from behind to challenge.  If the Kings were unseated, those challengers would race to the other side of the court to take their rightful place as the new Kings.  This fast-moving activity allowed many boys to be involved and to improve an important skill to count amidst their tennis arsenal.

Seeing so many occupations underway during one hour demonstrates in a marked way the breadth of choices that Pemi boys have, and further highlights the importance of offering such a dynamic range of choices.  The campers were so engrossed in the great variety of options, and it’s even more impressive that each occupation was staffed by caring and knowledgeable instructors.  Each counselor was focused on creating a goal individualized for each boy, whether introducing a new activity or  concept or helping him master a previously discovered area of interest, and provided just the right amount of coaching to achieve that goal.

“We don’t know of many camps that do this, and it’s an initiative of which we are very proud.”

The passion of our instructors is evident to anyone lucky enough to see our full-time staff in action.  Occasionally, though, we are fortunate to have Visiting Professionals join our ranks to raise our already first-rate instruction to even greater heights. Some of these experts from the outside world can offer a week or more of their time to our program, while others offer singular afternoon events that leave the boys thirsty for more.

One wildly successful example was the Silk Painting Workshop held the past two Sunday afternoons by Zosia Livingstone-Peters. Zosia, a graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York with a focus in Fashion Design, has found great success bringing her workshop to elementary schools and wellness centers in Vermont.  The boys at Pemi love it as well, as it offers them the chance to experiment with different mediums while creating their own individual works of wearable art.  Many of the silk scarves will soon be traveling homeward as gifts for you lucky mothers.  [Ooops. Did we forget our spoiler alert?]

Jim Dehls, a Pemi boy from 1959-1965 and an Assistant Counselor in 1968¸added to our already stellar music staff earlier this summer, during Week 2.  Jim, a former high school choral and general music teacher, currently offers private piano and voice lessons as well as hospice music therapy.  During his stay with us, Jim worked with the Gilbert and Sullivan Pirates chorus, arranged and sang The Marching Song with the a cappella group, and created our first ever Drum Circle occupation, focusing on a variety of types of percussion instruments and non-conventional devices.  Jim’s love for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas began at Pemi in the early sixties, and they are something that still engage his time and sustain his interest.

During week three, Brian and Alison Mitchell visited, lending their hands to the Lacrosse and Diving programs respectively.  Brian, a soccer and lacrosse coach at the Boys Latin School in Baltimore, MD, and Alison, a former springboard diver at Virginia, combine their expertise with their love for Pemi.  The boys enjoyed learning the fundamentals of diving from Alison, working on the timing of their jump and the use of their hands for a smoother entry.

Trey Blair, one of the Varsity Baseball coaches at the Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville, has enhanced our baseball program over the past two weeks and is guiding our instruction for this week’s culminating five baseball match-ups against Camp Tecumseh.  Trey, a four-year standout player at Kenyon College, works with large, eager groups during the occupations and then offers individualized instruction after our structured occupations for those boys interested in learning the nuances of fielding, hitting, or pitching.

Finally, Susan Perabo, one of Tom Reed’s colleagues and Writer-in-Residence at Dickinson College, recently offered poetry workshops in the Library, inspiring the participants to lend apt words to their many varied experiences and perceptions at camp and in life generally. As always, getting the chance to meet with someone “new to camp” who nonetheless so clearly cares about their development as young and creative individuals offers the boys rewards that far surpass what they might have anticipated. We don’t know of many camps that do this, and it’s an initiative of which we are very proud.

That’s it for now. When your son returns home come mid-August, be sure to ask him for details about who’s been teaching him what – and what he’s learned. Better yet, ask him to play that Frankie Hubbard tune, demonstrate that change-up, or explain where he found that Luna moth or the natural dye for that wool.

Summer 2012: Newsletter #4

Tuesday, July 17. Changeover Day! Ninety first-session campers wrap up their 2012 seasons, and ninety eager second-session boys take their places. As David Byrne might say, “How did we get here (so quickly)?” A remarkable stretch of clear weather no doubt helped, as everything seems to go more quickly when the sun shines. But we trust that the proverbial speed with which tempus seems to fugare when you’re having a good time may have had something to do with it as well.

Moose Day

The last several days have been fraught with engaging activities. The world premiere of Metal Boy: The Musical graced the Pemi boards last Friday evening (on which see more below.) Saturday was Moosilauke Day, as we squared off against out storied rivals on Upper Baker Pond in a host of sports in multiple age groups. It was good to welcome the families of some of our full-season campers on this, the first of two visiting days. It was also good to prevail in the majority of the day’s contests, leaving Pemi with aggregate victories in all three of our first-session sports fixtures: Kingswood Day, Baker Valley Tournament Day, and Moose Day. Even more important though, as Danny pointed out in the Mess Hall that evening, was that the competition had been spirited and fair, and the sportsmanship flawless.

Saturday evening featured our weekly campfire, with numbers substantially augmented by our visitors. Fred Fauver and Tom Reed Jr. kicked things off with “The Lion Bitin’ Song,” with which their fathers Al and Tom had regaled the masses from the 1940s to the 1970s.  Having so many families there brought out scads of new camper acts, and more than one parent commented that s/he hadn’t known “Junior” had it in him to perform in front of 300 people. Such may be the impact, though, of our mantra, “Never be afraid to try something new.”

Counselor Hunt

The dreaded Annual Counselor Hunt, postponed from the Fourth of July, took place on Sunday afternoon, with many staff successfully flushed out of their hiding spots by fiercely intent camper/hunters – and many of them undertaking entertainingly ridiculous plunges from the high-dive as a “penalty” for being found. Top honors to Michael McKeand, braw Scots counselor of the Hill Tent, for being the first Pemi staffer ever to hide – and swim – in a kilt! That night, Head of Staff (and masterful maven of Pemi Improv) Dwight Dunston entertained – and moved – the community immensely with a wistful, wise, funny, and celebratory account of where Pemi fits into his remarkable life trajectory.

Birthday Banquet toast

Yesterday was the annual Tecumseh Track Meet, with over sixty of our campers traveling to Lake Winnepesauke for a Pemi-Tecumseh warm-up, followed by a sumptuous end-of session banquet, which doubled as a chance to celebrate the birthdays of all campers and staff whose natal anniversaries fall during the season. Chef Stacey’s turkey-with-all-the-fixin’s feast put the final touches on what has been nothing less than a brilliant five weeks as the new Pemi Escoffier. The program ended with Birthday Greetings from around the world and limericks for all of the celebrants, penned and voiced in the best Mead Hall style by resident bards Ian Axness, Peter Siegenthaler, and Dwight Dunston. Then it was down to the Lodge for first-session awards and the last Bean Soup of the stanza. As evening crept over our little valley, the spirit in the room couldn’t have been warmer, as we all relished our last moments together as a full group. To live together amiably for three and a half weeks is great in and of itself. To laugh together good-naturedly just makes it that much better. Thanks to Ian, Peter, and Dwight for making that laughter so infectious and easy.

What happened earlier in the week? Here are a few details, from various sources. First, from Paige Wallis, head of our Swimming Program:

Pemi Swimmers

On Tuesday July 10th, an eager group of Pemi swimmers made the trek over to Walt Whitman for that camp’s annual swim meet. Upon arrival, the Pemi team prepared to jump in and warm up in Walt Whitman’s outdoor pool, located just yards away from their lake. The meet consisted of a Free Relay, four individual strokes, and finished with a Medley Relay. The 11s Free Relay team of Nick Carter, Diego Periel, Teddy Foley, and Isaac Sonnenfeldt put up the first points for Pemi. Throughout the afternoon, Pemi continued to compete with great sportsmanship and speed. The 15s Free Relay team consisting of Jamie Marshman, Jackson Seniff, Nick Pennebacker, and Sompy Somp amazed the Pemi coaches with their velocity in the water. Robert Cecil glided through the H2O with ease and precision, winning Pemi points in the 13s Freestyle, Backstroke, and Medley Relay. Jack and Nick Carter brought a great energy to the11s team and tied for first in the Butterfly. The 15s Medley Relay was the final event of the day. Alex Baskin, Nick Pennebacker, Sompy Somp, and Jamie Marshman came in second, fighting hard against a skilled Walt Whitman team. There was lots of hard work and energy from Pemi team, and by the end of the day Pemi came out on top with a 178 point win! Great work, Pemi swimmers!!!

Now, let’s hear from Jonathan Merrin, Head of Archery. (Will you be able to tell from his language, we wonder, that Jon hails from Merry Old England?)

Pemi attended the Silver 25th-anniversary Robin Hood Invitational Archery tournament on the 13th of July. Even though it may have seemed a less than auspicious date for a Pemi to take on a old rival, our band of top archers set off, come what may, on their quest to claim a victory against formidable competition from a brace of other camps.

Our bold and daring band took the line for their battle with great gusto. With words of encouragement and a Pemi cheer for luck still ringing in their ears, they launched their arrows with deadly accuracy.  They acquitted themselves with the honour and valor of knights – nicely balanced by the dignity and humility befitting Pemi Kids.  To come in third out of five camps, falling only to Robin Hood and Lanakila (in whose programs archery plays a substantially greater role than in ours), they shot with a steely determination befitting champions.

To be sure, Pemi’s leaders were right up there with the tournament’s best. With sheer skill and unwavering concentration, Kai Soderberg came in second in his 12-and-under age category, narrowly dropping a championship shoot-out with a score of 255. Following that, Nathaniel Kaplan’s stunning score of 277 set a new record high tally for Pemi, garnering him sixth place on Robin Hood’s storied all-time Wall of Fame. We mustn’t forget two rising stars in Thomas Bono and Hugh Jones, who had only been doing archery for a week before their first competition. Those who saw their high standard of performance after such a short apprenticeship won’t soon forget it.

Alas, after a long day, Pemi’s brightest could not bring the trophy home, but we acquitted ourselves with distinction, setting a new benchmark and firing hope for future attempts at the title with our rising young stars.

Next, this word from Track Coach Dwight Dunston:

This past Wednesday, July 11, 2012, marked the annual Baker Valley Tournament Track and Field Invitational, hosted by Pemi. After a short Rest Hour, our boys set out to the track, thoroughly sun-screened and well hydrated for what would prove to be a successful day. Camps Moosilauke, Walt Whitman, and Kingswood arrived with their athletes in tip-top shape and ready to compete, which meant that Pemi’s task of holding on to the title as reigning champion of the meet would not be an easy one.

For the 11-and-Under age group, Diego Periel, Whit Stahl, and Reed Cecil got the day started off on a good foot, posting top times in the 60m dash, coming in 1st, 3rd, and 4th, respectively. Stahl then turned around and placed 4th in the 400m dash, while teammates Will Moore and Nick Carter captured 2nd and 3rd. In the shot put, Periel and Quinn McConnaughey showed their strength by coming in 1st and 3rd. Ben Burnham and Will Moore showed off their springs by coming in 2nd and 4th in the long jump, and Jackson Smith and Tate Suratt leapt to 2nd and 4th place finishes in the high jump. Pemi swept the mile, with Carter, McConnaughey, Cecil, and Stahl coming in the top four positions. 

The 13-and-Under crew got out to a strong start, finishing 1st and 3rd in the 60m dash behind the speed of Andrew Merrell and Dylan Cheng. In the 400m dash, Nick Todalagi captured second out of the fast heat. In the mile, Patterson Malcolm came out strong, finishing second, and teammate Pepe Periel finished four seconds behind him to capture 3rd.  Periel turned around and grabbed 2nd in the high jump, while Jack Elvekrog garnered 4th. Ben Ross, Patterson Malcolm, and Ezra Nugiel finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively, in the long jump, and Robert Cecil and Dylan Cheng finished 3rd and 4th in the shot put.

Perhaps the story of the day came from our Seniors, who certainly led the rest of the camp from the front. In the mile, Pemi pushed the pack, with Ben Chaimberg, Dylan O’Keefe, and Nick Bertrand coming in 1st, 3rd, and 4th. Chaimberg would go on to win the 60m dash and the 400m as well (a very impressive feat indeed!), with John-Henry Bahr finishing 3rd in the 60m and Jackson Seniff finishing 4th in the 400m. Bahr would later show he had more than speed by winning the shot put, with J.J. Murray Jr. finishing 2nd. Jack Cathcart and Dylan O’Keefe finished 3rd and 4th in the long jump. Pemi then swept the high jump in the order of Bertrand, Barr, O’Keefe, and Chaimberg.

 At the end of the day, Pemi managed to gather enough points to win the track meet and retain the title for one more year. We are now looking forward to our next meet, which will be this Monday at Tecumseh. Congratulations to all of the boys who participated. Can’t wait to see what you accomplish next!    

Gramps, Metal Boy, and Pemi Counselor

Finally, in case you missed Saturday’s review in the Times, Friday’s world premiere of Metal Boy: The Musical lived up to every kilowatt of the advanced hype. For those of you who don’t know the quirky story on which Ian Axness’s show is based, it involves a little metal camper (we get ‘em here more often than you’d think!) who risks terminal rust in order to help his Pemi teammates win our annual athletic day with Camp Tecumseh. As fate would have it, the story itself has always ended with Tecumseh Day being just two weeks off  — and the narrator enjoining Pemi to “Use every day!” in preparation. Lo and behold, this year’s battles with Tecumseh come exactly two weeks after show night, so an odd cosmic propriety seems to have been in place. Interviewed by the videographer after the show (see the interviews here, on YouTube), Ian was heard to say that the story’s vision of an artistically crafted humanoid who turns out to be a fiercely-competitive athlete appealed to his sense of Pemi’s programmatic hybridity. Similarly, staging a dramatic tour de force such as Metal Boy even partially in order to spur Pemi’s real, flesh-and-blood athletes to greater effort and determination seems a wonderful blend of the Athenian and the Spartan. But back to the show.

Ian’s libretto was based on the trilogy of Metal Boy stories scribed by Tom Reed Jr. towards the start of the last decade. The music Ian culled from a variety of Pemi songs, Gilbert and Sullivan tunes from last year’s Mikado and this year’s Pirates, and two numbers from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Staging involved a clever black-box design by Zach Barnard, who also masterminded all other aspect of the production. We mentioned some of the cast in a previous newsletter, but suffice it to say that Metal Boy’s “Fellow Campers” Dan Bivona, Harry Cooke, Jack Davini, James Minzesheimer, Bill O’Leary, and Jackson Welsh turned in performances worthy of Tony consideration, while “Juniors” Jacob Berk, Brady Chilson, Matt Edlin, and Spencer O’Brien came through as the true infant prodigy kids they are. Lucas Jansky was hilarious as Skin-Bag (so named because that’s the way real boys evidently look to a guy with a steel epidermis), his best number being one in which he explains to Metal Boy the difference between a Squish House and a Pagoda. Peter Siegenthaler narrated with the finish of a James Earl Jones. Harry Eifler was brilliant as the ostentatious yet ever-so-slightly-cynical Counselor (type casting?), while Bridgid Ruf and Austin Blumenfeld played Mom and Dad with the warmth and wisdom of June and Ward Cleaver. Tom Reed Jr., played Gramps like the doddering old man he is, while Larry Davis played himself with a total self-immersion that would have taken Stanislavsky’s breath away. Appropriately stealing the show, however, was MB himself, realized with assured musicality and remarkable dramatic flair by Nick Gordon. He brought tears to more than one spectator’s eyes, and to a few cast members’ as well. (Fortunately, that was the way it was supposed to be!) The production was a double-header, with the curtain rising at 7PM and then again at 8, and when the second show closed with a standing ovation, it was clear something truly remarkable had taken place. If you’re interested in a DVD, let us know!

Well, that about does it for now. Stay tuned for next week’s number, when Assistant Director Ken Moore will review some highlights of Pemi’s diverse Occupations program. Until then, we hope you all enjoy cool and clement weather. Thanks to all the boys who made the first half of the 2012 season such a success. We miss you already, and look forward to the next time we meet.

— Tom and Danny

Summer 2012: Newsletter #3

Greetings again from our snug little valley, where a remarkable run of good weather has allowed all areas of the camp program to run at maximum capacity and with maximum benefit. Athletics are thriving, with Pemi compiling an admirable 16-11-7 record in the first ever Baker Valley Tournament Day last Saturday, featuring round-robin contests in all five age groups. We’ve now sent out five standard extended backpacking trips, three jaunts to the high-mountain hits of the Appalachian Mountain Club (with another slated for tomorrow), and are ramping up for next week’s five-day canoeing expedition to the Allagash Waterway in Maine (not to mention 30-odd trips of a more local nature.) Drama and music got off to a terrific start with the Fourth of July Pee-rade and old-time Vaudeville Show, and rehearsals continue apace for Friday’s world premiere of Metal Boy: The Musical. As for Nature, sign-ups for occupations haven’t been this robust in years, thanks to the ever-renewed and –evolving efforts of Larry Davis and Deb Kure.

Speaking of Nature, we thought this would be a good time to hear from Larry on the Instructional Clinic he runs every June, a unique national training program that he inaugurated some years back and that puts Pemi at the forefront of the camping world’s commitment to environmental education. As you read the following description, we’re sure you’ll have no trouble imagining how staff members who have been fortunate enough to participate in this clinic can inspire your sons with a profound appreciation and knowledge of the natural world in which they find themselves. Over to Larry!

As many of you know, Pemigewassett runs a preseason, 5½-day-long “Nature Instruction Clinic” for staff members from Pemi and other camps, and for students (as part of their programs) at the University of New Haven. As this was the 20th year for the clinic, I thought that I would use this space to tell you a bit about it—how it came to be, what we do, and how it benefits Pemi, the participants, other camps, and the children who are taught by our participants.

Nature Clinic History

In 1992, former Director Rob Grabill, former Associate Nature Head Russ Brummer, and I attended the International Camping Congress in Toronto. We were there to present a workshop entitled, “Building a Camp Nature Program: 12 Keys to Success.” Our “keys” were divided into two groups, the institutional framework and the program structure. As examples, two of the institutional framework “keys” were, “The Directors must provide philosophical and financial support for the program” and “There must be a permanent facility of the program—even if it is only a corner in a larger building.” Two of the program structure keys were, “The program must be rigorous; the activities must have some educational substance to them and not be just meaningless games.” and “The program must be demonstrably as ‘prestigious’ as other major camp training programs in terms of access to camp facilities and vehicles, type and level of awards, and place in such all-camp activities as color wars, individual achievement awards, and so on.” We were prepared for an audience of 30 or 35 and were very surprised when over 100 showed up. People were sitting in the aisles and standing against the walls. The questions following our presentation clearly indicated that we had struck a chord. One that was frequently repeated, both at the session and during informal “corridor” discussions throughout the rest of the meeting was, “You’ve said that there must be ‘a well-trained and enthusiastic staff.’ Where can we find these people?” This got us thinking and we looked to see what was “out there.” The answer was “not much.” So, we decided that we needed to do it ourselves – and the “Camp Pemigewassett Nature Instruction Clinic” was born.

Our basic idea, still in place, was not to train people to duplicate our nature program, but rather to give them the tools that they needed to create a nature program suited to their own camp, its setting, its clientele, and its overall program structure. We thought that contact with nature played an important part in childhood development and that a camp was the ideal place to provide it. Of course, since then, Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods has put a national spotlight on this idea, and with the increase in electronic “entertainment,” the role of camps in providing access to nature is even more crucial. Beyond that, we hoped to spread the good word about nature study. After all, we reasoned, we can only reach a small number of boys here at Pemi each summer. However, by training others, we could magnify this number many fold.

The basic objectives of the clinic, established from the outset, were to: 1) help the participants become familiar with the flora and fauna of northern New England, 2) show them how to plan and execute lessons for teaching about nature and natural history, in the outdoors, and 3) familiarize them with the resources available to help them with their teaching. These might include books, state and federal agencies (such as the U.S. Geological Survey or NASA), non-profits (Audubon Societies), and museums or science centers.

The first clinic was in 1993. Russ Brummer and I taught it and we had 11 participants. Two were from Pemi and nine from other camps. Since then, we’ve taught it every year, adding current Associate Head of Nature Programs, Deb Kure, in 2009. Not so coincidentally, Deb was a participant in that first clinic and so now, as an instructor, has come full circle.

The 20th Annual Nature Instruction Clinic

This years’ clinic, the 20th, took place on June 10-15 with Russ, Deb, and me instructing. We had 14 attendees, which is the most ever. There were two from Pemi, four UNH undergraduate and two graduate students, and six from other camps. One of those camps, nearby Walt Whitman, sent a participant to our very first clinic and has had participants periodically since.

Nature Clinic participants, 2012

As I said earlier, the clinic’s objectives are to introduce the participants to the local natural history, to teach them how to teach about it, and to show them the resources that are out there to help them in their teaching. We break the clinic up into two halves. For the first days, we focus on the natural history. We do this mostly in the field, modeling some of the teaching techniques that we’ll be talking about later and introducing the participants to the resources that we’ve used to create our lesson plans. The second half of the clinic focuses on teaching. Here, too, it is “hands-on,” as they have to create and teach an actual lesson with the rest of us being the “campers.” They also will create and build a display as an example of how you can teach without actually being there. Both of these activities further serve to introduce them to the area’s natural history and to the resources available to help them with their teaching.

The Clinic Schedule

Here is an example of a day’s activities, as listed in the schedule:

Tuesday (June 12)

Early Morning (6:30-7:30 AM)           

Tweet, Tweet: Birding with Russ


Creepy Crawlies: Workshop on Insect Ecology, Collection, and Preparation


A Colorful Feast: Wild Foods and Natural Dyes

Field Walk and Cooking Lesson (Wild Foods)

Nature Crafts, Natural Dyes (Demonstration and Activity)


Rocks and More: Workshop on Rock and Mineral Activities, Weird Science Stargazing, Nature Drawing and Journals, and More Students will participate in these activities.

The pace is fast and the schedule is intense. In fact, the participants this year nicknamed it “Nature Boot Camp.” It also takes up an entire week. This is very different from other pre-camp instruction clinics such as lifeguarding or archery instruction or sailing. These last only 2 or 3 days. Even the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mountain Leadership School lasts only 4 days. I think, however, that we need this much time even to begin to reach our objectives.

While space and time (and I’m probably stretching your patience too) do not allow a detailed discussion of what happens each day, I’d like to enlarge upon a few of these activities.

Sunday Evening: In the Dark

Nighttime can be scary or entrancing. There are new sounds, new sensations, colors fade, shapes loom out of the dark. We want kids to be comfortable in the dark and fascinated by it. We really start the clinic in earnest with this night walk. We get out the bat detector and listen to the bats use their sonar to chase a tennis ball or moth. We watch the female fireflies signal for mates and the males answer. Each species has its own unique “Morse code.” Some females, however, will also mimic the flashes of another species, lure the males to them, then eat them—true “femme fatales.” There is a constant chorus of frogs—at this time of year, mostly the chirps of grey tree frogs. Occasionally there is the plucked banjo call of the green frog or the “jug-o-rum” of a bull frog. Russ imitates the call of the Barred Owl (“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? Hawwwwww, hawwww”. They are highly territorial and will call back to defend their territory. We look at the flashes generated when one bites into wintergreen lifesavers and by scratching two pieces of smoky quartz together. All of these activities can be used to safely introduce children to the wonders of nature at night. The two hours fly by and then it is time for bed.

Tuesday Afternoon: A Colorful Feast

Collecting plants to create natural dye

Many children think that nature is just for nerds. What we need is a “hook” to catch them and reel them in. Two great hooks are wild foods and natural dyes. On this afternoon we do both, collecting plants to eat and collecting plants to dye wool that can then be used for weaving or other nature crafts. These can also be powerful tools to introduce children to where their food and clothing comes from. We try to show our participants sure-fire, and safe, plants to use. We also try to show them how to deliver a message about how hard the Native Americans had to work to keep themselves fed. These activities can also be combined with gardening or raising animals (they do this at some camps). This year we had deep-fried black locust flowers, milkweed shoots and unopened flowers (yes, you can eat milkweed if you change the water frequently while cooking it), wintergreen tea, yellow wood-sorrel, and indian cucumber root (these last two are trail-side nibbles).

Wednesday Afternoon: All Together in the Field

This is the “capstone” of the first half (the natural history half) of the clinic. We spend the entire afternoon walking the trail around Quincy Bog in Rumney, NH. The bog is formed by beavers. Their dams and lodges are clearly visible as is their recent (the night before?) work. It is a fantastic ecosystem, and the trail moves up and down through hardwood forest and bog. There are even rock outcrops. It is a perfect summation of all we have done before; a chance to review what we’ve seen; a chance to discuss some of the teaching techniques that we have been demonstrating. I should note that this excursion is a recent innovation. It is only the third year that we’ve done it, and we had to expand the length of the clinic by a half-day in order to include it. It was suggested by one of my UNH graduate students Yi-chen Luk who said, “Why isn’t there a…?” It was truly one of those moments where you think, “This is so obvious, why haven’t we been doing it?” and we made the change the next year. By the way, Yi-chen completed his Masters degree and has gone on to a career in outdoor education. He currently works at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Wednesday Evening and Thursday: Putting it Together; Getting Ready; Trying it Out

Wednesday evening marks the start of the teaching part of the clinic. We introduce the participants to the concept of a lesson plan, explain why it is needed, and do a simple exercise that shows how one is written and executed.  The next day (Thursday) we break the participants into four groups and ask them to plan a new lesson. The “rules” are that it must last 50 minutes, it must deal with a “natural” subject, it must be taught mostly outdoors, and it has to stand alone (i.e., not be part of a multi-day series). The students also need to select an age group to which they will be teaching the lesson. The entire morning is devoted to preparing the plan. The groups have access to all of the resources in our 1,000-volume nature library, and Deb, Russ, and I circulate to answer questions and help out where we can. One of the things that we have to keep emphasizing is that games and activities must serve the objectives of the plan and not the other way around. It is very tempting to find a great game and put it first.

In the afternoon, each group teaches its plan while everyone else acts as campers. After each presentation we ask, first the teachers, then the other participants, then Deb, Russ, and I, to comment on what went well and what they would do differently next time. This year, we had two different approaches to learning about leaves and trees, one about ponds and streams, and one about sensory awareness on the trail. This last had the memorable activity, “Who is a naturalist?” As the kids shouted out answers about who and what a naturalist was, one of the “instructors” was busy writing on a white board, but no one could see what she was writing. When it was revealed, the answer was “YOU!” This activity is probably the most important thing that we do. Everyone finds out how hard teaching is and how hard it is to plan and execute a lesson plan. It is a humbling experience, but the participants also finish feeling empowered because they know what to expect and what they need to do.

Thursday Evening and Friday: Teaching When You’re Not There and HELP!

Displays with flip-up cards

Because we had such a large group this year, we had our final lesson plan presentation on Thursday evening, before retiring to a well-deserved campfire and s’mores feast. On Friday morning, we repeated the exercise, but with displays. These are ways to teach when no one is there. (It’s how museums work). It is also a way to familiarize everyone with the resources that are available to them. Each group spends the morning (and part of the afternoon) working on a project which, when completed, is evaluated in the same way as the lesson plans (“What worked?, “What would you do differently?,” “What could be improved?”). This year we had a habitat map of camp with fold-up cards that showed “What lives where,” a model bat and a model wolf spider with cards that discussed different parts and different activities, and a do-it-yourself food web game that allowed the user to connect different parts of the food web here at camp. We finish with a brief discussion of resources available, including museums, organizations, state and federal agencies, and more. We try to make this as specific as possible based on the camps and locations that our participants come from. The last thing is filling out the evaluation form (this is where we first saw the idea of expanding the clinic ), the awarding of completion certificates, and hugs all around for a job well done and new friends made.

What are the Benefits of the Nature Instruction Clinic?

The clinic has both direct and indirect benefits. Pemi campers benefit from it because we use it to train our own nature staff. Our regular preseason is jam-packed with workshops on child development, training on behavior management, discussions of safety issues and risk management, and lots of work preparing camp for the campers. There is little time for in-depth discussion of specific program teaching techniques such as we do in the clinic. By the way, it’s worth mentioning that many Pemi staffers attend other specialty clinics during the pre-preseason. These are taking place at the same time as our clinic. Indirectly Pemi campers benefit because we (Deb, Russ, and I) are forced to constantly think about how we run our own program, and constantly read about new approaches and new techniques. It keeps us on our toes and prevents things from becoming stale.

Of course, campers at other camps and in other settings benefit in the same way from the training that their instructors have received. This sometimes goes well beyond camps as several of our participants have chosen careers in outdoor education, at least partially because of the experiences that they had at the clinic. These include our own Deb Kure who went on from that first 1993 clinic to teach at, among other places, the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, and who now teaches afterschool outdoor science programs for inner city students in Austin, Texas, through Camp Fire USA.

Finally, the clinic itself may serve as a model for similar clinics that could be developed elsewhere. This year, Rob Bixler, Associate Professor of Recreation and Tourism at Clemson University, attended the clinic as an observer. He, I, and some of his colleagues at science centers are in the process of preparing a National Science Foundation grant proposal (under their “informal science” program) that would provide funds for developing a template and testing it out. This could truly spread the benefits to a much, much wider audience.

~ Larry Davis




Recollections of My Experience as a Bean Soup Editor by —Brad Saffer

On the heels of my esteemed colleague Justin Thomson-Glover’s submission, I offer my own thoughts on my time as Bean Soup editor.

1.     Stick with the tried and true

It is better to repackage old articles and jokes rather than present an original work that falls flat.  As studies have shown, Junior campers will laugh at anything no matter how many times you present it.  In fact, they laugh harder the more often you repeat it.

2.     Take credit for other people’s work

While it is true that Tom Reed Jr. writes side-splitting “staff meeting” articles, you are the one up there reading it, and THAT is the key to the humor!  You may disregard the fact that that article is even funnier when you read it to yourself.

3.     “Pagoda” and “Squish” are useful devices

Yes, those two words will elicit laughs every time. First from the Juniors (see Rule #1), and then from the rest of the audience who love to hear Juniors laugh (I call this the “trampoline” effect.)  You can’t overuse those words.  Seriously.  Think about it.  Pagoda.  Squish.  Pagoda-oda.  Squish. Knish.  Squish again.  See?  You are laughing right now.

4.     Choose your co-editors wisely

My first co-editor was Geoff Morrell, who went on to become a reporter for ABC and Pentagon Press Secretary.  If you watch one of Geoff’s press conferences today, you would have no idea how much he wanted to push the bounds of decency in Bean Soup.  Karl See was fantastic.  His oft-used phrasing “he was meaner than a really, really, REALLY mean guy” still doubles me over.  And Justin Thomson-Glover was unbelievable, especially with his song parodies.  It also didn’t hurt that he had a style and manner that generated laughs no matter what he was reading.  In fact, he once read the Wentworth Yellow Pages for a full hour to the howls and laughter of the audience.  That’s a tough trick to top.  In sum, working with these talented folks inspired me each and every week.

5.     Identify staff members who are good sports:

If I wasn’t able to poke fun at Charlie Malcolm (“Kim have you seen my keys?), Larry Davis, Rob Grabill, Robert Naylor (“Come here, Mr. Fly!”) and others, I don’t know how much material I could have generated.  These people were good sports about having their names read aloud in a humorous, not so factually based light.

I am sure there is much more I could add, but best to quit while I am behind. I can honestly say that I enjoyed my six years as editor as much as anything I did at Pemi, and it was a great honor and privilege to take my (wobbly) seat each Monday evening.  I will always cherish the memories.

Were you at Pemi during the 1990’s?  If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1990-1999, 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

Summer 2012: Newsletter #2

It’s Monday afternoon, July 2nd – sunny, breezy, and warm – and Pemi sports teams are currently off at Camps Moosilauke and Walt Whitman competing in 11’s Basketball, 13’s Tennis, and 15’s Ultimate Frisbee (that most Utopian of games.) This comes on the heels of Kingswood Day last Saturday, when we enjoyed a full eight hours of competition with another of our good neighbors. Strangely reminiscent of last year’s Tecumseh experience, the day ended with Pemi winning seven contests and dropping seven others, but we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we’d put out our best efforts with very little practice time, all the while maintaining the highest level of sportsmanship.

Pemi’s Trip Program has been taking advantage of a recent run of good weather. Four cabins have now spent the night at the Adirondack shelter up on Pemi Hill, eight have travelled by canoe across the lake to dine at Flat Rock or Pine Forest, and a spate of expeditions have ventured into the neighboring mountains either on day hikes or overnights. One of the first of the latter involved Juniors 5 and 6 and J-Tent on a first-ever Pemi trip to the oxymoronically-named Flat Mountain, situated just above the Pemigewassett River in Campton.  (What’s next? Dry River? Rising Hollow?) Led by former U. S. Forest Ranger and now Pemi driver Reed Harrigan, the group of twenty-three visited the site of an 18th-century farm on what had once been clear ground overlooking Cannon Mountain and the Franconia Range. All that remains are the 50-by-80-foot stone foundation of the barn and the smaller cellar-hole of the house, topped by massive granite sills that honestly look like they belong at Stonehenge. As Reed explained both about granite quarrying methods and historical changes in New Hampshire agriculture that might have led to the abandonment of the site, Brooks Valentine sought to budge one of the sills, to no noticeable avail. Keep eating your oatmeal, Brooks. We are truly lucky to have Reed on the staff, though, and to walk with him in the woods, tasting lemonade-tangy wood sorrel or learning how to make toothbrushes from yellow birch sprigs, is to feel like you’ve somehow hooked up with Daniel Boone.

AT hikers, who walked back to camp today

Currently, Lower Two is walking by Greeley Ponds in the Waterville Range en route to their Mad River campsite, led by veteran trip counselor Jamie Andrews and fellow “trippie” Richard Komson (both of them veterans of Pemi West, on which more in a later number). Tomorrow they will scale the formidable East Peak of Mt. Osceola and then move along the high ridge to the main summit, commanding views of dozens of surrounding four-thousand-footers before descending to the trailhead. Meanwhile, a select group of Juniors is tackling a five-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, staying at the Ore Hill tent-site in the middle of a sugar bush before walking back into camp in time for tomorrow’s lunch. (The AT crosses Pemi’s land at the other end of the pond, and one of the consistent times we re-establish delightful contact with “the olden days” is when, as with this group, an overnight can end with a walking re-entry into camp. Time was when our trips to the high Whites began with a four-mile hike to the train station in Wentworth for steam passage to Franconia Notch – and ended with the reverse. Try as we might be tempted to, we are no longer made of such stern stuff.)

Wednesday, of course, is the Fourth of July, when we will sleep in an extra half hour to celebrate the vigor and vitality of our great country. We’ll then relish the annually extravagant Pee-rade and all that follows. (Details to come.) Thursday and Friday, though, we’ll hit the road again with two trips to the Presidential Range and Larry Davis’s Beginning Caving Trip to Schoharie, New York – where the boys will stay with Larry’s world-famous caver-sister, Emily Mobley. Meanwhile, back east, eight intrepid seniors will join Tom Scarff and Danny Kerr (!!!) as they head to Lakes-of-the-Clouds AMC Hut, high on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. Friday, after a shot at a Polar Bear dip in an arctic tarn, they’ll cross the Northern summits in time to make it back to camp for Taps. Simultaneously, another eight boys will accompany Ian Steckler and Reed Harrigan as they cover the same route in the opposite direction, staying at Madison Springs Hut at the extreme north of the range. Significantly, summiting Mts. Madison and Adams will give Reed membership in the famed Four-Thousand-Foot Club, as he’ll then have climbed all 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks. The inspirational value for everyone at camp should be considerable.

The last trip we’ll mention for now is the annual “Bookends” night at the Pemi shelter, undertaken by the very youngest and the very oldest boys in camp, in tandem.  One of the most-longstanding formal components in our Old Guy Young Guy mentorship scheme that includes two Junior-Senior Campfires per season, this fun event was one of the benefits of the good weather at the end of last week. Here is a brief account, written by Junior 1 counselor and Division Head Zach Barnard.

Led by the rugged but refined Peter Siegenthaler [Lake Tent Counselor], along with the Lake Tent trio of Harry Cooke. Oliver Kafka, and T. H. Pearson, the first “bookends” trip of the season was a success on many levels. Ben Ballman, Mac Hadden, Jack Linnartz, Nick Paris, Harrison Tillou, and Jake Waxman, the nine-year-old residents of Junior 1 and the Junior buddies of the Lake Tent trio, thoroughly enjoyed their first night away from the creature comforts of J1. Spending the night in an Adirondack shelter half a mile up the hill from the Junior Camp, all twelve of us relished s’mores around a campfire, fun stories, and some reading by T. H. just before bed. We slept soundly, awoken only by the pitter-patter of rain during the night, and eventually by the crackling of the morning fire made by Peter. Eating a breakfast of fire-toasted bagels and yogurt bars, we welcomed a new day under the canopy of as the fog rolled in, dew dripping from the leaves all around us. The magic of Pemi Hill will continue to live within us all – young and “old” – for a long time to come.

Sunday, we made a slight adjustment in our regular schedule to allow for an evening screening in the Lodge of the Finals of the EuroCup between Spain and Italy. If the 4-0 Spanish victory was a disappointment for fans who wanted to see an even match, it was hardly that for Pemi’s bona fide Spanish contingent, Diego and Pepe Periel, Julian Navarro, and Javier Ibanez. Swayed perhaps by the enthusiasm of this Iberian quartet, the crowd seemed to favor the muchachos in rojo. Displaced to the morning by this international set-piece was Danny Kerr’s Sunday Meeting on the many ways one can be a Pemi Kid. The alum of a neighboring camp with which Pemi has always had a wonderful relationship, Danny reminisced about how he had always thought we were a sports camp – considerate, respectful, and sportsmanlike to be sure, but hard-charging, well-drilled, and competitive. It didn’t take him long, though, to realize that Pemi is more than that, and that this is a place where sports, nature study, the arts, and outdoor adventure are all respected and practiced in equal measure. Beyond the core values of community, inclusiveness, and independence, having the courage and support to try new things is key to a rich summer on Lower Baker. If there are four legs to the “program chair” at Pemi, “balance” is doing one’s best to be grounded in all four areas. Aptly, Danny invited two of our oldest campers to share their thoughts on the remarkable range of boys who feel they belong here – and what they end up doing.

First to speak was eight-year veteran Harry Cook: When you see the iconic “Pemi Kid”atop the blue or white attire of young campers, you somehow imagine this figure (who was invented in 1919) to be athletic. His stance suggests he is sprinting, steadily with “pep and speed,” and his clothing features those high soccer socks. However, to be the “Pemi Kid” that Danny described, you do not require his athletic ability. There are plenty of camps up here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, yet this small blonde guy from New York City (yours truly) who doesn’t really like sports wouldn’t necessarily be heading to Lake Winnepesauke to join our table-banging cousins from Tecumseh, where athletics are the major theme. Instead, this lad would be heading to Lower Baker Pond where, instead of kicking a soccer ball across the pitch, he could be following Larry Davis’s Tree Walk across the campus. Pemi is a place where nature, music, art, and trips do not necessarily overshadow sports – but play an equal role alongside one another in encompassing the wonder of Camp Pemi. Where else could I have taken an occupation in Wild Foods, learned to sail, performed in Gilbert and Sullivan shows and campfires, and participated in sound painting? One important feature of the Pemi kid that is often neglected is the broad smile plastered across his face. If you have that smile on your face, whether you get it after scoring a well-maneuvered goal or finally getting up on waterskis, YOU indeed are the Pemi Kid. 

Harry was followed by T. H. Pearson, currently in his eighth season with us: When I first came to Pemi, I expected to only play sports – and maybe go on a few hikes. At that time, I didn’t know that Pemi was a wonderful place to seize new opportunities and try new things. At first, I mostly played sports and headed off into the mountains to hike. But then I noticed some of my cabin-mates had signed up for sailing occupations and seemed to be enjoying it. This intrigued me, and I signed up for beginning sailing. Little did I know that I would soon fall in love with being out on the water. It was amazing to me that no one judged me when I capsized or when I didn’t rig the boat properly. It was a safe environment to learn in, and I loved it. After learning the ropes here at Pemi, I started sailing with my dad outside of camp, and eventually sailed with him down to Bermuda. Now I also love banging around in Hobie Cats in the Chesapeake. Trying new things at Pemi helped me find my passion.

T. H. is not alone in having first come to Pemi for sports. Nor, obviously, is he alone in finding that by pushing himself a little bit beyond his comfort zone, he could find a previously unexplored activity to enjoy for the rest of his life. Music and dramatics are two areas that Pemi boys are often drawn to only after they hit our shores, some notable examples being Hollywood casting director Billy Hopkins (We Need to Talk about Kevin, Precious, Good Will Hunting), actor Jon Bernthal (The Pacific, The Walking Dead), and even music educator and light operatic performer Jim Dehls, back with us for the current week as a visiting professional teaching world drumming, a capella, and music appreciation. Appropriately, long-time staff member Dorin Dehls, Jim’s daughter, is cast as Mabel in this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Pirates of Penzance – along with campers John Stevenson as Samuel, Ezra Nugiel as Frederic, Robert Loeser as Edith, and Andre Altherr as Isabel. In the chorus are a number of boys who will be in their first Pemi production, perhaps their first production ever! Be sure to book early for this year’s performances on August 7th and 8th and you may see the next Olivier or Kevin Kline on his way up.

Sharing honors on Pemi’s Great White Way for the first half-session is a world-premiere production of Metal Boy:  The Musical, brain-child of Ian Axness, Peter Siegenthaler, and Zach Barnard – as suggested by an unlikely story written some years back by one of your current correspondents. It’s a tale of commitment and courage, splashed with a liberal wash of rust, Tecumseh Day, and rural absurdism, and rumor has it that Justin Bieber is already bidding for the film rights. For now, though, the title role will be played by Nick Gordon, with Lucas Janszky as Skin-bag (don’t ask!), and Dan Bivona, Harry Cooke, Jack Davini, James Minzesheimer, Bill O’Leary, and Jackson Welsh as fellow campers – and introducing Jacob Berk, Brady Chilson, Matt Edlin, and Spencer O’Brien as Juniors. Rehearsals start today (as we type this!), and the show opens on Friday the 13th of July. More to come.

Well, we guess there are other things we might have mentioned in reviewing the past week, but we’ll leave it at this. Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Fourth of July. We look forward to being back in touch with you all same time next week.

— Tom and Danny