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HOW ROOFBALL CHANGED MY LIFE (7 campers share their essays written for the “real world”)

Bean Soup isn’t the only source to find descriptions of life at Pemigewassett. The following—written by 7 campers who range in age from 9 to 17—were composed for reasons as diverse as a back-to-school homework assignment to an essay for ED college admission. Some were written just last month; others were created a few years back and played significant roles in the boys’ next step in academics. We’re pleased to know that these young men chose to share their camp experiences with the “real world” and thank them for offering them here for the Pemi family to read and enjoy.


The Amazing Camp Pemi

by Ian Hohman, age 9

Pemi is located in Wentworth, NH near Hanover.  It has fun, loving counselors and kids who are always very kind.  It is a sleep away camp and you can choose whether you want to go there for 7 weeks or 3.5 weeks.  The sunrises at Camp Pemigawasset are truly a sight to see because they include all the colors of the rainbow.  Pemi has nutritious food.  Don’t worry kids the chef makes pancakes.  They offer desert at lunch and dinner.  They call their dinning room the mess hall.

Pemi’s sports program is very strong.   Every week you get to pick occupations. Every week you get to choose from sports to nature programs to sailing and many others for 1st Hour, 2nd Hour, 3rd Hour, and 4th Hour.  We have a rivalry with Camp Tecumseh every year and it is very competitive.   It is the oldest camp rivalry in the entire country!  Every year we compete in many sports against Tecumseh and we call it Tecumseh Day, while they call it Pemi Day.  Whoever wins gets a metal trophy shaped as a hat. This trophy is very old and has been passed between Tecumseh and Pemi for 98 years. Tecumseh kept it for twenty years but Pemi took it back this year.  When the buses came in with Pemi kids from Tecumseh it was so loud.  Kids were jumping out of the emergency exit and the sirens added to all the screaming.   The whole camp went into the lake and everybody started splashing each other.  There was so much splashing people could not even see.  Pemi is a unique place.



by Caleb Tempro, age 10

Have you ever gone on vacation for summer? Like going to Trinidad, Las Vegas, going on a cruise, stuff like that? Well…have you ever thought of going to a sleep-away camp? I know a great one! It is called Camp Pemigewassett.

Camp Pemigewassett is a camp in Wentworth, New Hampshire. The first time I went to Camp Pemigewassett (also known as Camp Pemi or Pemi) I went for three and a half weeks. I enjoyed it so much I did not want to return home. The second time, I made sure I went for the Full Session, seven weeks!

At Pemi, you can do all sorts of stuff like wake boarding, archery, sports, arts and crafts, music, swimming, trips, hikes, and perform. These activities are called occupations.

Every day after lunch we have rest hour. Rest hour is an hour in your cabin to rest. If you are not tired you can play cards, read, write letters, listen to screen-less iPods, etc. quietly. On Mondays we have Bean Soup. Bean Soup is when everyone at the camp meets in the mail lodge to listen to funny stories, songs, re-writes, twisted-up experiences, poems, and other funny and interesting things. At dinner campers and counselors hand in their articles to be read during Bean Soup.

On Saturdays, we have “Camp Fire.” This is when the camp sits in a big circle around a camp fire and campers come up to perform acts, jokes, riddles, plays, songs, skits, etc. Camp Fire is great because it is basically your whole camp family coming together to see you perform. It feels good to show people your talent and know they enjoy it and are proud of you.

On Sundays, we have a cook out for dinner. After that, when everyone dresses up in polos, buttondown shirts, slacks or nice shorts and meets in the main lodge to talk about Camp Pemi’s history.

Now let us talk about cabin life. Since Camp Pemi is a sleep-away camp, we sleep in cabins. Living in a cabin is probably one of the coolest things to experience at camp. In my cabin there were two bunk beds and three more regular beds. Five of the beds were for campers. The other two were for the counselor and the A-C (Assistant Counselor). The special thing is that living in a cabin with people around you, makes you feel like you are all a close knit family. The feeling is just so great, it seems like it is too perfect to be reality.

So that camp would not become boring, the camp directors organize each day’s occupations. Occupations take place between 9:20am and 11:30am. Out of the occupations I did, knee-boarding was probably the best! I also tried wake-boarding but after my second fall the boat driver said I should try knee-boarding. That was a great idea!

So personally, I think Camp Pemi is a pretty great place. Everyone is there for you when you need them. On a scale of 1-10, could I rate Camp Pemi and recommend it to you? I would recommend it to you, but I would not give it a ranking. Camp Pemi is just too much of a wonderful and unbelievable family to judge with numbers. I am sure that any boy from the age of 8 to 15 would love Camp Pemigewassett.



Darren Mangan, age 12 (assignment: write about something that has changed your life)

When I went to camp the first time it was extraordinary, going down the hill leading into camp was one of the most beautiful things of my life with the radiant lake and the big delightful forests. When I first got to my cabin I met my counselor and unpacked my things for the next three and a half weeks ahead of me.

After I unpacked my things one of my cabin-mates took me on a tour of the camp with a couple other cabin-mates. I was amazed at how big the camp was and how many things there was to do. After the tour we went up to the mess hall for lunch. The first lunch was really good.

The next day I had my first cabin inspection. Cabin inspection is where one of the other counselors comes and inspects your cabin. Things that the inspectors do are check your nails, check your bed for sand, check for dirt/sand on the floor, check for messy shelves, and check for a messy porch.

A couple of days later I had my first soccer game of camp and we beat the other camp 5-2. After that game, soccer was my favorite sport and I still play a lot of soccer to this day.

Almost every day counselors try to play a game called Frisbee Running Bases (FRB.) In Frisbee Running Bases the object of the game is to run around the bases as many times as you can without getting hit with the Frisbee (the counselors are throwing the Frisbee.) Everybody in the camp wants to play it.

The comedy show of the camp is called Bean Soup. Some people used to trick the first time campers into carving out spoons and bringing them to the show. Bean Soup is basically making fun of everything that happened that week. They have it every Monday night.

The talent show of the camp is called campfire. Every Saturday night the whole camp would gather around the campfire and share our acts, whether it is music or it is a skit. I recited Shakespeare quotes during one of them.

There is also a show dedicated to music and skits called Vaudeville. This show only happens every season (three and a half weeks.) At the end of everyVaudeville there would be one comedy act performed by two counselors. At the Vaudeville I performed with my saxophone.

The last full day of camp is usually just packing and making sure you have all of your stuff. You also have to get your creations or butterfly/moth catches from the shop, the nature lodge, and the art room.

My last dinner at camp that year was the Birthday Banquet. This is where we got served turkey and all the people with birthdays got acknowledged. Then after the Banquet we went down to the awards ceremony were everybody got their badges for completing accomplishments. My first year I got a lot of badges!

The next day it is just waiting for our parents to pick us up and saying bye to all of our friends who would be going to all kinds of different places in the world. When our parents pick us up it is a very bittersweet ride back home. When I got home and looked back at the summer at camp I just could not wait for my next summer at camp!



Rafe Forward, age 12

On June 23rd I went on the bus to go to camp. I waited for the bus and got my cabin (I got a tent this year but there are only 3 tents in the camp.) When the bus finally came, I was sad to leave my parents on the hot sunny day that it was so I hugged my parents and felt my dads scruffy recently shaved beard. I said goodbye to them and hopped on the air conditioned bus to go to camp. I sat far back on the noisy bus alone and sad as the city turned to fields and the day went on. Halfway to camp we stopped for a quick snack at Mcdonalds and I just got a Sprite (because I don’t eat Mcdonalds fast food). The hours went by and when the eight hour drive was finally over I sighed, hopped out of the bus and got my camp trunks. Then I started to walk the half mile to junior camp.

On the way there I stopped, remembering the pine road that I walked over a lot the year before and smiled at the good memories and continued. When I finally got to my tent I saw my friends Ben and Reed from last year and a new person who I would later become friends with. I found a bed and put my trunks under it and socialized. My tent councilor Matt who was new introduced himself. After I got ready we all went to lunch in the mess hall. The mess hall is huge and has a flag from every country a camper or counselor had come from and the furthest was Papua New Guinea which is near Australia. The food at camp was very good so I enjoyed it.

Here was my schedule for the first week.

1. Wake up at 7:00
2. Polarbear, where we run into the lake and dunk our heads.
3. Breakfast
4. Inspection where a counselor from another cabin checks to see if our cabin is clean
5. First occupation activity that you choose and hope to get the beginning of the week
6. Second occupation
7. Third occupation
8. Lunch
9. Fourth occupation
10. Free time
11. Dinner
12. Camp activities like campfire and sunday meeting.
13. Tattoo where we brush our teeth and get ready for bed
14. Taps we go to bed

Camp went on for three weeks, occupations changing every week and camp life getting more easy. Some camp days we had special activities like councilor hunt and galactic capture the flag where the whole camp was divided into two groups and we play CTF. Some days we went to other camps to play sports like soccer, baseball and tennis. I learnt how to sail, I made new friends and I played a lot of my favorite sports.

When camp ended my mom came and picked me up. We drove back to brooklyn and then went straight to Long Island.



Jack Purcell, age 14

Camp Pemigewassett is where I have lived for four to seven weeks each of the past four summers.  I first went when I was ten years old, and I was petrified.  Pemi has been around for over 100 years, and has many important traditions, including an emphasis on music, literature, sports, and the outdoors. It is a community where people encourage one another to try new things and do their best. The person who has influenced me most at Pemi is Danny Kerr, the camp director.  Danny and I share a passion for playing guitar, and I always appreciate it when he sits down with me for jam sessions.   He can absolutely shred (which is a good thing) – he makes any song look like he was just playing Smoke on the Water. I’ve played with him a few times the past few years, and it has always been a learning experience. I would say that I have learned about half of what I know on the guitar at Pemi. There’s nothing better than just kicking my feet up by the lakeside and playing guitar by myself on a pretty day.



Dan Reed, 15  (application essay for high school junior year program)

As independent as I like to call myself, I realized this past August that at some point, everyone needs help.  For the last eight summers, I have attended Camp Pemigewassett for boys.  Pemi is known nationwide for its remarkable trip program.  This past summer—my last as a camper—I took part in many trips, one of which was caving.

The first couple of caves on this outing served as “practice caves.”  We were simply getting used to the feeling of being underground and in the dark.  While there were many tight spaces and great heights, I managed to “keep my cool,” without any feeling of discomfort, as I’d never before been afraid of heights or tight spaces.  Even the 100-foot vertical entrance to the second cave didn’t daunt me.  So when Larry, our trip leader, told us of the 40-foot entrance shaft to the next cave, I didn’t give it a second thought.  What I didn’t know, however, was that the entrance was not vertical, and therefore we could not be lowered down using a line.  We would have to wedge ourselves between the two walls and lower ourselves down, without any lines or anchors.

Now as straightforward as that sounds, it was not.  I was the first to volunteer, and was therefore the first to discover what the cave was like.  The shaft started out lowering at about 45˚, but after about ten feet, it was a straight drop.  However, the wall behind me went straight down, while the one in front, after a vertical section, evened out to another 45˚ section, lowering away from me.  In other words, I could wedge and lower myself for ten feet, but then had to go another ten feet slowly stretching farther and farther out so that I would end up with half of my back pressed against the wall behind me, and my legs fully-extended, with my feet searching for minute footholds on the far wall, which sloped away from me.  If I lost grip at all, I would fall.  Below this section of the shaft, the wall behind my back would even out to become the floor.  Well, I didn’t even make it fifteen feet in before I couldn’t go any further.  For the first time in my life, I was terrified.

Larry wasn’t coming in with us because this cave was quite a tight fit.  In his stead, Colin, an English counselor, was coming into this one with us.  When he realized that I wasn’t moving, he came in to try and encourage me.  Still, I didn’t move.  Then he went past me, and offered his leg as a “step” for me.  Even still, I didn’t dare.  Finally, after over a half hour, he realized that I had to get to the bottom soon, or we wouldn’t be able to complete the trip.  He told me things like, “Dan, you know you can do this.  You’ve done harder things than this.  You can do it.  Okay Dan, one step at a time.”  At first this didn’t help much, but I thought about what he was saying, and I realized that he was right.  I could do it.  It was all mental.  Physically I could easily climb down.  I just had to get past the mental block in my mind.  And with Colin’s encouragement, I did, and I lowered myself down slowly, step by step, only thinking of my current hand- and foot-holds.  The whole time, my heart was beating wildly.  All I could see past my feet was darkness.  There wasn’t a sound that reached my ears.  I suppose memories of horror movies don’t help in times like that.

I thought, when I reached the bottom, that I would be down there alone for a long time, as the next person would probably be just as scared as I had been.  One minute later though, my friend Nate appeared next to me.  After Nate, 5 others followed, each taking fewer than 5 minutes.  Naturally, I was a little ashamed.

While we explored the cave, I noticed that a few kids in our group weren’t with us.  I assumed they had gotten sick or something, and had gone back to the campsite with Larry.  When we finished caving, we all climbed back out of the entrance (this time, all of us taking only a few minutes.)  The few kids that had been missing were sitting there, swatting at mosquitoes, waiting for us to emerge.  I later learned that they hadn’t even tried to navigate the entrance.

I look back on that day, and realize that I did the best that I could.  When faced with a challenge like mine, some people can just plough straight ahead and climb right down into the darkness.  Others see that it’s going to be a challenge, and take the safe way out.  They don’t challenge themselves, leaving no room for failure.  People like me can be just as scared as the latter, but eventually, we learn that we have to try, and slowly but surely, we make our way through the challenge, and succeed.

Still, although there is a reason for me to be proud of what I did in that cave that day, I now realize that without Colin’s help, I don’t think I would have been able to do it.  I was terrified, and I needed help.  The events on that summer day have changed my outlook on life.  Everyone needs help every once in a while. I hope the recollection of Colin’s voice will make it easier for me to find a way to encourage myself in the future – and to play the same crucial role in the challenges of others.



Josh Kaplan, 17 (College application essay)

In the foothills of the Presidential Range, on the edge of Lower Baker Pond, sits one of New England’s oldest sleepaway camps.  It is one of those places that people who don’t know better might roll their eyes about, as if its values and charms really exist only in the imagination of its dewy-eyed fans.  I know differently — Camp Pemigewassett, or simply “Pemi” — changed how I saw the world.

I’ll never forget the day I arrived at Pemi, in the summer of 2002.  My family dropped me off at my cabin and left for parents’ orientation at the Mess Hall.  I’m sure they were anxious, though they did their best to put on a good face.  I, too, was unsure what to expect from all these new people in a place far from home.  Even before I’d unpacked my duffels, I noticed a few boys playing a simple, unfamiliar game nearby, tossing a tennis ball onto a rooftop and catching it as it came down.  A few of the older campers noticed my standing off to the side, and they showed me how to play and then joined the game with me.  When my parents returned, I was happily playing “roofball,” I had eight new friends, and I wasn’t the least bit upset to see my parents wave goodbye.

I treasured my next seven years at camp.  Nearly every day reinforced the values I’d learned on Day 1.  I met new people, tried new activities, and, in my later years there, helped out the younger campers.  More than anything, Pemi was a retreat from academic demands, the pressures of middle- and high-school social life, and the stress of competitive sports.  Nobody at Pemi would laugh when you dropped a ball in the outfield or couldn’t sing in harmony — instead they praised you for trying.  That obvious behavior is often missing in the adolescent universe.  The resulting atmosphere at Pemi was unlike anything I’d experienced.  My world of possibilities grew — I hiked Mount Washington, canoed the Allagash over the course of five days, annually swam across a large lake, and joined the “big buddy” program, in which I mentored a young camper.  I don’t know another place where I would’ve had the confidence to try such things.  Pemi also encouraged me to excel at new endeavors.  After working toward it for five summers, I was proud to earn my “Brave,” awarded for proficiency in areas all around camp, from plant identification, to hiking, to sailing.

Every year, on camp’s final Sunday, the directors talked about how the end of summer was bittersweet.  Bitter because camp was again over, but sweet because we could all take the example of Pemi home to our own communities.  I tried to follow the directors’ advice as best I could. The changes were subtle at first.  I was willing to try a different sushi roll; I was more open with friends; I tried to notice if someone needed a hand in class or at the rink or even at home.  Commenting on my increased self-confidence, my best friend Zach told me, “Josh, you’ve changed a lot this summer.” One year I signed up for “Challenger Baseball” program, where I helped mentally disabled children play.  At home, in 9th grade, I finally learned to ride a bike — a skill I never got around to as a child and which I’d been too embarrassed to learn since.  Whereas before camp I was too afraid of what people would think of a 14-year-old learning how to ride a two-wheeler, I stopped being concerned about others’ disapproval.

In August 2008, when I left Pemi as a camper for the last time, I decided to try to inject “the Pemi way” into my school life more than ever.  I applied for, and was accepted into, Peer Leadership, a program in which a core of high-school seniors leads a weekly class with freshmen.  A long tradition at our school, Peer Leadership aims to dissolve the cliques that are so common among the freshmen.  For seniors, the program helps us think outside our social norm and get to know classmates whom we may not have talked to in years.  This breaking down of social barriers reminded me of Pemi.

I went to sleepaway camp to play sports, enjoy the sunshine, and be away from home.  From that first day playing roofball, shaped by a special place, I came away with values and interests that have changed my life.


Did you or your son write something about Pemi that you’d like to share? If so, email it to camppemi. Please include the age of the author at the time it was written.


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