Summer 2013: Newsletter # 6

[For those of you who missed the special segment on SportsCenter, here is Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm’s overview of Pemi-Tecumseh Day 2013!]

The day arrived with great anticipation for the lads of Lower Baker and Winnipesaukee.  From the date the “hat” made the long drive from Moultonborough Neck Road to the friendly confines of the Baker Valley, our friends at Tecumseh have been busy recruiting athletes and exploring ways to get as many athletic boys as possible to remain or return for the big contest against Pemi. Here at camp, last week’s cheers were loud in the mess hall, the preparation was moderately frantic, and the sunsets were spectacular.  Each Pemi team practiced for four days, though many campers still took advantage of opportunities to climb mountains, chase butterflies, and perform at campfire.

As always, the Tecumseh Day bugle sounded at 6:30 AM, with the morning mist gliding through the valley to meet the boys.  The seniors blasted rock music and led the Juniors and Intermediates in exercises and a charging Polar Bear before heading up to breakfast for a quick meal before the buses carrying the 10s and 15s left camp at 7:37 AM.  This year, Tecumseh sent advanced vans with each starting unit ahead of their buses and arrived earlier then usual.  You immediately got the sense that Tecumseh was particularly serious about this year’s contest.  Over the last three seasons, Pemi has actually won two more total events than Tecumseh, so clearly, Tecumseh was determined to get back to their winning ways of the Blue and Grey.

Morning Events at Pemi:

SurajThe 11-and-under tennis team stepped onto the courts in the first time slot and played a very competitive match.  Spencer Hill won his number-one singles match 8-0 as did four singles Quinn McConnaughey 8-5. Unfortunately, Suraj Khakee lost in a tie breaker 9-7 at number-two singles, demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship throughout the match.  Number-one doubles of Scott Cook and Ryan Bush won their match-up, though Pemi 11s eventually fell 4-3 in their opening match.

The 12’s soccer game was the most challenging event to watch on many levels and exemplified Tecumseh’s singular determination to make a statement that this year would be different.  Pemi’s footballers were playing Tecumseh’s strongest unit loaded with newly recruited club-level talent.  Timmy Coe fought tenaciously for Pemi at midfield but to no avail as Tecumseh skillfully possessed the ball.  The boys from Winnipesaukee scored early and often and by half time Pemi was down 4-0.  In the opening moments of the second half, Tecumseh scored a 5th goal and coach Roberts made the wise move of pulling many of his top players, most of whom would be playing tennis in the next contest.  Tecumseh chose to keep the ship moving full speed ahead, adding seven more goals in the second half.  Coach Roberts did a remarkable job subbing in players and keeping the boys engaged despite the difficult circumstances.

The 13’s swim team kept the contest close in the early stages before falling to a deep and talented Tecumseh team 33-17.  The highlights of the meet was the work of Ezra Nugiel, Kevin Lewis, Lyle Seebeck, Noah Belinowiz, Lucas Janszky, and Robert Cecil as they swam their hearts out.

From the opening pitch, Tecumseh was also off to the races in the 11’s baseball game.  Charles DeVos and Ryan Cowles made some nice plays in the field while Suraj Khakee delivered Pemi’s only two hits on the day.  The team’s character and mettle were tested throughout the contest as Tecumseh poured it on during a 13-0 rout and our boys had difficulty handling the set-back.

On the tennis court, a strong Pemi 12’s team received victories from Timmy Coe, Gavin Sultan, and Ben Ackerman. With the overall score knotted 3-3, the doubles team of Lucas Gaffney and Ben Burnham fought back from a 7-2 deficit before falling short.  It was this effort by Pemi that provided a glimmer of hope that the boys could begin to rally and meet the challenge of the day.

PattersonThe 13’s soccer team played an aggressive Tecumseh group in what would be a highly competitive match.  Pemi took control of the first fifteen minutes of the match, as Carson Hill, Patterson Malcolm and Ted Orben combined to create a dangerous attack. Tecumseh gradually began to put Pemi back on their heels, but the tenacious play of Lyle Seebeck and Nick Toldalagi denied Tecumseh quality scoring opportunities.  Throughout the match, Sam Berman played well in the net for Pemi.  Ten minutes into the second half, Ted Orben sent Malcolm in on a partial breakaway, but the Tecumseh keeper bravely came off his line and stuffed the play for a game-saving play, even though he was injured on the play.  As the second half wore on, Tecumseh’s overall fitness and desire to win eventually wore down Pemi and they pushed home three quality goals late in the contest for a 3-0 victory.  The 13’s soccer team and the fight and determination from Gaffney and Burnham suggested Pemi could compete if they were willing to embrace the challenge.

The Morning at Tecumseh:

The Doc Nick’s Wonders ten-and-unders found themselves facing a very talented baseball opponent.  Tecumseh’s side-arm pitcher mowed down the Pemi bats while he and his teammates delivered a blistering offense.  Defensively, Jamie Acocella and Whit Courage made great plays in the field as Pemi fell 13-0.

Fortunately, the 10s left their disappointment behind on the little field as soccer coach Bryce Wallis skillfully regrouped the troops and focused their efforts on the challenge ahead.  Tecumseh scored ten minutes into the game, but Pemi answered when Charlie Howe picked a ball out of a scrum near the 18 and chipped the ball over the Tecumseh keeper for a 1-1 tie at half.  After numerous spectacular saves by Gordon “Banks” Robbins in the Pemi net, Tecumseh seized the lead six minutes into the second half, but Pemi kept pushing forward as Eric Bush and Max Blohm worked tirelessly on Tecumseh’s massive soccer field to create scoring opportunities.  With the time running down, Pemi gave up a late goal for the 3-1 final score, but the boys deserved tremendous credit for their extraordinary effort.

MaxArthurThe 15 tennis team garnered victories from the Duval brothers at number-one doubles and Bill O’Leary at third singles, while Arthur Root and Max Pagnucco, and Jack O’Connor and Will Jones delivered doubles triumphs for the 4-3 victory.  However, the 15’s baseballers found themselves down 5-1 early despite outstanding defense from Ben Chaimberg in center and a Zach Leeds at short.  With Pemi trailing 6-2 in the last inning, Hugh Grey hit a triple to deep left center to ignite a Pemi rally.  Pemi narrowed the score to 6-4 with key base hits from Julian Hernandez-Webster, Arthur Root, Will DeTeso, and Bert Oberlander.  With the bases loaded and one out, Leeds hit a sharp comebacker to the mound that resulted in a game-ending double play. It was a frustrating loss, given Pemi had ample opportunities to score but hit the ball hard at people and just couldn’t deliver that one timely hit to break open the game.  As the Tecumseh team stormed the field, Pemi made the long walk back to the mess hall knowing they had gone 1-3 in the morning events at Tecumseh. The news from Pemi would be even worse.

Lunch at Pemi and Tecumseh: “We can still win!!!” and “I’m not going to sugar coat this!”…

After Tecumseh left the dining hall, Pemi gathered around the piano to briefly discuss the morning and re-calibrate their efforts for the afternoon.  Pemi clearly was facing a very prepared and motivated opponent, clearly out to send Pemi a message that last year’s victory was not well received in the Tecumseh community.  I spoke to the Boys about our commitment to each other and importance of being great teammates, especially when the contests were not going well.  There was a brief moment of silence when, all of the sudden, a voice blurted out, “We can still win!”  Well, down 9-1, Las Vegas would make that a historic long shot. Nevertheless, there was something in that young voice that broke the somberness of the situation and inspired all of us to rake a little harder, and perhaps, not take ourselves so seriously.

At Tecumseh, Kenny brought together the boys under the big oak tree overlooking Winnipesaukee.  “I’m not going to sugar coat this,” he confessed. “The results from this morning were disappointing. We can mail it in now — or we can choose to play for something that matters to us.  We have this choice before us.”  With Pemi trailing 9-1 at lunchtime on the road with our youngest campers in tow, the fifteen-and-unders had to come to grips with a very tough situation and respond.

At Pemi, when the 11’s arrived at the Dining Hill, they were an age group in turmoil.  They had let a winnable tennis match slip away and had been creamed in a baseball game.  Some of the lads weren’t necessarily handling the adversity and pressure of the day with the grace and determination necessary to move forward.  This is when excellent counseling could come in, as Payne Hadden, Will Meinke and the rest of the 11’s staff refocused the boys and guided them to one of the best performances of the day on the soccer pitch…

The Afternoon at Pemi:

…From the opening whistle, Pemi outhustled Tecumseh to every 50/50 ball, and seized a 1-0 lead when Sasha Roberts sent Ryan Bush in alone for the score.  In the second half, Tecumseh pushed forward but the defense of Will Laycock, Owen Lee, and Henry Seebeck held strong until Pemi goalie Jasper Nussbaum made an incredible save on a penalty kick to preserve a much needed victory.

The 12’s baseball team stepped onto the diamond to face another very talented side from Tecumseh. Tecumseh quickly shut down the Pemi bats while their talented short stop from Philadelphia delivered a 3-4 effort as our rivals built a 6-0 lead.  Noah Hooper and Jack Elvekrog pitched well for Pemi to keep us in the game and James Minzesheimer broke up the shut-out in the sixth inning with a clutch base hit for the final 7-1 score.  Despite the loss, Pemi played eighteen boys in this game while keeping the game close.

OwenFriedAfter Carson Hill delivered steady victory over an overtly frustrated Tecumseh opponent for Pemi’s 13’s tennis team at first singles and Jackson Trevor and Ketan Parekh won handily at first doubles, Pemi found themselves down 3-2 and needing some clutch victories to defeat the Tecumseh line-up.  After Robert Loeser defeated his gritty opponent with his own unyielding determination at fourth singles, the doubles teams of Owen Fried and Ted Orben at third doubles clinched the match when they chose to play aggressively at the net. With victories in 13’s tennis and 11’s soccer, Pemi appeared to restore some of their missing mojo.

The 12’s age group had lost all three contests heading into the swim meet.  The team came together and fought hard in the water to get a result.  Pemi won the medley relay (Elvekrog, Mangan, Boruchin, and Silver) and received first-place finish in the breast stroke (Byron Lathi) while taking second place finishes in the breast (Jack Elvekrog) Butterfly (Grady Boruchin) and free style (Luke Silver).  To win the meet, Pemi needed a second and third place finish in the free relay.  Coach Payne Hadden wisely broke up his first relay team to share some speed with his second team, and the decision was a splashing success as Pemi took first and third place to win the meet 27-25!  Well done, coach!  Well done, boys!

The 11’s mermen team swam hard but didn’t quite have the horses to deliver the victory. Frank Applebaum won the butterfly while Henry Seebeck took the breaststroke. Scott Cook actually came out of the Health Center and swam well, taking third in the IM (which Pemi won.) Medley Relayers Spencer Hill, Seebeck, Applebaum, and Ryan Bush came in ahead of their rivals, but overall the team came up short at 24-31.

OscarThe 13’s baseball team, fresh off their well-earned victory in tennis, came out and played a flawless baseball game.  Oscar Tubke-Davidson stymied Tecumseh’s bats with outstanding pitching while the defense of Patterson Malcolm at short, Jivan Khakee at third, and Grady Nance in center closed the door on any potential big innings.  Key hits by Nance and Billy Rudnick pushed Pemi to a 3-2 victory – and a 2-2 split on the day for the thirteen-and-under age group.

The Afternoon at Tecumseh:

The 10’s tennis team fell 5-2 to a very strong Tecumseh squad.  Even with Whit Courage winning fourth singles and Jamie Acocella and Eric Bush taking second doubles, Pemi unfortunately came up short in two tie-breakers in what was a very close match. Nevertheless, it was clear to everyone that the ten-year -olds had given it their all.

While the 10’s were playing tennis, the majority of both camps came to watch the fifteen-and-under soccer match.  Without much fanfare, but with a quiet determination, Pemi’s 15’s stepped onto the pitch determined to win this match.  Historically, the 15’s game is one of the most watched and hotly contested fixtures of the day.  Tecumseh rolled out a physical, kick-and-run side against Pemi’s smaller, more technical team.  In the center of the pitch, Julian Hernandez-Webster and Nick Bertrand controlled the ball and built Pemi’s attack down the flank where, Theo Long, Arthur Root, and Brandon Somp worked their magic.  When Tecumseh did hit long balls over the top, Ben Chaimberg shut down and denied any significant opportunities. Zack Leeds, shaking off his disappointment from the 15’s baseball game, delivered an incredible effort on the left flank, fighting through many hard Tecumseh challenges.  Twenty minutes into the game, Leeds pressed forward to keep the ball in Tecumseh’s half and was fouled, creating a free kick.  It was from this restart that Charlie Scott opportunistically redirected a ball home for the 1-0 Pemi lead.  Later, Hernandez-Webster, working off a set-piece corner kick carefully crafted by Coach Mark Baddeley, volleyed home Scott’s serve for the 2-0 victory.

Any past Pemi fifteen-year-old who has swum his last race at Tecumseh after a long day knows something about this coming-of-age experience on the Tecumseh waterfront.  This year’s fifteen-and-unders arrived at the waterfront feeling proud about their efforts and the result on the soccer pitch, and they channeled those feelings towards their junior companions.  Facing an historically deep and talented team with little prospect of victory, the 15’s put their total big brother energy behind Doc Nick’s wonders.  The tens, who had gone down in defeat in each of the previous contests, needed this boost of support.  The 10’s swim contest was easily one of the best of the day.

The Junior Camp Boys immediately seized control of the meet when Jack Griffiths, Charlie Howe, Grady Burke, and Kevin Miller delivered a first place in the Medley Relay.  It was all Pemi from that point forward, as Finn Lincoln, Peter Dunkel, Whit Courage, Harrison Tillou, Max Blohm ,and Ted Applebaum all delivered points for Pemi.  These boys worked hard all week, and it was impressive to see them deliver an effort and performance when swimming for pride.

Returning the Hat:

With the ring of the Mess Hall bell at Pemi, the dining hall quickly quieted for the anticipated transfer of the hat.  Danny Kerr reminded the participants to review their preparation and performance after the fashion of ski racer Bode Miller, telling them that as long as they felt they had done everything they could to play their best, they should let go of any disappointment over the result.  If they came up short on this checklist, he said, then they should make adjustments and move forward.  Mark Luff, the Tecumseh Program Director and long-time ambassador forn all things Tecumseh-Pemi (he also directs Tecumseh’s G&S), reminded us all of the unique combination of friendship and competition between these two camps.  He declared that the closeness of recent year’s contests had increased the rivalry between the two camps, yet not at the expense of the relationship.

After Danny and Mark spoke, it was my turn to give The Hat back to Tecumseh.

“Over the years, I have asked several Tecumseh campers if they knew the story of The Hat – what actually happened in early August of 1967.  They replied, “Yeah, your Director said he liked George Munger’s hat and Mr. Munger said if you beat us, you could have the hat.”  Well, knowing Tom Reed Sr.’s values and purpose in life and the deep respect George Munger likely had for competition and the work necessary to achieve at the highest levels, I can guarantee you that exchange didn’t happen. You see, back in 1967 Pemi and Tecumseh played home-and-home matches, and when Pemi lost 9-3 on the initial day, the Pemi community was upset with their performance and dedicated their remaining summer to beating Tecumseh – which, after an amazing weeks-long preparation effort, they managed in the second meeting of the year (hyper link to History of the Hat) It was Munger’s deep appreciation for Pemi’s effort that led to the tradition of The Hat.”

“Last year you lost to Pemi, and your camp community made a similar commitment to each other to reverse the result.  Your baseball teams were incredibly prepared, your soccer teams ran through the ball, your tennis players delivered clutch performances in numerous tie-breakers, and your swimmers hit the water with purpose.  In the end, winning the hat represents all of your commitment and journey together. The actual score of the day is a bi-product of hard-work and dedication to each other – and in this spirit of respect for your efforts, Camp Pemi returns this Hat to Camp Tecumseh.”  The Pemi community then rose and delivered the traditional cheer, and both camps filed out for flag lowering and a few more handshakes.

So in the end The Hat was lost, but perhaps more important life lessons were gained in the day’s journey as Pemi had to get off the mat and compete.  Counselors stepped up and delivered high quality coaching and counseling, Pemi athletes learned the importance of commitment in times of adversity, and the boys found opportunities to lead when times were challenging.  All of these learning experiences and the ranges of emotion one experiences on Tecumseh Day make up one of the many great chapters over the course of seven weeks on the shores of Lower Baker.  By the time you have read this newsletter, a group of seniors will have climbed Katahdin or the Presidential Mountain range.  Another group of uppers will have completed the Mahoosucs, and another the Kinsmans. Dozens of boys will have completed their distance swim, taken their first nature occupation, performed at campfire, or finally mastered their part in this year’s G&S, Iolanthe.  (Good seats are still available!)  Life goes on, and we are all a little richer for our annual testing with our ancient rivals. Win or lose.

Charlie Malcolm

In Pursuit of “The Hat”

Hat_groupNow that cheers in the Pemi messhall are erupting spontaneously in anticipation of Friday’s  annual competition with Camp Tecumseh—an athletic rivalry that dates back to 1908—it seems timely to reflect on the symbol of the day known affectionately—and reverently—as “the hat.” Where did the hat come from and what does it represent? 



Saturday, August 12, 1967

Throughout the new mess hall, raucous laughter and cheering, fueled by unbridled excitement, emanate from every corner.  The energy is palpable, visible in every smile on every face in the building.  Cheers ring in the rafters: “P-E-M-I sis boom bah, Pemigewassett, Pemigewassett rah rah rah, 10-and-Under Tennis! 10-and-Under Tennis! 10-and-Under Tennis!!” The underdogs have triumphed for the first time in 11 years, in itself a magnificent accomplishment, but in light of their 9-3 loss just a few weeks before, that triumph reflects unbelievable levels of commitment, determination and cooperation among the 200-plus assemblage. Seven wins, five losses – an incredible community feat!  Gradually, at first mysteriously, the energy in the building diminishes; the noise abates. Heads start to turn toward the enormous glass facade of the structure, through which one can see another group of 200, the boys, counselors and director of Camp Tecumseh, approaching the mess hall from the outfield of our big diamond. We rise, bewildered, as the group draws closer, several Pemi counselors joining Tom, Al and Doc Nick on the porch. Meanwhile, Director George Munger leads his campers and staff up the steps of the mess hall, beckoning Tom Reed over to his side. Over four hundred people go silent now, wondering what Mr. Munger has on his mind.  Extending his hand to Tom, Mr. Munger says, “Tom, Al, Dr. Nichols, and all of you men of Pemigewassett, I represent all of my friends at Tecumseh in offering you our sincerest congratulations. We are deeply impressed with the work you have devoted to turning the tables on us and triumphing today. The spirit and effort we witnessed on the fields from all of you was extraordinary.” Mr. Munger pauses, evoking considerable clapping and some whistling. Settling the crowd with one hand and doffing his tattered straw hat with the other, Mr. Munger goes on: “Let this hat stand in testimony to your incredible work today, Camp Pemi. Our respect for you, our friends and competitors, has never been greater. On behalf of every one of us at Tecumseh, I thank you as I stand in awe of what you have accomplished!”

The Era of “The Hat”

Thus, already 59 years into a unique intercamp rivalry (the two camps first competed with one another in 1908), Pemi and Tecumseh began the era of “The Hat.” In 1967, three age groups, 10-and-Unders, 12-and-Unders and 14-and-Unders, competed in four sports: baseball, swimming, tennis and track. By 1970, Pemi’s next victorious year, soccer had replaced track as the fourth event (when the Tecumseh track meet began a new era as an invitational event comprising up to half a dozen camps). Yearning to include more boys in the competition, both camps gradually agreed to add more age groups, resulting in the five that compete today: 10-and-Unders, 11’s, 12’s, 13’s and 15-and-Unders.  And when the camps’ seasons shrank from eight to seven weeks in length, the current one-day home/away protocol was created. Today, the iconic Munger hat, long since bronzed and transformed into a trophy, symbolizes the longest and probably most passionate camp sports rivalry extant, a rivalry that eclipses most colleges’, as Tom Reed, Sr., often pointed out.

George Munger and Tom Reed, 1993

George Munger and Tom Reed, 1993

Tom Sr. also liked to remind us of the value of facing challenging competition. An impressive four-sport varsity athlete at Oberlin College, Tom certainly spoke from experience and from the heart. Despite the outcome of the day from year to year, every summer Tom inspired us to embrace the intense level of competition that Tecumseh perennially brought to the day, insisting that only by attempting to match and transcend the best Tecumseh had to offer could we play our best. No one ever doubted this, and as we have seen in recent years, in the multiple contests decided by one run, one match, one goal, or two points, the two sides truly do inspire the very best out of one another.

While the Beatles proclaimed that “All you need is love” in the summer of 1967, our mantra at Pemi was decidedly different. On the heels of the 9-3 loss at Tecumseh in early July, the Pemi staff, galvanized by swim coach Terry Sweetser, recognized the potential of the Pemi athletes and quietly decided, one and all, to take the athletic program to a higher level. Team practices consumed all of our time other than trips, meals, occupations and sleep. The investment of campers and counselors in the determination to beat Tecumseh was universal, and the real goal was simply to inspire the best out of every Pemi athlete. In that regard, August 15, 1967 was an unqualified success for the Pemi community.

July 27, 2012

Charlie_HatKidAlthough subsequent Pemi wins have been few – 1970, 1983, 1998, and 2012 – the striving and bonding that accompany our annual preparation for Tecumseh/Pemi Day have frequently matched the levels of that 1967 season. In 2011, for example, when Pemi managed an overall tie (see highlight video), despite obvious disappointments, few would argue that the camp community coalesced into a stronger, tighter family after all those games. And on July 27, 2012, once again the power of 200 plus individuals aimed at one goal inspired innumerable amazing performances (see highlight video). As Tecumseh Athletic Director Mark Luff noted, we should try to infuse our school and community sports teams with similar levels of dedication, intensity, sportsmanship and mutual respect that Tom Reed, Sr. and George Munger avidly promoted for so many years. And as Pemi Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm reflected during the 2012 celebration—with The Hat appropriately showcased on the mantel under the original Pemi Kid—though in 10 or 20 years we might not recall the score of any one contest on Tecumseh Day, as long as we live we will never forget our teammates with whom we worked so hard to triumph. “This Hat does not represent winning; it represents our journey together.”

– Fred Seebeck

Summer 2013: Newsletter #5

Hello again from Wentworth, where we are well into the fifth week of the 2013 season. As many of you veteran readers will recall, our storied rivalry with Camp Tecumseh is customarily renewed at the end of every Week Five, and this summer is no exception. We have engaged with our esteemed and talented rivals from Lake Winnepesauke virtually every year since 1908, and there is no question that this is the most important day in our entire athletic schedule. Think Harvard-Yale; Michigan-Ohio State; Red Sox-Yankees; Redskins-Cowboys. Think Super Bowl, but with over 150 boys from each camp competing in four sports (baseball, soccer, swimming, and tennis) in five age groups (10-and-under, 11s, 12s, 13s, and 15-and under.) True, we pride ourselves on being a well-rounded camp. But Friday is the athletic equivalent of the Allagash Canoe Trip for the Trip Program – or the Advanced Caving Trip for the Nature Program – or the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and Annual Art Opening for the Arts and Music Program. As with these other events, even boys who are not participating take a keen interest in what their cabin-mates and colleagues are doing, living the truth that community can sometimes be as much about respectful attention and support as about personal participation.

Next week’s Newsletter is slated to come from Charlie Malcolm, our inspirational Director of Athletics who spends the off-season teaching History at Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, where he also coaches the boys’ varsity soccer team. This week’s, though, largely comes from Trip Counselor Dan Reed, recently returned from said Allagash canoe outing. Before we turn to Dan’s account of this most ambitious and wild of Pemi expeditions (barring, of course, Pemi West, which recently wrapped up after a spectacular 3-plus weeks in the Washington State’s Olympics including a succesful ascent of the eponymnous peak!!!), let us indulge in a little historical segue.

Early travel to Tecumseh

Early travel to Tecumseh

In the early days of camp, the pilgrimage to Tecumseh itself smacked almost as much of the trip program as of athletics. The event began with Pemi campers and staff packing sports gear, bedding, and clothing for three days and then walking the three and a half miles to the train station in Wentworth. A two-hour journey brought them to The Weirs, where they boarded the steamship Governor Endicott and travelled another hour or so to the cove where Tecumseh has its waterfront, then shuttling in small boats to get to shore. There, they established camp on the sandy beach and grass verges of the big lake, where the Four Docs built cooking fires and supervised the preparation of supper. After an evening of song and, no dount, heroic tales of past Pemi-Tecumseh clashes, everyone bedded down on the beach for the night. Shades of Henry’s troops before Agincourt (perhaps). Word has it that the mosquitoes were brutal, and rumors routinely spread that the Tecumseh management had specially ordered in millions of the tiny pests to suck the blood from their opponents of the following day. Current Pemi Nature Director Larry Davis assures us that the concept of mercenary mosquitoes was as unlikely then as it is now, but sound sleep was evidently hard to come by for our aspiring warriors on the shores of Winnepesauke. Then again, when Tecumseh journeyed to us (as they always did in what was then the home-and-home annual exchange), the tables were turned and our lads may have had the advantage of a miniscule version of blood doping. In any event, once the day’s competition was over, it was another supper and night on the beach, re-embarkation on the Endicott, a return to the train at The Weirs, then back to Wentworth for the long walk home to Pemi. You’ve all heard those stereotypical tales of how our parents or grandparent walked every day to school through five-foot snowdrifts – and uphill in both directions. In this case, there’s hardly any exaggeration involved. But, while the modern Pemi kid rides to Moultonborough Neck in a plush school bus and dines, shoulder-to-shoulder, with his Tecumseh rivals in their screened dining hall, the competition is no less intense or fulfilling. Stay tuned for Charlie’s detailed account in next week’s missive. (Read Charlie’s 2012 newsletter recounting Pemi’s 11-8-1 win!)

Now for Dan’s rendering of the Allagash trip.

It was a glorious week of paddling, bald eagle sightings, great food, and the sense of total independence from the rest of the world.  The Pemi Trip Program offers campers incredible opportunities all summer long.  We hike in the White Mountains.  We go caving in Schoharie, NY.  We explore natural wonders both local and distant.  And, for our oldest campers, we send an annual canoeing trip to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine.  Someone with an appreciation of puns might call this the “flagship” of our Trip Program.  This term also accurately describes the journey’s significance, as it is a celebrated trip open only to Pemi’s full-season 15-year-olds.  This year the trip was populated by ten young men – Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Nick Bertrand, Bryce Grey, Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, Matt Kanovsky, Daniel Bowes, Jack Green, and Ethan Pannell – and led by former cabin counselor and division head Andy Kirk and current trip counselor Dan Reed.  The adventure was comprised of four full days paddling the Allagash, with a day on either end spent driving the 8 hours between Wentworth, NH and Allagash, ME. 

Our first day started at the ripe hour of 4:30am, when the yawning but excited crew loaded into a van at Pemi and started the long drive north.  We were soon greeted by the sunrise, and enjoyed a beautiful morning on the road.  Around noon we stopped for a refreshing lake dip in Maine’s Baxter State Park, and quickly followed with lunch at a local pizza joint.  Then we met the able crew of Katahdin Outfitters, who supplied us with canoes, paddles, and life jackets.  They drove us the final three hours along backcountry logging roads to Churchill Dam, where we set up camp for the first night.  We were greeted there by our friends the blackflies, deerflies, and horseflies, who would keep us company for the entire trip.  After setting up our tents and enjoying a dinner of burgers, spaghetti, and fresh vegetables with ranch dressing, we went down to check out the river that would carry us the entire 62 miles over the next five days.  With Andy lifeguarding, we enjoyed a belated polar bear before zipping ourselves into our tents and enjoying our first night’s riverside sleep.



As we would for the next several days, we pulled up on shore for lunch around midday.  We refueled with sandwiches (ham/kielbasa/pepperoni and cheese, sunbutter and jelly, etc.) and a candy dessert, took a quick dip in the river, then set off across Umsaskis Lake.  Our campsite at Sandy Point was at the far end of the lake, and we pulled in at around 4pm.  Like the first night, we set up camp and enjoyed some time swimming in the river.  Dinner was plentiful with a huge pot-full of spaghetti with meat sauce.  The ever-helpful boys gladly finished off the pot and offered to clean dishes.  Another camp group pulled in and stayed at the next site over. Our experience with them and with subsequent groups reminded Andy and me of how Pemi boys’ maturity and respectful behavior on trips really sets them apart.  No wonder the AMC staff in the White Mountain huts is always happy to see a Pemi group come through!

After another good night’s sleep, we started the third day with toasted English muffins, bacon, and fried eggs.  The weather looked promising at first, but the clouds darkened as we made our way across Long Lake.  We took a break on a beach covered with flat round stones – so the obvious response was to have a rock-skipping contest.  Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, and Zach Leeds ended the session at the top of the heap, each with a toss of around 20 skips.  As we paddled the latter half of the interminable lake, the skies broke open and treated us to a downpour.  Fortunately we had all our gear packed in waterproof bags, and so could enjoy the free shower, the sound of the rain on the water, and the perfect symmetrical splash made by each rain drop as it hit the surface of the river.  But New England weather is predictably unpredictable, and the sun was out and shining brightly by the time we stopped for lunch.  We enjoyed a sunny afternoon, with the occasional sighting of a bald eagle overhead or a river otter alongside the boats. 

We pulled up to the Outlet campsite on Round Pond in the mid-afternoon, with our camp setup accelerated when we observed some threatening thunderheads on the horizon.  We unearthed what we affectionately termed the Tarp Mahal, a huge 40 ft. x 24 ft. blue tarp, which would for the next few days protect our eating area from the occasional deluge.  Indeed, soon after we began making the dinner of couscous and chili, a massive thunderstorm moved overhead and parked itself there for an hour or so.  We enjoyed our immunity from the rain while eating dinner, and then settled down to sleep, enjoying the sound of the rain on our sturdy tents.

Allagash PaddlersOur third full day was a long one: fifteen miles along the river to majestic Allagash Falls.  We saw our only moose of the trip that morning, lounging in the river about 150 yards ahead of us.  The sight of twelve humans staring in awe must have made her self-conscious, because the moose climbed up the riverbank and disappeared into the forest as we came closer.  The day continued with many sightings of bald eagles.  In the minutes leading up to our arrival at our campsite that afternoon, we paddled to the growing roar of the falls ahead of us.  After having come ashore well in advance of what would have been an exciting but perhaps ill-fated waterfall experience, we set up camp and headed down below the falls for a quick swim.  Here the water is deep with a fast current, and we let ourselves float downstream a few times before calling it a day and enjoying a dinner of beef stew, mashed potatoes, and homemade tortilla chips with cinnamon and sugar. 

Our last full day on the river started with more heavy rain.  We kept dry under the tarp during breakfast, and the short day of paddling ahead of us meant that we could stay put and wait out the downpour for a few hours.  During a lull in the rain, we carried our canoes and gear down the quarter-mile path to a safe launching point downstream of Allagash Falls.  We went swimming once more beneath the falls, this time jumping from riverside rocks into the deep pool gouged out over time by the falling water.  A short 2-hour paddle brought us to East Twin Brook campsite, where we would spend our last night on the river.  There we ate an early dinner of leftovers, then went to bed along with the sun.

TentsiteA dark, pre-sunrise morning greeted us as we got up on our last day.  By now experts in campsite setup and take-down, we quickly packed up our tents, tarp, and other gear, and got onto the river as the sun came up.  We only had an hour’s paddle to our destination, where we came onshore, packed our gear into our waiting van, and started the long drive south.  Ten hours later we pulled into camp, greeted by both the familiar and new faces of Pemi’s second session.  After a week of brilliant canoeing, we were all excited to be back home.  Thanks to all the Allagash guys for a fantastic trip.  Now our attention turns to the enjoyment of the final few weeks of the summer, back on the (often) sunny shores of Lower Baker Pond.

Many thanks to Dan for this evocative account. We should say in passing that one of the pleasures of the outing for both staff members was that, thirteen years ago, Dan was an eight-year-old camper in Andy’s cabin, Junior One. Little could either of them have predicted that, over a dozen years hence, they would be co-leaders on Pemi’s most celebrated trip, Dan sharing van-driving duties with his former mentor. That’s one of the joys of Pemi, though – that longevity and continuity regularly allow for this kind of “years later” serendipity. It’s one of the things that makes us feel as much like a family as anything else.

That’s it for now. Come Friday, keep an eye on the ticker at the bottom of your ESPN screen. Win or lose, though, we’ll be throwing ourselves wholeheartedly and joyously into one of the great and timeless rituals of Pemigewassett.                                   

— Tom and Danny

One Mom’s Thoughts on Letting Go

From Junior One to Senior Two

Pemi for me began one evening in August 1998. I was standing at a Cape Cod party, eight months pregnant. An attractive man, about 15 years my senior in blue blazer and tie approached me. Jim, my new neighbor, offered to get me lemonade and then quickly asked if I was having a boy or a girl. Stunned by the familiarity of the question, I stiffly smiled and asked, “Why?” and then for some reason (mainly because he looked kind and normal), I divulged, “…oh, I’m having a boy.” Jim smiled. He paused. He replied, “Well then you need to send him to Camp Pemi.”

I didn’t know Jim from Adam. Jim went on before I could say a word: “Christine, they speak ‘boy’ at Pemi; you’ve gotta send him.  I was a camper, then a counselor. My son was a camper and next year he’ll be an AC (assistant counselor). It is a very special place. Trust me.”

I had known Jim for less than 45 seconds. He was giving strict advice to a mildly neurotic first time pregnant woman about her unborn son.  Yet there was something so easy about the way he talked about Pemi. I felt trust. In the years that ensued I became great friends with Jim and his family and was often regaled with his fun stories (“the year of the big storm!”) about Pemi.

Seven years later I began to really consider Pemi as a sleep-away camp for Harry. A respected teacher at Harry’s private school, who had previously been a counselor in Pemi’s Junior Camp, was my next contact. Andy told me he’d wanted to take a position with the best boys’ camp in New England. He had driven all over and met with many camp directors. Pemi stood out above the rest as a place not only with pristine, beautiful surroundings, but with bright, kind, committed counselors. He told me Pemi was a “great place for a boy to grow up, and a great company of men to grow into.” I could not imagine a better recommendation.

Even with all of this reassurance and vetting, letting go of the firstborn son was difficult. I wondered who would do all of those things Mommy does?  Could an eight year old really care for himself? Would his counselor be attentive to his specific needs? As a single parent I was focused on getting everything “just right.”

But what holds us back as parents is the unknown. There is always a “first” – the first born, the first time that child experiences something big and new, and the resulting parent’s stress and conflict about the unknowns while trying to honor their own high standards of parenting a child.


Harry’s first day at Pemi, 2007

The process of letting go was tough, no matter how confident and peppy I acted for Harry. During a weak moment I told him that I felt like a Spartan mother dropping her son at the edge of the wood in order for him to come back a man. He reminded me that Spartan boys left at six so we were ahead of the game.

When we arrived at Camp, I uncharacteristically (and deliberately) broke a rule: the Pemi dictum of not making the son’s bed. The counselor was incredibly kind. He knew I needed more time to say goodbye, and after a quiet conversation I still remember today, I knew the junior counselor (really a newish adult himself) was capable and ready to care for my son.

Trust is central at Pemi; they thank you for entrusting your sons with them and they understand that it takes more than a few recommendations from well-meaning people to allow you to let go and hand over something so precious.

Harry's final year as a camper, 2013

Harry’s final year as a camper, 2013

Today Harry could fill pages if asked to write about his positive experiences at Camp.  He will talk to anyone who will listen about the supportive place where you can try anything and not be afraid; about he time that he lost his toothbrush in the pond, or woke up before dawn to count loons, the finer points of Frisbee Running Bases, and the time TRJR found him at the lake tangled up in fishing line after trying to cast a line for fish.   Little does this son know that his Mom nearly inhaled every letter he sent home talking about pickles at lunch or “send more socks.”

The act of letting go is a constant theme in this complicated business of rearing children.  It’s not a straight line.  But when Harry and I arrived yesterday and walked into Senior Two (waterfront real estate with a fireplace!) I knew “we” had made it.  Harry couldn’t stop smiling.  After all those years of pick ups and drop offs, there wasn’t any stress.  Not only did Harry arrive as a confident Senior, I did too.

 ~ Christine Tuttle

NOTE FROM CAMP PEMI: Many thanks to Christine for launching a new category for the Pemi Blog: “Parent Contributions.” We welcome your personal stories of parenting a Pemi camper. Please email your words of wisdom, humor, or insight to camppemi and, if possible, include an image or two.

Summer 2013: Newsletter #4

It’s just past 9AM on Tuesday, July 16, and we’re enjoying our fourth or fifth consecutive day of sunshine!!! To those of you who sent dry (or drying) thoughts our way over the past several weeks, many thanks. Your psychic efforts seem to have paid off. Quite unbelievably, though, we’re now at the mid-season mark. Yesterday, 90-plus first session boys left us for other summer undertakings. Today, their bunks and bug nets will be taken by 90-plus others, looking forward to their own Pemi summer. Yesterday’s departures were marked by many sincere thank-yous and not a few welling eyes. We’ll sorely miss our companions of the opening three-and-a-half weeks, but we’re grateful for their cheerful and productive company and look forward to welcoming those to whom they are passing the baton.

CookoutAs some of you may know and others will have intuited from the above, our changeover procedure has been a little bit different this year. Inspired by Assistant Director Kenny Moore (who’s unique gift seems to be the ability to think equally well inside and outside “the box”), we split what used to be one hectic day into two leisurely ones. As a result, our full-session campers were afforded what turned out to be a pretty special day yesterday. At 10AM, they all boarded our two school busses, accompanied by 15 or so non-cabin staff, and headed off to The Whale’s Tale, a local water park. There they most assuredly beat the heat of a high-80’s day, on and in the various slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers. Meanwhile, their cabin counselors stayed at Pemi, finishing up their midseason letters to parents (which you families of first- and full-session campers will be receiving very soon.) At 5PM, the water-parkers arrived back at camp – cool, happy, and lightly chlorinated – to be met at the Senior Beach by Tom and Larry Davis, who were grilling steaks while Bob Marley and The Allman Brothers blared on the music system. On a perfect New Hampshire late afternoon – sun brilliant as it settled over Pemi Hill, a moderate breeze rippling the pond and keeping the heat at bay – the 150 or so full-session campers and staff settled into one of the mellowest beach parties these shores have ever seen. With make-your-own sundaes topping it all off, all agreed that this was an innovation with tradition written all over it. Same for what followed – a screening in the Lodge of The Sand Lot, complete with individual bags of Smartfood for all cinemaphiles, young and old.

doughnutsDottiePolarBearToday dawned with one other innovation. Sort of. In the Old Days of camp (we’re talking pre-1920s), directors, counselors, and campers alike began each day with a run to the point that juts into the pond half way down its western edge. This was the location of the camp potato patch and also, given the steep drop off of the shoreline, the perfect spot for Polar Bears (our traditional morning dip – infinitely more refreshing and character-building than a warm shower.) When, in the later 20s, the Junior Camp was founded by John Herbert Nichols (#4 of “The 4 Docs”), the practice was suspended, most Polar Bears then being taken closer to the cabins of what became, by default, “the Upper Camp.” So, with the thought of doing something new that was also very old, we conceived the notion that this mass collective run to the Junior Point should be resurrected in 2013. We also thought that it would be fun to have something to nibble on when we got down there – not to suggest the original dippers gnawed on raw potatoes or anything like that in the old days. So, Chefs Stacey, Betty, and Nancy whipped up a big batch of home-made cinnamon doughnuts and a big vat of hot chocolate and the tradition of “Dunkin’ Docs” was born. Appropriately (we are an all-American institution, after all), reveille was moved from 7:30 back to Seven-Eleven to make some extra time for the event. With those Seniors still in camp inspiring the troops in the Intermediate Camp (10 of their colleagues are currently on a five-day canoe trip on the Allagash in Maine, on which more later) and Kenny Moore whooping it up at the point, a jolly and bonding time was had by all. So inspiring was the event that Dottie Reed, who had come down to take pictures of the festivities and dressed to greet parents, was moved to relinquish her camera, remove her watch, and dash fully-clothed into the waves, whooping all the while. Talk about being moved by the spirit!

LimericksWith the first of our second-session boys about to roll in, we’ll now think about reunions and new greetings. To fill out the remainder of these pages, though, we’ll forward the limericks written by Ian Axness and Jamie Andrews (with a half-dozen by old hand Tom Reed Jr.) for reading at Sunday’s Birthday Banquet. The drill here, as you may know, is for boys and staff to get cheers in the Messhall on their actual birthdays – but no cakes (or poems) until this one day of joint celebration. Then, at the requisite moment in the evening’s program, the Bean Soup editors step up to the podium and read a limerick for each Birthday Person. Here are this year’s:


Hello and bon soir and good eve!
We’re up on this bench here to cleave
To a Pemi tradition:
Poetic attrition.
(If you’re likely to heave, kindly leave.)


To ye masses we’ll dutifully answer
With limericks, each an enhancer
Of the natal day joys
For all girls and boys—
Each a Leo, or maybe a Cancer.


For you, the directions are clear
Stand up when your own name you hear.
Do not be nonchalant:
For the audience wants
To see whether you smile or sneer.


So these are the poems we’ve penned
We hope that to them you’ll attend.
But if you can’t swallow
Them or find them hollow
Just zip it and clap at the end.


[Will Ackerman]
Ackerman’s hip to this scene,
A Pemi kid, boots to his bean.
But he’s met with the menace
Who teaches us tennis
In one-on-one lessons with Greene.


[Andre Altherr]
Andre’s caught the performative bug
But you’d never consider him smug
For after he croons
His incredible tunes
He finishes up with a shrug.


Ian Axness is so OCD
If I don’t rhyme he’ll massacre me
So I shouldn’t recite
Words like “orange” or “vacuum”…|
(I should go hide in a tree.)


[Noah Belinowiz]
When painting with saxophone sound,
Belinowiz aims to astound,
But sometimes his alto
Sounds more like Balto
When it honks out a noise like a hound.


[Victoria Blumenfeld]
Vicki-B teaches tennis with power—
On the court her competitors cower.
But her uncle is scary,
Her brother’s lip-hairy,
And she takes a relaxing fourth hour.


[Charlie Bonetti]
Young Chuck was apparently ready
To party with cake and confetti
But since we’re at camp
His plans got all damp—
We’ve only this poem for Bonetti.


Any fool with two eyeballs can see
Robert Cecil’s as tall as can be.
Truth be told, we have heard
He attracted a bird
Who was looking to nest in a tree.


Observe the domestic Matt Cloutier
A professional doing his duty, eh?
He is so keen to be
Our Mess Hall maitre d’
Second half he’ll start wearing a suit-ier.


[George Cooke]
The G&S leads have been booked—
At tons of raw talent we looked!
When auditions were through
Somehow we just knew
Iolanthe would have to be Cooked.


Jack Davini digs all things sustainable.
When he learned that his eyebrows were trainable,
He conceived ‘twould be fun
To get by with just one.
Want his other one? Sure. It’s obtainable.


[Henry Eisenhart]
Henry’s discovered the trick
To teaching his team how to kick:
The creed of his corps?
He’s best known as Drill Sergeant Rick.


If you’re down for a walk in the bogs,
Lend an ear to the croaks of the frogs.
Some go “Crickety Crack.”
Some go “Jiggedy Jack,”
But the big ones emit “Elvekrog”-s.


[Reed Falkenrath]
This camper in Junior 2 hath
Some signs of a young psychopath.
With him we’ve had words
For his killing off birds—
It all stems from Reed’s falcon wrath.


[Al Fauver]
When writing a lim’rick for Al
It is tough to keep up one’s morale.
His best lim’rick was done
Back in nineteen 9-1
But attempt to surpass it we shall.


So Al’s in his ninety-eighth year,
Still married and driving I hear.
Indeed, Bertha and he
Were just destined to be
Matrimonially sound and sincere.


Peter Fauver, the grandson of Gar,
In New Hampshire was called to the bar.
When he rose to the bench
He gave Exxon a wrench,
Saying “Keep your darn gas in the car!”


Upper Three’s studly jock, Owen Fried,
Is a lax player gifted indeed.
His attacks on the net
Are the sickest, you bet…
Unless Owen gets tripped by a weed.


[Teddy Gales]
This is his first year on staff,
So Gales is due for a gaffe.
But it’s no ballyhoo
For our Teddy’s the true
Embodiment of the big laugh.


[Szervac Halmai]
Szervac, one may justly surmise
(When you see the wide look in his eyes)
Is real new to these parts.
Though he’s dear to our hearts
He is endlessly filled with surprise.

[Kevin Heynig]
Our resident bug thug is super
And he studies just south of the Yooper.
A true max level Scout
This guy is, without doubt,
An entomological trooper.


Nick Holquist, Nick Holquist, Nick Holquist
His whole frame of mind is a goal quest.
For him soccer would seem
Like a criminal scheme:
Take the ball, take it back— that’s the whole gist.

[Judy Ireton]
From purchasing pounds of confetti
To ordering tons of spaghetti
When looking for cash
It’s to Judy we dash—
For this gal no transaction is petty.


Kurt Koons is a jovial chum.
In rugby he powers the scrum.
This game he is loving
Reminds him of shoving
Through crowds in New York, where he’s from.


[Heather Leeds]
Heather is simply incredible
And she’ll tell you the whole truth, instead o’ bull.
She’ll unwrap all your boxes
Shin-guards and knee-sockses,
But confiscate anything edible.

As a waiter one must meet all needs
And cater to each whom he feeds.
Leave nothing to chance—
It is more like a dance
And wouldn’t you know it: Zach Leeds.


Mr. Leunis thought he had it made
In charge of our boats as camp aide
But Olivia’s in
Much to Antoine’s chagrin
So now he just wants to get paid.


Ms. Martin likes finding a nook
To hide away with a good book.
But don’t mess with her mood
She might poison your food,
For Chloe’s our quirky new cook.


[Will Meinke]
Will has a manner laconic,
And a curriculum, well, economic.
He is strikingly brave
When he’s getting a shave
Just like that hedgehog named Sonic!


[James Minzesheimer]
In baseball, he covers home plate.
James Minzy hands runners their fate
An eminent catcher
He’s someone we’ll bet’cher
Plays ball full of love, not with hate.


[Ezra Nugiel]
Ezra’s supposedly able
To waiter the new “Planning Table,”
But when serving that locus
It’s harder to focus
When channeling Frederic or Mabel.


Debbie Pannell is so smart
And she’s made it so cool to do art,
But we’re now halfway through
And there’s still lots to do—
The campers may never depart!


A retiring athlete he’s not.
On the soccer pitch this dude’s so hot
That when rain comes, it seems,
He just sizzles and steams,
Does footballer intense, Tate Suratt.


[Caleb Tempro]
Young Tempro’s got fash’nable tips
And real studs in his ears, they’re not clips.
But en route to the Carters
He could have been smarter—
Don’t forget earring cleaner on trips.


Dan Walder’s a traveling sort
And he’s more keen on Nature than Sport.
But now he might say
The outdoors are passé
And he’d rather be at a resort.


[Paige Wallis]
At the lake we all answer to Paige.
Her safety procedures are sage,
But don’t swim like a fool
Or you’re out of the pool—
Goofing off at free swim makes her – angry.


Jackson Welsh swam his distance this year
But the story is rather severe,
For the guys in the boat
Stranded him on the float
Shouting “Hey, you big jerks! I’m still here!”


That’s it!  We sure hope you’ve been sated
And limerically re-celebrated.
Big thanks to TR
Who helped us make par.
(I hope we’re not going to be graded.)

We’ve got to wrap up and we’re stuck
I suppose we’ll just pack up the truck.
Now the last thing to say
On this pro-natal day


Many thanks to Ian and Jamie for this epic undertaking, reminiscent (in our jaded minds) of the songs of the scops in the ancient mead halls of our collective past. Smiling faces, full bellies, and heroic verse. What could be better? Before we close, though, thanks also to the first-session boys and parents who made 2013.1 so joyous and fulfilling for us all. Your good spirit, efforts, and trust are hugely appreciated. Here’s, also, to all the full-session campers and families who are keeping the summer’s ball rolling – and to all the newcomers and their clans who will invest 2012.2 with the energy and enthusiasm that we’re certain they will. That’s it for now – except to repeat that signal contemporary phrase of approbation: “It’s all good.”


— Tom and Danny


Summer 2013: Newsletter # 3

Hello again to all of our gentle readers. It’s been an eventful week, replete with all the usual activities and also with our annual Fourth of July celebrations and a big athletic day thrown into the mix. The weather continues to keep us on our toes but, once again, there’s not a whole lot that we haven’t been able to do, especially if we’ve been willing to wait out a shower or two and be flexible with our schedule. Today, for example, we’re sending out two backpacking trips that had originally been slated for yesterday (an Upper 4-day to the Carter Range to the northeast of Mt. Washington and a Lower 3-day to the Kinsmans this side of Franconia Notch), four additional overnights (Lower 3-days to Mts. Moosilauke and Osceola, a trip for Upper 4 to Greenleaf Hut in the Franconia Range, and a short hike for Junior 3 up to the Pemi Shelter), and a lunch trip across the lake to Flat Rock (for Lower 1). Lots of boys have been very patient as they’ve waited for the right weather window to get off on an exciting jaunt, and we’ve been extremely impressed by the way they’ve coped with the hard realities of sensible planning.

IMG_3035After a wonderfully indulgent half-hour delay for wake-up on the Fourth, we kicked off the Big Day with our annual Pee-rade. All cabins participated in what is always a dizzyingly creative potpourri of floats/skits that treat the history of the camp, the nation, and the globe – and occasionally risk a glimpse into the post-apocalyptic future of Pemi. The entire Junior Camp made a bid to re-enact the Revolutionary War, half of them dressed in Patriot Blue, half in Tyrannical Scarlet. After being enjoined by what we think must have been an a-historical referee to engage in “a nice clean war,” the two sides clashed thunderously together until cooler heads prevailed – leading to a truce sealed when Kevin Miller and Marco Zapata laid aside their imaginary weapons and shook hands in explicit preparation for being allies in WW II. Given the number of Brits we have on our staff, it was good to see our past national differences so happily set aside.

IMG_3043Amongst the Lower Lowers, Cabin 3 garnered the esteemed judges’ top honors with a highly-topical skit about the Pemi Investigative Agency (yes, we’ve heard about the NSA up here) foiling various murky activities about camp. The highlight was Rafe Forward popping out of a laundry bag to bust a ring of clothing thieves. Also worth noting was the inaugural appearance in Pemi “lore” of Heather Leeds, one of the lynchpins of our office staff. Played in the skit with chilling verisimilitude by Jackson Morrell, Heather can now rest assured that she has achieved mythic status at Pemi. Laurels amongst Upper Lowers were snatched by Lower 5 with “A Pemi Infomercial,” documenting all sorts of institutional mismanagement from Waterfront Head Paige Wallis being more interested in texting than minding the safety of her swimmers to staff members crippling innocent campers in a fierce game of Frisbee Running Bases. Nick Ridley’s boys, led by smooth-voiced narrator Lucas Gaffney, earned a big bag of Skittles for their efforts. Sadly, all of them have been named by Danny in a defamation suit about which you should soon be hearing in the national news.

IMG_3080Upper 3 snatched up a motif from Danny’s earlier Sunday Meeting talk about the musical influences in his life and traced the history of “The Pemi Five” all the way from a 1908 a capella group through the foundation of The Silver Cornet Band. Music does live on at Pemi, and Henry Eisenhart’s boys parleyed that truth into scads of sucrose. Fortunately, the judges were weighing acting talent more heavily than musical chops, as Miles Davis has nothing to fear from Kevin Lewis’s trumpet playing – nor Carlos Santana or Eric Clapton from Caleb Tempro’s or Owen Fried’s chops on guitar. Finally, Senior Three jammed authentic Pemi History into a tried-and-true Hollywood formula with “The Pemi Justice League,” casting things as recent as the Mystery of the Disappearing Pickle Barrel (ask your sons!) and as ageless as our rivalry with Camp Tecumseh into the mode of Super Hero vs. Arch Villain confrontation. Special kudos go to Hugh Grey as the spitting image of Head of Staff and Former Trippie Jamie Andrews – and Matt Kanovsky as a bug-net clad preserver of the natural world. All in all, this year’s Pee-rade made it clear that imagination, energy, and irreverence live on in equal measure in the seething brain of The Pemi Kid!

oreoThe afternoon involved the entire camp being divided into six teams (mixed age-groups, with Juniors pitching in with Seniors as equal partners) playing a round-robin tournament in various whiffle-ball venues and competing in such arcane activities as dice-stacking (five at a go, arrangeable only with the assistance of the plastic cup in which they came) and Forehead-to-Mouth Oreo Transfer (look, Ma! No hands!). Maybe you had to be there! The afternoon was sunny and warm, and a good time was had by all – everyone, btw, slathered in sunscreen and hyper-hydrated.

That evening, in the Messhall, Danny awarded silver Revere Ware bowls to the campers and staff for whom this is the fifth year here. We’re always especially happy to recognize folks for whom Pemi has been such an important and constant enterprise. This year’s campers were Andrew Appleby, Noah Belinowitz, Sam Berman, Nick Case, Dylan Cheng, Alex and Jon Duval, Crawford Jones, Hugh Jones, Andrew Kanovsky, Kevin Lewis, Alex Marshman, Tom Moore, Greg Nacheff, Reed O’Brien, Nick Oribe, Dash Slamowitz, Caleb Tempro, Nicholas Gordon, John Stevenson, Graham Cromley, Bryce Grey, Henry Jones, and Nick Toldalagi. 5-year staff veterans included Buck Baskin, Nick Davini, Dorin Dehls, Heather Leeds, Stan Barlow, Nathan Tempro, and Brandon Hendrickson.

Wrapping up the day was the annual Fourth of July Vaudeville, ably hosted by Ian Axness and Teddy Gales. We’ll be sparing with details, as this letter is threatening to run long, but we must mention that the 106th embodiment of the Pemigewassett Silver Cornet Band lived up to every expectation. Among stellar camper soloists were Noah Belinowitz on saxophone, Matt Edlin on French horn, and Emmanual Abbey on drums. Other noteworthy camper acts included Robert Loeser singing “America the Beautiful” (when does Robert ever not stop the show?) and Reed O’Brien with a remarkably skilled piano improvisation. Chopin or Keith Jarrett, watch out. Finally, and almost literally bringing down the house, this year’s iteration of “The Little People” (now known as the Pemi Peewees) made camp history: four wee ones, two boys as always (played by staff brothers Nick and Ben Ridley) and, for the first time ever, two girls (Paige and Bryce Wallis). The theme was Merriwood Day – that flirtatious time of year when our older campers fraternize with the lasses up the valley at an excellent girls’ camp – and the effect of it all was a split-screen look at the fevered preparation on both sides of the gender line. We’re not sure if a Pemi audience has ever laughed harder.

We’ll leave our account of the past week at that. Now for a brief word from Danny on one of the more interesting recent developments in the camp program.

Greetings from Lower Baker! It is hard to believe that we are beginning our third week at Pemi and that plans are already well under way for end-of-first-half festivities like the Birthday Banquet and mid-season awards. Despite the somewhat unpredictable weather of these opening days (as we say in New England, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes!”), the first two weeks have been incredibly busy, with our four program areas – Athletics, Arts & Music, Trips, and Nature (so beautifully coordinated by Assistant Director extraordinaire Ken Moore) – all re-establishing themselves as vibrant facets of life here at Pemi. As I walk from the playing fields to the waterfront, from the Nature Lodge to the Art Building, and from music lessons to the archery range each day, it is inspiring to see our talented teachers sharing the expertise and love of their particular activities. Indeed, after envisioning just this scene all winter, it is quite uplifting to see it in action!

One of the most exciting opportunities we offer our boys each summer is the chance to take occupations with staff members whom we refer to as “Visiting Professionals,” the veteran and professional teachers, craftsmen, and scholars who come to Pemi each summer for a “visit” and to share their passion and knowledge in their field of expertise. Most of our Visiting Professionals are teachers, retired teachers, or professionals in their field who would love nothing more than to spend their entire summer at Pemi but who can commit only to a shorter stint because of the demands on their time back in their “real lives.” So, feeling mutually that it’s a “win/win” to have these folks here for part of the summer, we bring them in, tell the boys about the opportunities that await them, and then witness and enjoy the infusion of energy, wisdom, and skill these highly skilled and energetic people bring to Pemi each summer.

Who are these Visiting Professionals, you ask? In the past couple of summers, we’ve had visits from people like Andy Bale, who teaches photography at Dickinson College, Trey Blair, head baseball coach at Kentucky Country Day School, and Phil Laundry, who runs a fly-fishing business in and around his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. In 2013, we are fortunate enough to have four Visiting Professionals join our learning community: Dave Huippi, Jim Dehls, Stephen Broker, and Conner Scace. Let me tell you a bit about each! 

SteveBrokerSteve Broker is a retired high school and college ecology teacher and current state bird recorder for the great state of Connecticut. Steve joined the Nature Program and spent the first week at Pemi teaching ornithology and an occupation called “reading the woods,” which taught the boys how to unravel the history of our beautiful wooded area through the lingering clues of prior settlement and development, the natural environment, and wetland ecology. Stephen was introduced to Pemi many years ago, as his father Tom was the Waterfront Director here in the 1930’s! When asked about his return to Pemi this summer, Steve offered this: “It was a thrill to finally follow in my father’s footsteps. He always spoke so reverently about his days at Pemi. I look forward to returning next summer and hopefully for many summers beyond.” Sounds good to us, Steve!

DaveDave Huippi comes to us via Northfield Mount Hermon School, where he teaches math and is the varsity boy’s lacrosse coach as well. Dave’s past includes stints coaching and teaching at both the Salisbury School in Lakeville, CT and the Bement School in Deerfield, MA after having played lacrosse for sixteen years at Milton Academy, Trinity College, and for Finland’s national team beginning in 2005. “I’ve heard so much about Pemi from my friend and colleague at Northfield Mount Hermon, Charlie Malcolm. There’s nothing I enjoy as much as teaching lacrosse, no matter what level my players are. It is a pleasure and honor to join the Pemi community for three weeks this summer!” It’s great having Dave with us, especially given that claim to get as much of a charge out of teaching boys who have never held a lacrosse stick as from coaching advanced players.

Jim Dehls is a former Pemi camper and counselor (1959-1965 and 1968) and now parent to daughter Dorin Dehls who is back for her fifth summer at Pemi. Jim’s passion is music, and while at Pemi this week he will be teaching drum circle, assisting with Gilbert and Sullivan, and teaching a cappella. Jim taught high school chorus in Groton, CT for 25 years and is presently the Director of Music at Christ Church Episcopal in Pomfret, CT., where he also teaches private voice and piano lessons. Jim says about his time at Pemi, “I get more back than I give! I love the place so much, how nice for me to be able to re-join the staff again after so many years away!” Jim, by the way, was a primo water-ski instructor in 1968 and one of his goals for this week is to get back out on a slalom ski after years and years on dry land. That’s just the kind of spirit we love to see in Pemi alums!

Conner Scace is no stranger to teaching at Pemi, having worked here the past three summers. This year, Conner’s teaching and schooling schedule prevented a full summer in Wentworth, but we are thrilled to be able to take advantage of his expertise as an entomologist once again. During the year, Conner is studying to teach science full-time in the classroom. “I wish I could be here full-time again this summer, but I am so excited to at least be able to spend three weeks at Pemi, despite the demands on my time!” We share in his excitement – and only wish you could see how excited Conner is able to get your sons about this or that species of ants. Talk about energizing our awareness of even the tiniest denizens and elements in our valley!

So, while we feel very confident that our day-to-day summer staff provides excellent instruction every day for the boys, this infusion of professional instructors for a few weeks each summer is quite the boon. They bring not only their expertise but also, in each case, a real love of education and an appreciation of all that Pemi does so well.

Well, we reckon that about does it for this week. Farewell for now. When next we write, our first-session boys will almost unbelievably be home – and our second session campers will have just arrived for their own 3½ weeks. We can’t wait to greet them, but we will assuredly miss our companions of these most recent slightly dampened weeks. Here’s to a wonderful rest of the summer for all.

— Tom and Danny


Summer 2013: Newsletter # 2

BasketballsmIt’s 5 PM Monday afternoon and the predicted heavy rains are still holding off. It now seems likely the day will stay dry through suppertime, and then, even if it starts to pour, we’ll be safely in the Lodge for the second ladling of Bean Soup. Many of you will have been following the unstable weather conditions we’ve been enjoying (if that’s the word) in the Northeast, but we assure you that almost everything we like to do here at Pemi we’ve managed to do. Dozens of boys have swum their distances, morning occupations have been blessed with dry conditions (most of the showers coming in the late afternoon), and our first full day of athletic competition (with Camp Kingswood) went off without a hitch on Saturday – Pemi prevailing overall by an 8-7-1 count. As Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm so charmingly says, “There’s nothing wrong with winning.” At the same time, the thing we continue to be the proudest of on days such as these is that both we and our varied rivals firmly believe that determined play and good sportsmanship are at least as important as the final tally. Oh, and let’s not forget participation. At least four of the contests we dropped might well have been won had the coaches not gone out of their way to make sure that everyone who came out for the team actually played.

singingcampfireAfter an indoor campfire the first night of the season, we were delighted later this past Saturday to gather in the stone circle at the Senior Beach and enjoy a traditional outdoor iteration. Dorin Dehls’ a capella occupation kicked things off with a tight and complex rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, with Upper Division Head Henry Eisenhart, on hands and knees, donning a yellow wool mane and tail to wind sinuously around the legs of the performers. The distraction factor was considerable, but no one missed a beat. Ian Axness was next with his Soundpainting occupation (curious? Read all about Soundpainting, here.  And sorry about the Wikipedia reference. Not a scholarly source, we know!), followed by Will Thomas telling a trio of jokes. Alex Goldman performed for the second consecutive week, covering Neil Young’s Heart of Gold in a way that was almost totally convincing – except when the ten-year-old crooner claimed “And I’m gettin’ old.” Older, perhaps, but trust us. Alex!

Reed O’Brien raised the academic tone of the gathering with a brief excursus on the Norse pantheon, followed by Ezra Nugiel with an all-but-professional rendition of Sugarland’s “Stuck on You.” Those of you who are familiar with Pemi campfires and Gilbert and Sullivan shows alike will know that, if anyone was ever born with the capacity to charm an audience, it’s Ezra. We hear he had the OB-GYN nurses snapping their fingers moments after they calculated his APGAR.

armscampfireOther camper acts included James Minzesheimer with some riddles, Isaiah Abbey with a spirit trick, and staple singers extraordinaire Andre Altherr (singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – a song which he somehow claimed might not have any name at all. Go figure!) and Robert Loeser, who set the woods and lakeshore ringing with a powerful rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Vanishing.” It’s hard to be sure, but we think the heron that lives in the Lower Lake circled back on its evening way west just to hear Robert wrap the ballad up. Staff joined in to fill out the bill, with musical offerings from Henry Eisenhart (on tenor sax), Ian Steckler and Matt Bolton (both on guitar), Ryan Fauver and visiting alum Conor Shaw (on trombone and guitar), and Tom, Danny, and Jack Pierce (these last on guitars and fiddle, playing one of Bob Dylan’s least scrutable songs, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”) After Larry Davis closed with a couple of especially outrageous Maine Stories, all rose for the traditional “Campfire Song,” everyone swaying together, arms on their neighbor’s shoulders, “as the moon drifted low oe’r the hillside and finally dropped in the west.”

So, despite the rain, Pemi 2013 is Pemi Same-As-It-Ever-Was. The only program area to have been substantially hit is Trips, with almost unvarying daily predictions of afternoon thundershowers cramping our style quite noticeably. Still, we’ve managed to get six cabin groups across the lake by canoe for al fresco meals, four cabin groups up nearby mountains on day trips, and we’ve just sent a Lower 3-day out to the Appalachian Trail south of us for a walk back to camp via the Hexacuba Shelter, the summit of Mt. Cube, and a night at the Pemi Shelter. Even now, Quinn O’Keefe, Matt Edlin, Pierce Hayley, Jacob Berk, Nick Hazard, Nick Wernink, and Harrison Potts are probably getting ready to tuck into some pita pizzas rustled up by trip counselors Matt Bolton and Charlotte Pringle – most likely in the company of an AT through-hiker or two! It’s always terrific fun (and wonderfully humbling) for our boys to compare hiking notes with dudes who have been on the trail for four months straight. Meanwhile, sixteen Seniors in two groups are slated to head to the Presidential Range tomorrow for overnights at Madison and Lakes-of-the-Clouds Huts. So, we are getting out of camp – and we’re definitely looking forward to more stable conditions next week (and a consequent acceleration in the pace of trips.) That said, we also think there are valuable lessons to be learned when common sense and caution compel decisions that may be disappointing but are clearly the smart choice. “What? Our three-day has been postponed again?” “Well, we thought about sending you on a day when there was a 100% chance of torrential rain interspersed with thunderstorms producing high winds and large hail – but then . . . .” “Oh, yeah. Okay. I get it. What’s for lunch?”

As noted occupations have been pretty much going off without a hitch, and, without many trips venturing out, Tom had a spare hour to cast an eye over some of the activity on the lake. Here’s his account.

I got a chance to hang out at the Boathouse this morning, watching two third-hour occupations. One was an advanced sailing class taught by Nate Kraus and Buck Baskin (both veterans of the Pemi yachting program) with Dash Slamowitz, Sam Seaver, Andrew Appleby, Thomas Moore, Antoine Leunis, Jack Davini, and Per Soderberg as their aspiring skippers. The other was a beginning whitewater kayak occupation, overseen by veteran counselor Nick Ridley. As I arrived at the waterfront, Alex Marshman, Nick Toldalagi, and Andre Altherr had already been fitted out with helmets and flotation vests and stood there with their spray skirts fitted snugly around their waists, the hems flaring out like tutus. (We are doing Iolanthe after all this year.) “Nice outfits!” I quipped as I strolled up to them. “Waterproof skirts are all the rage these days,” countered Andre; “Baker Valley Vogue.” Nick got them to sit in their boats on dry land and helped them adjust their seats and foot pegs. “We’ll get you fitted in – and then remember which boat you have and you’ll be set for the whole week.”

Once the kayaks were set up, Nick had the boys carry them to the very edge of the pond and, again, climb into them. He asked if they knew what the skirts were for. “To keep the spray out.” “Right. But if they keep the spray out, they can also keep you . . . what?” “In,” came the chorus of replies. “Right. That’s why you need to listen really carefully now.” Nick proceeded to show them how to fit the skirts over the lip of the gunwales: you fit the back of the stretchy neoprene rig over the stern lip of the cockpit then stretch the front forward towards your feet. “This is hard,” said Nick. “Especially with the skirts stiffened up from the winter. If anyone can get theirs attached, they can have my dessert for a week.” All three struggle gamely, but to little avail – until Nick sits on all the bows in turn and pulls the skirts into place.

Nickkayaks“Now,” he says. “What do you notice about the skirt handles?” Stout loops of neoprene are visible sticking up at the very front of the rubber fittings. “They’re all out, ready to grab.” “Right,” says Nick. “And that’s extremely important. If you roll and can’t roll back up, you have to be able to pull on the handle and release the skirt. Then you can pop out of the boat.” The boys all nod, fingering the loops. “Here,” says Nick. “Look what happens if I seal the skirt with the handle inside.” He does so, and then flails his hands uselessly over the taut fabric. “Handle out. Got it?” The boys nod again, the point made perfectly.

“So what we’re going to do today is get you guys comfortable exiting the boat if you roll. Now you know just what to do. So there’s no panic, right?” More nods. “Then later in the week, we’ll learn how to right the boats when you’re inverted. Before you paddle out a bit, let me show you where to grip the paddles.” Nick gives them the basics on the breadth of their grip, how feathering works, etc. Then he shoves each boy off the shore and into the shallow water, where they scuttle about like waterbugs in the highly maneuverable (read “really-hard-to-paddle in a straight line”) kayaks. “I love this,” shouts Nick Toldalagi, barely containing his mirth as he rushes up towards Andre’s boat and then veers away at the last possible second. “Okay, guys. Out to the end of the boat dock.” As they comply, Nick walks out to the end of the small pier.

Once there, he explains yet again about pulling the handle to release the skirt. He then says that he wants the boys – one at a time – to roll their boats over, bang on the hull three times, and then pull the handle and slip out of the boat. Each of them does this in turn, popping to the surface with water gushing out of his helmet, blinking furiously above a toothy grin. “How was it?” asks Nick. “Easy” comes one answer. “Fun,” another. “Okay,” says Nick. “Now lets go back ashore, get the skirts back on, and we’ll try something different.”

This time, Nick Toldalagi manages to secure his skirt all by himself. “Oh, my,” says Nick Ridley. “There go my desserts.” Mr. T. chuckles and slaps happily on his boat. Once they are all re-inserted and “attached,” they paddle out to the end of the dock again. One at a time, Nick, sitting with his legs in the water, talks quietly with the boys and then rolls them over away from him. For fifteen or twenty seconds they remain inverted, then Nick pulls them back upright. “How was it?” “Cool.” “Scary at all?” “Not at all.” “No panic?” “No panic.” “Great. That’s just what we want. You guys are terrific. Tomorrow, we’ll go over what we did today – and then we’ll work on righting ourselves with just our paddles. Okay?” “Cool” comes a chorus of replies.

Nick goes over a few things on maneuvering and then brings everyone back to shore, where he teaches them to flip the full boats before they attempt to drag them from the water, pairing the boys up to lower first one end and then the other, shaking the craft side to side until most of the water is out. “The drier you get them today,” Nick says, “the more comfortable you’ll be tomorrow. Okay?” “Got it,” comes another chorus. “Thanks Nick.” “Right. Now hang up your helmets and spray skirts where you can find them tomorrow and get changed into dry clothes. Lunch in half an hour.”

It all went by so fast you might miss how much the boys learned here. Technical stuff, safety stuff, psychological stuff – and all with a pretty remarkable 1-3 staff/camper ratio (not at all uncommon at Pemi). Nick covered everything in a clear, measured, commonsensical way, and the boys’ excitement to be doing what they were doing obviously sharpened their attentiveness. You could almost see they were imagining themselves negotiating some Class III rapids on a future trip. Because I was further from the sailors, I can offer fewer insights into how things went for them. But watching Nate and Buck in the safety boat shuttling between Sunfish and Lasers let me know that their charges, too, were getting lots of individual advice and support. As Antoine finished mooring and putting his Sunfish to bed, he waded in to shore exclaiming about how much fun it had been, how cool the Lasers were, how he was looking forward to moving up to sailing them in due course. It’s only a matter of time.

Well, we seem to be butting up against our maximum word count, so we’ll close. The long range forecast is for a tolerable Fourth and a fine weekend to follow, so we’ll keep on keepin’ on and report back to you in a week’s time about how it’s all gone. For now, best wishes to you all for a wonderful Independence Day!

—  Tom and Danny