Summer 2015: Newsletter #1
A warm hello from our cool (and breezy) valley, where the sun is just re-establishing its celestial presence after a somewhat rainy Sunday. The campers have all arrived safely and are right now just finishing up their third hour of morning activities (long called, as some of you may recall, “occupations.”) This will be the first of our weekly Newsletters, with which we’ll endeavor to keep you in the know about goings-on at Pemi, 2015. We well know that, write home as they may every week, our campers aren’t always lavish with their epistolary details.
Staff Training began on Friday, June 19, with a meeting in the Lodge at which the entire crew introduced themselves to each other. Stealing the show were Al Fauver, son of one of our founding trio, Gar Fauver, and Al’s wife of seventy-four years, Bertha. Al will celebrate his hundredth birthday on August 15, so his brief word of thanks and encouragement to this year’s staff came with considerable impact.
Many present in the room had actually been around for more than an afternoon and welcome-to-Pemi supper. Chase Gagne, Thom Kelly, Sarah Crayton, and Matt Kanovsky had all participated in the five-day Pemi Nature-Education Clinic run by Program Head Larry Davis, a nationally renowned workshop for staff from many other camps and boasting full academic accreditation at the University of New Haven (where Larry teaches.) Archery Head Steve Clare and Head of Canoeing Tighe Burnham had been off to specialty clinics at other camps, and British Trip Counselor Kim Bradshaw had gotten her first taste of the White Mountains via the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mountain Leadership School.
In the days following Al’s inspiring speech, the staff split their time between practical work in preparing the grounds and equipment (putting in the swimming docks, assembling the soccer goals and lining the pitch, weeding and lining the ball diamond, etc.), going over lesson plans and instruction techniques with the various program heads, and sitting through detailed and informative “classroom” sessions on everything from health concerns to cabin management and dealing sympathetically with inevitable bouts of camper homesickness. Hard as it is to believe, there was once a time (eighty or more years back) when the staff arrived in New Hampshire on the same train with the campers – and then proceeded to set everything up shoulder-to-shoulder with their charges, all of them hopefully learning in the hectic process to function together as part of a happy community. Whatever we may have lost in cultivating camper responsibility for creating and maintaining their own camp environment, we believe we have gained immensely in preparing the staff to be effective and supportive coaches, teachers, and surrogate parents. We trust it is reassuring to know, for example, that every single counselor leading a day hike over the next six weeks will have been up Mt. Cardigan on a model outing with Trip Head Tom Reed, Jr. – and that any staff member not already certified in Wilderness First Aid received that training during pre-season. (Our mass climb, incidentally, was spectacular, as we enjoyed a picnic supper on the bald 3200-foot summit with 360-degree views of the Presidential and Franconia Ranges of New Hampshire and Mts. Ascutney, Pico, Killington, Camel’s Hump, and Mansfield in Vermont.) Read bios of our 2015 staff members.
As many readers will have experienced first-hand, Opening Day this past Saturday went off without a hitch, with impending rains holding off until every last camper was tucked warmly into bed after the year’s first “Taps.” For the second year running, veteran campers re-joined us in the morning, giving everyone a chance to unpack and catch up with their buddies before lunch. As a result, when new boys arrived at 2:30, our veterans could turn their full attention to making them welcome, which they did with remarkable graciousness and good cheer. Within minutes, roof ball—one of the sports played few if any other places in the world than Pemi—was already beginning its season in the Senior Camp.
What looks to be a wonderful Opening Day tradition also got off to a spectacular start on Saturday – “Cans from Campers.” Brainchild of the fourth generation of Reeds and Fauvers (they being Pemi’s two founding families), the program garnered a remarkable total of 423 separate cans or boxes, each of them gratefully acknowledged by Dan Reed and Sarah Fauver and stacked in and around a roadside kayak which ended up looking like a cross between Noah’s Ark and a polyethylene cornucopia. Head of Art Laura Bubar had painted a 3×5’ sign for the occasion featuring our signature Pemi kid running with (you guessed it!) a can of Spaghetti-Os. On Monday or Tuesday, Dan will drive the haul down to the New Hampshire Food Bank, where we reckon it will provide well over a thousand servings for people a little less fortunate than we. As we said, it looks like becoming a wonderful tradition, and our neighbors at Camp Merriwood are already planning on emulating this plan for public service. Here’s hoping it catches on across the entire camping industry!
Following our traditional Opening Day evening meal of pizza and Hoods Rockets (how shamelessly can we cater to the universal tastes of boys 8 to 15?), the entire new camp family headed down to the Senior Beach for the inaugural campfire of the season. Masters-of-Ceremony Dorin Dehls and Steve Clare orchestrated a stylish launch to the dramatic and musical year, kicked off by the veteran guitar-vocal duo of Becky Noel and Dan Reed performing David Guetta’s “Titanium.” Mac Hadden kept up the musical momentum with a remarkably professional guitar number, followed by our own incarnation of The Riddler, Tanner Howson. Dash Paris impressed one and all with a flawless rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird,” although if Dash had picked up the tempo any more, he might have had a second fire going on his fretboard. Tom Reed, Jr., followed with a dramatic rendering of the 19th-century classic “Casey at the Bat,” although (having just retired as an English professor) he couldn’t be dissuaded from turning the Campfire Circle into a temporary classroom by evincing a moral: that you don’t need to swing for the fences to succeed at a place like Pemi. Just be a Blake or a Flynn and start off by getting on base. Next up was Jivan Khakee with a swinging jazz clarinet number and Drew Johnstone with Nico and Vinz’s “In Your Arms.” Speaking of axillary body parts, Noah Anderson then demonstrated that his thumb can bend absolutely anywhere in a 360-degree range (yikes!) and Nate Blumenthal reprised his long-notorious elbow-lick. First–year Brit Andy Calver proved that shaggy-dog stories thrive on the other side of the Pond as well this (the punch-line was something like, “It’s a knick-knack, Paddy Black. Give the frog a home”) and if there was ever any doubt that a slender twelve-year-old could deliver a rocking cover of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” Alex Goldman put it to rest. Wrapping it all up was Larry Davis with another of his classic Maine stories (the moral for this professor being that turpentine is not the tonic of choice for an ailing horse) and, finally, Doc Reed’s classic “Campfire Song.” As we swayed there with our arms tossed over our neighbor’s shoulders, and with Venus and Jupiter high in the western sky and a half moon dropping low over Pemi Hill, we could all feel the great potential of the summer lying before us.
Sunday, after lunch, we all bid a ceremonial farewell to the six veteran campers headed off to Washington State for the 2015 edition of Pemi West. Griff Barlow, Nate Blumenthal, Nick Case, Will Jones, Will Katcher, and Jack O’Connor left the mess hall and made their way down through a double line of two hundred well-wishers to the van in which Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm was set to drive them to Boston for an early morning flight. The intrepid half dozen arrived at Pemi five days ago and went through a rigorous two-day training program in Wilderness First Aid, their studies interrupted occasionally by an hour’s break on the tennis courts or out on the lake in kayaks. Former L7 counselor and Pemi West alum Nate Kraus is second in command for this year’s expedition in Olympic National Park, and he made the most of his time here with the boys ensuring that they were adequately equipped and briefed for the adventure to come. They join Pemi West Director Dave Robb at Seattle-Tacoma Airport on Monday afternoon and then fly on to Port Angeles for what is sure to be an exciting and educational wilderness sojourn. We will update you on their progress towards the summit of Mt. Olympus as details come in. Special thanks to Assistant Director Kenny Moore for having handled all of the details of recruiting, staffing, and preparing for this year’s program.
Well, it feels like we’re coming to a reasonable place to leave off. We’ll therefore say goodbye for now with the promise of more details on our adventures and accomplishments in a week’s time. Meanwhile, thank you all for entrusting your sons to us. We couldn’t be happier about having their energy and enthusiasm brightening our little corner of the mountains.
– Tom and Danny