From Novels To Novelties

Summer 2015: Newsletter #5

The following newsletter comes to you from Director Danny Kerr…

Greetings from the sun drenched shores of Lower Baker Pond! As we begin the new occupation week, energy abounds as the boys begin preparation for Tecumseh Day, the annual full day of competition we engage in with Camp Tecumseh in Moultonborough, NH. Tecumseh Day has been taking place every year for more than one hundred years (with a couple of years off in the early 20th century during war times), meaning this friendly rivalry is older than the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry! The boys are certainly fashioning an energetic “hop” to their step in moving from point “A” to point “B” each occupation hour as we look forward to a tremendous day of competition at week’s end. More on Tecumseh Day in next week’s Newsletter!

cabinReadingLast night, as I made my way back towards the Lake House, I stopped outside of a couple of cabins to listen as the boys settled in for their night’s sleep. I did so with the full knowledge that I would be hearing a page or two of some wonderful book that was being read by each counselor to his boys, as the boys slowly drifted off to sleep for the night. Truly, one of the many wonderful traditions here at Pemi is counselors reading aloud to their boys each night, choosing from the many volumes of age appropriate literature we have here in the Pemi library or perhaps reading a favorite childhood story they have brought from home. The quiet that descends on the divisions as this nightly ritual takes place is heartwarming, as the boys travel around the world and back in time listening to these riveting adventures of classic characters. As a follow up this morning, I asked a few of the campers what their counselors were reading aloud to them and what they enjoyed most about this age-old Pemi practice; here are a few of their thoughts:

First I spoke with Chris Ramanathan in Junior 4, whose counselor Wes Eifler is reading A Barrel of Laughs, a Veil of Tears, by Jules Feiffer. Chris mentioned that he loved the nightly reading and that “Wes always chooses great stories that help me fall asleep. The stories remind me of home. My father reads to me at night, too!”

Jack Henry, in Junior 5, said his counselor Will Henry is reading Silverfin by Charlie Higson and that the nightly reading has “helped me get used to being away from home and go to sleep each night.” For Junior Camp specifically, I think of the lovely image of the water slowly lapping up against the shore, right outside of the Junior cabins, as these young boys doze off into a warm and cozy rest!

Lower 5 is listening to Holes by Louse Sachar, which was one of my own three boys’ favorite novels when they were young. Camper Finn Lincoln mentioned how much fun it is to hear this piece of literature every night, as his counselor Chase Gagne “always seems to know the perfect place to stop, to keep us most excited and anticipating the next evening’s installment!”

Finally, I asked 15 year-old Pemi veteran Caleb Tempro what he had most enjoyed about his many summers’ worth of nighttime book reading. Caleb pointed out how it was “always so quiet and still” when his cabin was read to at night and how the evening’s chapters provided opportunity for great follow up conversation amongst the boys, especially when they were new and just getting to know each other. Nice!

In summation, one of the most endearing qualities of life at Pemi is the opportunity the boys have to enjoy each other’s company and entertain themselves in an “unplugged fashion,” and nighttime reading in the cabins is a vivid example of the simple way of living that supports this approach to healthy summer fun.

Read more about Pemi’s tradition of counselors reading to their boys after Taps.

On to a different topic!

One of the many enriching opportunities we offer our boys each summer is the chance to take occupations with “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 themselves only to a shorter stint because of the “real life” demands on their time. 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 talented and energetic people bring to Pemi each summer.

Who are these Visiting Professionals, you ask? In 2015, we are fortunate enough to have four Visiting Professionals join our learning community: Andy Bale, Jeanne Friedman, Stephen Broker, and Jim Dehls. Let me tell you a bit about each!

"Rock Band" - Light Painting with Andy Bale

“Rock Band” – Light Painting with Andy Bale

Andy Bale, who teaches photography at Dickinson College, just spent two weeks at Pemi teaching photography, the fifth time he has worked here as a Visiting Professional. How cool to give a Visiting Professional a “Five Year Bowl.” Andy is the first to whom we have bestowed this five-year recognition! Andy taught a variety of photography occupations in his two weeks at Pemi, beginning with “Darkroom Photography” (quite the throw back in this day of digital imagery!) and “Cyanotype Photography.” True to his professional life at a liberal arts institution, Andy did some interdisciplinary teaching by offering “Nature Photography” and “Location Photography” and also offered a very cool option for six to eight boys each night to engage in “Light Painting.” We love having Andy with us, he brings an abundance of enthusiasm and expertise and we look forward to the possibility of having him be the first Visiting Professional to receive the Ten Year tie!

Sculling with Jeanne Friedman

Sculling with Jeanne Friedman

Jeanne Friedman returned this summer once again to teach sculling, which is a class of rowing for one rower at a time (as opposed to crew which is for more than one). Jeanne’s son Jacob attends Pemi, which is how I realized the opportunity to cajole her into considering a week as Visiting Professional. Jeanne recently retired as Head Coach of the Women’s Crew team at Mt. Holyoke College, where she led Mount Holyoke’s crew team to four Seven Sisters Championships, one NEWMAC Championship, and numerous medals at ECAC and New England regional championships in her 20 plus year tenure at Mt. Holyoke. Yes, we love to hire over-qualified instructors to teach our boys at Pemi and Jeanne certainly falls into that category!

Ornithology with Steve Broker

Ornithology with Steve Broker

Steve 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!

A Cappella performance with Jim Dehls

A Cappella performance with Jim Dehls

Jim Dehls was a Pemi camper and counselor (1959-1965 and 1968) and is parent to daughter Dorin Dehls, Head of Music, now in her seventh 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!

So, while we are confident that our day-to-day summer staff provides excellent, ongoing instruction 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.

– Danny Kerr


A Day in the Life of the Trip Program

Summer 2015: Newsletter # 4

Thursday, July 16, 2015. Perhaps the best day thus far in the 2015 season – meteorologically speaking. High pressure built into the region the day before, and under the crystal clear skies, the night of the 15th was a chilly one – temperatures down into the forties in our valley, the upper thirties a bit further north. It’s a good thing you sent your boys with sufficient bedding! The morning Polar Bear dip was brisk, to say the least, what with a vigorous, clearing-weather gale whipping down the lake. It sent our usually stoic senior staff dashing from immersion to the bathhouse, whooping and squealing like four-year-olds. We must admit that our own aged toes were a mite numbed.


Sunrise hike for seniors

By the time reveille blew at 7:30, twenty-one Senior campers (including all of Senior 3 and Lake Tent) had been up for four hours. They had been awakened by Trip Counselors Harry Morris and Matt Bolton and Head of Staff Ben Walsh for a sunrise hike up Mt. Cube, a 2800-foot peak just to our northwest, right behind Pemi Hill. Travelling in two vans, they arrived at the Rivendell Trailhead at 3:45 in full darkness, working their way by headlamp up through the woods while the stars blazed unblinkingly high above the leafy canopy. They arrived at the South Summit at about 5, with the eastern sky already consumed in a molten glow, and by quarter past the hour they were ensconced on the quartzite ledges of the North Summit, settling down to watch the sun pop up over the horizon at about 5:20. The temperature was somewhere in the low to mid forties and, with a northwest wind tearing through at 30 or 35 miles per hour, all were glad to have brought the requisite fleeces and Gore-tex jackets. Noshing on Pop-Tarts (not Lewis and Clark grub but sufficient to the moment), they sat there in modest awe as the Trippies boiled up water for hot chocolate and, before Big Sol was more than four or five degrees off the eastern hills, they joined in a steaming toast to brotherhood, effort, and natural beauty. Perhaps they will fill you in on some more details. Meanwhile, we sorely wish we’d been up there with them.


Optional climb up Mt. Moosilauke

The day featured a big Baker Valley swim meet at Camp Walt Whitman, just up Cape Moonshine Road from us. With so many boys participating in all age groups, it didn’t make sense to organize any routine cabin-based day trips, so Trip Counselor Michael Kerr took names after breakfast for an optional climb up Mt. Moosilauke. The peak is one of those required for a Brave or Chief Award, so a number of stalwart souls signed up for the outing: Ben Caspersen, Mac Hadden, Pierce Haley, Jackson Morrell, and Drew Johnstone. The van trip to the trailhead at the Dartmouth Outing Club Ravine Lodge took about thirty-five minutes, after which they stretched their legs, donned their packs, and headed on up the Gorge Brook Trail, one of the pleasantest in the vicinity for its moderate grade as it meanders along a stream tumbling down over moderate boulders in the shade of white birches. A couple of hours of effort put them on top of the biggest free-standing mountain in New Hampshire, the bane of Appalachian Trail through-hikers for the fact that all of the altitude they gain climbing up to the summit from the little mountain hamlet of Glencliff (2000 feet up to 4800 feet) they loose on the northeast side as they drop down into Kinsman Notch. As our party lunched behind the windbreak provided by the ruined foundations of the old Tip-Top House Hotel, they could see the Adirondacks some ninety miles to the west. The Franconia Range, ten miles to the northeast, looked close enough to touch. After downing their repast of pepperoni, cheddar, crackers, and cookies (with some carrots and celery thrown in for fat-free health), they set off down the path of the old Carriage Road by which Victorian tourists use to ascend to the Tip–Top House in, yes, horse-drawn conveyances. Descending a newly-cut trail just south of the old Snapper Ski Trail, they were met by Driver Ken Morrell and, after a brief stop at a local establishment for soda and candy, they made their way back to camp, tired but happy.

Speaking of tired but happy, a select group of Lower Intermediates arrived back at camp just before lunch, accompanied by Trip Counselor Kim Bradshaw and Assistant Counselor Zach Popkin. Nicky Harwich, Lucas Caramanica, Gus Bachner, Ben Popkin, Nelson Snyder, and Nicky Paris had just spent three days in the Waterville Range, scaling Mt. Osceola in the process. Your correspondent had actually dropped them off Tuesday afternoon amidst showers forecast to be light and fleeting but that had actually settled in with a modest vengeance. Despite the adversity, they managed to set up camp alongside the Mad River that runs down into Waterville Valley and enjoyed a tasty supper and a dry night’s sleep. Wednesday, under the very same clearing skies mentioned above, they made their way up the steep trail that scales the mountain’s eastern buttress, lunching on the top of the East Peak as the last of the clouds scurried off towards Maine. The way back to the campsite took them along the rocky, spruce-studded shores of the Greeley Ponds, two small but pristine mountain lakes tucked into the steep-sided ravine at the head of the Mad River. There are few bodies of water in the state that are as appealing in their remote beauty, and generally trustworthy reports are that the scene was much appreciated by our boys. After a chilly night wrapped up snuggly in their tents, they made it back to camp for lunch on the 16th with lively tales of a deluge survived and a rugged peak ascended. Altogether three days well spent!

Right after said lunch, Andrew McDonald, TH Pearson, and the boys of Upper 3 set off for Greenleaf Hut, high on the shoulder of Mt. Lafayette (5200 feet), kingpin of that same Franconia Range that our crew on Moosilauke could all but touch from the southwest. Ben Burnham, Reed Cecil, Jake Cronin. Teddy Foley, Harrison Green, Michael Kelly, Miles Schiff Stein, and Patrick Snell took the Bridle Path up to the hut, where they thoroughly enjoyed the fabled fare and hospitality of the Appalachian Mountain Club Croo before heading up towards the summit of Lafayette to watch a spectacular sunset. Few pleasures, in our humble opinion, surpass those to be found when you spend a night in a high mountain hostel as the night wind pulls at the eaves and window frames and the stars sparkle brightly overhead in numbers beyond calculation. Dawn brought another gourmet meal and the infamous “blanket-folding-skit” which educates all guests in the official AMC way of handing bedding. After brushing their teeth, filling their water bottles, and re-stuffing their packs, our boys set off again up Lafayette, its summit a mile away and a good thousand feet above the hut. From there, the Franconia Ridge Trail, much of it above tree line, led them down over Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack, with arresting views of the cliffs of Cannon Mountain and North and South Kinsman to the west (not to mention Mt. Moosilauke) and the whole of the remote Pemigewassett Wilderness to the east. They could easily see Mt. Washington anchoring the Presidential Range, with the tracks of the Cog Railway (all too easy a way up the Northeast’s highest mountain!) clearly visible. Ten years ago, the boys would have seen smoke from the coal-fired steam engines that have gradually been replaced by bio-diesels. What is lost in a scenic sense has, of course, been gained in sustainability.

Upper Five

Upper Five

Hmmmm. In following Andy, TH, and the boys across the ridge, we seem to have gotten to July 17th. Let’s backtrack to the 16th, when the same van that dropped them at Lafayette Place for their ascent to the hut traveled back down Franconia Notch to the scenic Flume, where it picked up the residents of Upper 5, who had begun the same route the day before. Mssrs. Meinke, Seniff, Adams, Allen, Beesley, Bowman, Edlin, Franciskovich, Jones, Katcher, Mangan, and O’Brien may have enjoyed a slightly different menu at the hut than Upper 3, but they too, after supper, pored over the old log books – and found, no doubt, the autographs and comments of Pemi boys, counselors, and even directors of years, decades, and even centuries past. There’s a brotherhood of mates on the day’s trail. There is also the brotherhood of boys experiencing the same rugged paths and gorgeous vistas seventy years after their iPhone-less predecessors. It’s hard to say which is the more compelling!

It feels like we’re nearing our word limit, so let it be said that July 16th also featured al fresco suppers across the lake for Junior 3 and Lower 3, a night at the shelter on Pemi Hill for Lower 6, and a pre-Allagash whitewater training paddle on the Pemigewassett River for Will Raduziner, Andre Altherr, Kevin Green, Patterson Malcolm, Greg Nacheff, Andrew Virden, Ezra Nugiel, and Sam Berman. Under the vigilant eye of staff members Reed Harrigan (former White Mountain National Forest Ranger) and Matt Bolton (who will lead the trip to Maine), these eight put the finishing touches on weeks of training for the Allagash. The next day, Reed and Matt took out the other eight participants who equally enjoyed a fun and edifying afternoon on the water, getting comfortable with the conditions that will prevail under Churchill Dam when they put in just before this reaches you. As for their progress beginning Monday down their wilderness waterway, more perhaps to follow – either from us or from the horses’ own mouths!

So, there’s a glimpse of July 16, 2015 – an “average day” for the Pemi Trip Program, with something between a third and two fifths of the camp population involved. Oh, by the way, we also do sports, nature studies, the arts, and music here! We trust, though, that some wonderful memories were made outdoors on that eventful Thursday in the White Mountains. We also suspect there were some valuable lessons either learned or reaffirmed: lessons about fastidious preparation; about personal commitment and perseverance; about patience and encouragement; about both respecting and appreciating the remarkably beautiful setting in which we find ourselves. It was not at all a bad way to spend twenty-four hours!

  • Tom and Danny


Decisions, Decisions…Afternoons at Pemi

Summer 2015: Newsletter # 3

This week’s newsletter comes from Kenny Moore, Assistant Director and Head of Program.

For as long as I can remember, Pemi has always offered occupations in the morning, giving us structure to start off each day. Three hours of instruction in music, nature, athletics, woodshop, art, and water sports work in unison, like a finely-wrought watch, to keep Pemi moving forward. Occasionally, we will have schedule changes that provide moments for improvisation; a gorgeous New Hampshire day often acts as a trigger for Tom to send off day trips to nearby Mt. Cube or Rattlesnake. But all in all, an occupation morning has a rhythm that keeps building momentum as the day unfolds.

Our routine changes each afternoon, with a variety of optional activities. Daily options are announced in the Mess Hall during lunch, and each boy chooses which activity will occupy his afternoon. While we do not require official sign-ups for our older campers during these afternoon events, we do ensure that all boys are engaged in some way or another, either in an organized camp event, or perhaps in a more quiet afternoon with a good book while folded up in a strategically-placed Crazy-Creek. All Junior campers have assigned activities, ranging from Waterskiing, to Baseball, to Woodshop. They sign up each week for the period following rest hour (4th Hour), identical to how Occupation sign-ups operate, and attend those activities for the duration of five days. This makes sense to us, as we work with our youngest on how to make wise choices and also to manage free time.

Balancing assigned activities, chosen activities, and free time is vitally important for us at Pemi, as we continually strive to provide the best environment for our boys to thrive. Boys flourish in balanced environments, feeling comfortable within the structure of morning occupations, empowered with the decision of choosing activities during the afternoon, and confident as they learn to make the most of their free time. For the afternoon periods, the counseling staff initially facilitate the decision-making process, guiding each camper to make his own choice during these afternoons. It certainly helps that our engaged and active counselors offer fun activities to capture the boys’ interest.

Ben Popkin

Ben Popkin

JJ Strnad, our favorite St. Olaf football player, hosted two such activities this past week: Beginning Juggling and Chess. Ben Popkin, Kai Soderbeg, and Teddy Foley each practiced with specially-designed juggling balls, and once they found the rhythm and technique, they moved on to tennis balls. A larger group joined JJ for his Chess Clinic, which began with a talk about strategy and subsequent games for the boys to show off their moves. Nine-year old Brian Wolfson won all of his matches against some fairly stiff competition. Alex Volpe, Lucas Gaffney, and Nathan King thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon in the library.

Many afternoons are anchored by athletic events organized by Charlie Malcolm, who works in tandem with our neighboring camps to craft many opportunities for our boys to compete as a team in a positive atmosphere. On any given day, we send two to three sports teams to compete in friendly round-robin tournaments. This past week, Pemi competed in four tennis tournaments, two soccer tournaments, one basketball tournament, and hosted both the Annual Baker Valley Track and Track and Field Meet & Archery Meets. In the 11s Tennis Tournament, held here at Pemi, Ben Casperson won all of his matches at third singles, securing Pemi’s 2nd place finish overall. Luca McAdams lost a nail-biting final match 8-7 at first singles, and exhibited great sportsmanship to his opponent. Later that evening during evening announcements in the Mess Hall, Luca took over the role of Coach to report on the event!

Johnny Seebeck

Johnny Seebeck

In Track, we witnessed several spectacular performances by the Senior Team. Patterson Malcolm ran a blistering 5:08 in the Pemi cross-country mile, while tent-mate Ezra Nugiel exhibited excellent form to win the Shot-Put. Kai Soderberg ran a flawless 440 to take first, and Johnny Seebeck won both the High Jump and the 60-yard dash. (Stay tuned for details of this talented group’s performance at the Tecumseh track meet.) To prepare for many of these competitions, coaches call team practices on the days leading up to their tournament. Both players and coaches, alike, enjoyed this extra time for learning technical skills and the chance to build teamwork. A great use of an afternoon!

Time in the afternoon also works perfectly for extended trips, so Larry and Deb took full advantage, offering afternoon trips from the Nature Lodge. Nicky Harwich and Tanner Howson loved the chance to collect rocks and minerals at the Palermo Mine, a local gem (get it!) that grants exclusive special access to Pemi boys. The hand-sized clear quartz samples highlighted the trip. And speaking of Geology in your face, Deb and Danny led a van full of Uppers and Seniors to Mt. Willard to witness one of New Hampshire’s best views, Crawford Notch, just to the southeast of Mt. Washington. As the group emerged from the trees, eyes popped and jaws dropped as the stunning symmetrical glacial valley unfolded before them.

Chase Gagne, a wetlands expert on our staff, led a group of budding ecologists to our own swamp to collect specimens to display in tanks in the Nature Lodge. Nick Gordon and Eli Brennan, along with another six friends, gathered bullfrogs, tadpoles, and a huge supply of crayfish. Continuing on with the discovery theme, the Junior Camp, led by Division Head Wesley Eifler, traveled en masse to the Squam Lakes Science Center one afternoon. Consensus was that the black bear and coyote exhibits were the best, along with the nature-themed interactive play-scapes. The predator-prey adventure area gave Doc Nick’s Wonders the chance to take on the role of a red-squirrel, burrowing through tunnels and balancing on rocks and logs.

Julian Berk

Julian Berk

Each afternoon, Lower Baker Pond too is full of activity. Molly Malone, Pemi’s new and brilliant Head of Waterskiing, keeps the boat moving throughout the day, accommodating all types of water-skiers and wake-boarders. Down by the boathouse, a group of boys have recently taken up paddle-boarding. Using a windsurfing board and a canoe paddle, Will Leslie, Robert McNamara, Simon Taylor, Jackson Morrell, Ben Pigeon, and Emmanuel Abbey started a new popular trend! Dozens of boys enjoy boating each and every afternoon, and boat fleets move back and forth throughout the afternoon. Over on Senior Beach, Paige Wallis and the Swim Staff offer daily activities ranging from stroke work for the competitive swimmers, to fun water-basketball or water polo, and even volleyball on the shore. Lucas Jansky and Sam Beesley, to name two, took full advantage of optional waterfront time to improve their swimming strokes.

Swimmin' hole

Swimmin’ hole

Warm weather and abundant sunshine provided the perfect backdrop to our first of many (hopefully!) trips to the “Swimmin’ Hole” in nearby in Rumney. A deep pool forms at the bottom of a small waterfall, allowing swimmers to slide down a natural waterslide or jump safely off nearby rocks. You can even swim underneath the waterfall! The group of 14-year-old Uppers, along with yours truly and Max Livingstone-Peters serving as lifeguards, couldn’t contain their excitement and pledged to get back the next chance we have.

Dash Paris

Dash Paris

Rehearsals for this summer’s Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Mikado, occur each and every afternoon in the Senior Lodge. Dorin Dehls and Luke Raffanti strategically rehearse key scenes, asking for specific leads and choruses to participate. Jed Cutler also offers an Open Jam Session for those born to rock, down in the Junior Lodge. Patrick Snell, Simon Taylor, and Dash Paris regularly attend these daily rehearsals, and they performed this past Sunday during the all-camp cookout. Special kudos to Nathan King, who joined the group on trumpet!

And finally, the resurgence of Frisbee Golf! The 1992 Pemi Open course, re-laid in terms of a chart found in the depths of the archives, allowed Jivan Khakee, Reed O’Brien and Matt Edlin the chance to test out the course designed by Charlie Malcolm and former Pemi Staffer, Sam Martin. The par 7, 6th hole proved daunting; it includes a toss over the tennis courts (a major hazard!), but the boys prevailed. Jivan even recorded a score under-par, and now with the green jacket in hand he has become the pied-piper of the FOLF movement. (It helps that he’s a skilled jazz clarinetist!)

What a fun week of afternoon activities for the boys and staff alike, discovering new places and new activities. Be sure to ask your favorite Pemi boy about his afternoons once you see him next, and stay tuned for further updates on Pemi happenings.


Music, Sports, Trips, and…Power Yoga!

Summer 2015: Newsletter # 2

messhallAs we scribble away at this on Sunday, July 5th, we can say with all honesty that Pemi 2015 is off to a terrific start. One dependable gauge of a successful seasonal kick-off is singing in the Messhall, which we indulge in at every mid-day and evening meal. Seldom have our collective croonings been more lusty than this past week, as we have picked up old favorites like “We’re From Camp Pemigewassett” and “The Happy Wanderer” with all the passion and spiritual frenzy of a revivalist choir, complete with hand and body motions for every other word. You haven’t experienced Pemi until you’ve seen 250 young men, women, and boys all but soaring under the Big Top as they sway back and forth, side to side, belting out the lyrics to “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” First-year pianist Luke Raffanti has been remarkable picking up the downbeat from Oberlin keyboard predecessors like Ian Axness and Josh Hess with unerring deftness and musicality. Speaking of fast musical starts, we all stand in awe of English rookie counselor Jed Cutler who is doing our bugling despite never really having picked up a horn until a couple of months ago. If he maintains his learning curve, Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis beware!

Speaking of music, tryouts for this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan production, The Mikado, have recently moved through call-backs to the posting of the cast. So flooded was director Dorin Dehls with talented camper aspirants that more of the principal roles are going to tuition-paying individuals than we can ever remember. Only the parts of Pooh-Bah and the Mikado himself require a performer truly broken and embittered by the trials of a long life such that it was necessary to cast older and more jaded sorts (Larry Davis and Tom Reed, Jr. respectively.) Meanwhile, romantic royal rebel Nanki-Poo will be played by Caleb Tempro, hesitant headsman Ko-Ko by Nicholas Gordon, chief nobleman and bottle-washer Pish-Tush by George Cooke, the fetching if somewhat vain Yum-Yum by Drew Johnstone, generally wise schoolmaiden Pitti-Sing by Owen Wyman, her mischievous schoolmate Peep-Bo (on successive nights) by Christopher Ramanathan and Henry Moore, and G&S’s answer to Maggie Thatcher and Liz Taylor rolled into one, Katisha, by Lower Baker dramatic mainstay Ezra Nugiel. Campers in the choruses include Ted Applebaum, Eli Brennan, Jonathan Ciglar, Andreas Geffert, Oliver Giraud, Tanner Howson, and Simon Taylor (all of them Schoolgirls) and Sam Berman, Pierce Haley, Tucker Jones, Suraj Khakee, and Owen Lee (all of them Noblemen – in both role and character.) The show is bound to be brilliant. (Parents of boys in the cast are welcome to attend—either Tuesday, August 11 or Wednesday, August 12—though if you can’t, don’t fret as DVDs will be available).

GarfieldTripDespite a couple of soggy days, the Trip Program has also been quick out of the starting gate. Lowers 5, 6, and 7 and Upper 3 have already enjoyed al fresco suppers across the lake at Pine Forest and Flat Rock, and Ridley Wills and the boys of Junior Three spent Wednesday night at our Adirondack shelter on Pemi Hill, enjoying by full moonlight the newly cleared view of Mt. Carr, six miles distant at the bottom of our valley. Juniors 1, 2, 5, and 6 have all scaled Rattlesnake Mountain, a modest but strategically placed (and actually snakeless!!) eminence in the Baker Valley over towards Plymouth from which views of West Rumney down below are charmingly reminiscent of an HO-gauge train layout. Add ascents of our immediate neighbor Mt. Cube by Lowers 1, 2, 3, and 4, an optional, pick-up jaunt up Mts. Welch and Dickey near Waterville, and two abbreviated back-packing trips and our total outings for Week One hit sixteen – with only three real fair-weather days we could work with. The most ambitious expedition was that led by specialist trip counselors Harry Morris and Michael Kerr, on which Noah Bachner, Wilson Bazant, Jacob Berk, Pierce Haley, James Allen, Nick Bowman, and Matt Edlin spent a gorgeous night at Garfield Ridge tent-site northeast of Mt. Lafayette – proceeding the next day across the ridge to Galehead Hut and then down the Gale River Trail to Route 3. Surely there were many moments of accomplishment and satisfaction on all of the other jaunts, though, and we look forward with keen anticipation to next week’s three trip-counselor-led overnights and pair of pilgrimages to the two AMC huts in the Presidential Range.

sportsAs with trips, so with sports. Last week saw the 13s and 11s soccer teams acquitting themselves well on the pitch in our annual Baker Valley Tournaments (one standout being David Armini, who netted 5 goals in three matches for the younger team!). 10s baseball dropped a close one to our neighbors at Camp Moosilauke, but on Friday, in a Bonanza day of sports involving all age-groups and including soccer, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, baseball, and lacrosse, Pemi ended the day with 21 wins against 6 losses and 1 tie. As important for us as the victory count was the fact that the entire day was marked by the best of sportsmanship to balance the competitive spirit. Also of note was the last of the update announcements in the Messhall that evening, when Ezra Nugiel rose to announce that the Pemigewassett Nature Team had enjoyed singular success in a local butterfly field – with a special shout-out to ninth-year camper Patterson Malcolm who “most impressively chased his insect all the way from one side of the field to the other.” Ezra’s encomium brought down the house with laughter, but it did make a nice point about the range of things Pemi guys can get pumped about.

yogaIf you were to walk down to the Boat House right now you would see, arrayed along the shore, five compact single shells, just rented in anticipation of returning Visiting Professional Jean Friedman (mother of Jacob Smalley and Emerita Coach of Rowing at Mt. Holyoke College), who will be teaching three hours of occupations this coming week. Jean’s classes were a huge hit last summer, even before everybody in the world had read The Boys in the Boat, and the sign-ups in 2015 are sure to be energetic. Jean’s residency, by the way, follows that of former counselor and current prep-school teacher and lacrosse coach Kevin O’Brien, who spent the better part of last week with us passing along some key lax-at-summer-camp pointers to first-year Lacrosse Head Max Breschi (Yup, nephew of Joe B. at UNC!) When he wasn’t out on the field, Kevin was teaching Pemi’s first ever occupation in Power Yoga (which he assures us is not an oxymoron.) Talk about innovation, you should have been in the Lodge on Wednesday to see roughly 70 campers and staff members staying out of the rain and getting into the Cobra Pose, the Boat Pose, and (our personal favorite) the Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

We can only imagine what the original Four Docs, all of them stoic athletes from Oberlin College, would have said to see their Spartan brand of baseball in the rain devolve into chakra-quests on an indoor yoga mat. And speaking of the cosmically unprecedented, the decision has just been taken to postpone this week’s regular Sunday evening meeting and, instead, watch as a camp the finals of the Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament between the United States and Japan. Back in 1908, our Sunday meeting was undeniably Protestant in form and content, and while for multiple decades now we’ve gone completely Humanist and non-sectarian – and taking full note of the fact that, in many parts of the world, Football itself is virtually a religion – it’s easy to imagine there will be some ancestral grave-spinning going on as we tune in to Fox for the big match. After all, one of our signature Pemi tunes, penned and scored by Dudley Reed, confirms that at Pemigewassett “we sport on land and water, /far from Eve’s disturbing daughter.” Then again, the parenthetical thought that follows is, in truth “Though, perhaps, we hadn’t oughter!” Okay! So let’s just take this to mean that, even back in the last century’s teens, folks at Pemi were already suspecting that gender attitudes might need some re-working. So, we’re fully prepared to move ahead with our radical Sabbath-night plans. We can already hear the chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” issuing from man, boy, and woman alike as Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo take the field. Here’s to the Eves of America, fierce, fit, and fighting for glory!

Speaking of patriotism, we could easily go on to document all the varied components on our annual Fourth of July celebration – Pee-rade, Vaudeville, Counselor Hunt and all. We shall, however, leave them to your boys to describe, either in their letters home or as part of your excited and informative post-camp de-briefings. For now, we will sign off with renewed observations that the summer is starting off very well indeed. We look forward to being back in touch in a week’s time.

— Tom and Danny