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!
Last 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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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