2016: Newsletter #1
Welcome to the first newsletter of the 2016 season, Pemi’s 109th. Camp has been in session since Saturday, June 25th, and as we sit here on the morning of June 27th, everything is in full swing. It’s a beautiful summer day – blue skies, gentle breeze from the east, temperature pushing 75 – a perfect start to the season.
All the boys are in the first hour of their inaugural “occupations,” our quaint term for “instructional activities,” coined probably as early as 1908, our first year. From the windows of the office, we can see Chris Johnson and his instructors putting a group of 11 and 12-year-olds through their paces on our red clay tennis courts. Beyond them, Sam Papel is schooling a crew of 13-year olds in the finer points of Ultimate Frisbee. Echoing up from the Boat House are the sounds of canoes being put into the water, as a big group of 15’s, looking towards the Week Four super-trip on the Allagash Waterway in northern Maine, start their training with Boating Head Reed Harrigan. Blending with the muted roar of our big Malibu ski boat – with Molly Malone at the wheel for Slalom Skiing – comes the flapping of sails, as Emily Palmer literally shows her Junior Sailors the ropes. Elsewhere, we know the Nature Staff is running sessions in Ponds and Streams, Beginning Birding, Junior Environmental Exploration, and Beginning Rocks. Meanwhile, down in the Junior Camp at Art World, Laura Bubar and staff are offering Hemp Jewelry, while Dorin Dehls and Michaela Frank tune up with their Ukelele band, Oh, by the way, Beginning Archery is also happening, along with Basketball for 13’s, 14’s, and 15’s; the Silver Cornet Band is rehearsing in the Music Room; Visiting Professional Kevin O’Brien is running drills for 12-and-under Lax; and Paige Wallis is running Instructional Swim on a day when it’s an absolute joy being in and around the water. And this is just the first of four hours of instruction today, all of them with offerings in a similar range but with different focuses, at all levels from Beginning to Advanced. Stay tuned for particulars to your son’s first letters home.
Just an hour ago, two of our vans left for Logan Airport, carrying this year’s Pemi Westers. By the end of the day, they will have arrived at Sea-Tac in Washington State and transferred to a smaller, local airport for their flight to Port Angeles, where they will be met by veteran Pemi West major domo Dave Robb and begin four weeks of mountain skills and leadership training. The crew of 2016 is a large and enthusiastic one, comprised of Pemi veterans Will Raduziner, Patterson Malcolm, Kevin Lewis, Johnny Seebeck, Noah Belinowiz, Brandon Somp (all the way from Papua New Guinea), Jarrod Henry, Will Leslie, Nick Gordon, Jack Davini, Ben Ross, and Andrew Virden – and, on the distaff side, Heidi Leeds (daughter of Pemi administrative mainstay Heather Leeds) and her good friend Shannon Duffy. While what we might call, by way of contrast, the “Pemi East” staff spent the week before camp in manifold focused training sessions and highly productive work crews (see 2016 staff bios!), the Pemi Westers received their certification in Wilderness First Aid and, under the experienced leadership of PW co-leader Nate Kraus, built their team spirit and rapport. They left today along a road lined with well-wishing campers to the honking of horns and fond, amplified farewells over the PA system. Keep an eye on these pages for occasional updates on the groups’ progress through Olympic National Park, and see our website for a write-up of the program and pictures of the extraordinary terrain they will be calling home.
Pemi East (“Pemi Proper”?) began with a bang on Saturday the 25th, another beautiful June day in what’s turned out to be a long run of them. (Yes, we could use a few Camelot-like, midnight-to-2AM showers to green up the grass and quell the dust on our roads.) As in recent years, veteran campers arrived on the morning, giving them a chance to resume and celebrate established friendships before spending the afternoon welcoming first-year campers. Arrivals before and after the noon meal went off with nary a hitch, and, except for a few boys slated to arrive late in the evening, the whole Pemi family was gathered in the mess hall for the traditional first-night meal of pizza (both plentiful and delicious) and Hoods “Rockets” (far more successful in achieving their desired effect than recent launchings from North Korea. ) In between courses, with veteran pianist extraordinaire Luke Raffanti at the keyboard, the assembled masses sang “The Marching Song” and “Are You From Wooster?” with such gusto that, as tenuous as the association between choral and athletic excellence may be, pundits in the crowd predicted a triumph in this year’s competition with archrival Camp Tecumseh. The fact, by the way, that the second annual arrival-day iteration of “Cans from Campers” had generated over 450 items for donation to the local food bank meant that a great supper sat particularly well in our stomachs. (Special thanks to Sarah Fauver and Megan Fauver Cardillo, members of Pemi’s “Gen 4,” and Megan’s daughter Eliza (therefore “Gen 5”) for coordinating the charitable effort.)
Shortly after supper, the entire camp ambled down to the Senior Beach for the inaugural campfire of the season, overseen by returning impresarios Dorin Dehls and Steve Clare. Getting the night off to a spectacular start was veteran camper Pierce Haley on solo guitar. Pierce’s instrumentally and vocally brilliant rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” left a number of us wondering if one of the two surviving Beatles hadn’t snuck into camp disguised as a fifteen-year-old. Nick Paris followed with a series of short jokes – easily as silly as they were tasteful, and delivered with the wry assurance of a late-night talk show host.
Next up to the mic (well, next sitting unplugged on the performer’s bench) were Dorin and her choral compadre Laura Bubar (Head of our Arts Program), who gave us the American classic, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with the tonal and melodic grace of true professionals – but trading off sequential words words, one at a time, such that the duet turned into a bi-polar solo. Listening was like watching a tennis match at center court, with the Williams sisters and the Neville Brothers all rolled into one. So inspired was L1 counselor Jackson Reed that he rolled out a song he had learned a decade ago in Nepal, touting the virtues of social affiliation (we think of a romantic sort, although our Nepali is a bit rusty) and ending with proof positive that booty-shaking is not limited to the western hemisphere alone.
Next came the intrepid Pemi Westers, freshly certified in mountain medicine. When the first of their number, Noah Belinowiz, sprained his sacroiliac in a fern-bedecked “interpretive dance” (some thought it was just a straight imitation of the lowest forest stratum whipped by a high wind), his confident colleagues whisked in like two-legged helicopters and evacuated him to safety. Reviewers here are still trying to decide whether their act was more post-modern pastiche or retro-punk. Staff member Michaela Frank followed with a sublime solo rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun,” prior to TRJR, Dan Reed, Larry Davis, and Dorin Dehls’ leading everyone in the staple round about Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow kicking off the Great Chicago Fire. And, if these two last acts hadn’t made it sufficiently clear that life is better when you’ve gone to camp – and thus learned a thing or two about the perils of gambling and the mismanagement of lanterns – Larry Davis’s story about a Down Easter who discovers his neighbor treated a sick horse with turpentine without asking if it turned out to be a curative or fatal drove home the importance of asking questions. Closing off the moral tuition that underlies the fun which is campfire, we all rose, cast arms over each other’ shoulders, and swayed to the strains of Doc Reed’s “Campfire Song” – the second verse asking, as we suggest the boys do at the end of every day, “if anyone’s better for anything I’ve done or said.” It was a good way to end the first day of the 2016 season.
Sunday brought cabin inspection run-throughs, occupation sign-ups, swim tests, health checks, and the first barbecue of the year, all interspersed with fun intramural competitions. Closing off the first full day of the season was the evening meeting run by Danny Kerr, an accessible, informative, and inspiring illustrated talk about the history of Pemigewassett, this year’s remarkable geographical diversity of campers and staff, and the signal lessons Danny has learned in over 45 years in camping – things that are here for the edification and development of every one of this year’s campers. Danny also took the opportunity to introduce the large group of 15-year-olds who will provide the leadership for this year’s camper cadre, many of whom have been at camp for six, seven, or even eight years. As always at Pemi, the meeting featured a musical prelude, postlude, and intermezzo of the highest order, provided by Molly Malone, Luke Raffanti, and Jack O’Connor, respectively. Then it was back to the cabins, as the sun dropped down over Pemi Hill and the vireos chorused in the trees at fields’ edge with their remarkable descending trill. Pemigewassett, 2016, seems particularly well begun. We look forward to sharing with you in a week’s time some of the highlights of the coming days. Meanwhile, thank you all for entrusting your sons to our care. We are so excited to have them here with us.