Pemi Campfire Circle 2022
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2022 Newsletter #1

Greetings from the sunny shores of Lower Baker Pond!

This marks the first installment in our series of weekly newsletters to commemorate the 2022 Pemi season! Over the course of the next seven weeks, we’ll provide these regular updates to give you a feel for Pemi’s 115th summer. We hope you enjoy these glimpses into life at camp almost as much as we enjoy the thrills of another amazing summer at Pemi.

After a couple weeks of thorough training, community bonding, and physical preparations, Pemi’s staff couldn’t wait to welcome the campers. Boys began arriving on Saturday morning, starting with our oldest campers. The sight of seniors reuniting with friends they haven’t seen in nine long months lifted spirits to new heights. Campers new to Pemi were instantly welcomed into the fold as they embraced their new summer home. Veteran campers served as stellar ambassadors and tour guides, helping to smooth the transition into Pemi life. Those already here enjoyed a delicious lunch of mac and cheese, peas, salad, and, of course, Tom Ciglar’s fresh-baked bread, and then our younger campers started to cross the bridge. As Kenny and I greeted boys arriving for their first summer at Pemi, their emotions ranged from nervous energy to unbridled excitement. As the boys met their counselors and cabinmates, however, the nerves disappeared, replaced by the comfort of arriving in such a warm community.

The full camp gathered for the first time during dinner on Saturday night, with Tom and crew serving up our traditional opening meal of pizza and ice cream (and fresh, locally-sourced salads). Kenny greeted the community, speaking for all of us in saying how incredible it was for the Pemi family to be back together. Tom Reed Jr. led the Mess Hall in our first round of singing, and the rafters echoed with the exuberance of 200 voices melodically (and/or raucously) joining in song. Mess Hall singing dates back to Pemi’s earliest days; many of the lyrics in the song book were penned by Tom Reed’s grandfather, Dudley Reed, one of Pemi’s three founders, along with twins Gar and Win Fauver. This timeless tradition brings great joy and helps forge our bonds as a camp. In thinking about the combination of the start of camp and Mess Hall singing, Tom has the following to share:

Mess Hall singing

Some time during the first few decades of the last century, my grandfather, Dudley “Doc” Reed, scribed the song that is basically Pemi’s anthem. “The Marching Song” celebrates what was already the global reach of our program, inviting campers and staff who had “come from Hawaii, from far Tokyo, Colorado, Madura, and France” to join our intrepid band “tramping over the mountains” of the Granite State. Each year now, under the flags of fifty-three “alumni nations” hanging colorfully from the rafters of the dining hall, we kick off the daily tradition of communal song with this time-honored tune, and each year’s final banquet ends with everyone at Pemi standing on their benches to sing the same (often with pre-nostalgic tears in our eyes.) Never in my sixty-plus years of Pemi opening days, though, have I ever seen anything like the diversity represented in 2022’s camp population. Boys and counselors have been crossing oceans to be with us since the very beginning and, especially lately, we have aspired to mirror the racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. Standing next to Kenny and Pat as they welcomed our drive-ins last Saturday, though, I took a full measure of the remarkable distance we’ve come this year as part of our augmented diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The world has arguably never been in greater need of places where people of differing backgrounds and experiences can come together and practice tolerance, appreciation, understanding, and cooperation. How thrilling it has been these last days to resurrect that good old hiking song and feel that its words have never been truer or so laden with potential for a joyous and transformative summer here on the shores of our little mountain pond. Here’s to 2022 and our modest but hopeful “march” towards brighter days.

Jamie Gallagher on the trumpet

Bellies full and vocal cords warmed up, we reconvened down at Senior Beach for the first full campfire of the 2022 summer. Outstanding performances included Julian Blaustein with a riddle, Jamie Gallagher on the trumpet, and Maurice Gagnon, world champion moose caller. Additionally, after many years away, Conlon Bonner – a former camper, visiting professional, and parent of a third generation Pemi camper – returned to the campfire circle and gave a stirring rendition of the African American spiritual “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” As we always do, we closed by locking arms and collectively singing the “Campfire Song,” another Doc Reed composition. This song asks the question, “I wonder if anyone’s better for anything I’ve done or said, and whether good will in the heart may offset mistakes of the head?” As Tom Reed told the boys, we like to ask that question of ourselves every day as we all strive to support one another at Pemi on a regular basis. As the final notes of the song drifted down Lower Baker, it was clear that Pemi 2022 was off to a fantastic start.

Juniors learning to play roofball

Sunday saw boys engaged in a wide range of activities, from mandatory swim checks to sports practices to a trip to observe a newly born loon chick on the lower part of our lake. With temperatures soaring well into the 80s, boys loved the opportunities to get in the water, run around, and just have fun being together. The Juniors spent the morning down in Junior Camp learning about a variety of Pemi staples such as frisbee running bases and roofball. With the return of intercamp athletic competitions this summer, several teams took the chance to hold their first summer practices. Our 15 & Unders  and 13s had soccer and basketball, 11s and 12s had soccer practice, and 10 & Unders had a baseball practice. In the afternoon the Uppers and Seniors enjoyed a massive game of Canadian wiffle ball – a variation of the game played on the beach, with the water serving as the outfield and homerun line simultaneously. In the middle of the game, the boys were treated to the sight of a bald eagle circling majestically overhead, prompting them to pause and spontaneously belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Play resumed and several boys – Giacomo Turco, Merrick Chapin, and Jackson Heller to name a few – inspired no doubt by our national mascot, hit booming homeruns.

On Sunday evening we all settled into the lawn outside the Nature Lodge for the first Sunday Meeting of the season. This weekly gathering serves as a (rare) quiet moment together. Each week a member of the community offers thoughts on topics ranging from some aspect of Pemi life to a travel experience that has influenced their life to an exploration of the natural world around us here. For the opening talk, Kenny began with a history of Pemi’s earliest days, regaling boys with the story of how our founders traveled to Pemi via multiple trains and a horse-drawn sleigh to scout out the property on a frigid Thanksgiving Day in 1907. He talked about the work that went into the first summer here, as well as some of our proudest traditions – most notably Polar Bear. The meeting concluded with three of our most seasoned campers – Matias Trinca, David Kriegsman, and Merrick Chapin – offering words of wisdom on how to fully embrace and enjoy your time at Pemi. Matias spoke about finding one’s own unique niche within our various programmatic offerings. He told boys how, as a foreign citizen coming to the U.S., the Nature and trips programs have helped to expand his horizons and make him feel at home here. David talked about trying new things and being unafraid to dive into the unknown – a practice we encourage on a daily basis. Merrick concluded with a remarkably thoughtful and mature piece on how pitching in for the collective good of the community, in ways large and small, allows one to most fully benefit from the Pemi experience. His words directly echoed the philosophy the staff had discussed during preseason and left this author jealous of the beautiful way he expressed the sentiment.

Lowers at Senior Beach

With the opening weekend behind us, we jumped enthusiastically into the first week of activities on Monday morning. Boys at Pemi select their own schedule from a wide range of options, so each boy embarked on his own self-chosen path for the week. Many Juniors and Lowers took to the water for sailing, canoeing, water skiing, and swimming lessons, while boys of all ages enjoyed a number of nature, music, and sports offerings. A bit of rain on Monday morning couldn’t dampen the boys’ spirits, as the energy and smiles around campus succeeded in driving off the clouds, leaving us with a picture-perfect afternoon. Boys took advantage of the weather, and camp was buzzing with activities from Junior Camp all the way to open shoot on the archery range. The tennis courts were filled with rallies and friendly matches, pickup hoops games took place on our brand-new courts, boys roamed the Nature Lodge to answer the daily “What Is It?” challenge, and music rang out from the Junior Lodge. In no time at all, Pemi was in full swing!

The last of our trio of weekly all-camp events took place on Monday evening: the summer’s first edition of Bean Soup. Dating back to the summer of 1910, Bean Soup is our weekly news recap, where the editors tell tales of the week at Pemi. Some of the stories are true, some are loosely based in reality, while others still are whimsical imaginings. Additionally, campers and staff write articles and recaps of events around camp such as sports games, trips, or special activities. It’s our opportunity to look back on the week, poke fun at ourselves, and share in hearty rounds of laughter. This summer’s editors – Dan Fulham and Matt Kanovsky – treated us all to an especially humorous and engaging retelling of the first few days of the 2022 summer. Laughter filled the Senior Lodge, and everyone left smiling and happy.

Uppers packing for the Carters under the guidance of head trip counselor Alice Riley

As we continue with our first week, several trips departed camp today. The denizens of Juniors 3 and 4 hiked Rattlesnake Mountain, while the boys from Uppers 4 and 5 are ascending nearby Mount Cube. Additionally, a group of Lowers – Ben Jones, Jameson Purdy, Noah Katz, Mason Winnell, Patchett Grant, Manfred Creane, and Kavin Aggarwal – just departed for a two-night hike through the Kinsmans and a group of Uppers – Tyler Jefferson, Marcelo Emal-Langrand, Landon Shine, Sam Herdeg, Kaysan Hussain, Henry Radin, Leo Martin, and Will Sandor – headed off to the Carters for three nights. These spectacular hikes are the first of dozens that Pemi boys will embark on throughout this summer, as they join the countless ranks of campers who have been lucky enough to experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the White Mountains. Meanwhile, our 11’s basketball and 13’s soccer teams will don their Pemi shirts and participate in our first intercamp competitions since 2019. It’s a true pleasure to have all these aspects of the Pemi program back in full swing for our 115th summer. We look forward to keeping you updated on all that’s in store for the boys these next seven weeks!

– Pat Clare