Pemi West Begins an Exciting New Chapter

We are excited to share news about our revamped Pemi West program. The western branch of Camp Pemigewassett, Pemi West, is a wilderness skills and leadership program for 16 and 17 year old men and women. For more than two decades, Pemi West has provided a challenging and rewarding experience for participants, and we are thrilled to continue the program in a new location.

We have partnered with Deer Hill Expeditions, a Wilderness Adventure, Community Service, and Cultural Exchange outfitter in Mancos, CO to provide a unique outdoor leadership experience. In the exploration process, we discovered many Deer Hill – Pemi connections, from individuals who participated in Deer Hill programs to direct referrals from Pemi’s vast outdoor education network. Deer Hill’s mission closely aligns with Pemi’s and we are excited to create a custom program that combines the core components of both organizations.

Program

Southwest Colorado provides remarkable terrain for Pemi West to once again call home. The proximity to the San Juan mountains presents top-notch backpacking and mountaineering experiences, central to the Pemi West Program. After years of hiking and backpacking through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, participants will have an extended mountaineering experience in a new landscape while honing their technical skills and backcountry leadership.

In addition to the high altitude trail time, Pemi West will incorporate a week of canoeing on the San Juan river. This portion is a capstone to Pemi’s growing canoeing program. Boys first begin on the flat water of Lower Baker Pond, improving their skills over the years in preparation for the 15-year-old Allagash trip in Maine, and now they’ll have an opportunity to test their skills on the fast waters of Colorado. Working in tandem, participants will further their leadership skills and cooperation to navigate the canyons of the southwest by boat.

Community Service in 2016

The third, and most exciting, piece of the 2019 Pemi West Program is an enhanced focus on community service. Deer Hill’s service projects are second to none, their connections with the Native American populations of the Southwest affords hands-on service learning. Participants will spend a week devoted to service, experiencing firsthand the remarkable Native American culture and community. This new focus will result in at least 40 hours of community service.

Back in 2014, two big programmatic changes further entrenched Pemi West into the overall Pemi program. The first change saw the program beginning and ending at Pemi, with participants traveling together and sharing their experience at a Sunday Meeting. This connection back to the larger group educated the community on the Pemi West experience.

The second change allowed participants to stay at Pemi after Pemi West for the Counselor Apprentice Program (CAP). This leadership training program lasts two weeks, and our CAPs live in cabins with the boys learning from our talented staff members on the art of being a counselor. Both measures have been successful in staff training and recruitment, and will continue to be a mainstay of the program.

History of Pemi West

The 1995 Super Trip was an original precursor to Pemi West

Pemi West was founded in the mid 90’s by Fred and Jon Fauver, grandchildren of Edgar Fauver, one of the Fauver twins and founders of Camp Pemigewassett, out of the desire to provide an extensive and challenging wilderness experience for teenage girls and boys. For the first seven seasons, Pemi West was held in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. In 2005, the program moved to Olympic National Park in the state of Washington. This spectacular setting offered a unique opportunity to explore the gem of forest and mountain wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, as well as the opportunity to learn a broad set of technical mountaineering skills while crossing the vast glaciers of the high Olympic peaks.

Throughout Pemi West’s history, our participants have been fortunate to learn from a diligent and dedicated staff. Former Pemi West Directors Fred Fauver, Jon Fauver, Dave Penny, Tim Billo, Mike Sasso, Evan Jewett, and Dave Robb have successfully guided the program by creating lasting and memorable experiences for our participants. Alongside the dozens of instructors, we have been fortunate to have wonderful support staff, most notably Hannah Merrill and her husband Ben Hertel who have launched Pemi West from their home in Port Angeles, Washington for the last twelve years.

We now look forward to utilize the resources and staff of Deer Hill alongside a Pemi Instructor to assist the group. We are certain this program will continue Pemi West’s high standard of individual growth while providing new, more enriching opportunities for our participants.

Good luck, long life, and joy!

Kenny

NEEEA Presents 2018 Educator Award to Larry Davis

New England Environmental Education Alliance presented their 2018 Non-formal Environmental Educator award to Pemi’s own, Larry Davis. For decades, hundreds of Pemi boys have enjoyed learning about our natural world and the environment under Larry’s direction as Head of Nature Programs. His commitment to teaching is second to none and has inspired generations to become more engaged with—and take greater responsibility for—their natural surroundings. Below is the citation for the award. 

Dr. Laurence ‘Larry’ Davis is Director of Nature Programs and Teaching at Camp Pemigewassett (“Pemi”) in Wentworth, NH. He has held this position since 1970 and, in 2019, he will be entering his 50th year. He is also Professor Emeritus of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New Haven where he taught Geosciences and Environmental Education for 27 years. His approach to teaching has always been “hands-on,” in the field with observation of nature being the foremost skill taught. This not only leads to good science but also provides enjoyment, understanding of the world we live in and, for many, a spiritual element. He has worked with thousands of campers and dozens of nature staff members at Camp Pemi, and hundreds of students at the University of New Haven. Many campers have ended up in environmental fields and many others from both camp and the University, in environmental education.

Larry is largely responsible for the exemplary quality of education in the nature program at Camp Pemigewassett, which is considered to be one of the best in the country and has been nominated for the New England ACA’s Eleanor P. Eells Award for Program Excellence. Larry fosters enthusiasm and creativity in the campers and counselors. Many of the children at this camp grow into life-long nature enthusiasts who go birding, press plants, and collect rocks during their school year as well. Some of them have gone on to pursue careers in ecology. Larry’s  devotion extends to training environmental professionals as well by running a week-long training program for nature educators every year.

On behalf of NEEEA, thank you, Larry,  for your dedication to the field of environmental education.

Larry offered the following note in response to the award. “This award really reflects the hard work, dedication, and great ideas of all those wonderful environmental educators who have worked in our program over the years, especially Deb Kure and Russ Brummer who both continue to teach our Nature Instructors Clinic. I am also grateful to the first head of the program, Clarence Dike, who handed me a healthy, going concern to build upon. Finally, a huge amount of credit goes to the Reed and Fauver families who, along with Directors Rob Grabill and Danny Kerr, have supported the development and expansion of ‘Pemi Nature’ since its inception in 1926 and my arrival at Pemi in 1970.”

Pemi thanks Larry for his absolute commitment to teaching and we look forward to celebrating his 50th summer at camp with a celebration on Sunday, August 18, 2019!

Good luck, long life, and joy!

Kenny Moore

Defining Photos of 2018

Each fall, photos from the previous summer are compiled to create a picture book for prospective campers, current families, and alumni. Here are a few favorites, enjoy!

Chillin’ with Lit – Tom reads August Heat to an audience in Lower Baker during the early July hot spell.

 

Weird Science – A popular Nature occupation.

 

Camp friendships are the best friendships.

 

Fourth of July festivities included fireworks for the first time since 1922!

 

L. Larabie navigating Lower Baker Pond in a Sunfish.

 

A. Andersson receives a one-on-one tutorial from Pierce Haley.

 

Pemi’s trip program continues to expand boys’ horizons.

 

C. Bell on the bump for Pemi’s flagship, the 15 & Under Baseball Team.

 

M. Hadden making it look easy on his way to earning his Tournament Level in Waterskiing.

 

The Sailors from H.M.S. Pinafore!

 

…and finally drops in the West.

 

#7: Danny’s Final Toast and Clive’s Review of Pinafore

We now seem, in some impossible way, to have gotten to the last day of the 2018 season. It has been an excellent one, by almost every measure. As though to add their own exclamation point, the weather gods have provided us with a magnificent August day for our various closing rituals: the annual USA vs. The World soccer match, featuring our best soccer talent in all age groups; messhall reprises of various numbers from this week’s Pinafore production (for more, see below); an afternoon of closely-supervised packing; the final Bean Soup, featuring the always serious and meaningful “Person of the Year” awards; the final camp fire of the summer; and finally individual cabin parties, which often end with all of the boys pulling their mattresses onto the floor and sleeping contentedly in a pile, like puppies.

Last night featured our Final Banquet, one of our best ever in terms both of the fare and of the warmth with which the community celebrated the various accomplishments and sterling character of their peers. One signal moment for a lot of us was when the winner of the Nature Program’s “What Is It?” Award in the staff category was announced. Garnering the prize for correctly identifying more items in the daily contest rotation than any other employee was Ned Roosevelt, best known at camp for his sunny and energetic personality (his nickname is appropriately “Rosie”) and for being a superb baseball and tennis player. Here, though, was a “jock” being recognized for the time he had put in each day of the season to learn more about the natural world in our little valley. It didn’t dampen the instructive impact that, the two nights previous, Rosie had also played a fetching Victorian lass in Pinafore, participating in our Gilbert and Sullivan show for the first time in his ten-year Pemi career. He’s always made it cool to thrash Tecumseh from the baseball mound or the tennis baseline, but now he’s made it clear that he thinks it’s cool to hang out in the Nature Lodge and even to rock a nineteenth-century dress and bonnet. We often pride ourselves on being a kind of Renaissance camp, but when a standout counselor like Rosie embodies true breadth of interest and commitment in as symbolic a venue as the banquet hall, that’s something special.

Let’s observe recent tradition and begin the body of this newsletter with Danny’s toast at the very start of last evening:

Danny’s Toast to 2018

Here’s to 2018!

Here’s to the summer of 2018 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 111th in Pemi’s rich and significant history. A summer that has come and gone, as it always seems to, in the blink of an eye, though in some ways it seems a lifetime ago when the Gloucester Six met in May to plan for the summer and also when the staff began to arrive in early June, back when campers and young counselors were still attending graduation parties, the Mess Hall tables were getting their shiny new coat of paint, and Russia (not the USSR) was readying for the start of the World Cup.

Truth be told, the summer of 2018 really began before that, way back in October when scores of our returning campers and families sat by their computers until the stroke of midnight on Oct 15th to apply for the present season. Congratulations, by the way, to Jacob Kunkel, whose application was the very first one we received that early morning. Who will be the first camper to apply for 2019? 

Here’s to a summer that concludes as the leaves on Route 25A take on an autumn tint and Pemi boys are returning to their cabins for an 8:30 taps with barely a shred of day light left…a summer that by all accounts has been a marvelous success, although, in truth, every summer is filled with its own particular nuances, personality, and a fair share of curve balls.

Here’s to the 253 (exactly) campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, campers from 28 states, more than half of the states in the Union, and from eight countries around the world. And here’s to the new Vietnamese flag we added to our array of international banners that grace the mess hall in recognition of Dahn Le joining the kitchen crew this summer. Here’s to the 75 campers who made the decision to attend sleep-away camp for the first time, the 26 who have, or will, collect their five-year bowls, and, yes—Kevin Miller, Jamie Acocella, Eli Brennan, and Will Ackerman—campers in their eighth summer.

Here’s to Pemi’s talented and dedicated counselor staff in 2018. What an exceptionally strong crew we have this summer! Thank you to the cabin counselors and assistant counselors, the young men who share such close quarters with their boys, and who, for some magical reason, are able to inspire, mentor, and capture the imagination of their campers in ways even their own parents and we senior staff cannot.

Cheers to the incredibly hard working crew that Reed Harrigan leads each day with such vigor, dedication and love: Frank, Dennis, Aaron, Marcus, and Tess. Cheers also to our Office Managers extraordinaire, Heather and Kim, who organize all our lives. And here’s to Dottie, who always has time for us, attending to tasks both large and small and caring for our community with a heaping dose of maternal wisdom, grace, and love.

Big ups to the chefs and kitchen crew this summer (led by our Dining Service Director Tom Ciglar) who tackled the herculean task of providing a community of 275 with delicious meals three times a day and did so with a smile, a sincere desire to meet the needs of every soul, and with freshly baked bread each and every day. Was there ever a better summer for food at Pemi?! 

Here’s to Kenny, our new father and fellow director, whose love for Pemi is so evident as he manages staff, campers, alums, transportation, the daily and weekly schedule, and so much more.

Cheers to Deb Pannell and all the creative endeavors down in Art World (Wow, what an Art Show!), to Charlie, our wise and big-hearted Athletic Director, and to all the coaches in the athletic program who always put Pemi’s values of sportsmanship, improved skills, and participation first. Boom!  

Kudos to Dan Reed and the Trippies who sent scores of trips tramp, tramp, tramping over the mountains despite some un-cooperative weather…and thanks to them, too, for the quick thinking they provided in managing these trips and keeping our boys safe.  

Here’s to Jonathan, Taiko, and Deb Fauver for another remarkable G&S performance and to Michaella, Donald, and their friends for another summer of beautiful music. 

To Chloe, Charlotte, Nick, Will, and Molly and all the exhilarating, yet safe, fun we had in the water…to Brian for his “grateful” approach to running wood shop…to Chris on the tennis courts, Larry and Deb in the Nature Lodge, Steve on the archery range…and to all of the other instructors who brought major energy and mojo to occupation periods every day. And let’s not forget Head of Occupations, Dan Reed, and his understudy Wendy Young, for overseeing the schedule of 253 boys this summer with proficiency, thoughtfulness, and a positive vibe each and every day. Here’s also to Head of Staff Nick Hurn, who, despite his tender age, offered leadership and accountability at every turn. 

And thank you to our wonderful nurses, Emily, Jamie, Billy, and Sabrina for the countless hours, Band-aids, doctor’s appointments, and TLC administered at all hours of the day and night! 

Here’s to the things that were unique at Pemi in 2018: Winston Moore’s first (but far from last, I am thinking) summer at Pemi; Molly’s newly designed slalom course in water skiing; broad-brimmed straw hats on seemingly every head; a heat wave in July and another this week that tested our resolved and begged for a return of TRJR’s “Chillin’ with Lit;” X-Treme games at every turn; more dogs at Pemi than I can recall, and that one dog whose presence will always be a part of the Pemi landscape for me. 

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi: Bean Soup, when we laugh ourselves and anticipate “Things to Look For”; Campfire, when we treat ourselves to great acts some of the most majestic sunsets one will ever see; and to Sunday Meeting, when we hear about fabled Pemi horses like Prince Hellie and Mary Oooch, the gift of music therapy, and the adventures of the 2018 Allagash paddlers.

And here’s to the beauty of Camp Pemigewassett: the mist on Lower Baker Pond each morning; the stunning reflection we enjoy off of the lake each evening; the spectacular sunsets…and that mesmerizing sound of the water lapping up against the shore as campers fall into a warm and deep sleep each night.

Here’s to our twenty-four 15-year-old campers, to their combined 108 summers at Pemi (Yes, you heard that right!) and to the lifelong friendships they’ve created. I know from personal experience that someday they’ll participate in each other’s weddings, be godparents to each other’s children, and hopefully become the next generation of counselors at Pemi. The system works!

And of course, here’s to the Fauver Family and the Reed Family who, in their loving, wise, and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from each of us every summer and who see the stewardship of Camp Pemigewassett as their chance to make the world a better place, one boy at a time.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2018. Good Luck, Long Life, and Joy!      ~ Danny

And now, as the customary second act of this tradition final missive, let’s turn to fabled backwoods theatrical critic Clive Bean’s review of this year’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore.

 Clive Bean Reviews H.M.S. Pinafore

Director Jonathan Verge

Director Jonathan Verge

Those lucky enough to be vacationing in the Wentworth area last Tuesday and Wednesday were treated to a positively scintillating performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore. The maiden effort of Director Jonathan Verge, the production was as well received as any in recent memory. Knowledgeable theater-goers leaving the house were overheard saying that they had been as lucky to grab a ticket as they would have been had they scored a pass to Hamilton or The Band’s Visit.

Braden Richardson

Braden Richardson

Positively stealing the show was Braden Richardson as Little Buttercup. Despite the diminutive name, Braden’s performance was anything but small. Sporting a flowing, blond, Beyoncé wig and a costume that found the common ground between the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper gear and Scarlett O’Hara’s most thrilling gown from Gone with the Wind, Braden consistently wowed the audience with his stellar if-calculatedly-over-the-top acting and his sultry, sub-contralto crooning. Honestly, this guy could make it on Broadway, and his performance ranks with the best-ever by a Pemi camper. No surprise he was the hands-down winner of this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan Award.

Nick Paris

Nick Paris

Partnering Braden strongly was Nick Paris, as the Pinafore’s Captain Corcoran. His was a hugely demanding role that involved his being on set for virtually all of the second act, and Nick’s performance, steadily matured through the full season’s rehearsals, was unquestionably one of the highlights of the show, garnering him the camp’s legendary Johnnie’s Plaque for Dramatics. Balancing pathos with baffled incredulity, Nick handled the complex assignment with aplomb, garnering his best laughs with an understatement that was a joy to see. Perhaps his most brilliant invention was to signal Corcoran’s fall in social rank (following revelations about some bad choices at a Victorian childcare facility) by switching from a crisp BBC accent to a Cockney drawl that could have come straight out of a Geico commercial. Well done, Nick.

Michaella Frank, Nick Bertrand

Michaella Frank, Nick Bertrand

Speaking of Nicks, Nick Bertrand strode the Pemi boards for the first time as Ralph Rackstraw, the lowly deckhand who has the rank-defying chutzpah to fall in love with Captain Corcoran’s daughter, Josephine. Nick looked every bit the romantic dreamboat, as evidenced by the avid ogling and dreamy sighs he provoked amidst the female chorus. His acting was especially strong, as he delivered tongue-twisting lines about “plunging into the Cimmerian darkness of tangible despair” with the comfort you’d expect of someone ordering a hot dog at the ballpark.

Ralph’s love interest was played wonderfully by Michaella Frank, a veteran of Pemi’s shows who stepped for the first time into a lead. Her powerful soprano was entirely equal to the demands of a sophisticated piece of operatic writing, and her acting matched her pipes. Speaking of Scarlett O’Hara’s best gown, Michaella wore it—and she positively rocked the thing.

Eli Brennan, Scout Brink

Eli Brennan, Scout Brink

Rackstraw’s rival for Josephine’s hand, Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, was played by long-time camper Eli Brennan, veteran of countless Pemi shows. Rumors abound that Eli secured the services of Paul Manafort to bribe Tom Reed, Jr. to give up his wonted role, but those rumors are Fake News. Eli totally mastered the accent, the bearing, and the condescending diction of the British Born Elite, and his delivery of the justly renowned “When I Was a Lad” was flawless. His character may be a bit of a social drone, but Eli’s performance was a huge contributor to the show’s drive.

Scout Brink shone as Cousin Hebe, Sir Joseph’s constant companion whose only goal in life seems to be landing a beau who’s related just-distantly-enough to avoid legal repercussions. Scout played her to coy perfection. Also joyous to watch were John Kingdon, as the Pinafore’s staunch and dependable Boatswain, and Pierce Haley, as the Carpenter’s Mate.

Larry Davis

Larry Davis

Finally, Larry Davis reprised a role that he has been playing to perfection for the last forty years: Dick Deadeye, a man about as handsome as Shrek, as cheery as Eeyore, and as charitable as Voldemort. Larry spat out Deadeye’s bitter lines with the vitriol of a swamp adder, and his duet with Captain Corcoran (in which he rats on the Good Guys) was a masterpiece of musical maliciousness.

Pemi operettas are only as good as their choruses, and this year’s were superb—lively yet disciplined, supporting the leads to perfection and never hi-jacking the audience’s attention. Kudos to the Relatives’ Chorus of David Kriegsman, Oliver Giraud, Noah Anderson, Chris Ramanathan, Jake Landry, Elijah Dorroh, Ned Roosevelt, Cole Valente, Gray Klasfeld, Owen Wyman, Luke Larabie, and Finn Wilkins. Powerful praise is also due the Pinafore’s amply-tattoed crew: Nathan Gonzalex, Augie Tanzosh, Aslan Peters, Thaddeus Howe, Felix Nussbaum, Teo Boruchin, Owen Gagnon, Charlie Bell, Henry Moore, Nelson Snyder, Andreas Geffert, Ben Herdeg, Dexter Wells, Lucas Gales, Nate Broll, Will Menike, Jacob Kunkel, and Tom Reed, Jr. You’d never want to battle yard-arm-to-yard-arm­—or sashay into a quay-side dance hall—with anybody else.

I’ve mentioned Jonathan Verge as Director. He may have been a Pemi rookie, but his unique combination of vision, high standards, realism, patience, organization, imagination, and fun vaulted him straight to the top. The players claim he was terrific to work with from casting to cast party, and the quality both of the singing and acting and of the pure physical look of the show testify heartily to his professionalism.

Taiko Pelick

Taiko Pelick, Musical Director and Pianist

Speaking of professionalism, Taiko Pelick was equally stellar as Musical Director and Master Pianist for every rehearsal and both performances. Relegated to accompanying the show from an improvised orchestra pit that might have induced claustrophobia in a groundhog, Taiko continued to demonstrate the meticulous musicality that has made her one of the truly great additions to the camp’s 2018 staff.

Hats off, too, to Director Verge’s Crew: Emmet Kelly, Ailer Thomas, Will Haughton, Andrew Muffett, Ryder McCoy-Hanson, Simon Taylor, Quinn Markham, Max Blohm, Ted Applebaum, and Landon Burtle. The sets were gorgeous, thanks to the labors of Reed Harrigan, Frank Roberts, and TRJR (whose mother, Betsy, first painted them sixty years ago!) And a final shout out to Costumer Extraordinaire Deborah Fauver who, for yet another year, handled the prodigious task of measuring, outfitting, dressing, and equipping more than forty cast members with her always dependable grace and good cheer.

H.M.S. Pinafore, 2018

H.M.S. Pinafore, 2018

So, the set is struck, the house is dark, and another Pemigewassett G&S has gone into the history books. If you missed it, it’s not too late to order a DVD. Nor is it too early to book your box for the camp’s 2019 production—as yet undesignated, but sure to generate more buzz than the full complement of bees at the annual Chelsea Flower Show. Be there!

Well, that feels like a wrap. We’ll leave any further accounts of Pemi’s 111th season to your sons—to be delivered in your cars on the way home…or around the dinner table as you relish your first post-season meal together as a family…or perhaps muttered by your Pemi boys in their sleep, as you stand in their doorways just before you go to bed yourself, grinningly happy to have your summertime adventurer back under the your own roof. Do stay tuned, though, in the coming weeks for emails about the enrollment schedule for the upcoming season. (Yes, planning is already underway!) The sun is setting farther south with every evening, but that equator-approaching process is unlikely to keep going forever. So, to borrow a notion and a turn of phrase from Danny, here’s to Pemi 2019! Meanwhile, best wishes for a happy and productive Fall.

—TRJR

 

 

 

#6: Tecumseh Day 2018

As promised, this week’s newsletter comes from Charlie Malcolm, Pemi’s Director of Athletics for decades. No one is better positioned than he to give you an account of our annual battle with Camp Tecumseh, our avid arch rivals ever since the opening years of camp. For those who have experienced it, our longtime rivalry is as spirited and intense as any between Harvard and Yale or Ohio State and Michigan. It is also marked by the highest level of sportsmanship, something of which both they and we are especially proud. Now, with no further ado, here’s Charlie. 

Introduction: The Challenge

In all my years as Athletic Director of Camp Pemi, I can’t remember an earlier start to mess hall cheers directed at lifting the community for our upcoming contest with Tecumseh. In the very first week of camp, the seniors started chanting the number of days left to Tecumseh Day. It felt a little odd, given half of the boys chanting were first half campers. With each week, the spontaneous cheers grew a little louder. After victories over Camp Moosilauke and Kingswood, our local rivals and friends in the Baker Valley, the cheers grew louder yet, and more spontaneous. At the core of this vocal group are our fifteen-year-olds who have been on the shores of Lower Baker for six or seven years, many remembering the euphoria of defeating Tecumseh in 2012 and desperately wanting to finish their Pemi career with an historic victory.

Taking on Tecumseh, a significantly larger camp (220 enrolled there to our 170) driven almost exclusively by athletic competition, Pemi has won “The Hat” five times in the last five decades (1967, 1970, 1983, 1998, and 2012). We’ve tied a few days and have had some bitterly close defeats over the years, but our friends from Lake Winnipausake have good reason to enter these contests with an air of confidence. Their teams tend to be a little deeper, and their camp’s unyielding commitment to sports prepares kids to grind out close matches with consistently commendable sportsmanship.

As for your boys from Pemigewassett, it takes a special blend of talent, tenacity, and moxie to win a majority of the twenty events and take home the bronze “Hat” that is bequeathed to the camp with the most wins. With five age groups competing in baseball, soccer, swimming, and tennis, the day is a challenging endeavor filled with essential lessons that serve our boys well as they define and shape their character through their experiences and actions.

With the arrival of our second-session campers, the Pemi community started to shape its respective teams for the upcoming contests. Starting every season on Monday of Week 5, the teams practice during our daily occupation schedule. This year coaches and campers endured some tropical rainforest weather as the camp and lake received some much needed water. On Friday last, we woke up at 6:20 AM as our Seniors lined the Intermediate Hill, blasted music, led morning exercises, and finished with a communal polar bear at the Senior beach. After a quick breakfast, the Eleven’s, Twelve’s, and Thirteen’s departed for Camp Tecumseh while the Ten- and Fifteen-and-unders waited for the arrival of Tecumseh at Pemi

Morning at Pemi

15’s tennis

The day kicked off at Pemi with two outstanding contests. The Ten-and-under baseball team scored three runs in the first inning and held a 3-1 lead heading into the last stanza. Paul “Bagels” Schwaegler pitched a gem, striking out seven batters in three-plus innings of work. Unfortunately, Tecumseh rallied in the last inning and scored six runs with aggressive base running, timely hitting, and a few Pemi errors. This was a young Pemi team featuring three eight-year-olds from Junior One (Noah Littman, Clayton Johnson, and Wyatt Dolinsky) in the starting line-up, suggesting this team has a bright future. While the Tens battled on the diamond, the Fifteens locked into a very competitive tennis match. Pemi eventually lost another close contest 4-3, but anyone who watched the doubles team of Andrew Roth and Will Ackerman battle their equally impressive Tecumseh partners witnessed one of the best doubles matches of the day. After dropping the first set 6-4, our boys made some tactical adjustments as Roth lobbed the ball a little deeper and Ackerman moved more centrally and aggressively eliminated dangerous lanes. The boys eventually forced a tiebreaker after tying the second set 6-6, and then forced a super tiebreaker after winning the first tiebreaker 7-5. In the super tiebreaker, Ackerman and Roth dominated, delivering a well deserved 10-4 win. The sportsmanship and mutual respect of all four participants made for a great match and set the tone for the day.

10’s soccer

The Fifteens would have to shake off their disappointment losing that close tennis match and take on a very talented Tecumseh baseball team with a polished high school pitcher on the mound. Unfortunately, our team fell 2-0. Nevertheless, Pemi received a courageous effort on the mound by Charlie Bell and great leadership from Jamie Acocella behind the plate. Kevin Miller made a nice catch in center field, and Marshall Neilsen delivered Pemi’s best hit of the day, but it wasn’t enough to push Pemi to a much-needed victory at home. As with the Ten’s baseball team, the core of this fifteens’s team is made up of fourteen-year-olds who will be returning next summer to avenge their loss. As for the Ten’s soccer team, they fought gallantly against a very strong Tecumseh squad. The score was knotted at 0-0 until Tecumseh took the lead with five minutes to go in the first half. Bagels Schwaegler had nearly pushed Pemi ahead when his long chip from midfield was parried off the crossbar by the agile Tecumseh goalie. Jake Landry anchored the Pemi defense and kept Tecumseh’s dangerous players at bay while Robbie Judd made dangerous runs on the attack and relentlessly pressed the ball all over midfield. Unfortunately, Pemi’s lack of depth eventually caught up to them and they conceded five second-half goals before a thunder clap delivered some mercy, ending the match 6-0 for Tecumseh.

Morning at Tecumseh

11’s tennis

While Pemi found themselves down 4-0 at home, our Eleven’s, Twelve’s, and Thirteen’s got off of the bus and immediately put Tecumseh on their heels. Our Elevens consist of only twenty-five campers to build four teams: ten boys need to play tennis, fifteen for soccer, nine for baseball, and ten to swim. Historically, this age group has struggled against Tecumseh because we just don’t quite have the numbers to create the depth and experience to beat a formidable opponent. Internal prognosticators and Las Vegas were predicting a tough day for this age group, however, none of us fully understood the character and strength of the group that is split between Lower Lowers and the Junior Camp. The magic started with Eleven’s tennis where two athletes found themselves down in their respective matches and Tecumseh looked like they had three matches well under control and just needed one more to win. First, Oliver Phillips came back from 5-2 deficit in an eight-game set and proceed to win the next six straight games to prevail 8-5. Sam Young was down 3-0 and worked his match back to 7-7, then delivering an inspiring and clutch tiebreaker 7-1 to push Pemi to their first victory of the day, 4-3.

12’s soccer

According to Tecumseh, the Twelve’s are their deepest and most athletic age group, and they began the day with soccer. Their Pemi counterparts wisely chose to come out in a defensive shape and spring counter attacks wide on the flanks.   Charlie Orbin and Jacob Kunkel anchored the defense in front of goalie Alex Rolfe. Rolfe was outstanding, making critical saves throughout the match to keep Pemi in striking range. Nate Broll worked tirelessly at midfield as Pemi held Tecumseh’s best team to two goals. When news arrived at Pemi of the 2-0 Tecumseh victory, a Tecumseh coach commented, “Wow, you must have a great soccer team. That Tecumseh team is easily our best team in camp.”

Down at Tecumseh’s impressive waterfront, the Thirteen’s swim team also delivered an inspiring effort in their swim meet. Coach Ken Moore’s mermen unleashed a scintillating performance in the individual events, as they delivered a series of first and second place finishes. Ben Herdeg and Andreas Geffert finished 1-2 in the breast, John Kingdon and Dexter Wells the same in the butterfly, and Will Sewell and Finn Wilkins ditto in the freestyle. Not finishing in the top three but equally impressive was Lucas Gales, who knocked twenty-nine seconds from his freestyle time. Well done Lucas! At the wrong end of a 28-14 tally heading into the two relays, Tecumseh delivered an incredible comeback as they snatched a first and second place finish in both the medley and free relays to leave the meet at a 30-30 tie. The Thirteen’s would have to shake off their resulting disappointment and go up to the soccer pitch and play a talented Tecumseh team, but part of the magic of Tecumseh Day is watching how the athletes and coaches deal with large momentum swings, as each age group must reset its emotional energy and focus for the next challenging event.

11's baseball

11’s baseball

The Eleven’s carried their momentum to the baseball field, and Sam Young stepped on the rubber and delivered one of the most dominant pitching performances in Pemi baseball history. He recorded 17 of his team’s 18 outs, striking out fourteen batters to push Pemi to a dominating 10-1 victory. Giacomo Turco, a former Tecumseh camper who took a fair amount of ribbing for switching camps, delivered a 4-4 effort at the plate, driving in six runs to pace Pemi to an impressive win.

13's soccer

13’s soccer

The Thirteen’s quashed their disappointment after tying the swim meet and garnered the strength and perseverance to play an incredible soccer match on Tecumseh’s imposing Grant Field. Pemi found themselves down 1-0 on a deflected shot taken from a poor angle. Six minutes later, Pemi’s Daniel Rudolph lofted a shot that slipped through the tips of the Tecumseh goalie’s fingers and into the back of the net. Tecumseh responded with a scrappy corner kick goal just before the end of the half. With three minutes to play and Tecumseh still holding a majority of the possession, Pemi scrapped and hustled their way to create opportunities. Aidan Chiang, who provided Pemi with box-to-box pressure, launched a shot with the outside of his foot. The Tecumseh keeper made the initial save, but the hustling Will Sewell raced in and pushed the rebound past the scrambling net-minder to tie the game 2-2. It is this type of perseverance and competitive spirit that is also the hallmark of the day.

12s tennis

12s tennis

The Twelve’s also rebounded from their challenging 2-0 loss in soccer to deliver a dominating 7-0 victory in tennis. The four singles players of Ryder McCoy-Hansen, Luke Brown, Chris O’Connor, and Nate Broll made quick work of their Tecumseh counterparts. The doubles team of Charlie Orben/Brady Waldron ran their opponents all over the court while the pairings of Fischer Burke/ Wim Nook and Alex Rolfe/Logan McManus methodically seized control of their respective matches and finished the morning at Tecumseh on a powerful note. The Eleven’s, Twelve’s, and Thirteen’s went 3-1-2 in their six matches to keep Pemi’s overall chances alive heading into the lunch break.

Friday Afternoon Events

The Ten- and Fifteen-and-unders began their contests under increasingly threatening skies. After four or five games in tennis and 20 minutes of scoreless soccer in the 15’s soccer soccer match, the boys were cleared from the field and the games were postponed until Sunday. At Tecumseh, the weather held long enough for the Eleven’s, Twelve’s and Thirteen’s to complete the first events of the afternoon. The Eleven’s soccer team ran into a formidable opponent determined to win their first event. The team held strong and were only down 1-0 at halftime, but the depth and speed of Tecumseh eventually was too much and the team fell 6-1 in the second half. The 12’s baseball team received great pitching from Fischer Burke, however, a porous defense put the team down five runs. In the top of the 4th inning Pemi was squaring up on the ball and cut the lead to 5-2. Wim Nook sparked the rally with a base hit. Unfortunately, a distant thunder clap ended Pemi’s comeback and the remainder of the game was cancelled when Pemi clearly had the momentum. Thirteen’s Tennis fell 5-2 to a talented Tecumseh team with Owen Wyman and Jonah Reay winning for Pemi. With the thunderstorms settling in around Tecumseh, the camps would need to complete Eleven’s and Twelve’s swimming, and Thirteen’s baseball.

Sunday

After parent’s visiting day at Pemi on Saturday, the boys had an early lunch on Sunday and restarted their competition with Tecumseh. The locations were changed for the different age groups to avoid having the same kids ride on the bus for second day.

15's soccer

15’s soccer

The Ten’s and Fifteen’s traveled to Tecumseh to finish their soccer and tennis match, followed by their swim meet. The Fifteen’s soccer match started with a combined 50 minutes of scoreless soccer. Both teams generated a handful of quality chances and competed aggressively. The defense led by Will Ackerman, Luca Tschanz, Kevin Miller and Timmy Somp held strong in front of goalie Gordon Robbins. Mac Hadden and Luca McAdams battled Tecumseh for the middle of the pitch. Tecumseh held a little more of the play, but Pemi countered with dangerous counter attacks that generated critical corner kicks and throw-ins. With eight minutes to play Tecumseh sent a corner kick into the Pemi box and the eventual scrum and failure of Pemi to clear the ball resulted in a scrappy, opportunistic goal. The Fifteen’s fought hard to the end, but could not find the equalizer and suffered a 1-0 loss.

10's swimming

10’s swimming

The Ten’s tennis team was swept by a deep Tecumseh tennis team 7-0 so both teams slowly walked down to the waterfront for the final swim meets of the day. One of the important and more meaningful aspects of the Tecumseh Day is the pairing of our Ten’s and Fifteen’s. Both age groups needed to dig a little deeper for the last event of the day. The Ten’s, consisting of only eight swimmers, swam their hearts out and were only down four points heading into the final relays. Pemi received commendable efforts from Ben Kriegsman who won the backstroke, Nick Vitale first place finish in the freestyle, and a second place finish by James Cullen. The Medley Relay team of Kriegsman, Vitale, Henry Radin, and Cullen delivered a critical first place to keep the meet close. Unfortunately, Tecumseh’s depth was too much as they won the meet on the final freestyle relay leaving the final score 35-23 for Tecumseh.

15's swimming

15’s swimming

The Fifteens having lost close matches in tennis, baseball, and soccer needed to reach a little deeper and finish strong. As they left the soccer pitch they knew the Ten-and unders would look for their leadership. The Fifteen’s swimmers received an outstanding coaching effort from Charlotte Jones who began training this team the first week of camp. From the opening whistle it was all Pemi as they dominated the individual events. Mitchell Chin and Simon Taylor went 1st and 2nd in the backstroke, Nick Ridgeway and Matt McDonough 1st and 2nd in the butterfly, and a 1st and 2nd in the breast by Thomas Nielson and Max Blohm, and first place finish by George Fauver in the freestyle. Fauver went on to lead his Medley Relay team with Mitchell Chin, Thomas Nielson, and Nick Ridgeway to a first place. In the final relay of the day, with Pemi well in the lead, the free relay team of Fauver, Eli Brennan, Nick Ridgeway, and Mitchell Chin finished the meet with an emphatic 43-17 victory that lifted the spirits of everyone who traveled to Tecumseh. It was a great finish for an age group that provided excellent leadership in our preparation for Tecumseh Day, but it was also a clear statement of the incredible impact a dedicated coach can have on a group of young athletes.

At Pemi, the Eleven’s and Twelve’s swim teams finished their respective meets with grit and determination. The Eleven’s were swimming for their third victory of the day while the Twelve’s entered the meet 1-2. A deep Tecumseh Twelve’s swim team made quick work of Pemi and rolled to an impressive 49-11 win. Pemi Eleven’s, an age group that had already delivered a gutsy win in tennis and a dominant victory in baseball, went out and won every race of the meet. In the individual races Pemi received first places from first time swimmer Bauer Brown in backstroke, Boone Snyder in the breaststroke, Ben Cavanaugh in the butterfly, and Hayden Davis in the freestyle. Lucas Vitale swam against five Tecumseh challengers in the Individual Medley and delivered an impressive first place. Not surprisingly, the Pemi Eleven’s medley relay team of Vitale, Snyder, Davies, and Davis won as did free relay team of Davies, Cavanaugh, Brown, and Vitale. With the 37-23 victory in swimming, the 11’s finished 3-1 on Tecumseh Day, an incredible effort for 25 campers.

13's baseball

13’s baseball

The last event of the day to finish was the Thirteen’s baseball game and those fortunate to watch this game thought it was likely the best contest of the “day.” Tecumseh jumped out to 3-0 lead on two singles, a catcher’s interference, and some aggressive base running. Pemi responded with a run in the bottom of the first as Jonah Reay got the offense going with a base hit, stolen base, and some contact hitting. Oliver Giraud locked into a pitchers’ duel with Tecumseh and bought the team critical time to get back in the game. With two outs, and the game tying run on third base, a swinging bunt led to the Tecumseh catcher racing back to home and diving to tag the Pemi runner to end the game, 4-3 Tecumseh. In many respects it was a fitting end to the 2018 Tecumseh Day. The final score was 13-5-2 in Tecumseh’s favor. However, there were plenty of opportunities at all different age groups to win close matches in Pemi’s favor. Our boys competed , experienced some adversity, learned about perseverance, celebrated some victories, and felt the disappointment of a defeat. Many thanks to our Tecumseh friends for their wonderful blend of competitive spirit and sportsmanship. We look forward to Tecumseh Day 2019!

~ Charlie Malcolm

And many thanks to Charlie for his inspiring leadership on the athletic front all year long, and especially for his wise and balanced handling of the highlight event of our sporting summer. We too look forward to Tecumseh Day 2019—and, in the shorter term, to Larry Davis’s newsletter on Pemi’s Nature Program in the upcoming newsletter.
                                                                                                            –TRJR

#5: Pemi Legacies…Pemi Family

After four days of as-close-to-perfect summer weather as we can ever remember, spanning from Wednesday to Saturday last week and blessing us with cloudless blue skies, fresh and cooling breezes, and air so clear that the distant hills seemed as close to being on top of you as that next wave just about to break over you at the seashore, we are experiencing a rainy interlude. Actually, given how dry it’s been, the precipitation is welcome—greening our fields, damping down the dust on our dirt thoroughfares, and making today’s a perfect Rest Hour for a nap. Naps this week, in fact, are a particularly good thing. I believe we hinted in our last number that our annual athletic extravaganza with our storied rivals from Camp Tecumseh is coming up this Friday, and amid frenzied preparation for competition in four events (baseball, tennis, soccer, and swimming) in five separate age groups (10-and-under, 11’s, 12’s, 13’s, and 15’s) and equally frenzied “Beat Tecumseh” cheers in the Mess Hall, it’s great to have some southerly wind, grey skies, and drizzle on the cabin roofs working alongside a spectacular roast pork and potatoes lunch in all our bellies to inspire a little restorative slumber.

Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm will take pen in hand to record for you some of the highlights of the coming Big Day, but know for now that the tone he set for the staff at last night’s post-Taps meeting was classic Charlie. While the odds-makers in Las Vegas are not necessarily choosing us (as opposed to their favorable prognosticating prior to our recent and plentiful triumphs over Camps Moosilauke, Kingswood, and Walt Whitman), the day is important and it makes us a better camp, regardless of the final tally. Tecumseh is a sports camp. We are an all-around camp. They build their entire summer around playing us. We build ours in part around playing them, but also around, for example, caving in upstate New York, the annual Gilbert and Sullivan production, the Allagash canoe trip, singing in the Mess Hall and at the Campfire circle, the annual loon and butterfly counts, the Pemi Week Art Show, our weekly serving of Bean Soup, etc., etc. But if they, year after year, are the best competition around, we become better competitors getting ourselves ready for them, doing everything we can to match them on the pitch or on the courts, diamonds, or docks, celebrating the victories we’re hoping for and accepting the defeats that sometimes come our way—shaking their hands afterwards, though; cheering them and their grit and their skill; sitting down with ourselves afterwards and acknowledging that we really did give our all, that we and our teammates really did leave it all on the field, and that (darn it!) we really had fun! Given this somehow stirring but still settling key note speech by Charlie, the coaches are now working with their charges to get them prepared for their time in the sun—this despite the lingering showers. We know you’ll all stay tuned!

In the mean time, Associate Director Kenny Moore has put together some thoughts about one of the demographic rather than programmatic distinctions that we think sets Pemi apart from a lot of other institutions. Kenny, consistent with his role as Director of Alumni Relations, is our contact person for legacy families, one of his special purviews being the recruitment of sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of Pemi veterans.

Since 1908, the Fauver and Reed families have built a solid foundation, ensuring Pemi’s success long into the future. We believe that Camp Pemigewassett is the oldest residential boys’ camp in the country under the same continuous family ownership, and the central emphasis on family extends into every facet of our camp. Each cabin group, division, occupation, sports team, and hiking group, together with the collective staff, operates similarly to a family unit. All Pemi individuals take on specific roles, provide leadership, care for one another, and take responsibility for their actions.

Pemi creates opportunities for boys to work together within their newly established family groups on a daily basis—say, eating as a group in the Mess Hall, encouraging each other on a mountain trip, or cleaning the cabin for daily Inspection. Beyond that, the interaction that boys have with different Pemi generations is particularly unique and valuable. The annual Gilbert and Sullivan show is one of the best examples of multiple generations coming together. The cast this year for H.M.S. Pinafore ranges in age from 8 to 71 years old, with our youngest campers in Junior 1 practicing and performing alongside venerable camp folks and cast members Tom Reed, Jr. and Larry Davis. Experiences shared across generations allow traditions to carry forward in an extremely organic and effective way, clearly defining who and what we are at Pemi.

Legacy campers—those boys whose fathers, uncles, grandfathers, or even great grandfathers attended Pemi—offer another snapshot of family at Pemigewassett. This year, close to 30% of our enrollment is made up of legacy campers. Will Silloway, a First Session camper, is our first fourth-generation camper (excluding children of the founding Reed and Fauver families, who are on the 5th generation). Will’s father Roger, grandfather Skip, and great-grandfather Stewart (counselor in 1928) were all Pemi boys!

Alumni parents contemplating sending their boys to Pemi often comment on the wave of Pemi nostalgia that comes over them as their sons near camp age. Treasured stories and memories from their own past pave the way for new experiences for their boys. While father and son are not physically at Pemi at the same time (except, perhaps, for drop-off, pick-up, or visiting days for Full Session campers), this type of shared experience is extremely special. Accustomed to singing traditional American, Pemi, and college songs in the Mess Hall in their various respective decades, more than one “extended” family has been known to croon at their own family dining tables when the nostalgic spirit moves them.

I asked a few of our current legacy campers about the lead-up to their first summer at Pemi. What was the conversation like with their fathers and family members before camp? What sort of advice did their forebears give, and how did that prepare them for their own experience at Pemi? What happened when they returned home?

Fischer Burke, son of alumnus Jeff and Kirby Burke, lives just north of San Francisco and is in his second year as a camper at Pemi. “It was exciting,” Fischer reports, “to hear the stories about camp from my dad. He told me about all the fun he had, the camp records he broke, the activities he did.” When Jeff came to pick Fischer up last August at the end of the 2017 season, Jeff had firsthand knowledge of Fischer’s experience. “Dad knew what I was talking about, and that got him excited to tell more stories from his day.” This story swapping continued well into the fall and winter.

Wim Nook, son of alumnus Bill and Melissa Nook and grandson of alumnus William Nook, loved hearing camp stories from his family. “I remember hearing about singing in the Mess Hall, the Polar Bear swim, even though it was different then (a bit more au naturel!), playing baseball, taking Nature with Larry. Everything was still here for my first year.” Wim commented on Pemi’s living history: “The markings on the cabin show me the guys that were here before. To see their names and dates is pretty cool.” [Editorial comment: Wim’s sense of “cool” runs distinctly counter to our official policy against leaving names carved or Magic-Markered into cabins, but we suppose there’s a “Kilroy” in all of us, and it is always fun to know who got here before we did!]

Angus Williams, grandson of alumnus John “Torpedo” Lewis and wife Cathy, son of Cara Lewis, and nephew of alumnus Will Lewis, is in his fourth summer and is one of our fifteen-year-old leaders. Before he first came to camp, Angus remembers hearing about the classic elements of Pemi: singing in the Mess Hall, campfires on Senior beach, and all the sports his grandfather and uncle played. “They told me what Pemi was about, that it was a home away from home, and when I came here I really understood. It seemed like home to me.” He distinctly recalls driving back to his winter home, answering questions from his family about his camp experience. “My grandfather would ask me if we sang this song, and then we would just start singing it together. He asked me if I did my Distance Swim, and when I told him the story, he just laughed. We did so many of the same things.”

This summer, Angus’ cousin Richard Lewis is in his first year as a camper, and Angus loves having him at Pemi. “I really want to be there for Richard in his first year, to help him out if he needs anything.”  These shared camp experiences across multiple generations are an unparalleled way to create bonds between family members.

The traditions and customs of a family or institution bind its members together, giving each individual a strong sense of belonging. The familial nature of Pemi, with its varied and rich traditions, allows worthy and rewarding customs to be passed down to each generation. These customs provide structure for individual members and make it easier for us to be good citizens of the broader world. By living amid the rhythms and rituals of a thoughtful and humane institution, we are included in a community that transcends time.    ~Ken Moore

Many thanks to Kenny for his evocation of the way the Pemi Experience, over the years and generations, can bond not only individuals who share the same genes but also those who share only Polar Bear dips, rousing Mess Hall choruses of “We’re From Camp Pemigewassett,” accomplishing their Distance Swims, and drinking in the sunset view with their cabinmates outside Greenleaf Hut high on the shoulder of Mt. Lafayette. They say it takes a village to raise a child. We count it among our blessings that, in playing our small part in raising children, we somehow manage, decade after decade, to create a village.

–TRJR

 

#4: “Things to Look For!”

2018: Newsletter #4

Pemi’s infamous journal, Bean Soup, is celebrating its 109th season this summer, having come into being in the same year as The Wind in the Willows, “To Build a Fire,” and Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. As far as we know, it’s the oldest and longest-running such camp publication in the country, and boys and staff alike look forward to its Monday night ladlings with all of the excitement of fans awaiting the next season of Madmen, Game of Thrones, or The Handmaid’s Tale. The only difference is that there’s no binge-watching Bean Soup, as every pot is boiled up fresh every week. Even the editors never know what will go into the pot until hours or even minutes before they take their places on top of their table/bully pulpit at the front of the Lodge.

By now, you’ve noticed that the metaphoric language used to refer to this time-honored Pemi institution (e.g. “ladling,” “boiled up fresh,” and “pot”) are very much in line with the admittedly odd title: Bean Soup. Even as you quietly approve of the way Pemi exposes your sons to figurative language at an early and impressionable age, you may be wondering, “Why Bean Soup?” Honestly, we don’t know. Maybe the best guess is that the first editors were taking a subtle (or not-so-subtle) dig at the monotonous and dollar-conscious menu-planning in Pemi’s early seasons. Whatever the explanation, some regrettable hazing evidently surrounded the first “servings.” Boys new to Pemi, it seems, were assured that the potage about which they had heard so much was very literal soup—and that, in order to down theirs, they would have to carve a wooden spoon for the steaming, after-dinner snack. We weren’t personally there to witness the “gotcha” laughter that must have transpired, but we’re glad that Pemi has grown softer and more humane in this sense at least. That said, some of the lampooning that goes down on a regular basis is often fairly spicy. We continue to believe that satire, when it observes appropriate limits, is a potent tool of collective social awareness, helping people laugh at themselves in a way that makes them better for the chuckles and, finally, parts of a jovial and accepting community. Think best friends making fun of each other playing softball, or at a bridal shower, or at a rehearsal dinner.

Printed, bound up, and distributed to the whole camp family just before the Winter Holidays, Bean Soup has always aimed to be something of an historical record of the season. Look back to the oldest numbers and you’ll find directorial newsletters, accounts of mountain trips and athletic events, reviews of vaudeville and Gilbert and Sullivan shows, rosters of various athletic teams in all of the different age groups, the names of the recipients of our major awards, and so forth. To ring a change on the old New York Times motto, “All the news that fits, we print.” We must admit in this age of charges of “fake news” that Bean Soup (as it is democratically written by editors, general staff, and campers alike) has sometimes allowed zaniness and imagination to take scrupulous verity hostage—yielding something more like The Colbert Report or even SNL than the PBS News Hour. Favorite genres over the years have included supposed transcripts of the directors’ financial schemings to host a new Woodstock, say, or to open an Elvis theme park; or “intercepted letters” from Junior campers who are, sub rosa, Russian spies or feasibility experts looking into a new MacDonald’s franchise in the mess hall; or re-writes of various Pemi or public-domain songs that turn melody to mayhem in all the ways you might expect of zany and creative individuals having a good time at staid decorum’s expense.

Way, way back, servings of Bean Soup began by just diving into the real news of the week. In the fifties and sixties, however, brief “introductions” became increasingly common, taking a minute or two to suggest, for example, that a recent four-day spate of rain had Mr. Jefferis up in the shop secretly building an Ark. One marked initiative of the nineties was to send up the contents of the previous (Sunday) evening’s edifying talk—as, just last week, superlative 2018 editors Harry Cook, Wes Eifler, and Dan Reed made gentle fun of Larry Davis’s hyper-informative but amusing Sunday talk on insects’ place in the food chain, entitled “What Good Are Black Flies?” Their parodic PowerPoint presentation? “What Good Are Juniors?” Last week, this inventive trio had kicked off the Soup with an hilarious edition of Pemi Jeopardy, with categories you probably have to be a Pemi person to appreciate fully: “Wretched Waiters,” “Things that Flush and Things that Don’t,” or “Things that Larry Doesn’t Like.” To be honest, much of today’s Soup is more performative than simply aural, but judging by the volume of laughter generated, it is still preternaturally adept at striking the collective funny bone.

Every ladling of the Soup ends with “Things To Look For,” which first became a staple back in the late fifties. Here’s where the foibles or fixations of a number of our company can be brought to light in a grin-inducing way. If there’s a Senior who tends not to respond to Reveille, the Thing To Look For might be a nuclear alarm clock or a special bunk featuring a water slide into the lake. If a pitcher has had a spectacular game against Camp Moosilauke, the Thing To Look For might be a contract from the Yankees (sure to bring resounding “Boos!” from any Red Sox fans in the room.) If a counselor has notoriously forgotten his Nalgene on a Mt. Cube trip, the Thing To Look For might be a personal drone from the Poland Spring bottling plant. And always—always—the last Thing To Look For is “A better Bean Soup,” that final item chanted out knowingly by every person in the room as they rise from their seats, applaud the editors, and head off to their cabins to get ready for bed. There’s something charming about this weekly acknowledgement that we can, all of us, do a little better next time—even if that particular night’s serving had us weeping repeatedly with laughter.

Oh. One more thing, and then we’ll turn to a couple of example of articles that really do capture the content and feeling of the 2018 season. I just mentioned the collective response of “A better Bean Soup.” For a good half dozen years now, before the editors first stride into the room to thunderous applause, the gathering crowd is as likely as not to fall into the call and response patterns of Loony Toon’s infamous “Duck Season/Rabbit Season” cartoon. Two or three boys will stand up and call out, say, the name of one of our twins—e.g. Ollie Fauver—and eight or ten will pick up the game and leap up shouting the name of Ollie’s brother, Leo. Soon, half of the room (100 souls) will be popping out of their seats to yell “Ollie Fauver,” only to be countered by the other half jumping up to scream “Leo Fauver.” The reciprocal chants run on for some incalculable interval until a pair of staff brothers might supplant the Fauvers: “Per Soderburg”…“Kai Soderburg,” perhaps; or “Matt Kanofsky”…“Andrew Kanofsky.” It can go on for minutes at a time, either until the editors come in and begin the formal proceedings or until, as often happens, all rise spontaneously to sing the National Anthem as though we were all in Fenway Park or Camden Yards rather than the Pemi Lodge. It can all seem a little crazy, but it’s the ritual that has sprung up here as mysteriously and amazingly as mushrooms after a summer rain. It’s what we do, and everybody seems to love it.

Now, let’s turn to a couple of “real,” “substantial,” “historical” accounts—the items that, once all the laughter has died away, will remind readers come December of all of the great and substantial things that have happened at Pemi in 2018. The first is from our wonderful third-year Nature staffer, Scout Brink, who reports on one of the life-changing trips that sally forth from Pemi every year.

CAVING 2018 

On July 2nd, in the year 2018, nine of our bravest Pemi 15’s embarked on a trip into the depths of the Earth. With Larry Davis, Reed Harrigan, and Scout Brink as their trusted leaders, the group traversed over 6,000 feet of caves within the Schoharie County of New York. Our departure from home base was slightly delayed due to an overactive dumpster and a blind spot behind the van. Our men, however, would not be deterred; a replacement van was drafted and we were able to head out around 10:30 AM.

We stopped for lunch on the way to our base-camp, which was at Larry’s sister Emily’s house. Once we arrived at her place, we put our gear on and set out for our first adventure: Knox Cave—a wonderful introduction to caving, as the entrance was a slanted rock that we had to slide down, followed by a 15-foot ladder. Once in The Big Room, we discussed how jointing of the Earth’s crust can cause rocks to collapse and passages to develop into large caves. From here, we split up into two groups. Four campers went with Scout to The Dungeon, where we had to climb up the wall and then crawl through a hole to a secret room. Our campers came in waves of four to find this secret room, but only after they had army-crawled through a small tunnel to look down the infamous Gun Barrel. Our first mission was exceedingly successful for several reasons. First, Hisashi [Lonske] overcame his fear of heights, earning the new title of Hero-shi, and Angus [Williams] saved an amphibious friend who had been washed into the cave.

Back at Emily’s, we could relax with a delicious chicken dinner and s’mores over a campfire for dessert. Larry showed how proud he was of our campers’ accomplishments by telling a secret campfire story, just before the storm came. Lightning began to flash in the distance, and we made our way to our sleeping bags. There was a bat singing “Strangers in the night” with us in the attic where we bunked, which was no surprise considering that Emily (a world-renowned caver) is an avid bat lover.

Our final day began at 7:00 AM, with an amazing buffet-style breakfast, with juice-tube-straw-thingies, to fuel us for our double-cave extravaganza. On July 3rd, we dominated Schoharie and Clarksville Caves, both of which were created by water saturated with carbon dioxide dissolving limestone as it followed the paths of least resistance, through joints and faults within the crust. Because of this, our mission was to wade through an underground stream, and as we got up to our waist in 40-degree water, our men got tough skin and took it in stride. Both caves ended at sumps, which are areas in a cave where the ceiling drops down and the tunnel becomes so full of water that it would require the use of scuba gear for passage (which we didn’t try!) It was here, at the sumps’ beginning, that we sat in a circle, turned off our headlamps, and experienced total darkness!

All three missions were deemed successful, and we celebrated at Chelsea’s Royal Diner.  Eli Brennan, Angus Williams, Ailer Thomas, Matthew McDonough, William Ackerman, Hisashi Lonske, Quinn Markham, Ian Hohman, and Mitchell Chin all became better men throughout those two days.  They toughed through phantom smelly water, hornets, clogged toilets, and came back to Camp Pemigewassett wiser, more patient men, with a new appetite for adventure.

And now we move to a poetic but excruciatingly factual account of a recent soccer match, penned by Trip Specialist John “JP” Gorman, who moonlights as a football coach. JP’s effort confirms that there’s something in the Gaelic blood that lends itself to verse of an epic sort. (Please note that the names included in [brackets] are there only for informational purposes and are not to be sounded as you read either silently or aloud! There is true, metrical music in JP’s lines!)                                               

15’s SOCCER VS MOOSE

P-E-M-I Sis-Boom-Bah
This game belonged to Isaiah [Abbey].
When Pemi toiled to conquer Moose,
He decided to let loose—
First one, then two, and finally three,
Each met by cheers from ol’ Pemi.
A hat trick on the day for him,
But this was more a Pemi win.

From Gordo [Robbins] standing tall in goal,
To Andrew Roth with each through ball,
We showed true class with grit and skill,
And Luca Tschanz prepared to kill
Any soul who tried to score!
Our defense held, a solid core,
Then [Sebastian] Soto cutting from the flank
Let loose a rocket that will rank,
Among the best that Pemi’s seen.
He’s so much skill for just fifteen.

One not enough, he struck again,
Enabled by the other ten,
Who moved and passed with poise and grace.
[Luca] McAdams touch and Tristan’s [Land’s] pace
Brought only grief to each Moose boy,
Then aided by Coach Malcolm’s ploy:
He played the squad’s trump card of depth.
With each fresh sub the Moose team wept—

First H.Mo [Henry Moore], Bennett [Braden], Cam [McManus] and [Eliot] Jones,
Then Simon [Taylor] shook them to their bones.
Braden [Richardson] followed, [Nick] Ridgeway, too,
With [Timmy] Somp and Teddy [Applebaun] in the groove.
Marshall [Nielsen] held at left full back,
Helped of course by mighty “Wack”—
Will Ackerman that is, you see.
Our centre back of steel is he.

[Jacob] Smalley started number nine
With Nelson [Snyder] sprinting down the line.
Moose had no chance; we could not fail!
With [Coach Will] Meinke’s tactics we prevailed.
They did strike once, from a P.K.,
But all-in-all a Pemi day.
So P-E-M-I Sis-Boom-Bah!
We’re coming for you Tecumseh!!

Tecumseh Day, against our ancient rivals from Lake Winnepesauke, is indeed coming up in just a couple of weeks—the unquestioned highlight of our athletic season. We’ll offer in these very pages a full account of this annual encounter in a coming number, but for now, let us just say that JP’s poem is a great example of the tony-ness of Bean Soup over the years. In a world increasingly dominated by fast-paced, video-based narrative and sound bites, it’s refreshing to witness on a weekly basis a medium that still celebrates finished, grammatical, and amusing language. I owe a lot of being a writer myself to Bean Soup, to which I contributed as a camper well before I had any dreams of becoming an editor. Storied American novelist Rick Moody’s first published works were in the pages of BS, where the satiric incisiveness of The Ice Storm and other Moody classics was already appearing and being nurtured by an appreciative audience. And this year, Dexter Wells, son of novelist Susan Choi, is regularly contributing pieces that read more like something from Trevor Noah’s atelier than from a 13-year-old camper. In sum, while Bean Soup entertains us and makes us laugh, we like to think it also makes us more appreciative of our language’s capacity to embody and proclaim wit and wisdom. So, as the editors always conclude their Introduction, may it always be joyously urged, “On with the Soup!”

–TRJR

 

 

 

 

#3: The Elephant in the Room

It’s a spectacular Monday afternoon—temperature in the low eighties, humidity at thirty percent, breeze out of the northwest at twelve miles per hour, and the sky a cerulean blue with nary a cloud in sight. As we sit here in the West Wing, the action around the ping-pong tables in the Lodge is as lively as at Wimbledon, minus the strawberries and cream. Tennis balls plunk out on our own courts (red clay rather than green grass), and the water-ski boat is growling down the lake with Dylan Vigue in tow, tossing up modest rooster tails on his slalom ski. Last week was a great one, despite the heat, including over a dozen challenging mountain hikes, a full Fourth of July program (including fireworks for the first time since 1922!), two canoe trips, and a winning day of competition against our neighbors at Camp Moosilauke. There are dozens of new occupations slated for this week, Pinafore has definitely weighed anchor and is warping out of the harbor, Uppers 3, 4, and 5 will all be headed up to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s splendidly-situated Greenleaf Hut (high on the shoulder of 5200-foot Mt. Lafayette) in the coming days, and Saturday brings both our first parents’ visiting day for full-session boys and a full day’s competition with Camp Kingswood. Oh, and did we mention that the food this summer is perhaps the best we can remember? In short, 2018 is shaping up very sweetly.

This week, Director Danny Kerr fires up his MacBook Pro and confirms our sense that Pemi really is a kind of Renaissance camp, something that we feel gives everyone a chance to carry on in an area they already know and love and to feel both comfortable and inspired to extend themselves in various novel directions. With no further ado, here’s Danny.

Greetings from the sun-drenched shores of Lower Baker Pond! While I am no scientist, I do know that the Theory of Relativity states, among other things, that time is relative, which helps explain how we can possibly be heading into the last week of Session One and making plans for the Birthday Banquet, first-session awards, and the arrival of our second-half boys. The moments, hours, and days slip by in the blink of a smiling eye! Indeed, we look forward to Week Three and all of the enjoyment it will bring. We are so pleased to be spending this time with your sons!

One of the things I am frequently asked by families who are first learning about Pemi is, “What type of camp are you?” The question always makes me think of the old story about four blind men who lived in a village. One day the other villagers told them, “Hey, there is a new and strange creature called an elephant in the village today.” They had no idea what an elephant was but they bravely declared, “Even though we will not be able to see what an elephant is, let us at any rate go and feel what an elephant is.” Every one of them touched the elephant and was asked to describe it in terms of what they felt. “The elephant is a pillar,” said the first man, who had touched his leg. “Oh, no! It is like a rope,” said the second man, who had touched the tail. “Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man, who had touched the trunk of the elephant. “It is like a big hand fan,” said the fourth man, who touched the ear.

They began to argue about the elephant, each blind man sure that he knew best. Then a wise man overheard them and asked, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree on what the elephant is like.” The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each of you touched a different part of the animal. So, actually the elephant is like all those things together.”

My immediate thought is that Pemi is like that elephant. If I walked into the Nature Lodge or Art World and heard the instructions that Deb Kure, Larry Davis, or Deb Pannell were giving in their occupation, I might say Pemi is a like a place of learning, for great instruction in art or the ecology of the area. If I went down to the soccer fields or tennis courts and heard Charlie Malcolm or Chris Johnson instructing a group of athletes in the finer points of soccer or tennis, and if I noticed the level of play there, I might insist Pemi is a sports academy. Could this level of instruction really happen at a boys’ camp? If I sat in the West Wing and listened to a rehearsal for the annual Gilbert and Sullivan performance and heard the instructions that Director Jonathan Verge is giving, I would surely think Pemi is a music or theatre performance camp. If I came upon Dan Reed discussing a list of required equipment for a high-mountain hike in the Whites, I might think Pemi is an outdoor adventure camp. If I happened upon a conversation between one of our counselors or a fifteen-year-old Senior and a younger or new camper trying to find his way at Pemi, I would think we are a place for boys to learn and practice leadership skills where learning about how to be a fine young man is the paramount objective. And, if I sat by the campfire on a Saturday night, watching another amazing sunset glimmer on Lower Baker Pond, and seeing the close friendships, spirit, and traditions, I might think that Pemi is a family, where lessons about kindness, community, and love are the great, overarching objectives.

Of course, all of these ideas about what Pemi is are correct. Pemi is a place where boys can learn how to be artists and scientists, athletes and performers, community leaders and loyal friends and companions. Pemi boys grow in confidence, stretch themselves in ways they never imagined, learn to thrive independently, live joyfully in an unplugged community, and make friendships that last a lifetime. No wonder so many Pemi boys and counselors want to return to our little valley each summer. A summer at Pemi isn’t just one thing. Like the elephant, it is many things to many people. As we all know, there are countless ways to be a Pemi boy, and yet all that we do is guided by our traditions and a set of core values and beliefs that help us uphold our mission.

The boys in the trenches had a few opinions on Pemi’s identity as well! I asked four of them what they thought about the question, “What type of camp is Pemi?” and here is what they reported.

Lucas Gales, a sixth-year camper from Vermont in Upper Four, said, “We’re kind of a mix of a sports and nature camp, but we also do so many other things! I love the variety each day brings!”

Grady Gore, a first-year camper from New Jersey in Junior Four, said that he thinks Pemi is an “outdoor camp with a great deal of creativity.” Grady reported that he’s been to “art, music, and tennis occupations,” but that it’s “so cool that we can always go to the Nature Lodge or anywhere else we like.”

Ollie Schiff-Stein, a third-year camper from New York City, said that while Pemi is an “all-around camp,” he thinks the trip program makes Pemi “kind of a trip camp,” based on his very recent experience of going on a “gnarly” three-day Uppers’ trip in the Pemigewassett Wilderness, where the group “summited seven mountains and went 25 miles in total!”

And finally, Dexter Wells, in his sixth year from New York, said, “I get frustrated when my friends at home think that Pemi is a sports camp based on the fact that we are an all-boys camp.” Dexter said one of the things he loves most about Pemi is, “seeing the starting pitcher from the baseball team also spend time at nature-photography and then go on a hike that afternoon!”

One of my time-tested beliefs is that there are many ways to be a Pemi camper, and nothing I have heard or seen thus far this summer makes me worry that this maxim has changed or will change anytime soon! So here’s to a wonderful final week for our first-session boys—and to an amazing final four weeks for our full-session boys and the second-session boys who will be joining us very soon.

We eagerly second that motion. Thanks, Danny, for your revealing folkloric perspective on the programmatic diversity that makes Pemi what it is. Thankfully, our boys are not completely in the position of those four visually-challenged villagers. On a daily basis, they see in unmistakable ways the full variety of things going on at camp, watching their compadres throw themselves into an ever-changing array of offerings and then energetically following suit. With that, farewell for a week. We’ll be back in touch very soon!

–TRJR

 

 

#2: Pemi’s Program…On A Roll!

(July 1) – Greetings from the unusually steamy shores of Lower Baker, where the thermometer has just nudged up into the nineties for the first time in recent memory—not to drop below that decade, midday, until this coming Friday. But then any of you in the Northeast will be coping with the same torrid conditions, while the rest of you will be reading about them in your newsfeeds. Waterfront Head Charlotte Jones has responded by organizing a camp-wide swim meet for the entire afternoon, and we expect even the most inveterate land-lurkers will be drawn to the competition, whether or not they have any ambition to become the next Michael Phelps. Danny Kerr was slated to conduct Sunday’s Weekly Meeting in the Lodge, but the prospect of casting his pearls before row upon row of sweating boys and staff led him to postpone until the mercury drops a mite. Instead, Tom Reed is slated to reinstitute his “Chillin’ with Lit” series down at the Senior Beach at about 8, when the campers will prove yet again that listening to a retired professor read short stories is entirely worth it as long as you’re able to sit, up to your neck, in the gently lapping waves. (Actually, past victims report that Tom’s wonted choices aren’t all that bad, and might actually help out with future SATs.) So, given tonight’s cookout supper was always planned to be outside, our chances for surviving this first scorching day seem excellent. As for tomorrow, we’ll exercise good judgment when it comes to physical activity, drink plenty of water, slather on the sunscreen, and perhaps even consider “Chillin’ with Bean Soup.”

Meanwhile, the 2018 season is off to a great start on all programmatic fronts—sports, trips, nature, and music and the arts. Yesterday saw ten Baker Valley Tournaments in five age groups at three different camps: four tourneys in basketball (10s, 11s, 13s, and 15s), two in ultimate Frisbee (13s and 15s), two in soccer (10s and 12s), one in baseball (11s), and one in lacrosse (12s). On the trails, lakes, and rivers, eighteen cabin groups have enjoyed one sort of trip or another. Lowers 3 and 4, Uppers 1 and 2, and Uppers 4 and 5 all summited Mt. Cube, a sporty 2800-foot peak right at the head of our valley and climbed by virtually all Pemi-ites since our opening season. Lowers 1, 5, and 6 and Upper 3 experienced elegant al fresco dining at the Pine Forest, just a canoe’s ride across the lake from the Lodge. Meanwhile Uppers 4 and 5 and Senior 3 canoed across to the storied Flat Rock Café (so named after the huge, table-like granite boulder hunkered on the far lakeshore.) A select group of Seniors joined Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm for a dash up Mt. Moosilauke (4800 feet and the largest free-standing mountain in the state), some of the same souls are currently out on the Connecticut River with Nick Davini and Fiona Walker as part of their training for the upcoming five-day canoe trip on Maine’s Allagash Waterway, and the first backpacking trip of the year completed the scenic but challenging Kinsman Range in what turned out to be thrashing rain (details below.)

The Nature program has sponsored open trips to the Palermo Mine, a world-class site for various rare minerals, and also to the Quincy Bog Nature Reserve for a talk on environmental change. Week One’s “occupations” (as we inexplicably but quaintly call our instructional activities) included Ponds and Streams, Animal Evidence (just what it sounds like), Birding, Junior Environmental Exploration, Wilderness Survival (not quite as exacting as it sounds), Environmental Sculpture, Butterflies and Moths, Junior Nature Book, Photo-Darkroom, Rocks and Minerals, Plant Printmaking, Wild Foods, Exhibit Making, Photo-Digital, Wetland Ecology, Spider Sculpture, and Nature Drawing. Jonathan Verge, Teiko Pelick, and the other staff in the Drama and Music program have offered Ukelele, Acting, Piano, Advanced Guitar, Band Camp, Pemi Chorus, Soundpainting (ask your sons to explain, but it’s marvelous), Beginning Guitar, Improv, Musical Theater, and A Capella. Oh, they have also held auditions for this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan production, H.M.S. Pinafore. Actually, the cast list just went up today, so let’s grab a moment to talk about this annual highlight of the Pemi dramatic and musical season.

We have been doing G&S shows at Pemi since the early 1950s, when Betsy Reed (mother of Tom Reed, Jr. and grandmother of Dan Reed) teamed up with former Camp Tecumseh and legendary Pemi counselor Scott Withrow to launch the first Pinafore. We have since mounted Trial By Jury, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and Iolanthe, most recently the last three in rotation with Pinafore. (There has admittedly been some talk of late about the cultural appropriateness of The Mikado in the twenty-first century, so whether or not it will be next year’s show we can’t currently say.) It’s hard to be objective about the aesthetic merits of our own dramatic productions, but more than a few outsiders have assured us that what we offer up every August is well beyond what anyone could reasonably expect of a seven week camp for boys, let alone one that doesn’t focus centrally on the arts. If you haven’t already graced our audience and if your son happens to be in the cast, we hope you can be with us on the evening of August 7th or 8th to give us your considered opinion. For now, here’s the cast list, all but complete, save for a few TBDs.

Cast as Josephine, the fetching daughter of the Pinafore’s captain who unfortunately falls in love with what would seem to be the lowliest swab on the boat, is veteran staff member Michaela Frank, erstwhile instructor in ukelele and basketball. Interestingly for the moment, three counselors and one camper are in the running to be her nautical beau, Ralph—pronounced “Rafe”—Rackstraw: Nick Bertrand, Nick Davini, Will Meinke, and Charlie Bell. How Jonathan and Teiko will choose among the four is yet to be seen, but Michaela is reportedly thrilled to have four handsome aspirants to her make-believe hand. “It’s a little like being The Bachelorette,” she claims, “but in a Victorian dress.” Josephine’s father, Captain Corcoran, will be played by Nick Paris, although it’s not clear that Nick is yet aware that the play will reveal him to be one of a pair of accidentally switched-in-the-nursery babies and that his resulting fall from Captain to Able Seaman will be as meteoric as Johnny Manziel’s. Cast as mixed-up (and mixing-up) nursemaid, dear Little Buttercup, will be Braden Richardson. Buttercup makes her living selling the Pinafore’s crew all manner of knick-knacks, what-nots, and thingamabobs, so Braden has been apparently been reading Jeff Bezos’s forthcoming biography to prepare.

Also very much interested in Josephine is the high-and mighty Sir Joseph Porter K.C.B., a coveted role secured this year by Eli Brennan, who proved in last season’s Iolanthe that he can play arrogant presumption to perfection—and that’s just what the role calls for. In this era of governmental cabinet members possessed of questionable experience, it will be interesting to see how Sir Joseph’s patter song goes down—the one in which he confesses that his only qualification for being “ruler of the Queen’s Navee” was his time in a legal partnership. All we know is that Eli will perform it with panache, ably assisted by Scout Brink as Sir Joseph’s rather snooty Cousin Hebe. Last but hardly least, Nature Director Larry Davis will play perennial malcontent Dick Deadeye, easily one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most Voldemortian roles.

However good its leads, Pemi G&S productions are always carried by their choruses, and this year’s promise to be exceptional. Sir Joseph goes nowhere without his voluminous following of Sisters, Cousins, and Aunts, and Eli will be able to count on the support of David Kriegsman, Oliver Giraud, Owen Wyman, Luke Larabie, Noah Anderson, Christopher Ramanathan, Jake Landry, Elijah Dorroh, Jacob Kunkel, Cole Valente, and Ned Roosevelt as his plenteous petticoated relations. Sure to be ogling them with an appropriate blend of passion and politeness will be the sailors’ chorus of Nathan Gonzales, Augie Tanzosh, Aslan Peters, Thaddeus Howe, Felix Nusbaum, Teo Boruchin, Owen Gagnon, Henry Moore, Nelson Snyder, Andreas Geffert, Ben Herdeg, Dexter Wells, Lucas Gales, Nate Broll, and Julian Hernandez-Webster, with John Kingdon providing his steadying leadership as Boatswain’s Mate Bill Backstay. In sum, we can’t wait to make our way down to the quay come August and watch Pinafore 2018 set sail. It’s bound to be a fantastic voyage.

Speaking of fantastic voyages, we’ll close with a brief report on the Kinsman Traverse mentioned above, penned by co-leader Fiona Walker. To be honest, it contains a few examples of things not going quite as they were planned, but the judgment shown by the two trip leaders and, just as impressively, the pluck and determination shown by the boys makes it a worthy account to pass along.

Pemi’s 2018 Trip Program got off to a great start last week with our first 3-day (turned 2-day) trip of the season. Led by trip specialists J.P Gorman and Fiona Walker, our party was made up of seven gnarly Lowers, Emmett Itoi, Jack Greenberg, Hayden Garbarini, Tristan Roth, Brian Wolfson, George Devlin, and Jacob Kunkel. We managed to conquer the Kinsmans, North and South respectively, through what turned out to be trying conditions. Day one of the 3-day was a fairly easy and simple day. We left camp following lunch and hiked four miles up the Reel Brook Trail, taking about three and a half hours to reach the Eliza Brook Shelter. The weather was perfect—not too cold or hot—and we were able to enjoy a nice hot meal of stuffing and mashed potatoes and called it an early night. Unfortunately, at around 9 PM, it started absolutely pouring rain, seriously taxing all of our careful waterproofing efforts. Despite our best efforts, we left the Eliza Brook Shelter Thursday morning with an extra ten pounds of water weight added to each of our packs. The boys, however, had great attitudes and trudged along the trail as if there were blue skies shining above us. At around 11:45 AM, we made it to the top of South Kinsman, where we decided to unpack and have lunch, admiring the intermittent view across Franconia Notch amid the roiling clouds. At around 2:00 PM we made it to North Kinsman. At this point the rain and winds had not given us a break, and with the boys pretty wet despite their high spirits, J.P and I decided it would be best to get the boys down to the bottom of the mountain, adding our planned day-3 miles to our completed day-2 miles. Once we got down the infamous Fishin’ Jimmy Trail, we stopped at the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut, where the boys refilled their water bottles and enjoyed some well-deserved Swedish Fish. By that time it was 4:30 and we planned to meet the van at 5:30 at the Lafayette Campground. Unfortunately, J.P and I miscalculated which trail would get us to the trailhead most directly, and when we apologized to the boys for adding even more mileage to a long day, they all had incredible attitudes and simply responded, “Woohoo! Let’s hike down the mountain!” One of the benefits of the delay, by the way, was that we stopped at the local McDonald’s for supper! Overall we hiked sixteen miles, twelve of them on Thursday in the pouring rain and wind. Watch out Uppers, this may be the gnarliest group of Lowers I know!

With that engaging account—confirmation of Pemi’s belief in full disclosure—we’ll close this week’s number. More to come in seven days’ time. Meanwhile, thanks for lending an ear (or eye).

—TRJR

 

 

#1: Welcome to the 2018 Season!

2018: Newsletter #1

Welcome to the inaugural Pemi Newsletter of the 2018 season, our 111th, supplemented this week by an introduction to this year’s stellar staff.

Except for a few latecomers whose arrivals we knew would be delayed, all of our first- and full-session campers have safely arrived—many of them by parental car, two dozen on the chartered bus from New York, and the rest via air to Boston or Manchester and then in Pemi vans. One of the highlights of the automobile influx was, for yet another year, the public-minded “Cans from Campers” initiative, which yielded hundreds of meals of canned and packaged goods to be distributed by the Plymouth Food Bank. Especially seeing families new to Pemi rolling up to the cornucopial kayak in which Dottie Reed was stashing the donations—with Mom or Dad leaning out the window shouting “Here’s a can from our camper!”—boded wonderfully well for the speed with which our community will come together as a caring and supportive family. Within minutes of their arrival, boys old and new had their luggage unpacked, their beds made, and their lockers filled, then heading out for their first game of tennis, pick-up soccer, or roof ball. Come six o’clock, we all headed up to the mess hall for the traditional opening night supper of pizza (shamelessly calculated to appeal to every camper’s palate for this all-important, first-impression meal.) Unable to find the wonted Hood’s Rockets for dessert, food service director Tom Ciglar substituted Hoodsie Ice-cream cups, the ones that come with the paper-wrapped wooden spoons. The boys seemed delighted by this retro treat, and at our table, it was especially fun teaching our British Head of Staff, Nick Hurn, that not licking the residual ice-cream off the lid as soon as you’ve removed it constitutes the social gaffe—not the opposite.

As many of you know, every week of the season will bring a newsletter from one hand or another. Together with your boys’ personal communiqués and, after the season, the questionably veracious articles in Bean Soup, these epistles will provide what we hope are informative and entertaining glimpses into life on Lower Baker Pond and beyond. Before we get any more newsy, though, let’s briefly set the historical and geographical stage.

Pemi was founded in 1908 by Dudley Reed and the Fauver twins, Edgar and Edwin. The trio had been friends since grade school, when the first thing their teacher did every year was shoo them out of the back row and disperse them to three corners of the room so as to improve everyone’s odds for learning. They carried their youthful energy and exuberance through their four years at Oberlin College and their medical studies at Columbia University, Gar spinning off from his comrades in the summer of 1905 to take a job at nearby Camp Moosilauke. The following year, Gar was joined by both Win and Dudley, and the summer after that, the three resolved that the best thing for them to do was to start a camp of their own. After looking for sites all over the Northeast, they settled on a spot just a mile down the valley from Moosilauke, opening Camp Pemigewassett in June of 1908. Doc Reed had finished his final medical school exams earlier than the Fauvers, so they sent him ahead to New Hampshire to dig out the lake (as he claimed), build a mess hall, lay out a baseball diamond, and establish five tennis courts. The job was well underway when the Fauvers arrived, followed within days by the fifteen campers who made up the first Pemi family. History records that everyone pitching in together to get the place built made for a very tight community, something we have endeavored to maintain even in these days when a week’s worth of staff work before opening day means that today’s campers arrive to an immaculately prepared camp.

The founding trio might well have felt they were beating back the wilderness, and to this day one of the charms of Pemigewassett is that our beautiful grounds are used only nine weeks out of fifty-two. We are the only concern going on Lower Baker Pond, and we own over six hundred acres stretching up to the tops of the hills on both sides of the valley. By the first of September every fall, well before the leaves turn, Pemi’s small but loyal maintenance staff is putting the camp to bed for the winter, when no one will be living anywhere within two miles of us. If one of your goals is to get boys comfortable living in Nature—or at least on her threshold—you have to give Nature a chance to flex her muscles, knit herself back together. As a result, a mere ten days before opening day, casting a glance to the left as we drove across the bridge into camp, we could see a great blue heron fishing on the shore of the Lower Lake, just opposite the aptly-placed “Moose Crossing” sign on Route 25A. Just a little farther on was a loon’s nest, the first we can ever remember seeing on our waters, with Mom and Dad Loon trading off incubation duties. Meanwhile, just across the waters slouched a sizeable beaver lodge, its gnawed rafters and roofing material deftly interwoven with a few standing trees to provide stability in what can be the swift currents of the Lower Lake. In counterpoint to the rumbling of the bridge planks as we drove over them, we could hear the deep croak of bullfrogs, different sizes of them sounding different notes. There were deer tracks on the sand of the Senior Beach, criss-crossing with the labored tracks of a snapping turtle, and as we drove up the hill to our cabin, we could see a skunk scuttling under the Big House—Gar, Win, and Dudley’s common residence in the summer of 1909, when they and their wives decided against a second summer in tents but before they decided that three married couples under one roof was two couples too many. Regarding the skunk, word had it that a red fox had been seen scuttling under the same porch a few days earlier. In other words, you can bring campers to camp, but the natural world and its denizens are thriving all the while. Even those boys who throw themselves into athletics more than into our nationally renowned Nature Program are better off for it. There’s nothing like waking in the morning to the sound of a loon’s call echoing eerily off the distant shore. If, for some reason, you were to doubt that, just ask the next Pemi camper you find yourself conversing with.

With those historical and natural prefaces out of the way, let’s get back to the Pemi present and the camp population. Shortly after our pizza and Hoodsie supper, we all headed down to the Lodge for the first Saturday-night campfire of the season. There had been intermittent showers all afternoon, so we elected to go for an inside version, although a roaring fire blazed in the fireplace at the northwestern end of the building and the feeling was cheery as the boys settled, cabin-by-cabin, on the floor. Staff impresarios Matt Kanovsky and Cole Valente got the show underway by introducing Junior Three counselor Nick Gordon, who told the charming old African tale of Anansi and how he came to be the first spider. Next up was Luke Larabie, one of the stars of last season’s Fourth of July vaudeville and hyper-solid chorus member of Iolanthe, who entertained the crowd with a brisk rendition of Oasis’s “Wonderwall.” (It was particularly good to see mention of a wall bringing an audience together in appreciation rather than dividing them in mistrust.)

Following Luke, Oscar Anderson came to the front of the room to demonstrate “How to Hold a Tennis Racquet.” If anyone thought this was going to be way of kicking off the sports season on the first possible day, it quickly emerged that Oscar’s aims were comic rather than athletic. Almost all of us had played enough tennis to realize that holding the racket as though he were strangling a chicken was not going to allow Oscar to drive a winner to any baseline corner in the State of New Hampshire. Even assistant Tristan Barton seemed perplexed as he fed Oscar balls, only to see them spray around the room like popcorn exploding from an lidless pot. More demonstrative of true hand-eye coordination was Carmen Facciobene’s riveting performance with the devil sticks, Carmen taking up where he left off last season with an incredibly deft, spinning and flipping, tour de force effort.

Next up was Nature Staffer Scout Brink (named, indeed, after the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird!), who read Richard Nelson’s moving short poem ‘The Island Within” as a tribute to the spiritually-settling community that is Camp Pemi. Scout was followed by four-year veteran Michaela Frank, who came forward with her tiny ukelele to offer a lovely rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” as modified and performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. In entertaining counterpoint to a mainland American channeling an inspired Hawaiian, first-year Scottish counselor Donald Turvill strapped on his guitar and delivered a cogent rendition of Johnny Cash’s signature “Folsom Prison Blues.” His performance reminded the older folks among us who were fans of Average White Band that being from north of Hadrian’s Wall doesn’t keep anyone from shredding American classics. Just to be sure that Donald wasn’t feeling as though working at Pemi was like being in the slammer, I asked him how the summer was going. He said he was having a terrific time.

Scout returned with another short poem—Joseph Wood Krutch’s “Man’s Ancient and Powerful Link to Nature”—a paean to the natural world that seemed just right, considering our sylvan setting. Danny Kerr and Tom Reed, Jr. next stepped into the spotlight, seriously inflating the average age of the performers. With Danny on guitar, they delivered Bob Dylan’s lyrical but enigmatic “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” in a way that somehow managed to get the audience singing along. Call it politeness or call it catching the spirit, the house sang along with the chorus with the tuneful gusto you might hear at a Grateful Dead concert. Following Danny and Tom and furthering the golden years trend was Larry Davis with “Huntin’ Lessons,” the classic Down East tale that Larry tells more and more colorfully every year. There wasn’t an un-enthralled eye in the house.

As always, we closed the evening’s festivities with Doc Reed’s classic “Campfire Song,” penned in the opening decades of the last century but still capturing the question we like to ask ourselves every night as, getting ready for bed, we run through the doings of the day: “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.” Timeless questions indeed, and perhaps seldom more urgent than now. Even as the last notes echoed in the old Lodge rafters, boys and their counselors filed thoughtfully out into the night, wending their ways back to the cabins what will be their homes for the coming weeks. It seemed like a good beginning.

With that, we’ll end this week’s edition, promising you in coming weeks accounts of the instructional program, various athletic events and wilderness outings, and special events. For now, let me just add that, two nights ago, we were treated to the most animated vocal sparring of barred owls we have ever heard. Oh, and earlier that day, a few of us spied a deer with her fawn and the first bald eagle of the summer. We think it was taking the measure of our early preparations for the Fourth of July.

–TRJR