Summer 2012: Final Newsletter, #8

It’s Tuesday, August 14th, and boy is it quiet here at Pemi! The sun is out, there’s a soft but steady breeze wafting down the lake, the grass has greened up after some Pemi Week showers – but there are about ten people, total, on camp grounds. Our 105th Reunion is coming up this weekend, with some 170 folks scheduled to attend, but we’re currently enjoying a brief lull between the regular season and that special alumni event. Many of the staff who will be helping out at week’s end are grabbing some much-deserved time off – some in Boston, some in Vermont, and a major group spearheaded by Jay and Andrew McChesney paddling down the Saco River from Conway NH to the state of Maine. So, all in all, it’s a perfect time to scribe the last Newsletter of the 2012 season.

It seems appropriate to begin with a toast Danny offered at our Final Awards Banquet last Thursday evening. It does a wonderful job reminiscing about many memorable aspects of the season – with appropriate gratitude for the inspiring and often selfless contributions of so many.

Danny offers a toast at Final Banquet

May I propose a toast…

Here’s to summer 2012 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 105th in Pemi’s proud history, a summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff, and as many as ten weeks ago for counselors attending the Wilderness First Aid Clinic, the Nature Clinic, or Life Guard Training Clinic. (We won’t even try to calculate how many weeks ago Zach Barnard began his summer.)

Here’s to a camp season that ends with days growing shorter and the first hints of autumn in the air, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.

Here’s to the 270 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond, campers from over twenty of these United States and twelve foreign countries; and here’s to the Chilean and United Arab Emirates flags that we added to our collection in the mess hall this summer, as well. Here’s to campers in their first year at Pemi and, yes, TH Pearson, here’s to a camper in his eighth.

Here’s to the dedicated counselor staff at Pemi in 2012, to the cabin counselors and AC’s who become family with the boys, to the program staff that teach them skills that will inspire them for a lifetime, and to the administrators who do their best to support and guide both the staff and the campers throughout the summer.

Here’s to the hard-working maintenance crew that Chris Jacobs leads so vigorously each day, allowing us safe access to this beautiful campus; to Heather Leeds and Kim Malcolm in the office (who never get enough credit), and here’s to Stacey Moore and her crew who confirmed for us what we hoped was true – that the days of delicious food cooked from scratch and fresh produce from the nearby farms of New Hampshire and Vermont can still a part of the Pemi dining experience.

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

Here’s to the wonderful program at Pemi and to Kenny Moore for keeping everyone moving in the right direction; here’s to Deb Pannell down in Art World, to Charlie Malcolm and all the coaches in the athletics program, to Tom Reed and the dozens of trips that head to the mountains each week, to maestro Ian Axness and the beautiful music we enjoy, to Larry Davis’s world-class nature program, to Jeff Greene and Boomer [the robotic ball feeder] and the thousands of tennis balls we hit each summer, and to all of the great things that happen down on the waterfront.

Here’s to the weather, so many beautiful days— long days with crisp mornings, blazing afternoons, and that peaceful golden haze across the pond at day’s closing that we never tire of stopping to admire. Here’s also to the thunderstorm on July 17th that gave a unique welcome to our new second-half campers and that left its mark on a tree outside the mess hall, a subtle reminder of the power of Mother Nature.

Here’s to athletic contests against our friendly rivals in the Baker Valley, contests hard-fought, the victories, the ones that got away, and of course, here’s to our Tecumseh Day victory (wow, did I just say that?) and to the celebration that ensued, not just here at camp, but throughout the ranks of Pemi alums scattered around the world.  And, thank you Charlie for so poetically explaining to us that the Hat “does not represent winning; it represents our journey together. You, Camp Pemigewassett, are the Hat….”

Here’s to the things that are so uniquely Pemi: leaning flag poles, Pink Polar Bear, the Pee-rade, saxophone on senior beach at sunset, FRB, distance swims, Woods Dude’s Day, dope stops, the Pemi Kid, and the everlasting quest to discover “What’s a bean?” And of course, here’s to Metal Boy (Tom’s personal creation) and to the wonderful mid-season performance this summer that he inspired. 

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we’re loud and we laugh at ourselves, Campfire when we’re creative and artistic, and Sunday Service when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as history at Pemi, the beauty and power of water, “tipping points,” life-changing travel experiences, and the notion that there are many ways to be a Pemi Kid.

But most importantly, here’s to the life-long friendships that are created each summer at Pemi – and to the reality that Pemi is a place where you will likely discover worthy passions to inspire you for the rest of your life.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2012.

Good luck, long life and joy!

Many aspects of the Banquet itself are rich in tradition and significance: the salute to the chefs (this year especially fervent given Stacey Moore’s wonderful success on the culinary front); the penultimate singing of “The Marching Song,” basically Pemi’s national anthem; the annual observation that, for all of the accomplishments celebrated at this “awards feast,” perhaps the most meaningful memento to be carried away is the simple triangular felt banner that each diner finds at his place (this year, obviously, “Pemi ’12”) signaling not a deed or an act or a victory over self or opponent – but simply being a member of a committed and supportive community. That said, each year’s “special awards,” voted on by the entire staff, bring the evening to an emotional conclusion in ways that will not soon be forgotten. Think Academy Awards, but about exemplary boys, and many of them totally off-script. We’re not sure we’ve ever shared all of the inscriptions, so it makes sense to offer them to you here, together with 2012’s “winners.”

Jivan Khakee and Jack Purcell

The Johnnie’s Medal, “For Dramatics,” went to Nick Gordon for his stellar rendition of the title character in the first-session Pemi-premiere musical, Metal Boy. Earning the Scott S. Withrow Gilbert and Sullivan Award for his lead in Pirates of Penzancewas Ezra Nugiel. And the third of the “performing arts awards” – Doc Reed’s Musician Trophy, “In memory of Doc Reed for . . . the camper who has contributed most to the music at Pemi” – recognized both Jivan Khakee (clarinet) and Jack Purcell (guitar).

Byron Lathi and Sam Grier

Sam Grier and Byron Lathi shared the Pemigewassett Competitive Swimming Trophy, “Awarded to that member of the team whose swimming ability, competitive spirit, and sportsmanship combine to make him a leader among his teammates.” The Pemigewassett Soccer Trophy, recognizing “that boy who has demonstrated the greatest command of the sport of soccer, exemplified by his interest, determination, ability, and sportsmanship, went to Pepe Periel and Jamie Nicholas. Al Fauver, iconic former director, read the inscription not only for the Swimming Trophy (Al was a star swimmer at Oberlin, one of the early collegians to adopt the butterfly stroke) but also for the Fauver Baseball Trophy, “In memory of Doc Gar and Doc Win and the competitive spirit exemplified by them”: the winner this season was Oscar Tubke-Davidson, star pitcher and hitter for the 12-and-under team. Culminating the athletic awards, as always, was the Counselors’ Athletic Trophy, “for fine sportsmanship and all-around athletic proficiency and interest.” This year, the award went to Thomas Bono and Patterson Malcolm. Surely one of the highlights of the evening was Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm reading his son’s name for this honor (after carefully recusing himself from all discussion.)

Caleb Tempro

It is not every summer that the Courage Award is granted. The inscription is as follows: “To the boy in camp who has displayed exceptional courage in overcoming pain, adversity, or self-doubt; in confronting danger to himself of his fellows; in standing by his convictions; or in defending the rights and convictions of others – and so has helped us all to find and draw upon our own reserves of inner strength as we meet the tests of life.” Bravery has always been very much in evidence at Pemi, whether it be facing a hurler with a wicked curve ball or a trail steeper than one thought possible. We have never thought this award, though, is about anything vaguely “routine,” even if it is something like coping with the pain of a broken bone. This year, however, marked the culmination of one wonderful camper’s multi-year journey from an all-consuming fear of deep water to becoming a valuable member of the competitive swimming team and ultimately “swimming his distance,” covering half the length of the lake in water over fifty feet deep. Caleb Tempro’s name was met with a palpable rush of recognition and appreciation.

Andrew Kanovsky, Phineas Walsh, and Hugh Jones

Every year, it’s truly remarkable how each of these special awards commands the rapt attention of the whole camp family – and how thunderous is the response not only to the naming of the recipients but also to that moment when the winners hang the plaques back on the wall in anticipation of next season. None of the honors, however, equal these last three in terms of communal impact and appreciation. They are not about physical skills – or easily-measurable deeds – or formally-calibrated acts. They are about character, and about the opportunities, both individual and communal, that any educational institution like Pemi holds closest to its heart. The Achievement Trophy reads “Inscribed each year hereon is the name of him who has made the greatest all-around achievement, measured by the dual consideration of distance gained and goal achieved.” Winners this year were Andrew Kanovsky and Phineas Walsh (Juniors), Nicholas Gordon (Lowers), Hugh Jones (Uppers), and JJ Murray (Seniors.) The Divisional Citizenship Trophy goes to “the best all-around citizen in each division whose generous and unselfish spirit gives success, happiness, and self-esteem to others.” (What greater gifts to others?) Singled out from a strong group of nominees for 2012 were Teddy Foley and Tate Suratt (Juniors), Nick Toldalagi (Lowers), Pepe Periel (Uppers), and Zach Leeds (Seniors.) And finally, the Founders’ Citizenship Trophy: “In memory of Doc Gar, Win, and Reed, on this trophy is inscribed each year the name of him who is considered to have contributed most to camp beyond the line of duty.” This year’s winner was in his fifth year at Pemi, coming to us all the way from Papua New Guinea. Unremittingly active, continually sunny, infallibly kind and considerate, Sompy Somp brought the house down when his name was read and he strode modestly to the front of the room. This was Pemi operating on a global scale, and a truly fitting ending to a festive and emotional occasion celebrating a banner Pemi year.

Finally, the promised review of Pirates of Penzance, submitted (as always) by Clive Bean, North Woods cousin of Clive Barnes and maven of all things cultural in the upper Baker Valley.

Folks in the theater world sometimes say that a shaky dress rehearsal augurs a great show. If you’d been in the Pemigewassett Opera House this past Monday evening, you might therefore have been moved to predict that Tuesday’s Opening would be a triumph. Either that or . . . total Armageddon.  That final practice session was about as smooth and professional as the Boston Red Sox season so far.  But, lo and behold, when the curtain parted on the day that really counted, what ensued was one of the most spirited and finished Gilbert and Sullivan productions in recent Pemi memory – maybe of all time.           

Ezra Nugiel and Dorin Dehls

Anchoring the show were Ezra Nugiel and Dorin Dehls as the romantic leads, Frederic and Mabel (well before Mabel started sneaking Splenda and flinging that silverware!)  Sterling performer in skirts in multiple past productions, Ezra stepped back into trousers with all the dramatic cachet and vocal deftness that Pemi audiences have come to expect of him. In make-up vaguely reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s in his own Pirates shows, Ezra convincingly and quickly won the tender heart of Dorin, who partnered him in the show’s set of lovely duets with truly professional finish.  Her acting, moreover, was consistently beyond the mark.           

Robert Loeser, Phineas Walsh, and Andre Altherr were wonderful as Mabel’s co-daughters of the paternally preternaturally prolific Major General Stanley, Edith, Kate, and Isabel. (Proof, incidentally, that a show CAN have its Kate and Edith too!) The trio handled their older sister’s idiosyncratic dating proclivities with real sensitivity and tact – and subsequently inspired the Penzance constabulary’s mortal combat with some convincing maidenly bloodlust. Back on the piratical side, John Stevenson was a highly effective Samuel, providing his seafaring bros the odd life preserver and dark lantern with all of the efficiency of a Victorian           

Henry Eisenhart

Pirates can’t work without a strong Ruth, and Henry Eisenhart played the none-too-bright piratical-maid-of-all-work with all of the daffy energy of Ben Walsh announcing cabin soccer matches. Henry is headed off to Australia for the coming year, and his remarkable knack for having fun in ladies’ clothing bodes well for his success in Brock Ellis’s upcoming Down Under revival of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – which, if you don’t know it, is about three Aussie Pemi Kids who decide it would be way cooler to be Bloomer Girls. Good luck, Henry. Just watch out for those rough lads in short shorts from Australian Rules Football.           

Robert Loeser, Larry Davis, and Andre Altherr

Returning to his role as the fiercely independent Pirate King, Larry Davis outdid himself with self-righteous bluster, liberally sprinkled with credulous simplicity. Veteran Major General Tom Reed, Jr. matched Larry in confusion and irritability in the show’s fabled “orphan/often” dialogue, the two college professors amply proving that having a PhD degree is no guarantee of an ability to communicate with any kind of clarity.           

One of the hallmarks of the Ian-Axness-era G&S is impeccable choral work, and both the “girls” and mens’ ensembles delivered themselves of sharp and engaging performances. Will Adams, Sam Berman, Richie Carchia, George Cooke, Jack Elvekrog, Hugh and Tucker Jones, Suraj Khakee, Ben Ridley, and Dash Slamowitz made it clear that, just because you slam Camp Tecumseh, that doesn’t mean you can’t look smashing in a dress. (Bridgid Ruf, by the way, was terrific as a girl – even though she didn’t have to pretend! Tra la la, tra lal la, tra la la la! The Wellesley Blue for me!) Meanwhile, on the x-chromosome side, Nick Bertrand, Ben Chaimberg, Teddy Farkas, Owen Felsher, Hugh Grey, Max Nugiel, Dylan O’Keefe, TH Pearson, Fred Seebeck, and Ian Steckler honored their tattoos, scars, and bandannas with bang-on cut-em-up performances.           


All this was wonderful. Positively stealing the show, though, was the chorus of Police, with Jamie Andrews, Bryce Grey, Pierce Haley, Dan Reed, Owen Ritter, and Dan Willard making poignant cowardice visible (and audible) in ways that haven’t been seen since Monty Python’s Brave Sir Robin “personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill.” Deftly orchestrating their lily-livered lunacy was Mike Plecha as their ‘beater-wearing Sergeant. There have been great Sergeants in the past, including Larry Davis and Fred Seebeck; but Mike inhabited this role like none before him. A flawless Cockney accent all but guarantees that, if Mike is ever in search of a job, all he needs to do is go on a crash diet and he can easily take over from the Geico gecko.      

Ian Axness and Owen Fried (page turner)

Special thanks go to many folks behind the scenes. To Zach Barnard for his exhaustive refurbishing of the sets and for all of his other tech and production work. To Dorin Dehls for indispensable direction assistance and vocal coaching. To Deborah Fauver for her sustained and generous work with costumes. To Penelope Reed Doob for her great sensitivity and wit in staging.  Top kudos and mega thanks, though, go to Ian Axness, as always the lynch pin to Pemi’s Gilbert and Sullivan productions as both musical director and pianist extraordinaire. This was Ian’s sixth show here – two Pinafore’s, two Mikado’s, and two Pirates. He has never been better at making sure everything happened when and as it had to, from casting the show through early rehearsals to the finished production. Given the state of the dress rehearsal we refer to at the top, he never had to be so patient. The proof, though, is in the pudding. And all of the top drama critics in the Greater Wentworth area agree that this was one of the best G&S shows in decades, if not since the original London production in 1880. Pour, o pour the private sherry.  It’s time to celebrate!

[Thank you Clive. May your sugar bush run copiously come March – and keep braking for moose!]

Well, it is time more broadly to celebrate a wonderful Pemi season, capped nicely by both the Tecumseh Day victory and the upcoming 105th. As we wait for the next set of cars to rumble across our bridge with their eager (and somewhat older) occupants this coming Friday, we also look forward to next June and July, when you, our gentle readers, bring your sons back to us for another season. In the mean time, enjoy having them back in the nest, thank you for your trust, and have a wonderful Fall.

— Tom and Danny




2012 Summer Newsletter: #7

As we sit in the Pemi “West Wing” this morning of August 6th, the truck from E&R Laundry is filling up with green camper bags and pink staff bags for the last laundering run of the summer. Hard to believe that the next time these Pemi shorts and T-shirts, these Smartwool and Champion socks, these Manchester United and Barcelona jerseys go in the wash  . . . it will likely be in your very own Maytags and Kenmores!

Time may be flying, but it’s a beautiful day in this little valley (after some much-needed rain last night) and, as always with “Pemi Week” stanzas, it will be filled to the brim with varied (and sometimes frenzied) activity. Lowers and Seniors are down at the beach locked into the Divisional Swimming Championships, in which almost every camper participates (many, we’d bet, secretly imagining themselves to be the next Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte.) Uppers are working through the middle rounds of their Tennis Tournament, and select Seniors will soon be out on the lake for the opening races of their Sailing Championship, taking advantage of the brisk north-westerly breeze that often accompanies clearing weather up here. Meanwhile, there’s a Junior Soccer Tournament unfolding as well, with all of Doc Nick’s wonders assigned to three teams for a spirited round-robin competition that begot thunderous applause when it was announced in the mess hall this morning. (Who, we wonder, will be today’s Clint Dempseys and Lionel Messis and Tim Howards?)

Grand Opening of the 2012 Art Show

This afternoon, Uppers and Juniors will don their jammers and head to the waterfront, many Lowers and Seniors will move to the tennis courts, other Lowers and Seniors will head to the soccer pitch, and the preliminary races of the Windsurfing Championship will get underway on the white-capped lake. Meanwhile, Deb Pannell, Dottie Reed, and Harry McGregor will have finished the installation in our Library of the Annual Pemigewassett Art Show – and then host the gala opening, complete with cornucopial cheese platter, fresh fruit, and delicious sparkling punch. (Everyone gets firsts. For seconds, you have to answer some searching trivia questions about the items on display!) Then, after an early supper, the G&S cast trundles down to the Lodge for the dress rehearsal of Pirates of Penzance, while Ryan Fauver hosts the rest of the camp in the Mess Hall for the second of this season’s Vaudeville Shows. Did we say we were busy this week?

Did we say we were busy last week? Advanced Caving Trip to Schoharie, New York, with Zach Leeds, Dan Bivona, Harry Cooke, Alex Baskin, Dylan O’Keefe, TH Pearson, Sompy Somp, Max Von Passchen, and Dan Reiff marveling at their subterranean adventures.

The annual trip to Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine (details below). Uppers 1 and 2 overnighting at Greenleaf Hut in the spectacular Franconia Range on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Florian Dietl, Daniel Bowes, Max Pagnucco, Charlie and Will Parsons, Julian Hernandez-Webster, and Hugh Grier joining staff members Peter Siegenthaler, Juan Gallardo, and Dan Reed for a spectacular traverse of the Presidential Range, staying at the recently renovated Madison Springs Hut. Richie Carchia, Owen Fried, Jack Wright, Alex Sheikh, Johnny Seebeck, Jamie Zusi, and Greg Nacheff tri-summiting Mt. Tripyramid on a (yes!) three-day. Simultaneously, some thirty miles west of them, Hugh Gray, Ben Chaimberg, Nate Blumenthal, Charlie Scott, Nat Healy, Patrick Sullivan, Jamie Nicholas, and Colin Alcus summiting Mt. Moosilauke on the same schedule. The entire Junior Camp on an afternoon field trip to the Science Center of New Hampshire on Squam Lake. A second geology field trip to Crawford Notch just west of the Presidentials (details below). The entire Lower camp headed off to Lebanon, NH for a pizza dinner followed by a viewing of Ice Age IV. (Remember? Before climate change?) The entire Upper Camp traveling to Manchester to take in an AA league baseball game (details below). The entire Senior Camp hosting the lasses from Camp Merriwood for an afternoon of sports, a barbecue on the beach, and a brief evening of what we are assured is still called “dancing.” The same lads, the next day, heading south for Hanover Day, with supper at that much-favored bistro “Everything but Anchovies” and a screening of Dark Knight Rising. All terrific fun, and great ways to side-step any possible feelings of let-down after our magnificent day against Tecumseh at the end of Week Five. By the time Saturday rolled around, with the annual Brad Jones Day and the thirtieth iteration of Games Day, everyone was ready for a sleep-in and an afternoon “at home.” Add to Saturday’s activities an evening showing of How to Train Your Dragon and Pemi Week was well off and running.

Now for some of the “details” promised above. First, we hear from Jamie Andrews who, together with Ben Walsh, led the trip up Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. They were joined on this always-memorable jaunt by Nathaniel Kaplan, Thompson Bain, Alex Baskin, Spencer Cain, Dan Reiff, Andreas Sheikh, Ben Stone, and TH Pearson (many of whom had just returned from caving!)

Mount Katahdin, a wilderness monolith at the end of the AT in Maine, is an arduous climb. It has tough bouldering sections, and long stretches of exposed trail making its traverse particularly dangerous in inclement weather. Due to these factors, Pemi’s group headed off any storm danger by starting our hike at seven AM, ascending the AT Hunt trail. With a cooling morning drizzle pattering on our heads, we quickly climbed the first few miles until we reached the aforementioned bouldering section. Without tree cover, a dragon’s spine of stone stretched out upon the ridge ahead of us. We adopted a slower pace, and eventually passed through the “gateway,” onto the flat terrace near the top of Katahdin. The weather cleared some, with the mountains behind us looking like islands jutting through a sea of clouds. Covering the last mile and a half through the flatter alpine zone, the Pemi boys made it to the top just in time to eat lunch and witness a group of thru-hikers complete their trek. With beards to their chests and 2,100 miles at their backs, the trekkers yelped and yodeled like the proverbial “Happy Wanderer,” celebrating their final ascension. We turned to head down after a hearty meal of crackers, ‘roni, and cheese, with the sun becoming fully uncovered for the first time in the day. We had heard of potential thunderstorms in the later afternoon, so we booked it down over the sharp ridge-top and back into tree cover. Feet sore from 10.4 miles and smiles wide from surprise trip-candy, we made it back to camp around four PM, ate delicious pepperoni-potato chowder, and drifted to sleep in our tents.

A truly memorable day! Now, here’s Deb Kure, super-mega-ultra-dynamic Associate Head of our Nature Program, who led last week the second of 2012’s outings to Mt. Willard (taking Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm along as a reward for his teams’ acceptable performance against Tecumseh. How cool is it, by the way, that any camp’s storied AD is the first to line up for a geologically-oriented Nature Trip?)

Crawford Notch

What? There’s a nine-mile, perfectly symmetrical U-shaped glacial valley in our White Mountains? One which campers are likely to see in their future geology textbooks? Time to pack a trail supper, load up the van, and hit the road!

Twice a summer in recent years, we’ve ventured out to “take a closer look” at Crawford Notch. Driving there via Franconia Notch and driving back over the Kancamagus Highway provides an ideal geology field trip route. Campers of all ages and interests have enjoyed the 1.6-mile walk to the cliff summit of Mt. Willard, at the north end of the Notch. The final approach is a memorable tree-arched path, with The View opening a little more with each step, until you’re on the edge of the precipice face-to-face with a glacier-bulldozed trough so symmetrical that it looks like a giant forested skateboard half-pipe. The Presidential Range forms the east wall of the Notch – with Mt. Washington sometimes visible in to the northeast – and the Willey Range forms the west wall. Weaker Conway granite allowed the more-than-one-mile-thick Continental ice sheet to gouge and scour a U-shaped valley, in between the resistant volcanic igneous and metamorphic rock of the ranges, 13,000 years ago. Seeing this natural wonder – and beginning to understand the prodigious forces and protracted time scale that led to its creation – is always something of a scientific and a spiritual education.

Great to have campers who consistently realize the artistic and scientific majesty of this view – and to be able to introduce them to the adventure and excitement of a field-based science!

And now for a national-pastime-oriented word from Danny, who spear-headed the Upper trip to Manchester – and is rumored to have thrown out the first pitch (although details of the deed have proven hard to come by!)

This past Thursday, August 2, the Upper Division campers asked their counselors to “take them out to the ballgame” and the counselors took them literally by putting the boys onto a Pemi bus and heading to the big city, Manchester, NH, to watch the Manchester Fisher Cats “play ball.” The ride to the Queen City was a smooth one, and the boys arrived in plenty of time to enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast at a guest tent in the stadium, featuring burgers, sausage, chicken, salad, and cookies – with an abundance of drink, as well.

As game time approached, the boys settled into their seats, directly behind home plate, to enjoy the contest. The Pemi lads showed their enthusiasm throughout, chanting the names of the Fisher Cats batters, starting a “wave,” and screaming in glee at every hit, of which there were many, as the game turned into a slugfest between the home team and the Erie Sea Wolves. In total, 31 hits were banged out in the eventual 9-7 Erie victory. A fun time was had by all, and we look forward to a return date in 2013!

And this brings us right up to yesterday. One of the highlights of Sunday morning was our weekly Meeting being focused on Pemi West, our mountain leadership program based in Washington State. Three of this year’s participants – “students” Dan Fulham and Nathan Tempro and staffer Dan Reed – treated the entire camp to a spectacular slideshow of their trip, accompanying their inspiring images with some riveting words about how well this kind of challenge can paradoxically forge both team-work and independent, individual growth in those lucky enough to be a part of it. We’ll be in touch this fall about 2013’s edition of PW, which will be open to motivated and adventurous16-, 17-, 18-year-olds, male or female, Pemi alums or not. Suffice it to say, though, that more than a few eyes were opened Sunday morning to the allure of this exciting wilderness adventure with a distinctive “Pemi stamp.”

That takes us close to our word limit (a coy way of saying it’s almost time for lunch – and we do get excited about lunch these days, given Stacey’s cuisine.) We’ll close with an extremely fresh bit of news coming from Zach Barnard, who teams with Henry Eisenhart (whose birthday is today!) as one of our two fine division heads in the Junior Camp. This treats the latest installment in our Big Guy/Little Guy mentoring initiative.

Senior and Junior buddies gather for s’mores

Yesterday evening, the Juniors and Seniors gathered around the newly created Junior Campfire Circle. Situated right on Junior Point, the circle overlooks the lake, sheltered from gusts of wind by the plants along the stream. Every Junior was paired with a Senior buddy, and to the tune of three or four s’mores each, the campers had a great time finding marshmallow roasting sticks and getting their hands and faces sticky. Everyone then quieted down and gathered around the fire together, Seniors sitting with their respective buddies. The counselors asked questions such as “What types of things do you do here that you don’t do at home?” and “What advice can you give to each other for the last week of camp?” The introspection and concern, as well as the thoughtfulness and maturity in so many of the answers, was awesome. We had a great time together, and we’re all looking forward to being together once again, next year!

We’ll close with that. Tune in next week for this year’s final missive, complete with Clive Bean’s annual review of our Gilbert and Sullivan production. Until then!

— Tom and Danny

Newsletter #6: “You are the hat”

In case you missed the news on Sports Center – or You Don’t Say – Pemi came out on top in this year’s day of competition against Camp Tecumseh, 11-8-1. Despite last summer’s tie, it’s our first aggregate victory since 1998, and it was deeply satisfying. (Ask your sons!) The wonderful result notwithstanding, Pemi is now “back to normal” as a place where athletics is only a part of the camp program: six overnight mountain trips are currently out, there is a Nature field trip to Crawford Notch planned for the afternoon, our annual Art Show is in preparation, and “Pirates” rehearsal starts in ten minutes. Nothing could have signaled our reversion to the norm more insistently than an act at Saturday night’s campfire when Owen Felsher and Ezra Nugiel teamed up in a stunning rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” with scores of campers and counselors singing along. Impresario Ian Axness leaned over to this correspondent and asked wryly, “Do you think they’re doing this very thing over at Tecumseh?” We guess not. ‘Nuf said. Here’s Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm’s account of the day.

Eleven days before our annual contest with Tecumseh, a group of second-half Pemi campers joined our full-season boys on the shores of Lower Baker.  As the hot, humid weather led to genuinely more laid-back preparation by the various teams, the camp played a series of local contests with some very mixed results.  As the week progressed, the weather cooled and the Seniors led cheers in the Mess Hall that eventually began to shake the very foundations of camp.  Last year, our Seniors provided dynamic leadership and Pemi’s competitive spirit suggested we no longer feared our opponent from the shores of Winnepesauke. Pemi scrapped and hustled their way to a 9-9-2 tie. The Hat remained at Tecumseh, but the experience made us all realize that victory was within our potential grasp.

This year, the day looked in jeopardy when the extended forecast and radar suggested a long series of storms passing through central New Hampshire.  At 6 AM, both camps decided to plow forward because the much-needed rain was pushing towards the coast just south of Pemi and Tecumseh.  The boys awoke at 6:30 AM to light rain and the thunderous cheers and music of our Seniors.  Kenny Moore, logistical master of all things Pemi, had the 11s, 12s, and 13s rolling to Tecumseh by 7:35 AM, crossing paths with our Tecumseh brethren in Ashland, a clear sign Pemi was moving with purpose.  When the buses arrived, Kenny gathered the boys and emphasized the importance of being good teammates, the length the day, and how to find a Tecumseh bathroom known as a “Widow.”

At Pemi the boys returned from breakfast and cleaned their cabins while the trip crew delivered water to the misty fields and I put the finishing touches on the baseball and soccer venues.  When Tecumseh arrived in their vans and yellow buses, they quietly met on the basketball courts to discuss the upcoming day.  The recent tie with Pemi had unnerved Tecumseh despite their winning 46 of 49 previous “days.”  Pemi Day is an incredibly important event for Tecumseh as it marks the last sporting event of the summer. Winning or retaining George Munger’s bronzed hat is perhaps for them the emotional equivalent of Pemi’s Final Banquet, a time of celebration and closure.   Far too often Pemi has been the main course of this athletic feast.

The Contests: Morning at Pemi

Suraj Khakee

Events at both camps started promptly at 9:30 AM, and the results instantly suggested this was going to be another competitive day.   At Pemi, the 10s baseball team locked into a pitcher’s duel as Suraj Khakee matched his Tecumseh counterpart with six shut-out innings.  Nick Holquist made two game-saving catches in right field against his former camp, and catcher Jamie Acocella held on to several foul tips to keep the game knotted at zero.  With the potential winning run on second, Pemi had a chance to clinch the game in the bottom of the sixth, when Suraj ripped a line drive over the bag that the Tecumseh third baseman snared for the final out of the contest.

While the 10s battled on the diamond, Jeff Greene’s 15s Tennis team jumped out to a 3-2 match lead as Ned Roosevelt and Andrew Coe won their single matches and the doubles team of Arthur Root and Florian Dietl won in a super tie-breaker.  At number one singles, Sam Davitt lost in a tie-breaker while doubles team of Dan Reiff and Oliver Kafka suffered the same fate.  Unfortunately, two matches had to be delayed until after lunch so that the baseball game could be started, with Pemi holding a 3-2 lead.  With their backs against the wall, Tecumseh subsequently won both matches to secure a much-needed 4-3 victory.

Morning at Tecumseh

Down in Moultonboro, the 13s swim team set the tone with an historic effort, setting four camp records on their way to a 29-26 victory.  In the 200 Medley Relay, Harry Tuttle, Colin Alcus, Sam Grier, and Alek Novikov took first with a blistering camp record 2:12.06.  After Alcus won the individual backstroke, Grier set another camp record when he took the 50 butterfly.  Pemi held a 25-20 lead heading into the final relay, with Pemi needing a clean race and a second place to win the meet.  Novokov, Tuttle, Oberlander, and Grier swam smartly, finishing second while also breaking another camp record.  

While the 13s swimmers triumphed in the water, the 12s soccer team, one of Pemi’s strongest this summer, was dismantled by an impressive Tecumseh side.  Patterson Malcolm and Owen Fried played particularly well in defeat, but Tecumseh was too fast and skilled, dominating central midfield and the pace of the game.   However, spirits were raised when Pemi’s 11s Tennis team made quick work of their opponents.  Coach Nugiel’s squad swept the singles with victories from Willie Noble, Matt Kanovsky, Gray Farley, and Timmy Coe.  Coe’s victory was particularly impressive because he fought back from a three-game deficit and won 8-6 in a tie-breaker.  The doubles teams of Jack Elverkrog/Luke Ackerman and Jakey Cronin/Aidan Griffiths delivered two more victories to power Pemi to an impressive 6-1 victory.

As Pemi and Tecumseh moved on to the second events of the morning at their respective camps, the weather miraculously held, and the score in events was an inspiring 2-2-1.  At Tecumseh, the 12s Tennis team pushed aside their considerable soccer disappointment and delivered a crucial momentum-changing effort.  After Carson Hill went down gallantly at number one singles 8-6, Jonah Roque and Nick Toldalagi won their single matches 8-1, while Robert Loeser fought off a tenacious challenger and won 8-6.  After Patterson Malcolm/Dylan Cheng and Ted Orben/Will Merhige both lost tight matches at doubles, the score was tied 3-3.  The third doubles team of Grant Noble/Grady Nance would decide the outcome.  The match was close throughout, with neither side gaining more than a one game advantage.  During the eventual tie-breaker, Pemi seized a 4-1 lead, only to have Tecumseh win the next two points to make the score 4-3.  With the court surrounded by dozen of nervous but enthusiastic fans, the Pemi boys stepped forward and delivered confident, aggressive net play with Grant Noble calmly putting away “a room service volley” to clinch the tiebreaker and a 4-3 12s victory.

Tyrrell Moore

The 11s baseball team ran into a cagey Tecumseh pitcher, Carson Fischer (former Pemi boy!), who shut out Pemi 3-0.  Jack Elvekrog pitched well in defeat, going the distance and giving up only one earned run.  A great defensive play by Ethan Elsaden kept the game close, but the Pemi bats never got hot enough in this contest.  Fortunately, the 13s soccer team kept their mojo going as Coach Walsh orchestrated an outstanding effort.  After several setbacks in previous matches, Coach Walsh scratched his formation and went with a more traditional 4-4-2.  Pemi scored 20 seconds into the contest, as Jamie Nicholas jumped on a poor clear and beat several players off the dribble before blasting a shot home.  With John Galbreath, Harry Tuttle, Graham Struthers, Colin Alcus, and Andrew Merrell holding down the defense, and Tecumseh running on fumes late in the first half, Nicholas went on the attack once again and drilled a well-placed shot to the side netting.   The second half was all Pemi, as Tyrrell Moore hit a bomb from 30 yards out that slipped under the bar. He would later score a second goal when he jumped on the rebound of a Charlie Scott shot and pushed it past the Tecumseh keeper for a convincing 4-0 victory!

Will Laycock

At Pemi, the 10s soccer team found themselves tied 0-0 at halftime, as both teams battled tenaciously at midfield.  Sasha Roberts was a masterful warrior at midfield, as he won the majority of his defensive challenges and played balls quickly to Pemi’s spry attack.  The defense of Jamie Acocella, Dean Elefante, Max Blohm, Henry Seebeck, and Frank Applebaum neutralized Tecumseh’s offense, buying Pemi crucial time to solve Tecumseh’s defensive riddle.  When Tecumseh’s man-child from California did blast a shot, Ben Ackerman made the save.  With Nick Holquist bombing down the left flank, and Kevin Miller and Scott Cook scrapping for balls at midfield, the offensive trio of Will Laycock, Ricky Trinca, and Spencer Hill turned the Tecumseh defense inside out.  First Hill beat two Tecumseh backs and pushed the puppy home.  The goal electrified the team, and moments later Laycock was sent in alone and courageously pushed the ball past the sliding keeper.  Finally, Trinca, with three Tecumseh players trying to thwart his attack, skillfully nudged the ball past the keeper as the adoring Pemi crowd went wild, the cheers echoing down the valley.


Because Pemi’s soccer and baseball fields are so close together, a given event’s momentum can impact a game in the immediate vicinity.  When the 10s Soccer team scored their first goal of the second half, right behind the senior diamond, a massive roar appeared to energize our 15s baseball team and to unnerve our opponent.  Each camp looked back to see Doc Nick’s little wonders taking it to our guests.  As the cheers reverberated, and the 10s dropped a second and third goal on Tecumseh, the 15s diamond warriors put Tecumseh under pressure.  Ned Roosevelt, a Tecumseh Day Gladiator who has pitched Pemi to victory on several other occasions, mowed Tecumseh down in order.  Henry Day led off the game with a walk, stole second base, and advanced to third on a Daniel Reiff single.  With the positive energy flowing in Pemi’s direction, the Tecumseh pitcher unleashed two wild pitches to plate Day and Reiff.  With Will Parsons on third after stealing second and advancing on a Sam Davitt single, Coach Blumenthal shrewdly orchestrated a textbook delayed double steal to take advantage of the general chaos, pushing home a critical third run.  With Tecumseh trying to get back in the game with runners on second and third and two outs, Pemi catcher Henry Day alertly picked off a “Happy Wandering” Tecumseh runner to crush a third inning rally.   In the final stanza, with Pemi holding a very vulnerable 3-1 lead and potentially-tying Tecumseh runners on first and second base and no outs, Rosie coolly struck out the next two batters and then induced a soft ground-out to third to end the game.  While Rosie delivered five quality innings, he was supported by great defensive plays by Zack Leeds, Will Parsons, and Alex Baskin to deliver a crucial victory for the “Flagship.”

The Afternoon

After the morning events, Pemi held a 6-3-1 lead.  It would take four victories out of the remaining ten contests to bring THE HAT back to Lower Baker.  Over my twenty plus years as Athletic Director, I have often witnessed Tecumseh’s impressive will to win come to the fore in the afternoon events; however, as we watched our boys compete in the morning, whether at Pemi or at Tecumseh, it was quite clear our momentum would not flag under the weight a potential victory.

At Tecumseh, Kenny gathered the boys together at the buses and looked to put them in a calm, focused state of mind for a much-needed rest hour.  “You heard the scores. Does that change our game plan? (The boys answered in unison, “no”.)  We need to maintain our focus and play loose and play together.  We did a great job supporting each other as teammates; let’s keep that up!  And remember what Charlie said. If you make a mistake, don’t worry, just make the next play simple and re-set your confidence.”   At Pemi, I met with the 10s and 15s in the dining hall after Tecumseh left for their shade in center field.  Without hearing about the scores at Tecumseh, the boys were told that we were doing very well, but that they had to be prepared for our guests to come out with everything they had in the opening moments of the ensuing contests. Support each other and “finish it!”

At Pemi, Afternoon Events

Jarrett Moore and Jeremy Roque

The 15s soccer team locked horns with a motivated, athletic squad of Tecumseh players who had a fresh bounce in their step after receiving the news that their tennis team had just triumphed.  Last year, their 15s crushed Pemi 7-0 in an awesome display of soccer domination.  From the opening whistle, it was clear that this match was going to be quite physical and competitive, as both teams challenged hard for every loose ball. Ben Chaimberg, Oliver Kafka, Zach Leeds, and TH Pearson led Pemi’s defense.  With Tecumseh’s attack under wraps for much of the first half, Pemi was able to mount several dangerous attacks.  Sam Davitt and Andrew Coe nearly connected midway through the first half. Later, Davitt was pushed down in the box just before receiving a wide open through ball, but the decision was no-foul.  With seven minutes to go in the half, Tecumseh received a well-deserved free kick from 35 yards out on the flank.  The Tecumseh player mishit the ball and the resulting spin bent the ball back towards the net, where Pemi goalie Nick Bertrand desperately tried to get back to his line and push the ball wide.  Bertrand got a hand on the ball, but Pemi was unable to clear the ball off the chalk. Pemi later pushed forward for the equalizer but could not get Jarrett Moore open or Sompy free on the flank.  We generated several free kicks and corners but failed to deliver the equalizer.  As the 15’s slowly walked to the waterfront, though, their spirits were buoyed by the news that the 10s tennis team had delivered a smashing victory, 5-2.  Spencer Hill set the tone in first singles with an 8-1 victory. Kevin Miller, Suraj Khakee, and Sasha Roberts followed with impressive single victories to give Pemi a commanding 4-0 lead.  Whit Courage and Scott Cook forced a tiebreaker and then put their opponents away 7-2 to provide Pemi with a 5-2 margin of victory.

At Tecumseh, Afternoon Events

Chris Schmidt

At Tecumseh, the afternoon started with the 11s soccer team falling 3-1 to a talented, deep squad from Tecumseh.  Timmy Coe played a brilliant game at midfield, while Luke Ackerman held down the defense in front of Andrew Kanovsky.  Up top, Willie Noble worked diligently to create opportunities, while Jakey Cronin orchestrated the attack, eventually scoring on a penalty kick late in the contest.  Of special note was Dash Slamowitz’s inspiring effort with his hustle and determination.  The 13s tennis team quickly built on their momentum from the morning with a dominating performance in tennis. Chris Schmidt, Charlie Harrison, and Jamie Nicholas won their singles matches convincingly, while the three doubles teams of the Duval Brothers, Graham Struthers/John Stevenson, and Will Harned/Jack O’Connor cruised to victory, pacing Pemi to a 6-1 decision.

The 12s baseball team, one of Pemi’s strongest, stepped up to the plate and dominated their opponent from the first pitch.  Pemi scored three runs in the top of the first with contact hitting and aggressive base-running.  Oscar Tubke-Davidson mowed down the Tecumseh batters, striking out 15 of 17 batters faced.  After adding single runs in the second and third innings to push the lead to 5-0, Pemi put the game away for good when Patterson Malcolm led off with a single, Oscar hit the first ball ever hit onto the porch of Munger Hall (can’t believe it was ruled a ground rule double!), and Jivan Khakee delivered a clutch double to drive them home.   Tecumseh mounted a comeback in the 6th inning, closing the gap to 8-2, with the bases loaded and two outs.  Coach Blair went to the bullpen, and Grady Nance punched out the last Tecumseh hitter for Pemi’s 16th strikeout of the day!

 The Final Events

A great day is achieved when it is only with the final events that the outcome is determined.  Pemi went 3-2 in the first afternoon events pushing their lead to 9-5-1.  We needed just one more victory to clinch the day.  Of the last five events, four were swimming, which was a fitting finale given that the Hat was first given in honor to Pemi because of their incredible improvement in the water in the summer of 1967.  Not many kids show up to camp as competitive swimmers, so the event measures a boy’s willingness to take on a challenge to help support the community.


At Pemi, we (thankfully) have no cell reception, so news from Tecumseh only passes through the office (Heather and Kim) where Tecumseh’s Mark Luff or I collect the results.  We are careful not to share the early results until we all meet in the dining hall, each of us wanting to protect the individual events from the weight of the day.  So the 10- and 15-and-unders did not know the score of the day or the outcome of events at Tecumseh, but they definitely knew that Pemi had a great chance to win.  The 15s swam incredibly hard, but eventually fell to a deep and talented Tecumseh swim team 29-26.  Hugh Grier won the 50 back stroke and Julian Hernanadez-Webster won the breast stroke to keep the meet close.  The free style team of Hugh Grier, Sompy Somp, Cole Valente, and Thompson Bain delivered a herculean effort and beat Tecumseh in the free relay by literally one inch.  Although the squad came up three points short, they provided an extraordinary effort and fantastic leadership for the 10-and-under swim team.

Frank Applebaum, Whit Courage, Coach Wallis

Doc Nick’s Wonders entered the final event of the day with a 2-0-1 record.  They attacked the water with confidence and provided Pemi a Hat-clinching effort.  The relay team of Max Blohm, Henry Seebeck, Frank Applebaum, and Whit Courage set the tone with a dominating first place in the Medley Relay.  Blohm would take a first in the back stroke while Seebeck and Finn Lincoln nailed a first and third in the back stroke.  Applebaum delivered a first place in the butterfly, with his form the envy of both coaching staffs.  With the Pemi community on the edge of the lake cheering our merboys in the final race of the day, the free relay team of Courage, Sasha Roberts, Spencer Hill, and Applebaum beat Tecumseh’s top quartet by half a second. Pemi’s second relay team of Kevin Miller, Lincoln, Scott Cook, and Blohm secured a third place, thus pushing the final score to Pemi 32, Tecumseh 22.  The scene on the beach was joyous for Pemi as the 15- and 10-and-unders celebrated when the final scores were announced.  With a 2-2 split in the afternoon events at Pemi, the Boys anxiously awaited news from Camp Tecumseh.

At Tecumseh, Final Events

News traveled quickly from Lower Baker to the waterfront of Tecumseh that the 10s tennis team had won their match, leaving Pemi one win shy of victory.  As the 11s and 12s swim teams and 13s baseball team headed into their final event, each boy and coach knew Pemi only needed one more victory to win the day.  The 13s baseball players ran into our rival’s best team.  Tecumseh jumped out to an early lead as timely hitting and porous Pemi defense sent our boys down to a 7-1 defeat in four innings.  Will DeTeso and Graham Struthers pitched well for Pemi, while the team received great hitting from Jamie Nicholas.

Byron Lathi

At the waterfront, the 11s and 12s swim teams knew they needed to win one event and swam their hearts out.  The 12s received great efforts from Noah Belinowiz, who anchored the relay teams, Dylan Cheng in the Butterfly, and Carson Hill in the Medley Relay, but Tecumseh’s squad was too deep and talented for Pemi and the boys fell 35-20.  In the 11s swimming meet, the teams remained virtually tied after the first two events, but then Pemi took first and third in the next three events to pull away.  In the Breast Stroke, Byron Lathi took first and Jack Elvekrog finished third.  In the Butterfly, Jeff McKee finished first, with Carter Franciskovich earning third.  Finally, in the individual Freestyle, Robbie McDonough finished first with Timmy Coe finishing third. In each race, Pemi’s depth delivered three crucial third place points that extended a 9-8 Pemi lead to 24-14 with two events remaining.  Pemi only need a second place finish to clinch the meet and the day.  The team of Robbie McDonough, Gray Farley, Timmy Coe, and Jeff McKee delivered that second, and everyone at the meet knew the day had been clinched.  All the boys sprinted from the waterfront to the 13s baseball game to share the news of victory.

The Celebration

“Celebrate at home,” reminds Ken.

As the 13s diamond match ended at Tecumseh, Kenny gathered the boys on the soccer field and emphasized the importance of sportsmanship, urging them to save the celebration for when we returned to Pemi.  As mentioned earlier, this day and the importance of winning is at the foundation of Tecumseh’s mission.  It was critical for the Pemi boys to respect their opponent.

As Pemi entered the unusually subdued Tecumseh Mess Hall, many of Tecumseh’s boys and staff individually congratulated Pemi before the outcome was announced.  After dinner, Tecumseh’s Director Jim Talbot thanked the athletes for a great day of competition, and Athletic Director Mike Dougherty announced the results and congratulated Pemi on their victory.  Legendary NFL athlete and former Athletic Director Jim Frazier talked about the history of the competition, and expressed his initial concern following last season’s tie. “Tecumseh was lucky to tie Pemi last year, but it was like giving the animal the scent for the kill.”  He later promised that Tecumseh would start preparing the very next day to re-take the Hat.

When it was Pemi’s turn to speak, Kenny encouraged all participants to remember that the Hat was first given in 1967 as a gift of friendship and respect from George Munger to Tom Reed, Sr. as a symbol recognizing the hard-work and determination of the Pemi teams.  Danny spoke to how the competition brought the best out in both camps and asked the Tecumseh boys a simple question.  “How many of you are better people at camp then you are at home?“  Every Tecumseh kid raised his hand, including Jim Frazier.  Danny then encouraged all the athletes to take these lessons and accomplishments home and to continue sharing these values.  After these final words, Jim Talbot handed the Hat to Pemi and both camps delivered their traditional raucous cheers of thanks and congratulations to each other.  And while the boys filed out of the mess hall, Kenny Moore grabbed the Hat from the table and started running for his Subaru Outback – to lead the Boys TRI-UMPH-ANTLTY back to Pemi at an appropriate speed!

Chef Stacey won for Pemi

At Pemi the campers and staff did not initially know the final numbers, but everyone felt what the outcome was likely to be.  Seniors hustled up to the dining hall to set tables as the rest of the community meandered slowly across the outfield.  After an outstanding dinner of steak, the whole Mess Hall – Pemi boys shoulder-to-shoulder with their Tecumseh peers – gave Chef Stacey and her team a standing ovation.  After Tom delivered Skittles to the tables that had successfully mastered everyone’s name, I began reading over the results from the day.  At the end, the tally was read: Pemi wins 11-8-1.  Mark Luff spoke first and celebrated the spirit of competition and paid homage to Tom Reed and George Munger for bringing this century-old tradition to the next level.  He spoke of the very same values that Danny spoke of in Tecumseh’s mess hall, and the importance of taking this level of class, sportsmanship, and heated competition beyond the White Mountains of summer camp to their future endeavors.  After Tecumseh gave Pemi a thunderous cheer, I spoke directly to Tecumseh’s seniors and shared how much the day had meant to me as a 15-year-old and how impressed I was with both their athletic accomplishments, but also how incredibly close they were as a group, even as the day turned south.  The Hat and the day of competition was always about coming together as a community, and if at the end of the day both camps have forged a stronger, more united community, the day had achieved its objective.  Pemi finished the day with a deafening cheer for their friends, the flag was lowered, and the boys of Winnepesauke got on the bus for the long ride home.

Best part of the day

When the Pemi buses arrived home – the best part of every Tecumseh Day – Kenny Moore rode in with his torso extending out of Outback’s sunroof and holding the Hat high in the air.  With the bus lights flashing and the horns honking, the Hat returned to Lower Baker for the first time in 14 years.  After ten minutes of one continuous hug and high five, the Pemi community gathered in the Lodge to bring closure to the day.  Danny called upon the 15-year-olds to celebrate their leadership and suggested that winning the Hat might be a decent habit to get into.  Danny passed me the Hat, and as I looked out at this community, it was clear that the experience was transformative. “This Hat does not represent winning; it represents our journey together.  You are the Hat….” Now the Hat has been placed in the rafters of the Lodge where the mythical Metal Boy had spent fourteen long years waiting for the lads of Lower Baker to rediscover the magic, and the joy, of that journey.


Enjoy a recap of Pemi vs Tecumseh on YouTube, created by Pemi alum Don Hyde of EVP Marketing and Media


Summer 2012: Newsletter #5

As promised, this week’s newsletter comes from Assistant Director Ken Moore, in charge of Pemi’s general program.

“The beauty of our programmed instructional time is that the boys become accustomed to making choices.”

Life is full of choices, and Pemi boys can speak firsthand about making thoughtful and good ones.  Each week, boys sit down with their counselor to sift through the upcoming occupation schedule.  They navigate through offerings in athletics, water activities, nature, music, and art.  They must choose among the twenty or so activity areas that are offered, and are required to make a choice for each hour.  “Should I keep working on my serve in tennis?”  “I’ve never water-skied, maybe I should try that?” “Larry mentioned some occupation called Wilderness Survival, which sounded pretty cool; maybe I’ll choose that.”  These are the questions the boys find themselves asking, as each of them independently chooses what he would like to pursue for the week ahead.  The beauty of our programmed instructional time is that the boys become accustomed to making choices.  Guided only slightly by his counselor, each boy is tasked with designing his own program.

Walking around camp during the 3rd hour of our fourth week of occupations, you gain a good sense of the choices available.  Head of Staff and basketball enthusiast, Dwight Dunston, opened up the 10s Basketball occupation by asking the boys the keys to winning a championship.  The responses were varied, but the boys eventually nailed his three keys: defense, lay-ups, and free throws.  Yesterday, the focus was on defense; today would be the fundamentals of lay-ups.  Dwight had the boys line up on the right side from the 3-point line extended. With a smooth fluid motion, boys took the necessary time to line up their lay-up to bounce off the backboard, using the square to guide their shot.  Ethan Elsaden and Kevin Miller showed extra focus by launching off of the left foot and using only the right hand.

On the archery range, Jon Belinowitz announced that he just hit his first bull’s eye.  Sasha Roberts added that he had just scored his first yellow shot, a 9 out of 10.  The boys left the shooting line to retrieve their arrows only after the appropriate “go ahead.” Safety is always paramount.  Instructor Adam Sandler reminded the boys about the procedures for removing an arrow from the target without ripping the fabric or damaging the arrow.  As they began to shoot again, the instructors gave individual attention to the boys’ stance, checking that their feet were a shoulder-width apart and that they had an upright posture and straight arm.  The combination of safety, strong instruction, and recognition of progress are hallmarks of Pemi’s commitment to our instructional program.

During this one particular hour of note, four nature occupations were meeting, exploring and discovering the world around us.  Deb Kure led the Animals and Animal Homes occupation, this week preparing the group for an upcoming trip to a porcupine den, now vacant in the summer months. Matthew Cornell and Will Olsen investigated the porcupine quills, eagerly awaiting more information from Deb.  Within a stone’s throw was Ponds and Streams, a classic nature offering that has been extremely popular this summer.  Each boy carried a net through the stream, actively seeking organisms native to the stream habitat.  Ty Avery uncovered a salamander, while Jack Wright and Will Noble caught water spiders.  The boys were eager to share their discoveries with the group, and intently listened to what the others had to say about their findings.  Inside the Nature Lodge Library, the Nature Drawing-Water Colors occupation was underway, led by Kristen Cole.  Music played to set a creative mood, helping the boys in find inspiration from their natural surroundings.  Michael Kelly colored a mountain scene reflected off of a pool of water, using high-quality water color pencils as his tools. Caleb Tempro, while canoeing earlier in the morning, had found a flower on Lower Baker Pond and began to trace its basic shape before painting in the details.  The final nature offering was the ever-popular Wild Foods, led by Larry.  This group was off-site collecting their next tasty ingredient for a delicious – and unusual – upcoming meal.

Going full tilt further down the camp road in J-Ville was Deb Pannel’s Art World, today focusing on African Mask making.  The boys, of all ages I might add, had constructed the basic frame of the mask using cardboard and were in the paper mache process when I stepped in.  Lots of unique artistic visages were taking shape before receiving the final coat of paint.  Henry Seebeck explained his design, as he chose to create a round nose, triangular mouth, and a yet to be decided eye.  Eli Brennan’s choice in eyes was clear –  only one – as his African Mask was a cyclops¸with a long nose and almost bunny-shaped ears.

In the Junior Lodge, Ryan Fauver and the Advanced Music Class were practicing their riffs.  This music occupation, like African Mask making, was a mixed-age activity with Senior Jarrett Moore on the drums, Lower Jivan Khakee on the clarinet, and Junior Nick Holquist on the trumpet.  The group listened to Freddie Hubbard’s piece “Red Clay” and made a game effort to emulate the patterns and the chord changes. The potential was clearly there for a hip performance at an upcoming vaudeville or campfire.

Just outside was the Knee/Wakeboarding occupation, one of Pemi’s most popular and sought-after activities.  Graham Struthers, on his second day on a wake-board, successfully stood up and traveled the full loop around the lake.  Devin Hohman showed improvement in jumping the wakes, a more advanced maneuver, and was very pleased with his progress.  Perhaps in an effort to beat the heat of this summer, windsurfing has become a close second to this last activity in terms of its popularity.  Alex Sheikh was caught grinning ear-to-ear while carrying his sail out of the water.  He commented on the strength necessary to pull the sail up and the balance and touch needed to surf properly.  He advanced on the learning curve every single day, explained Alex, who was clearly enjoying his time on what we used to call a sail board.

Back on land was Jeff Greene, our Head of Tennis, who had a small army of 12-year-old tennis players improving their net game in a version of King of the Court.  In a best-of-three-point challenge, partners needed to win two points while approaching the net.  If the winners, the Kings, held their court, a new duo would step up from behind to challenge.  If the Kings were unseated, those challengers would race to the other side of the court to take their rightful place as the new Kings.  This fast-moving activity allowed many boys to be involved and to improve an important skill to count amidst their tennis arsenal.

Seeing so many occupations underway during one hour demonstrates in a marked way the breadth of choices that Pemi boys have, and further highlights the importance of offering such a dynamic range of choices.  The campers were so engrossed in the great variety of options, and it’s even more impressive that each occupation was staffed by caring and knowledgeable instructors.  Each counselor was focused on creating a goal individualized for each boy, whether introducing a new activity or  concept or helping him master a previously discovered area of interest, and provided just the right amount of coaching to achieve that goal.

“We don’t know of many camps that do this, and it’s an initiative of which we are very proud.”

The passion of our instructors is evident to anyone lucky enough to see our full-time staff in action.  Occasionally, though, we are fortunate to have Visiting Professionals join our ranks to raise our already first-rate instruction to even greater heights. Some of these experts from the outside world can offer a week or more of their time to our program, while others offer singular afternoon events that leave the boys thirsty for more.

One wildly successful example was the Silk Painting Workshop held the past two Sunday afternoons by Zosia Livingstone-Peters. Zosia, a graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York with a focus in Fashion Design, has found great success bringing her workshop to elementary schools and wellness centers in Vermont.  The boys at Pemi love it as well, as it offers them the chance to experiment with different mediums while creating their own individual works of wearable art.  Many of the silk scarves will soon be traveling homeward as gifts for you lucky mothers.  [Ooops. Did we forget our spoiler alert?]

Jim Dehls, a Pemi boy from 1959-1965 and an Assistant Counselor in 1968¸added to our already stellar music staff earlier this summer, during Week 2.  Jim, a former high school choral and general music teacher, currently offers private piano and voice lessons as well as hospice music therapy.  During his stay with us, Jim worked with the Gilbert and Sullivan Pirates chorus, arranged and sang The Marching Song with the a cappella group, and created our first ever Drum Circle occupation, focusing on a variety of types of percussion instruments and non-conventional devices.  Jim’s love for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas began at Pemi in the early sixties, and they are something that still engage his time and sustain his interest.

During week three, Brian and Alison Mitchell visited, lending their hands to the Lacrosse and Diving programs respectively.  Brian, a soccer and lacrosse coach at the Boys Latin School in Baltimore, MD, and Alison, a former springboard diver at Virginia, combine their expertise with their love for Pemi.  The boys enjoyed learning the fundamentals of diving from Alison, working on the timing of their jump and the use of their hands for a smoother entry.

Trey Blair, one of the Varsity Baseball coaches at the Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville, has enhanced our baseball program over the past two weeks and is guiding our instruction for this week’s culminating five baseball match-ups against Camp Tecumseh.  Trey, a four-year standout player at Kenyon College, works with large, eager groups during the occupations and then offers individualized instruction after our structured occupations for those boys interested in learning the nuances of fielding, hitting, or pitching.

Finally, Susan Perabo, one of Tom Reed’s colleagues and Writer-in-Residence at Dickinson College, recently offered poetry workshops in the Library, inspiring the participants to lend apt words to their many varied experiences and perceptions at camp and in life generally. As always, getting the chance to meet with someone “new to camp” who nonetheless so clearly cares about their development as young and creative individuals offers the boys rewards that far surpass what they might have anticipated. We don’t know of many camps that do this, and it’s an initiative of which we are very proud.

That’s it for now. When your son returns home come mid-August, be sure to ask him for details about who’s been teaching him what – and what he’s learned. Better yet, ask him to play that Frankie Hubbard tune, demonstrate that change-up, or explain where he found that Luna moth or the natural dye for that wool.

Summer 2012: Newsletter #4

Tuesday, July 17. Changeover Day! Ninety first-session campers wrap up their 2012 seasons, and ninety eager second-session boys take their places. As David Byrne might say, “How did we get here (so quickly)?” A remarkable stretch of clear weather no doubt helped, as everything seems to go more quickly when the sun shines. But we trust that the proverbial speed with which tempus seems to fugare when you’re having a good time may have had something to do with it as well.

Moose Day

The last several days have been fraught with engaging activities. The world premiere of Metal Boy: The Musical graced the Pemi boards last Friday evening (on which see more below.) Saturday was Moosilauke Day, as we squared off against out storied rivals on Upper Baker Pond in a host of sports in multiple age groups. It was good to welcome the families of some of our full-season campers on this, the first of two visiting days. It was also good to prevail in the majority of the day’s contests, leaving Pemi with aggregate victories in all three of our first-session sports fixtures: Kingswood Day, Baker Valley Tournament Day, and Moose Day. Even more important though, as Danny pointed out in the Mess Hall that evening, was that the competition had been spirited and fair, and the sportsmanship flawless.

Saturday evening featured our weekly campfire, with numbers substantially augmented by our visitors. Fred Fauver and Tom Reed Jr. kicked things off with “The Lion Bitin’ Song,” with which their fathers Al and Tom had regaled the masses from the 1940s to the 1970s.  Having so many families there brought out scads of new camper acts, and more than one parent commented that s/he hadn’t known “Junior” had it in him to perform in front of 300 people. Such may be the impact, though, of our mantra, “Never be afraid to try something new.”

Counselor Hunt

The dreaded Annual Counselor Hunt, postponed from the Fourth of July, took place on Sunday afternoon, with many staff successfully flushed out of their hiding spots by fiercely intent camper/hunters – and many of them undertaking entertainingly ridiculous plunges from the high-dive as a “penalty” for being found. Top honors to Michael McKeand, braw Scots counselor of the Hill Tent, for being the first Pemi staffer ever to hide – and swim – in a kilt! That night, Head of Staff (and masterful maven of Pemi Improv) Dwight Dunston entertained – and moved – the community immensely with a wistful, wise, funny, and celebratory account of where Pemi fits into his remarkable life trajectory.

Birthday Banquet toast

Yesterday was the annual Tecumseh Track Meet, with over sixty of our campers traveling to Lake Winnepesauke for a Pemi-Tecumseh warm-up, followed by a sumptuous end-of session banquet, which doubled as a chance to celebrate the birthdays of all campers and staff whose natal anniversaries fall during the season. Chef Stacey’s turkey-with-all-the-fixin’s feast put the final touches on what has been nothing less than a brilliant five weeks as the new Pemi Escoffier. The program ended with Birthday Greetings from around the world and limericks for all of the celebrants, penned and voiced in the best Mead Hall style by resident bards Ian Axness, Peter Siegenthaler, and Dwight Dunston. Then it was down to the Lodge for first-session awards and the last Bean Soup of the stanza. As evening crept over our little valley, the spirit in the room couldn’t have been warmer, as we all relished our last moments together as a full group. To live together amiably for three and a half weeks is great in and of itself. To laugh together good-naturedly just makes it that much better. Thanks to Ian, Peter, and Dwight for making that laughter so infectious and easy.

What happened earlier in the week? Here are a few details, from various sources. First, from Paige Wallis, head of our Swimming Program:

Pemi Swimmers

On Tuesday July 10th, an eager group of Pemi swimmers made the trek over to Walt Whitman for that camp’s annual swim meet. Upon arrival, the Pemi team prepared to jump in and warm up in Walt Whitman’s outdoor pool, located just yards away from their lake. The meet consisted of a Free Relay, four individual strokes, and finished with a Medley Relay. The 11s Free Relay team of Nick Carter, Diego Periel, Teddy Foley, and Isaac Sonnenfeldt put up the first points for Pemi. Throughout the afternoon, Pemi continued to compete with great sportsmanship and speed. The 15s Free Relay team consisting of Jamie Marshman, Jackson Seniff, Nick Pennebacker, and Sompy Somp amazed the Pemi coaches with their velocity in the water. Robert Cecil glided through the H2O with ease and precision, winning Pemi points in the 13s Freestyle, Backstroke, and Medley Relay. Jack and Nick Carter brought a great energy to the11s team and tied for first in the Butterfly. The 15s Medley Relay was the final event of the day. Alex Baskin, Nick Pennebacker, Sompy Somp, and Jamie Marshman came in second, fighting hard against a skilled Walt Whitman team. There was lots of hard work and energy from Pemi team, and by the end of the day Pemi came out on top with a 178 point win! Great work, Pemi swimmers!!!

Now, let’s hear from Jonathan Merrin, Head of Archery. (Will you be able to tell from his language, we wonder, that Jon hails from Merry Old England?)

Pemi attended the Silver 25th-anniversary Robin Hood Invitational Archery tournament on the 13th of July. Even though it may have seemed a less than auspicious date for a Pemi to take on a old rival, our band of top archers set off, come what may, on their quest to claim a victory against formidable competition from a brace of other camps.

Our bold and daring band took the line for their battle with great gusto. With words of encouragement and a Pemi cheer for luck still ringing in their ears, they launched their arrows with deadly accuracy.  They acquitted themselves with the honour and valor of knights – nicely balanced by the dignity and humility befitting Pemi Kids.  To come in third out of five camps, falling only to Robin Hood and Lanakila (in whose programs archery plays a substantially greater role than in ours), they shot with a steely determination befitting champions.

To be sure, Pemi’s leaders were right up there with the tournament’s best. With sheer skill and unwavering concentration, Kai Soderberg came in second in his 12-and-under age category, narrowly dropping a championship shoot-out with a score of 255. Following that, Nathaniel Kaplan’s stunning score of 277 set a new record high tally for Pemi, garnering him sixth place on Robin Hood’s storied all-time Wall of Fame. We mustn’t forget two rising stars in Thomas Bono and Hugh Jones, who had only been doing archery for a week before their first competition. Those who saw their high standard of performance after such a short apprenticeship won’t soon forget it.

Alas, after a long day, Pemi’s brightest could not bring the trophy home, but we acquitted ourselves with distinction, setting a new benchmark and firing hope for future attempts at the title with our rising young stars.

Next, this word from Track Coach Dwight Dunston:

This past Wednesday, July 11, 2012, marked the annual Baker Valley Tournament Track and Field Invitational, hosted by Pemi. After a short Rest Hour, our boys set out to the track, thoroughly sun-screened and well hydrated for what would prove to be a successful day. Camps Moosilauke, Walt Whitman, and Kingswood arrived with their athletes in tip-top shape and ready to compete, which meant that Pemi’s task of holding on to the title as reigning champion of the meet would not be an easy one.

For the 11-and-Under age group, Diego Periel, Whit Stahl, and Reed Cecil got the day started off on a good foot, posting top times in the 60m dash, coming in 1st, 3rd, and 4th, respectively. Stahl then turned around and placed 4th in the 400m dash, while teammates Will Moore and Nick Carter captured 2nd and 3rd. In the shot put, Periel and Quinn McConnaughey showed their strength by coming in 1st and 3rd. Ben Burnham and Will Moore showed off their springs by coming in 2nd and 4th in the long jump, and Jackson Smith and Tate Suratt leapt to 2nd and 4th place finishes in the high jump. Pemi swept the mile, with Carter, McConnaughey, Cecil, and Stahl coming in the top four positions. 

The 13-and-Under crew got out to a strong start, finishing 1st and 3rd in the 60m dash behind the speed of Andrew Merrell and Dylan Cheng. In the 400m dash, Nick Todalagi captured second out of the fast heat. In the mile, Patterson Malcolm came out strong, finishing second, and teammate Pepe Periel finished four seconds behind him to capture 3rd.  Periel turned around and grabbed 2nd in the high jump, while Jack Elvekrog garnered 4th. Ben Ross, Patterson Malcolm, and Ezra Nugiel finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively, in the long jump, and Robert Cecil and Dylan Cheng finished 3rd and 4th in the shot put.

Perhaps the story of the day came from our Seniors, who certainly led the rest of the camp from the front. In the mile, Pemi pushed the pack, with Ben Chaimberg, Dylan O’Keefe, and Nick Bertrand coming in 1st, 3rd, and 4th. Chaimberg would go on to win the 60m dash and the 400m as well (a very impressive feat indeed!), with John-Henry Bahr finishing 3rd in the 60m and Jackson Seniff finishing 4th in the 400m. Bahr would later show he had more than speed by winning the shot put, with J.J. Murray Jr. finishing 2nd. Jack Cathcart and Dylan O’Keefe finished 3rd and 4th in the long jump. Pemi then swept the high jump in the order of Bertrand, Barr, O’Keefe, and Chaimberg.

 At the end of the day, Pemi managed to gather enough points to win the track meet and retain the title for one more year. We are now looking forward to our next meet, which will be this Monday at Tecumseh. Congratulations to all of the boys who participated. Can’t wait to see what you accomplish next!    

Gramps, Metal Boy, and Pemi Counselor

Finally, in case you missed Saturday’s review in the Times, Friday’s world premiere of Metal Boy: The Musical lived up to every kilowatt of the advanced hype. For those of you who don’t know the quirky story on which Ian Axness’s show is based, it involves a little metal camper (we get ‘em here more often than you’d think!) who risks terminal rust in order to help his Pemi teammates win our annual athletic day with Camp Tecumseh. As fate would have it, the story itself has always ended with Tecumseh Day being just two weeks off  — and the narrator enjoining Pemi to “Use every day!” in preparation. Lo and behold, this year’s battles with Tecumseh come exactly two weeks after show night, so an odd cosmic propriety seems to have been in place. Interviewed by the videographer after the show (see the interviews here, on YouTube), Ian was heard to say that the story’s vision of an artistically crafted humanoid who turns out to be a fiercely-competitive athlete appealed to his sense of Pemi’s programmatic hybridity. Similarly, staging a dramatic tour de force such as Metal Boy even partially in order to spur Pemi’s real, flesh-and-blood athletes to greater effort and determination seems a wonderful blend of the Athenian and the Spartan. But back to the show.

Ian’s libretto was based on the trilogy of Metal Boy stories scribed by Tom Reed Jr. towards the start of the last decade. The music Ian culled from a variety of Pemi songs, Gilbert and Sullivan tunes from last year’s Mikado and this year’s Pirates, and two numbers from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Staging involved a clever black-box design by Zach Barnard, who also masterminded all other aspect of the production. We mentioned some of the cast in a previous newsletter, but suffice it to say that Metal Boy’s “Fellow Campers” Dan Bivona, Harry Cooke, Jack Davini, James Minzesheimer, Bill O’Leary, and Jackson Welsh turned in performances worthy of Tony consideration, while “Juniors” Jacob Berk, Brady Chilson, Matt Edlin, and Spencer O’Brien came through as the true infant prodigy kids they are. Lucas Jansky was hilarious as Skin-Bag (so named because that’s the way real boys evidently look to a guy with a steel epidermis), his best number being one in which he explains to Metal Boy the difference between a Squish House and a Pagoda. Peter Siegenthaler narrated with the finish of a James Earl Jones. Harry Eifler was brilliant as the ostentatious yet ever-so-slightly-cynical Counselor (type casting?), while Bridgid Ruf and Austin Blumenfeld played Mom and Dad with the warmth and wisdom of June and Ward Cleaver. Tom Reed Jr., played Gramps like the doddering old man he is, while Larry Davis played himself with a total self-immersion that would have taken Stanislavsky’s breath away. Appropriately stealing the show, however, was MB himself, realized with assured musicality and remarkable dramatic flair by Nick Gordon. He brought tears to more than one spectator’s eyes, and to a few cast members’ as well. (Fortunately, that was the way it was supposed to be!) The production was a double-header, with the curtain rising at 7PM and then again at 8, and when the second show closed with a standing ovation, it was clear something truly remarkable had taken place. If you’re interested in a DVD, let us know!

Well, that about does it for now. Stay tuned for next week’s number, when Assistant Director Ken Moore will review some highlights of Pemi’s diverse Occupations program. Until then, we hope you all enjoy cool and clement weather. Thanks to all the boys who made the first half of the 2012 season such a success. We miss you already, and look forward to the next time we meet.

— Tom and Danny

Summer 2012: Newsletter #3

Greetings again from our snug little valley, where a remarkable run of good weather has allowed all areas of the camp program to run at maximum capacity and with maximum benefit. Athletics are thriving, with Pemi compiling an admirable 16-11-7 record in the first ever Baker Valley Tournament Day last Saturday, featuring round-robin contests in all five age groups. We’ve now sent out five standard extended backpacking trips, three jaunts to the high-mountain hits of the Appalachian Mountain Club (with another slated for tomorrow), and are ramping up for next week’s five-day canoeing expedition to the Allagash Waterway in Maine (not to mention 30-odd trips of a more local nature.) Drama and music got off to a terrific start with the Fourth of July Pee-rade and old-time Vaudeville Show, and rehearsals continue apace for Friday’s world premiere of Metal Boy: The Musical. As for Nature, sign-ups for occupations haven’t been this robust in years, thanks to the ever-renewed and –evolving efforts of Larry Davis and Deb Kure.

Speaking of Nature, we thought this would be a good time to hear from Larry on the Instructional Clinic he runs every June, a unique national training program that he inaugurated some years back and that puts Pemi at the forefront of the camping world’s commitment to environmental education. As you read the following description, we’re sure you’ll have no trouble imagining how staff members who have been fortunate enough to participate in this clinic can inspire your sons with a profound appreciation and knowledge of the natural world in which they find themselves. Over to Larry!

As many of you know, Pemigewassett runs a preseason, 5½-day-long “Nature Instruction Clinic” for staff members from Pemi and other camps, and for students (as part of their programs) at the University of New Haven. As this was the 20th year for the clinic, I thought that I would use this space to tell you a bit about it—how it came to be, what we do, and how it benefits Pemi, the participants, other camps, and the children who are taught by our participants.

Nature Clinic History

In 1992, former Director Rob Grabill, former Associate Nature Head Russ Brummer, and I attended the International Camping Congress in Toronto. We were there to present a workshop entitled, “Building a Camp Nature Program: 12 Keys to Success.” Our “keys” were divided into two groups, the institutional framework and the program structure. As examples, two of the institutional framework “keys” were, “The Directors must provide philosophical and financial support for the program” and “There must be a permanent facility of the program—even if it is only a corner in a larger building.” Two of the program structure keys were, “The program must be rigorous; the activities must have some educational substance to them and not be just meaningless games.” and “The program must be demonstrably as ‘prestigious’ as other major camp training programs in terms of access to camp facilities and vehicles, type and level of awards, and place in such all-camp activities as color wars, individual achievement awards, and so on.” We were prepared for an audience of 30 or 35 and were very surprised when over 100 showed up. People were sitting in the aisles and standing against the walls. The questions following our presentation clearly indicated that we had struck a chord. One that was frequently repeated, both at the session and during informal “corridor” discussions throughout the rest of the meeting was, “You’ve said that there must be ‘a well-trained and enthusiastic staff.’ Where can we find these people?” This got us thinking and we looked to see what was “out there.” The answer was “not much.” So, we decided that we needed to do it ourselves – and the “Camp Pemigewassett Nature Instruction Clinic” was born.

Our basic idea, still in place, was not to train people to duplicate our nature program, but rather to give them the tools that they needed to create a nature program suited to their own camp, its setting, its clientele, and its overall program structure. We thought that contact with nature played an important part in childhood development and that a camp was the ideal place to provide it. Of course, since then, Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods has put a national spotlight on this idea, and with the increase in electronic “entertainment,” the role of camps in providing access to nature is even more crucial. Beyond that, we hoped to spread the good word about nature study. After all, we reasoned, we can only reach a small number of boys here at Pemi each summer. However, by training others, we could magnify this number many fold.

The basic objectives of the clinic, established from the outset, were to: 1) help the participants become familiar with the flora and fauna of northern New England, 2) show them how to plan and execute lessons for teaching about nature and natural history, in the outdoors, and 3) familiarize them with the resources available to help them with their teaching. These might include books, state and federal agencies (such as the U.S. Geological Survey or NASA), non-profits (Audubon Societies), and museums or science centers.

The first clinic was in 1993. Russ Brummer and I taught it and we had 11 participants. Two were from Pemi and nine from other camps. Since then, we’ve taught it every year, adding current Associate Head of Nature Programs, Deb Kure, in 2009. Not so coincidentally, Deb was a participant in that first clinic and so now, as an instructor, has come full circle.

The 20th Annual Nature Instruction Clinic

This years’ clinic, the 20th, took place on June 10-15 with Russ, Deb, and me instructing. We had 14 attendees, which is the most ever. There were two from Pemi, four UNH undergraduate and two graduate students, and six from other camps. One of those camps, nearby Walt Whitman, sent a participant to our very first clinic and has had participants periodically since.

Nature Clinic participants, 2012

As I said earlier, the clinic’s objectives are to introduce the participants to the local natural history, to teach them how to teach about it, and to show them the resources that are out there to help them in their teaching. We break the clinic up into two halves. For the first days, we focus on the natural history. We do this mostly in the field, modeling some of the teaching techniques that we’ll be talking about later and introducing the participants to the resources that we’ve used to create our lesson plans. The second half of the clinic focuses on teaching. Here, too, it is “hands-on,” as they have to create and teach an actual lesson with the rest of us being the “campers.” They also will create and build a display as an example of how you can teach without actually being there. Both of these activities further serve to introduce them to the area’s natural history and to the resources available to help them with their teaching.

The Clinic Schedule

Here is an example of a day’s activities, as listed in the schedule:

Tuesday (June 12)

Early Morning (6:30-7:30 AM)           

Tweet, Tweet: Birding with Russ


Creepy Crawlies: Workshop on Insect Ecology, Collection, and Preparation


A Colorful Feast: Wild Foods and Natural Dyes

Field Walk and Cooking Lesson (Wild Foods)

Nature Crafts, Natural Dyes (Demonstration and Activity)


Rocks and More: Workshop on Rock and Mineral Activities, Weird Science Stargazing, Nature Drawing and Journals, and More Students will participate in these activities.

The pace is fast and the schedule is intense. In fact, the participants this year nicknamed it “Nature Boot Camp.” It also takes up an entire week. This is very different from other pre-camp instruction clinics such as lifeguarding or archery instruction or sailing. These last only 2 or 3 days. Even the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mountain Leadership School lasts only 4 days. I think, however, that we need this much time even to begin to reach our objectives.

While space and time (and I’m probably stretching your patience too) do not allow a detailed discussion of what happens each day, I’d like to enlarge upon a few of these activities.

Sunday Evening: In the Dark

Nighttime can be scary or entrancing. There are new sounds, new sensations, colors fade, shapes loom out of the dark. We want kids to be comfortable in the dark and fascinated by it. We really start the clinic in earnest with this night walk. We get out the bat detector and listen to the bats use their sonar to chase a tennis ball or moth. We watch the female fireflies signal for mates and the males answer. Each species has its own unique “Morse code.” Some females, however, will also mimic the flashes of another species, lure the males to them, then eat them—true “femme fatales.” There is a constant chorus of frogs—at this time of year, mostly the chirps of grey tree frogs. Occasionally there is the plucked banjo call of the green frog or the “jug-o-rum” of a bull frog. Russ imitates the call of the Barred Owl (“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? Hawwwwww, hawwww”. They are highly territorial and will call back to defend their territory. We look at the flashes generated when one bites into wintergreen lifesavers and by scratching two pieces of smoky quartz together. All of these activities can be used to safely introduce children to the wonders of nature at night. The two hours fly by and then it is time for bed.

Tuesday Afternoon: A Colorful Feast

Collecting plants to create natural dye

Many children think that nature is just for nerds. What we need is a “hook” to catch them and reel them in. Two great hooks are wild foods and natural dyes. On this afternoon we do both, collecting plants to eat and collecting plants to dye wool that can then be used for weaving or other nature crafts. These can also be powerful tools to introduce children to where their food and clothing comes from. We try to show our participants sure-fire, and safe, plants to use. We also try to show them how to deliver a message about how hard the Native Americans had to work to keep themselves fed. These activities can also be combined with gardening or raising animals (they do this at some camps). This year we had deep-fried black locust flowers, milkweed shoots and unopened flowers (yes, you can eat milkweed if you change the water frequently while cooking it), wintergreen tea, yellow wood-sorrel, and indian cucumber root (these last two are trail-side nibbles).

Wednesday Afternoon: All Together in the Field

This is the “capstone” of the first half (the natural history half) of the clinic. We spend the entire afternoon walking the trail around Quincy Bog in Rumney, NH. The bog is formed by beavers. Their dams and lodges are clearly visible as is their recent (the night before?) work. It is a fantastic ecosystem, and the trail moves up and down through hardwood forest and bog. There are even rock outcrops. It is a perfect summation of all we have done before; a chance to review what we’ve seen; a chance to discuss some of the teaching techniques that we have been demonstrating. I should note that this excursion is a recent innovation. It is only the third year that we’ve done it, and we had to expand the length of the clinic by a half-day in order to include it. It was suggested by one of my UNH graduate students Yi-chen Luk who said, “Why isn’t there a…?” It was truly one of those moments where you think, “This is so obvious, why haven’t we been doing it?” and we made the change the next year. By the way, Yi-chen completed his Masters degree and has gone on to a career in outdoor education. He currently works at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Wednesday Evening and Thursday: Putting it Together; Getting Ready; Trying it Out

Wednesday evening marks the start of the teaching part of the clinic. We introduce the participants to the concept of a lesson plan, explain why it is needed, and do a simple exercise that shows how one is written and executed.  The next day (Thursday) we break the participants into four groups and ask them to plan a new lesson. The “rules” are that it must last 50 minutes, it must deal with a “natural” subject, it must be taught mostly outdoors, and it has to stand alone (i.e., not be part of a multi-day series). The students also need to select an age group to which they will be teaching the lesson. The entire morning is devoted to preparing the plan. The groups have access to all of the resources in our 1,000-volume nature library, and Deb, Russ, and I circulate to answer questions and help out where we can. One of the things that we have to keep emphasizing is that games and activities must serve the objectives of the plan and not the other way around. It is very tempting to find a great game and put it first.

In the afternoon, each group teaches its plan while everyone else acts as campers. After each presentation we ask, first the teachers, then the other participants, then Deb, Russ, and I, to comment on what went well and what they would do differently next time. This year, we had two different approaches to learning about leaves and trees, one about ponds and streams, and one about sensory awareness on the trail. This last had the memorable activity, “Who is a naturalist?” As the kids shouted out answers about who and what a naturalist was, one of the “instructors” was busy writing on a white board, but no one could see what she was writing. When it was revealed, the answer was “YOU!” This activity is probably the most important thing that we do. Everyone finds out how hard teaching is and how hard it is to plan and execute a lesson plan. It is a humbling experience, but the participants also finish feeling empowered because they know what to expect and what they need to do.

Thursday Evening and Friday: Teaching When You’re Not There and HELP!

Displays with flip-up cards

Because we had such a large group this year, we had our final lesson plan presentation on Thursday evening, before retiring to a well-deserved campfire and s’mores feast. On Friday morning, we repeated the exercise, but with displays. These are ways to teach when no one is there. (It’s how museums work). It is also a way to familiarize everyone with the resources that are available to them. Each group spends the morning (and part of the afternoon) working on a project which, when completed, is evaluated in the same way as the lesson plans (“What worked?, “What would you do differently?,” “What could be improved?”). This year we had a habitat map of camp with fold-up cards that showed “What lives where,” a model bat and a model wolf spider with cards that discussed different parts and different activities, and a do-it-yourself food web game that allowed the user to connect different parts of the food web here at camp. We finish with a brief discussion of resources available, including museums, organizations, state and federal agencies, and more. We try to make this as specific as possible based on the camps and locations that our participants come from. The last thing is filling out the evaluation form (this is where we first saw the idea of expanding the clinic ), the awarding of completion certificates, and hugs all around for a job well done and new friends made.

What are the Benefits of the Nature Instruction Clinic?

The clinic has both direct and indirect benefits. Pemi campers benefit from it because we use it to train our own nature staff. Our regular preseason is jam-packed with workshops on child development, training on behavior management, discussions of safety issues and risk management, and lots of work preparing camp for the campers. There is little time for in-depth discussion of specific program teaching techniques such as we do in the clinic. By the way, it’s worth mentioning that many Pemi staffers attend other specialty clinics during the pre-preseason. These are taking place at the same time as our clinic. Indirectly Pemi campers benefit because we (Deb, Russ, and I) are forced to constantly think about how we run our own program, and constantly read about new approaches and new techniques. It keeps us on our toes and prevents things from becoming stale.

Of course, campers at other camps and in other settings benefit in the same way from the training that their instructors have received. This sometimes goes well beyond camps as several of our participants have chosen careers in outdoor education, at least partially because of the experiences that they had at the clinic. These include our own Deb Kure who went on from that first 1993 clinic to teach at, among other places, the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, and who now teaches afterschool outdoor science programs for inner city students in Austin, Texas, through Camp Fire USA.

Finally, the clinic itself may serve as a model for similar clinics that could be developed elsewhere. This year, Rob Bixler, Associate Professor of Recreation and Tourism at Clemson University, attended the clinic as an observer. He, I, and some of his colleagues at science centers are in the process of preparing a National Science Foundation grant proposal (under their “informal science” program) that would provide funds for developing a template and testing it out. This could truly spread the benefits to a much, much wider audience.

~ Larry Davis




Summer 2012: Newsletter #2

It’s Monday afternoon, July 2nd – sunny, breezy, and warm – and Pemi sports teams are currently off at Camps Moosilauke and Walt Whitman competing in 11’s Basketball, 13’s Tennis, and 15’s Ultimate Frisbee (that most Utopian of games.) This comes on the heels of Kingswood Day last Saturday, when we enjoyed a full eight hours of competition with another of our good neighbors. Strangely reminiscent of last year’s Tecumseh experience, the day ended with Pemi winning seven contests and dropping seven others, but we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we’d put out our best efforts with very little practice time, all the while maintaining the highest level of sportsmanship.

Pemi’s Trip Program has been taking advantage of a recent run of good weather. Four cabins have now spent the night at the Adirondack shelter up on Pemi Hill, eight have travelled by canoe across the lake to dine at Flat Rock or Pine Forest, and a spate of expeditions have ventured into the neighboring mountains either on day hikes or overnights. One of the first of the latter involved Juniors 5 and 6 and J-Tent on a first-ever Pemi trip to the oxymoronically-named Flat Mountain, situated just above the Pemigewassett River in Campton.  (What’s next? Dry River? Rising Hollow?) Led by former U. S. Forest Ranger and now Pemi driver Reed Harrigan, the group of twenty-three visited the site of an 18th-century farm on what had once been clear ground overlooking Cannon Mountain and the Franconia Range. All that remains are the 50-by-80-foot stone foundation of the barn and the smaller cellar-hole of the house, topped by massive granite sills that honestly look like they belong at Stonehenge. As Reed explained both about granite quarrying methods and historical changes in New Hampshire agriculture that might have led to the abandonment of the site, Brooks Valentine sought to budge one of the sills, to no noticeable avail. Keep eating your oatmeal, Brooks. We are truly lucky to have Reed on the staff, though, and to walk with him in the woods, tasting lemonade-tangy wood sorrel or learning how to make toothbrushes from yellow birch sprigs, is to feel like you’ve somehow hooked up with Daniel Boone.

AT hikers, who walked back to camp today

Currently, Lower Two is walking by Greeley Ponds in the Waterville Range en route to their Mad River campsite, led by veteran trip counselor Jamie Andrews and fellow “trippie” Richard Komson (both of them veterans of Pemi West, on which more in a later number). Tomorrow they will scale the formidable East Peak of Mt. Osceola and then move along the high ridge to the main summit, commanding views of dozens of surrounding four-thousand-footers before descending to the trailhead. Meanwhile, a select group of Juniors is tackling a five-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, staying at the Ore Hill tent-site in the middle of a sugar bush before walking back into camp in time for tomorrow’s lunch. (The AT crosses Pemi’s land at the other end of the pond, and one of the consistent times we re-establish delightful contact with “the olden days” is when, as with this group, an overnight can end with a walking re-entry into camp. Time was when our trips to the high Whites began with a four-mile hike to the train station in Wentworth for steam passage to Franconia Notch – and ended with the reverse. Try as we might be tempted to, we are no longer made of such stern stuff.)

Wednesday, of course, is the Fourth of July, when we will sleep in an extra half hour to celebrate the vigor and vitality of our great country. We’ll then relish the annually extravagant Pee-rade and all that follows. (Details to come.) Thursday and Friday, though, we’ll hit the road again with two trips to the Presidential Range and Larry Davis’s Beginning Caving Trip to Schoharie, New York – where the boys will stay with Larry’s world-famous caver-sister, Emily Mobley. Meanwhile, back east, eight intrepid seniors will join Tom Scarff and Danny Kerr (!!!) as they head to Lakes-of-the-Clouds AMC Hut, high on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. Friday, after a shot at a Polar Bear dip in an arctic tarn, they’ll cross the Northern summits in time to make it back to camp for Taps. Simultaneously, another eight boys will accompany Ian Steckler and Reed Harrigan as they cover the same route in the opposite direction, staying at Madison Springs Hut at the extreme north of the range. Significantly, summiting Mts. Madison and Adams will give Reed membership in the famed Four-Thousand-Foot Club, as he’ll then have climbed all 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks. The inspirational value for everyone at camp should be considerable.

The last trip we’ll mention for now is the annual “Bookends” night at the Pemi shelter, undertaken by the very youngest and the very oldest boys in camp, in tandem.  One of the most-longstanding formal components in our Old Guy Young Guy mentorship scheme that includes two Junior-Senior Campfires per season, this fun event was one of the benefits of the good weather at the end of last week. Here is a brief account, written by Junior 1 counselor and Division Head Zach Barnard.

Led by the rugged but refined Peter Siegenthaler [Lake Tent Counselor], along with the Lake Tent trio of Harry Cooke. Oliver Kafka, and T. H. Pearson, the first “bookends” trip of the season was a success on many levels. Ben Ballman, Mac Hadden, Jack Linnartz, Nick Paris, Harrison Tillou, and Jake Waxman, the nine-year-old residents of Junior 1 and the Junior buddies of the Lake Tent trio, thoroughly enjoyed their first night away from the creature comforts of J1. Spending the night in an Adirondack shelter half a mile up the hill from the Junior Camp, all twelve of us relished s’mores around a campfire, fun stories, and some reading by T. H. just before bed. We slept soundly, awoken only by the pitter-patter of rain during the night, and eventually by the crackling of the morning fire made by Peter. Eating a breakfast of fire-toasted bagels and yogurt bars, we welcomed a new day under the canopy of as the fog rolled in, dew dripping from the leaves all around us. The magic of Pemi Hill will continue to live within us all – young and “old” – for a long time to come.

Sunday, we made a slight adjustment in our regular schedule to allow for an evening screening in the Lodge of the Finals of the EuroCup between Spain and Italy. If the 4-0 Spanish victory was a disappointment for fans who wanted to see an even match, it was hardly that for Pemi’s bona fide Spanish contingent, Diego and Pepe Periel, Julian Navarro, and Javier Ibanez. Swayed perhaps by the enthusiasm of this Iberian quartet, the crowd seemed to favor the muchachos in rojo. Displaced to the morning by this international set-piece was Danny Kerr’s Sunday Meeting on the many ways one can be a Pemi Kid. The alum of a neighboring camp with which Pemi has always had a wonderful relationship, Danny reminisced about how he had always thought we were a sports camp – considerate, respectful, and sportsmanlike to be sure, but hard-charging, well-drilled, and competitive. It didn’t take him long, though, to realize that Pemi is more than that, and that this is a place where sports, nature study, the arts, and outdoor adventure are all respected and practiced in equal measure. Beyond the core values of community, inclusiveness, and independence, having the courage and support to try new things is key to a rich summer on Lower Baker. If there are four legs to the “program chair” at Pemi, “balance” is doing one’s best to be grounded in all four areas. Aptly, Danny invited two of our oldest campers to share their thoughts on the remarkable range of boys who feel they belong here – and what they end up doing.

First to speak was eight-year veteran Harry Cook: When you see the iconic “Pemi Kid”atop the blue or white attire of young campers, you somehow imagine this figure (who was invented in 1919) to be athletic. His stance suggests he is sprinting, steadily with “pep and speed,” and his clothing features those high soccer socks. However, to be the “Pemi Kid” that Danny described, you do not require his athletic ability. There are plenty of camps up here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, yet this small blonde guy from New York City (yours truly) who doesn’t really like sports wouldn’t necessarily be heading to Lake Winnepesauke to join our table-banging cousins from Tecumseh, where athletics are the major theme. Instead, this lad would be heading to Lower Baker Pond where, instead of kicking a soccer ball across the pitch, he could be following Larry Davis’s Tree Walk across the campus. Pemi is a place where nature, music, art, and trips do not necessarily overshadow sports – but play an equal role alongside one another in encompassing the wonder of Camp Pemi. Where else could I have taken an occupation in Wild Foods, learned to sail, performed in Gilbert and Sullivan shows and campfires, and participated in sound painting? One important feature of the Pemi kid that is often neglected is the broad smile plastered across his face. If you have that smile on your face, whether you get it after scoring a well-maneuvered goal or finally getting up on waterskis, YOU indeed are the Pemi Kid. 

Harry was followed by T. H. Pearson, currently in his eighth season with us: When I first came to Pemi, I expected to only play sports – and maybe go on a few hikes. At that time, I didn’t know that Pemi was a wonderful place to seize new opportunities and try new things. At first, I mostly played sports and headed off into the mountains to hike. But then I noticed some of my cabin-mates had signed up for sailing occupations and seemed to be enjoying it. This intrigued me, and I signed up for beginning sailing. Little did I know that I would soon fall in love with being out on the water. It was amazing to me that no one judged me when I capsized or when I didn’t rig the boat properly. It was a safe environment to learn in, and I loved it. After learning the ropes here at Pemi, I started sailing with my dad outside of camp, and eventually sailed with him down to Bermuda. Now I also love banging around in Hobie Cats in the Chesapeake. Trying new things at Pemi helped me find my passion.

T. H. is not alone in having first come to Pemi for sports. Nor, obviously, is he alone in finding that by pushing himself a little bit beyond his comfort zone, he could find a previously unexplored activity to enjoy for the rest of his life. Music and dramatics are two areas that Pemi boys are often drawn to only after they hit our shores, some notable examples being Hollywood casting director Billy Hopkins (We Need to Talk about Kevin, Precious, Good Will Hunting), actor Jon Bernthal (The Pacific, The Walking Dead), and even music educator and light operatic performer Jim Dehls, back with us for the current week as a visiting professional teaching world drumming, a capella, and music appreciation. Appropriately, long-time staff member Dorin Dehls, Jim’s daughter, is cast as Mabel in this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Pirates of Penzance – along with campers John Stevenson as Samuel, Ezra Nugiel as Frederic, Robert Loeser as Edith, and Andre Altherr as Isabel. In the chorus are a number of boys who will be in their first Pemi production, perhaps their first production ever! Be sure to book early for this year’s performances on August 7th and 8th and you may see the next Olivier or Kevin Kline on his way up.

Sharing honors on Pemi’s Great White Way for the first half-session is a world-premiere production of Metal Boy:  The Musical, brain-child of Ian Axness, Peter Siegenthaler, and Zach Barnard – as suggested by an unlikely story written some years back by one of your current correspondents. It’s a tale of commitment and courage, splashed with a liberal wash of rust, Tecumseh Day, and rural absurdism, and rumor has it that Justin Bieber is already bidding for the film rights. For now, though, the title role will be played by Nick Gordon, with Lucas Janszky as Skin-bag (don’t ask!), and Dan Bivona, Harry Cooke, Jack Davini, James Minzesheimer, Bill O’Leary, and Jackson Welsh as fellow campers – and introducing Jacob Berk, Brady Chilson, Matt Edlin, and Spencer O’Brien as Juniors. Rehearsals start today (as we type this!), and the show opens on Friday the 13th of July. More to come.

Well, we guess there are other things we might have mentioned in reviewing the past week, but we’ll leave it at this. Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Fourth of July. We look forward to being back in touch with you all same time next week.

— Tom and Danny


Summer 2012: Newsletter #1

It’s 10 in the morning, Tuesday, June 26th, and we’re now well into the third full day of Pemi’s 105th season. As we sit here in the “West Wing,” the sound of Owen Fried working through Pachelbel’s Canon under the attentive ear of Ian Axness drifts into the room, as Owen preps to perform at an upcoming Sunday meeting. Out on the courts, Jeff Greene and his staff run the twenty boys in tennis occupation through some lively drills – and off the lake come the sounds of Sunfish slapping through choppy waves while the ski-boat tows a wake-boarder through the same. All’s as it should be, despite some pesky gray weather we’re expecting to clear in a day or so.

2012 staff on Mt. Cardigan, preseason

It was good seeing many of you on Saturday as you dropped your boys off on Opening Day. That day’s showers actually broke a mild drought we’d experienced during staff training week so, on balance, it was okay to see Jupiter Pluvius roll back into our valley to green things up again. By Saturday, the staff was anything but green, having been through a week plus of orientation – and certification in everything from Red Cross Lifeguarding to Wilderness First Aid. We’re really excited about the group of young men and women who will be looking after your sons this summer, and hasten to refer you to the blog post detailing their backgrounds and interests.

One of the most gratifying developments so far is the quality and quantity of food coming out of the Pemi kitchen. We’re delighted to have hired a new chef, Stacey Saville-Moore from Richmond, Kentucky and she and her crew are most definitely living up to the Michelin-guide-style reviews that came from her references. The initial acid-test of any Pemi kitchen is, of course, the pizza turned out on opening night, and Stacey’s was right up there with Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. Stacey also pleasantly surprised us by lining up a source for the traditional first-night dessert – Hood Rockets. We’d been told they’d finally gone the way of the Edsel, but Stacey proved us wrong. She’s already confessed to loving this place. We’re already thinking we’re reciprocating.

Henry Eisenhart and Harrison Green

Saturday’s evening program featured our inaugural campfire, thankfully held outdoors as the skies cleared and left the pond laced with drifting mist fired to glowing pastels as the sun dropped in the west. First on the playlist was a spirited, all-hands-on-deck round about the Chicago Fire of 1871, featuring blood-curdlingly loud yells of “Fire, Fire, Fire!” Campers Phineas Walsh and Andre Altherr then calmed the crowd with a guitar solo of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and an old British ballad, respectively. They were followed by a staff trio of Bridgid Ruf (also on mandolin), Zach Barnard, and Dorin Dehls with a stealthily-philosophical number about multiple voices becoming “one.” Ben Ballman stepped up boldly on his first Pemi day ever with a riddle that tested the geometrical acumen of the average camper, and then Robert Loeser returned triumphantly to the virtual microphone with an unaccompanied cover of “Somebody to Love” that left this correspondent sockless. In pursuit of his one-man campaign to preserve 90’s indie rock, AC Harry Eifler then brought in Peter Siegenthaler to accompany him on guitar on “The Aeroplane over the Sea” (“Oh, yeah,” you’re all saying to yourselves, “the song by Neutral Milk Hotel.”) After some quotable quotes from Jeff Greene on the importance of play and playfulness, a lakeside sax improvisation Henry Eisenhart (age twenty-two) and Harrison Green (age ten), and our annual visit from Maurice Gagnon, world-champion moose-caller (who, if truth be told, always looks suspiciously like Nature Director Larry Davis), it was “The Campfire Song,” back to the cabins, and a cozy tuck-in to freshly made beds as the crescent moon dropped quietly over Pemi Hill.

Sunday dawned brilliantly, as more than a few of your boys awoke to what may have been the unusual stimuli of the sun pouring directly through an open window or doorway onto their pillows – and dozens of birds testing their chirps as they stretched their wings in trees mere feet away. A live bugle rendition of “Reveille” finished the job (thanks to Ryan Fauver in the Upper camp and Teddy Farkas in the Junior), and then it was a few calisthenics and into the pond for the season’s first polar bear dip. A busy day followed: swim tests, health checks, weight checks, all-camp photo, cabin photos (on both of which more later), letters home, team practices, group-building scavenger hunts, and 2012’s first free swim. Stacey and her crew get Sunday afternoons off, so supper was a cook-out run by the division heads, with the whole camp spread out on the lawns in front of the messhall. Trip Counselor Richard Komson played DJ, and more than a few barbecue chefs, food-servers, crowd-managers, and diners were seen to prance and gyrate to the likes of Freddy Mercury, The Boss, and the Supremes. Timeless stuff – and rock-solid fun for young and old (no pun intended). The first Sunday meeting honored our more personal past, with a look back at the first two generations of Pemi directors and the qualities that helped them make this camp what it is – all of which we hope were presented to the night’s audience as things that campers might find it worthwhile (and possible!) to emulate.  True history out of the way, the evening ended with a recently-recovered, seven-minute, b&w silent movie assembled here in the ’40s and ’50s – “Foolish Flashes” – depicting Pemi in ways more reminiscent of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin than the current camp recruiting video. Ask your sons for details – but the message (if there was one) is that one of the more underappreciated ways to guarantee that you accomplish something in life is not always to take yourself too seriously.

Helping, as always, with the task of greasing the skids of institutional progress with the lubricant of laughter was last night’s first reading of Bean Soup, now in its 103rd year as the opinion leader of Pemigewassett. A crowd of 240 gathered in the Lodge at 7:30 in the evening, eagerly awaiting the arrival of this year’s editors, Ian Axness and Peter Siegenthaler. When these two strode to the front of the room and mounted the table that is the traditional bully pulpit, no one was disappointed: BS got off to one of the strongest starts we can recall. We’ll spare you the details for now, confident that some of you will seize the opportunity to read the thing itself when it arrives at your homes next December, all tastefully printed and bound. If, that is, you can wrest the copy from your enthralled sons. (BTW, will Bean Soup ever be distributed for Kindle and Nook, we wonder? And are the Four Docs rolling in their graves even as we ask that question?) Suffice it to say that one of the most memorable features of the evening was a part of an initiative this year to enhance opportunities for leadership for our oldest campers. Halfway through the Soup, Ian and Peter invited Lake Tent denizen Harry Cooke to join them for the week’s “Senior Moment.” Harry delivered himself of a masterpiece of terse whimsy involving (of course) life-searching questions about pagodas and their placement – serving notice, in the process, that he himself is very likely to be a Bean Soup editor before too very long.

That brings us up to this morning – and, as we wrap this missive, we’re pleased to say that not a drop of rain has fallen in the whole forenoon. The forecast for the end of the week is a good one, and plans are already afoot to get some Lower and Upper Intermediate backpacking trips into the mountains on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Speaking of mountains, participants in Pemi West, our mountain leadership program in Olympic National Park, arrive in Port Angeles this afternoon, joining leaders Evan Jewett, Dan Reed, and David Paolella for what will surely be a transformative experience in their young lives. We half wish we could join Dan Fulham, Peter Montante, Alexander Dietl, Sam Papel, Nathan Tempro, and Sam Harrigan as they shoulder their packs and head off towards Mount Olympus. Then again, there’s plenty that’s equally exciting going on here. Stay tuned for further details.

— Tom and Danny