#4: “Things to Look For!”

2018: Newsletter #4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAVING 2018 

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

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

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

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

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

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

15’s SOCCER VS MOOSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

–TRJR

 

 

 

 

Alumni Newsletter – 2018 Preview

Welcome to the next installment of the Pemigewassett Alumni Newsletter. In this edition, we will preview the upcoming summer giving one and all an update on the 2018 Pemi campers, staff, and facility.

Campers

Our camper population in 2018 demonstrates another healthy year of enrollment. We are so fortunate to have Alumni and current families share Pemi through word of mouth, and we love meeting prospective families during our Winter Open Houses and visits to their homes.

New Pemi Lacrosse Jerseys

For the 2018 season, we have 88 full season campers, which is a recent record number of full season boys. A total of 166 boys will attend Pemi in either the first session or second session. All told, 254 boys will attend Pemi this summer. 76 boys, or 30% of the camper population, will be at Pemi for their first summer. On the veteran side of things, 26 boys will receive their Five-Year-Bowl this summer and 21 boys climb the ranks to their 6th, 7th, or 8th summer.

Geographically, campers travel to Pemi from nine countries: Spain, China, Germany, France, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, and 28 of the United States. Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee return to the list in 2018. Six states boast double-digit numbers of campers, including the Granite State with 19 boys. Our campers hail from 140 different cities and 209 different schools. We are proud of our geographic diversity, fulfilling the Campfire Song lyric of a group of the nations best.

Staff

We are thrilled with the staff for the 2018 summer. Stay tuned to the Pemi blog over the next few days, as staff members introduce themselves. Before getting those details, here is a big picture look at our staff.

The classic color remains.

Many of Pemi’s program heads are returning including Chris Johnson (year five!) in Tennis, Steve Clare in Archery, and Charlotte Jones in Swimming. We love that continuity, yet also enjoy the energy and direction that a new Head of Wooshop, Brian Tompkins, and Music, Jonathan Verge, will provide for us this summer.

In the cabins, 18 of the 22 cabin counselors were once Pemi boys and 17 of them have previous experience on the staff. We anticipate strong leadership from our Division Heads, three of whom return from last summer. All four trip counselors return from last summer to help our new Head of Trips launch his tenure. That’s right, after 42 years of running the Trip Program, Tom Reed handed his clipboard to son, Dan, who will help a new generation of Pemi boys explore the mountains and rivers of New Hampshire.

A strong group of Assistant Counselors, including ten former campers (seven are Pemi West veterans) provide more than adequate coverage in our cabins and programs. Those who know the inner workings of Pemi understand how vital the ACs are to the success of a Pemi season. While Pemi West is on a year hiatus, we are pleased to report that the Counselor Apprentice Program (CAP) continues with six participants. Led by Ben Walsh, these CAPs are a glimpse of our future counselors.

Buildings and Grounds Update

Maiden voyage in Lucky!

Another busy year for the Buildings and Grounds team as Pemi continues to enhance its facility while camp is not in session. Throughout the winter and spring, Reed Harrigan and his hardworking crew spent countless hours first stripping away the paint from the Mess Hall tables and applying a fresh, durable, extra tough, and glossy paint in the familiar turquoise. These will surely make the block game faster without the need for salt!

After years of service to Pemigewassett, we retired the DockSide, Pemi’s tried and true Safety Boat. Now, a 13ft Boston Whaler with bimini will patrol the sailboats, canoes, and kayaks. All current and former Safety Boat drivers will rejoice over the ease of starting and maneuvering our new boat, aptly named Lucky! Also on the waterfront, the brand new high dive will grace the shores of Senior Beach. Climbing the ten-foot ladder provides a wonderful birds-eye view of camp. The height is impressive and may give the counselors second thoughts about their aerobatics during the counselor hunt.

HIGH Dive!

A few other additions dot the landscape, including a hefty addition to the weight room. The increased space and new equipment will allow for counselors to continue training for high school and college sports seasons. In the library, we have installed a new two-stall bathroom for women and guests, replacing the outdated one stall design. These new toilets are composting, furthering Pemi’s green efforts. Down in Junior Camp above the Junior field and nestled into Pemi Hill is a new staff cabin. The Moore family are the first inhabitants, and Winston (aged 9 months) likes it so much he’s slept through the night for the first time.

Good luck, long life, and joy! –Kenny

Pemi 101 – The ‘What-is-it?’ Contest

The ‘What-is-it?’ Contest is a daily contest sponsored by the staff of the Nature Lodge that challenges campers and staff to identify a specific specimen from nature. The item could be a rock, plant, or butterfly, etc. and it is the job of the respondent to submit the best answer possible.

How to participate?

Located right in the center of the Nature Lodge, ‘What-is-it?’ occupies the end of a table. On the table are little slips of paper, small, golf-sized pencils, and a brilliant red birdhouse. Your task? Look at the day’s specimen and try to identify it. Write your name, cabin number, and your guess on the slip, fold it up, and place it inside the red birdhouse. At some unknown time after taps, the Nature staff retrieves all of the submissions and records the guesses.

Overnight, the Nature staff will replace the specimen with a new one and reveal the answer from the previous day on an index card. Participants are encouraged to return to check to see if their guess was accurate from the day before AND to guess what the new specimen is. This process repeats itself every day but Sunday, and the system gives participants immediate feedback; you will know if your guess was correct within 24 hours.

Points are awarded for participation (1 point), general answers (2-4 points), more specific-on the right path (4-5 points), and finally the ultimate correct answer (6-7 points). Participants who continue with the contest accrue points daily and, after each session, winners are announced for the highest score in each division. The prize? A Nature Award featuring a stunning framed collage of natural specimens that you take home. You also get your name listed in Bean Soup; infamy for the ages!

What-is-it Rules?

The rules are simple. You may use any resource (books, displays, etc) in the Nature Lodge except for the Nature Lodge staff. In fact, you may not ask anyone else for help and must find the answer on your own. The challenge of independent discovery is the essence of the contest.

History of the ‘What-is-it?’ Contest

Clarence Dike, Pemi’s first Head of Nature Programs, started the contest in the 1930’s. The first mention of the contest appears in the 1937 Bean Soup. Since then, it has become a staple of the Nature Program inspiring boys and staff to visit daily to participate in this challenging endeavor. Not only do you need to be consistent with your dedication to the contest, but you must have a penchant for curiosity and a willingness to find answers on your own, using resources right at your fingertips. Taking nature occupations will certainly help build your base of knowledge, but further research is necessary for the true die-hards.

2002 – Near Perfect Score – 295/300 – Upper Camper Alex Dyer

Over the years, there have been some very competitive contests and some remarkable scores. Larry Davis, Pemi’s Head of Nature Programs since 1970 remembers one year when the front-runner (Ethan Schafer!) stopped submitting answers with just a few days remaining and got beat out by a more persistent peer: a clear example illustrating the steady diligence needed to win. Since 2015, Associate Head of Nature Programs, Deb Kure has managed the contest. Here are a few other notable factoids.

1982 – Highest Camp wide Participation – 170 people, campers & staff participated in the Contest

1990 – All Star Staff Division – Johnstone brothers compete in a special Nature Lodge Staff Division

2008 – Very Junior Award – Victoria Malcolm continues the tradition of Staff Children participating in the contest.

2015 – Upper Andrew Kanovsky and Lower Will Ackerman earned Full-Season Perfect Scores: 210!


Campers – Are you ready for the 2018 ‘What-is-it?’ Contest?

Alumni – Do you have memories of participating in the ‘What-is-it?’ Contest?

Share your thoughts and comments via the Pemi Blog.

 

Long Live the Buglers

John Wherry bugles at sunset, Pemi 1934.

Of all the sounds of Pemi—loons on the lake, the lap of waves on the shore, songs in the Mess Hall, the pop of the campfire—it is the call of the bugle that weaves through all of our waking hours.

Click here to listen to Pemi bugle calls,

or view a list of all daily calls.

As the sun rises, the jaunty staccato of Reveille wakes us from our dreams and urges us to rise and shine. First Call summons us to gather on the Mess Hall porch before each meal, and Second Call invites us to storm the doors enter the Mess Hall quietly and find our seats. With Flag Raising after breakfast, and Flag Lowering after dinner, the entire camp community pauses together in a quiet, introspective moment, respectful of the day, the moment, and all of our fellows. Throughout the day, bugle calls ring out for Inspection, Occupations, Rest Hour, and Free Swim. Assembly and Church Call bid us to gather together for special events like Bean Soup, Campfire, Vaudeville, and Sunday Meeting. At the end of the day, Tattoo tells us to brush our teeth and get ready for bed, and, finally, the peaceful notes of Taps invite us to lay our heads to rest.

Over the years, many Pemi buglers have performed this critical duty, every day, from 7:30 in the morning until 9:00 at night, helping us know when and where to be at just the right time.

Today, many camps (and even the military) use recordings and loudspeakers instead of buglers.

But at Pemi? We still bugle.

Alumnus Zach See, playing the Church Call for Betsy Reed’s memorial service at Pemi in 2017.

Here’s to all the Pemi buglers over the decades! To all the elegant players who sounded every note near perfectly, and to all the brave beginners who dared to take up the call.

“I loved bugling. I loved the routine of it, the way that it marked the passing of the day. I never had a particularly ‘favorite’ call; I just loved the sound of the notes…I even loved the hint of martial spirit that the calls intimated.

“Bugling just seemed to be ‘right’ for Pemi.”

~Robert Naylor

“Bugling tested one’s mettle, and demonstrated Camp’s spirit.

“Many of my flag lowerings came from the shaky hands of an anxious young player who knew the double tonguing at the end of the call would inevitably trip him up. But despite whatever dying goose sound may have blown through, a hearty round of applause and encouragement was sure to follow from the community. No matter how badly I may have butchered the call, my efforts were appreciated.”

~Zach See

Here’s to all the bugles they played—whether Pemi’s ancient, dinged, and patina’d bugles, or the brassy, shining trumpets our buglers brought—and to the new Camp bugles coming to the shores of Lower Baker this year!

“I still have my bugle. And when my boys are being particularly lazy, I play reveille in the morning.”

~Chris Carter

Here’s to all the bugle calls that are on time…and all the ones that aren’t.

“Bugling is a stealthily demanding job, as the bugler is the only individual in camp who must know what time it is. That fact might seem trivial, but it might be surprisingly burdensome to some, at least on occasion.”

~Robert Naylor

“Being the camp clock didn’t allow for untimeliness, and was certainly a challenge—especially when the director was yelling for first call and you were in the squish.”

~Zach See

Here’s to all boys and staff members who have ever felt a tug at their hearts as the beautiful notes of a call echoed across the lake…

“My favorite bugle call is the Church Call. It’s calm…formal but relaxing…and the way that the call reverberates around the empty camp and echoes off the lake while everyone is seated inside the main lodge just reminds me of what makes Pemi special. It’s the only one that I tried to play perfectly every time.”

~Porter Hill

…or felt laughter in their souls and a tickle in their toes.

“The positives of being a bugler are that you get to perform for the whole camp multiple times a day. I still recall kids dancing around me as I played tattoo. And the groans when I played reveille.”

~Chris Carter

I can’t imagine Colin Brooks doing his Tattoo Dance any other way than directly in front of the bugler.

~Robert Naylor

Here’s to bugling at Pemi for years to come. Long live the buglers!

“If nothing else, the bugling tradition at Pemi distinguishes us from any number of other institutions. Presumably none of us could ever imagine Pemi’s marking time with a simple bell or, immeasurably worse, a recording.”

~Robert Naylor

“Being the bugler at Pemi is one of my most cherished memories, and I hope we never move away from the tradition of live bugle calls every summer.”

~Porter Hill

Did You Know?

Bugles are part of a long lineage of signal horns that, over thousands of years, have enabled humans to communicate across great distances and amongst large groups of people: for ceremonies and rites, hunts and competitions, the arrival of postal couriers or stagecoaches, between ships, for troop movements and military routine, and, since the turn of the 20th century, at scout troops for girls and boys, and summer camps—like Pemi!

1919 Brooklyn Girl Scout Drum & Bugle Corps. Scouts could earn a merit badge for proficiency in 17 calls.

The word “bugle” derives from the Latin word “buculus,” a young bull or ox—because early signal horns were made from animal horns.

Signal horns from all over the world

Specimens of ancient signal horns in all shapes and sizes have been documented in nearly every culture, from Ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek, to Celt and Asian.

Swedish and Dutch postal emblems—a coiled bugle

Today, the Swedish and Dutch postal services still use a coiled bugle—which was sounded to signal the arrival of the post—as their emblem!

The Greek salpinx, a trumpet-like horn

The Greeks added a “Heralds’ and Trumpeters’ Contest” to the Olympics in 396 BC (the 96th Olympic games), featuring the salpinx, a trumpet-like horn. Winners were judged on volume and endurance. Herodoros, a man of immense size, won the Heralds’ event ten times and once blew two trumpets at once in battle, to inspire soldiers to victory.

There are 104 calls in the U.S. Navy Manual for Buglers, including Abandon Ship, Cease Firing, Clean Bright Work, Commence Fueling, and Watertight Doors

Signal horns as an integral part of military communication first appeared in the records of the Roman Army.

Bugle use in the U.S. military reached its peak in the Civil War and continued as a critical signaling tool until the invention of radios. Bugles were still used as signal horns on the ground in the Vietnam War.

Today, the military bugle is used primarily in ceremonial settings.

In 2003, in light of increasing requests for military funerals but a decline in the number of human buglers, the Pentagon declared that an electronic device known as a “ceremonial bugler,” which fits inside the bell of a real bugle, could be used world-wide at military funerals for which a human bugler is not available.

How to Be a Pemi Bugler

“Future buglers should delight in this tradition and unique experience. Being responsible for the moments when the camp stands still to listen and reflect, as well as for enabling the timely functioning of a community, is a huge honor.

“It is particularly unique and empowering when this honor falls on a camper.”

~Zach See

“I was occasionally nonplussed by the well-meaning advice I received from seemingly every quarter…Bugling is highly visible; do not expect to be able to hide humanness. The slightest mistake, no matter how minute or infrequent, will be noticed, chortled over, and, in all likelihood, ridiculed in Bean Soup. Be willing to laugh at yourself and move forward. A perfect life metaphor.”

~Robert Naylor

“The most challenging aspect is taking on the responsibility of keeping time for the entire camp. You have to set an alarm, be constantly aware of the time, and not lose your bugle!

“You also need to find a good sub who can actually play some of the tunes, for when you have time off.”

~Porter Hill

“My advice for future buglers would be: 1) Get a good waterproof watch, and 2) Learn to double tongue—ta ka ta ka ta ka!”

~Chris Carter

So . . .

  • Go for it!
  • Get a waterproof watch.
  • Keep good time.
  • Be willing to try.
  • Be willing to laugh at yourself.
  • Know that everyone is rooting for you.
  • Channel Herodoros.
  • Don’t lose the bugle.
  • Treat your bugle with respect.
  • Remember to find subs (a bagpiper, trombonist, or saxophonist will do).
  • Get the U.S. Navy Manual for Buglers, which offers excellent guidance for learning to bugle (also in the Pemi library).

Does Pemi need one of these?

Calling All Buglers

If your son has an interest in learning to bugle or being the Camp Bugler, let us know! Staff—that goes for you too! Contact Kenny Moore.

A special thank you to the following Pemi alumni, who responded to our call and contributed their thoughts and memories of bugling at Pemi for this post!

Robert Naylor, Pemi Bugler for Junior Camp ’88–89, Upper Camp ‘90–91, ‘94–95, ‘97

Zach See, Pemi Bugler for Junior & Upper Camps, late 90’s into early 00’s

Chris Carter, Pemi Bugler for ’83–88, with the exception of ’87

Porter Hill, Pemi Bugler for Junior Camp ’98, All-Camp ’00-04

Do you have bugling memories  to share? We would love to hear them. Click here to share your favorite memories (or thoughts on the future of bugling) in the Comments.

“I used to find it amusing to see the difference in style between Tom Reed Sr. and Tom Reed Jr. when it came to waking up the bugler.

“Tom Sr. would wake me up somewhere between 7:20 and 7:25, look at his watch and say, “Morning, Chris. __ minutes until reveille,” while holding up that number of fingers. I used to worry that I’d fall back asleep, given that I often had ten minutes until I had to play. Not to mention that I was never happy missing out on the extra ten minutes of sleep.

“Tom Jr. would come in, wake me up, and say, “Hey, Chris—it’s 7:28.” Perfect timing! Enough for me to grab my robe and bugle and walk out on the hill to play reveille!”

 ~Chris Carter

Kenny Moore Now Associate Director

I am very pleased to announce that veteran Pemi camper and staff member Kenny Moore is taking on a new title and responsibilities as Associate Director of Camp Pemigewassett.

Kenny and Sarah Moore with son Winston

One of the many joys of being at Pemi is watching our young boys become older campers, our older campers become young counselors, and our young counselors grow into leadership positions. As our young leaders gain experience, confidence, and wisdom, they come to take their place as part of the Pemi leadership team. Kenny is a vivid example of this type of progress.He began as a camper in Junior 5 in 1992 and joined the staff in 1999. Kenny settled into his position as Pemi’s Assistant Director in 2011 and has steadily taken on greater responsibility over the past years. This past Fall, Pemi’s Board of Directors and I both recognized that Kenny was ready for even more involvement in the management of the camp and, with this in mind, we were delighted to change Kenny’s title to Associate Director and to offer him increased participation in the winter responsibilities as a Camp Pemi director. Moving forward, Kenny will be working as first contact for Alumni whose sons are ready for camp, and, beginning this past winter, he has also been charged with the responsibility of hiring cabin counselors and many of our assistant counselors. Kenny is also overseeing Pemi’s Buildings and Grounds.

Please join me in congratulating Kenny on these new endeavors. We look forward to seeing Kenny and Camp Pemi thrive together as he takes over these new responsibilities. We thank him for his excellent ongoing work, and for being an exemplary model of Pemi’s tradition of leadership!

–Danny Kerr

Pemi 101 – The Pemi Hill Shelter

The Pemi Hill Shelter is an Adirondack-style structure that sits on Pemi’s property roughly two-thirds of a mile above the Junior Camp. This shelter provides cover overhead and is walled on three sides to protect occupants from the elements. Ten yards from the open side of the building, which faces eastward, is a campfire circle essential for cooking meals and for providing a central place for the group to congregate.

Over the years, Pemi has utilized the Pemi Hill Shelter in different ways, most notably as an overnight hike destination for individual cabins. The group traditionally departed after supper, climbed in the early evening hours armed with sleeping bags and a change of clothes, and enjoyed a night in the great outdoors. Led by the cabin counselor, and possibly the cabin’s Assistant Counselor, these hikes aided in developing cabin unity and gave the boys a chance to practice their camping skills.

Campers and staff have documented many of these Pemi Hill trips in Bean Soup articles. Click the links to read about Lower 7’s trip in 1988, or Junior 2’s outing in 1998.

History of the Pemi Hill Shelter

In the earliest days of Pemi (from 1908 into the 1920’s), boys climbed Pemi Hill for similar reasons, but experienced a very different landscape – pastoral rather than forested. In fact, cattle grazed on the slopes above the camp in the 1910’s, and the clanking of cowbells could be heard in the cabins after Taps and before Reveille. In the 1920’s, the first Pemi Hill Shelter was constructed near the spring where the cattle drank. Over the decades since, white pine, white and yellow birch, and various other trees overtook the pasture, creating the wooded landscape familiar to us today.

In the summer of 1962, Al Fauver, former Director and owner, began the project to create a new shelter on Pemi Hill. Charlie Ladd, Pemi’s longtime maintenance man and carpenter, was the builder and led trip counselors Wes Ackley and Roger Spragg and a few campers as the building team. Others (including Board President Tom Reed, Jr.) aided the efforts by carrying up all the posts, lumber, hardware, and roofing materials needed to complete construction.

In 1963, Al charged his son Fred Fauver (current Board member) and trip leader Paul Lewis with locating the old spring and rebuilding it into a useable water source for the shelter. After an all-day search, Fred and Paul had not uncovered the old spring, but they did find a wet spot at the base of a ledge not far from the shelter. After digging it out, they found a growing pool of water and erected a stone dam and beehive roof to protect the water source from debris. The best water in the world still flows from that pipe.

(To read more about the history of the Pemi Hill Shelter, be in touch to secure your copy of Pemi’s History Book – Camp Pemigewassett The First 100 Years!)

The Pemi Hill Shelter today

In planning for the 2017 season, Pemi’s trip staff developed a new (but also old!) system to provide the 8-11-year-old Juniors campers with an engaging, safe, and memorable Pemi Hill experience. Now, the specially-trained trip counselors lead the Junior overnights, aided by the cabin counselor, so that the younger boys learn more about the trip program and develop their camping and outdoor skills.

In the morning, the trip counselor outlines the trip and what to expect, giving the boys a packing list. Later that day, a check verifies that each boy has essential gear, including rugged footwear, a rain jacket, water bottles, a toothbrush, and the food that has been organized in the kitchen. On the ascent, each boy is given a turn to lead the group, learning how to set the pace. The counselors talk about the plant and animal species to be found along the way, features of the landscape, and first aid protocol. Some of the boys take this time to share something they learned in a nature occupation with their peers.

Upon arrival, the boys drop their packs and head to the Pemi Hill Spring to fill their water bottles. Once camp is set up, the boys explore the hillside and use a topographic map to study the land. They also learn to tie useful knots. This safe, unstructured time in the woods provides an ideal opportunity for camper development and growth.

An offseason trip to the shelter during the Family Winter Weekend in 2016!

The boys gather good firewood to cook dinner over the fire. The trip counselor demonstrates how to arrange the wood in the fire pit and talks about regulations and safety relating to controlled fires in the wilds. Other items covered are the principles of Leave-No-Trace camping, which reduces the impact we have on the natural areas in which we camp and hike. After dessert, the boys relax and read a book before falling asleep in the shelter (now equipped with mosquito netting as an appreciated latter-day improvement!). No clanging of cowbells now, though; only peaceful slumber.

Boys rise early at the Pemi Hill Shelter; the extra elevation allows the sun to peek over Mount Carr a bit earlier than the counselors might hope. After a quick breakfast over the fire, the group packs up their supplies and heads back to camp in time for their morning occupations – happy, well-fed, and a bit wiser in the ways of the wilderness.

Check out the detailed description of two 2017 Pemi Hill trips by clicking here. Stay tuned to the Pemi Blog for our next Pemi 101!

–Kenny Moore

Pemi 101 – What’s a BVT?

A BVT is a Baker Valley Tournament comprised of four neighboring camps (Moosilauke, Walt Whitman, Kingswood, and Pemi) and organized by age group (10 & Unders, 11’s, 12’s, 13’s, and 15 & Unders). Teams compete in round-robin athletic tournaments in soccer, basketball, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, swimming, archery, and tennis. We also play baseball against our Baker Valley friends—but only in head-to-head match-ups, given the length of a traditional camp baseball game. On any given camp day, there may be three athletic tournaments taking place in the Baker Valley: 10’s Soccer at Pemi, 12’s Hoops at Moosilauke, and 15’s Tennis at Walt Whitman.

BVT Hoops

The Baker Valley

The Baker River, originating on the south side of nearby Mount Moosilauke, runs south and east, joining the Pemigewasset River in Plymouth. All four camps are located within 10 miles of each other, allowing for quick transportation to and from these afternoon tournaments. One of the many positive features of a BVT is how well it integrates with the overall Pemi program. Boys can still participate in all their morning occupations, play in an afternoon BVT, and be on the beach for Free Swim at 5 PM.

Purpose and Goals

The proximity of the four camps was one of the main catalysts in the creation of the BVT. In the early 1990’s, Charlie Malcolm, Pemi’s longstanding Athletic Director, and Port Miller, owner and Director of Camp Moosilauke, thought of the idea: keep the high level of competition, as was custom from the previous Lakes Regions Tournaments, but limit the transportation time to and from competitions. BVTs are now a mainstay of the Pemi athletic program.

15 and Under Soccer pre-kick off

Charlie remembers the original vision: “There was a group of us who shared the importance of sportsmanship and participation. Because of the round-robin format, instead of a ‘winners’ bracket and a ‘consolation’ bracket, we created an environment for kids of all different levels to compete. From a BVT match, coaches and Athletic Directors could identify the best, competitive match-ups and schedule a direct re-match during one of our Saturday play-days.”

Twice a summer, Charlie and the other camps’ Athletic or Program Directors meet to discuss all things BVT, and over the years have developed a tight bond. These “lifers” maintain their individual camp’s standard and further support their camper-athletes through the promotion of healthy competition. These relationships help drive the success of a BVT.

The Origins of the BVT

A trip into the Bean Soup archives uncovered facts about the origins of the Baker Valley Tournaments. In 1991, the 13’s Soccer team played in the first Baker Valley Tournament. This inaugural BVT, which remains each year’s first scheduled event, was co-hosted by Pemi and Moosilauke. Four teams played: the two host camps, Kingswood, and Camp Dunmore. Pemi won all three games. You can read the details of the tournament from Coach Andy Honker’s Bean Soup article.

The third Pemigewassett Newsletter of the 1991 season noted the event with the following description: “Designed to promote the dual goals of good competition and better sportsmanship, it was highly successful. Six well-played games featured some skillful and hard-fought play, with nary a cross word directed at opponent or official. All of the teams ended the day with a heightened appreciation for the fact that competition on any level implicitly demands and depends on cooperation between combatants. With so little sportsmanship left on any level ‘out there,’ we hope that whatever we generate here at Pemi may rub off during the rest of the year.”

Stay tuned to the Pemi Blog to read information and updates on this summer’s BVTs.

-Kenny Moore

Pemi’s 110th Reunion

2017 Rittner Runners

The 35th Annual Rittner Run kicked off the celebration of Pemi’s 110th Reunion. On Thursday, August 17, forty Rittner Runners departed Pemi at 6 AM, headed to Fryeburg Maine to begin the 75-mile relay run back to Pemi. The relay is divided into 30 odd legs, some measuring as long as 4.5 miles and others as short as 1. Vans shuttle runners to the exchange points while conversations and stories are shared between current staffers and Alumni, both reminiscing about the season that just concluded and other past seasons. During the 2017 run, Head of Swimming and triathlon enthusiast Charlotte Jones led the way with 34 miles, with many others tallying in the high teens. Once back at Pemi, the Runners paraded by Senior Beach towards the Rittner Fountain onto Pemi’s soccer pitch for their annual photo and ‘tis I, Spartacus!’ cheer. After a quick dip in Lower Baker, the group headed to the Mess Hall for the Rittner Banquet. A delicious meal from Tom Ciglar’s trusty hands, and libations from Peter Cowles’ Aspetuck Brewery greeted the runners, followed by announcements, stories about Fred Rittner, and information about the Rittner Fund and its impact. Fred Rittner’s fellow counselors in the early 80’s and his former campers offered memories and legendary anecdotes.

To learn more about the Rittner Fund, please visit their website, and mark your calendars for the 2018 Rittner Run on Monday, August 13, 2018.

Reilly McCue and Leif Dormsjo

A cloudy, rainy dawn on Friday resulted in a scattering few for Polar Bear. The weather eliminated the hiking and golf trips for the day, but a quick scheduling pivot resulted in a trip to the Museum of the White Mountains to see their exhibit on Summer Camps. Pemi, like many of our neighbor camps, contributed to the exhibit with artifacts and memorabilia demonstrating the importance of the Summer Camp experience. At Pemi activities in the Nature Lodge, Library, and the Senior Lodge with active fires allowed folks a quieter morning before the bulk of arrivals. Just before lunch, Bob Fetter, an alumnus from 1940, arrived with his Junior Nature Award and All Camp photograph that he had saved from his only Pemi summer in 1940. Two true gems for the Pemi archives, and more info on his fellow octogenarians later.

Reunion Ensemble

After lunch, hearty souls ventured to Junior Pointe for some waterskiing, others made their way out in sailboats, and a few climbed aboard the HMS Reilly McCue for some fishing. Charlie Malcolm led a group in a cutthroat game of croquet (ask Paul Fishback!), and then a rousing game of Frisbee Golf. The library was active with Pemi trivia, led by current Pemi staffers Steve Clare and Andy MacDonald, and the Junior Lodge was alive with music led by Ed McKendry (Uncle Eddie to some), Ian Axness, Henry Eisenhart, and Michaella Frank. This talented Reunion Ensemble would play for us during the Happy Hour, and then later again at Campfire. To cap off the rainy afternoon, Larry Davis led the first Pemi discussion group of the weekend. Larry, a Climate Reality Project trainee, led the group in a question and answer session on this increasingly important topic.

Campfire

Now with more than 100 Alumni present, the Mess Hall filled with joy as Alumni greeted one another during Happy Hour, reminiscing and catching up. The rain tapered off, and we all enjoyed an outdoor Campfire on Senior Beach. A spectacular musical array ensued. Danny and Uncle Eddie serenaded us with Melissa by the Allman Brothers, Ian played the surpassingly lovely Boating Song on his glockenspiel, (You read the correctly!), Tom Reed and Michaella performed Ukulele Lady, the Reunion Ensemble played House of the Rising Sun, Parker Shiverick played the violin, and Eisenhart once again claimed the lake as his pillow with a saxophone solo. Larry Davis provided the classic story, Learning How to Shoot, before we all joined together for the Campfire Song. Undoubtedly, one of the best Reunion campfires we’ve ever seen.

A sunnier, albeit chilly morning saw more Polar Bears on Saturday. Shortly after breakfast, two hikes Mount Cube led by Nick Davini, and Mount Moosilauke led by Sam Papel departed in Pemi vans. Morning activities included Archery, a canoe paddle to the Lower Lake, doubles on the tennis court, open baseball on the newly improved Senior Diamond, tie-dyeing in the Art Building, waterskiing, and sailing. Just as our campers are offered a wide range of wonderful activities to choose, so too are our Alumni. In the library, the fourth generation (G4) of Pemi’s founders met with Alumni interested in learning more about the Reed and Fauver families. Of the 9 G4 members, five were present; Jonathan Fauver, Allyson Fauver, Megan Fauver Cardillo, Sarah Fauver, and Dan Reed discussed Pemi and shared their vision for the future.

Obie-Ivy Soccer

After a well deserved Rest Hour, afternoon activities began with Obie-Ivy soccer, an Environmental Exploration with Deb Kure for our 12 & Unders, a Wild Foods Extravaganza with Larry, a Spider Walk with former Nature guru Paula Golderberg, more Tie-Dye with Megan Cardillo, and the chance to swim your distance with the waterfront staff. Five swimmers made the distance from Senior Beach to Junior Camp under the watchful eye of former Head of Swimming, Paige Wallis in the rowboat, and current Head of Swimming Charlotte Jones donning the lifeguard buoy. Notable swimmers included current trip counselor, Nick Davini who, after 9 years at camp, owned up to never having swum his distance, Sarah Fauver, another first time distance swimmer, and taking home first prize, Scott Petrequin who, at age 86 (!), successfully swam his distance, making him the oldest Pemi person to ever accomplish the feat. Later at the Reunion Banquet, the cheer for ‘Distance Swimmer Petrequin’ was quite possible the loudest chant in 2017!

Free Swim

As Obie-Ivy ended, many players cooled off during Free Swim in Lower Baker, and enjoyed a well-timed, unplanned, landing by a sea-plane. Others decided to opt for a more intellectual pursuit, joining Alumnus David Spindler, a leading expert on the Great Wall of China, for the weekend’s second Pemi Discussion Group. David shared slides and stories about the Great Wall and his experiences traveling the monument.

Reunion Banquet

The Reunion Banquet was full of joy and cheer, with all the traditional pomp and circumstance of a Pemi Banquet. Alumni became waiters once again, marching the turkeys out of the kitchen as Axness performed his version of the Game of Thrones theme, Fire and Ice, on the piano. One lucky soul at each table claimed the carving knife to slice the birds. Tom Ciglar and his crew presented the turkey feast with mashed potatoes, stuffing, farm fresh corn on the cob, and freshly baked bread. Anyone who has tasted Tom’s bread is surely salivating.

During announcements, Pemi recognized the newest distance swimmers and honored Alumni by decade. We arrived at the 40’s – 1940-1949, and four gentleman, Bob Fetter, Bob MacBeth, Scott Petrequin, and Sandy Ross, stood to a rousing round of applause and standing ovation. Finally, in recognition of Alumni who are Pemi veterans of at least 10 years, Pemi gifted a 10-year tie. A new Pemi tradition!

Bean Soup, led by former editors Josh Fischel and Ian Axness, joined current editor Dan Reed for the special Reunion edition. Combining old classics, along with freshly written articles, this trio had the audience laughing away in the Mess Hall. Song re-writes like I’ve got Mike Pence (Sixpence), and a new “Reunion Edition” of the ever-popular Mess Hall announcement were highlights.

Betsy Reed Memorial

A beautifully crisp Sunday morning greeted Polar Bears for the final dip of the weekend. After breakfast, all gathered in the Senior Lodge for a memorial service in honor of Betsy Reed. Larry Davis and Ian Axness began the service with a lovely duet followed Zach See’s utterly moving Church Call on the bugle. I’m sure that the stirring music bellowing out over the lake set a tone that Betsy would have thought magnificent. Tom Reed Jr. eloquently shared stories and memories of his mother, as did Peter Fauver, Bertha Fauver, Dan Reed, Abby Reed (read by Allyson Fauver) and Dottie Reed. The service was beautiful, each speaker reinforced Betsy’s kindhearted demeanor, good will, humor, grace, and love of life.

Tom Reed, Jr.

Shout out to our spectacular Reunion Staff; Ian Axness, Paige Wallis, Ed McKendry, Larry Davis, Charlie Malcolm, Deb Kure, Harry Morris, Ben Walsh, Steve Clare, Charlotte Jones, Nick Davini, Sam Papel, Ned Roosevelt, Becky Noel, Kilian Wegner, Nick Hurn, and bartenders extraordinaire Andrew MacDonald and JP Gorman.

And, of course, a special thank you to the nearly 150 Alumni who returned to the shores of Lower Baker in honor of Pemi’s 110th season!

 

 

SPECIAL EDITION: The Flood of 2017

All you really need to know about the impact on Pemi campers of the Saturday, July 1st Flood of ’17 is to hear that, when on Monday ’73 Flood Survivors Tom Reed Jr. and Larry Davis announced in the mess hall that this recent deluge was clearly worse than in 1973, the campers cheered! To work a variation on the old saw, what doesn’t wash you away evidently makes you proud and happy.

Saturday, July 1

One difference from ’73 was that, this time, we had far more advance warning, what with the various electronic weather vanes we in the Office were all carefully eyeing. The forecast had already called for rain that might well lead to flash flooding. So when, at noon of that Saturday’s inter-camp sports day, we checked the radar and saw a huge green blob with a lurid center of yellow and red oozing across the Connecticut River towards us, we sprang into action.

Rushing waters overflow the culvert

Rushing waters overflow the culvert

Even before the culverts began to overflow with run-off surging down the hill behind camp, we moved three of our vans to a safe spot across our bridge in case high waters made wheeled egress from the camp impossible. Staff were also advised to move their cars from the low-lying parking lot by the Senior Beach. There would be no repeat of 1973, when the locked VW bug of a counselor who was deployed that day for airport pick-ups had to be hand-lifted by a dozen of his colleagues and carried to higher ground.

Ushering junior campers to dinner

Ushering junior campers to dinner

By late afternoon, what had been intensifying rain gave way to electrical storms, and, alerted by the lightning siren, boys and staff retreated to their cabins for a spell. Those of us in the Office stayed glued to our computer screens, hoping that our power would stay on (though perhaps secretly hoping it wouldn’t, so as to give our powerful new propane-fueled backup generator its first practical test.) A clear gap in the storm system subsequently offered a brief window for us to scoot the boys up to the mess hall for supper, which Tom Ciglar and his dedicated crew had all ready and waiting for speedy service. Fortunately, one (and one only!) of the three bridges that span the stream dividing the camp was still not over-washed by the mounting torrent, and the boys were ushered carefully across on their way to a hot meal. Meanwhile, Assistant Director Kenny Moore and Waterfront Head Charlotte Jones took the opportunity to detach the floating sections of our new hybrid docks from their fixed complements, carefully anchoring them against the strong down-valley current that was even then beginning to make itself felt.

Senior campers asleep in the Mess Hall

Senior campers asleep in the Mess Hall

Once we’d all eaten, it was quickly back to the cabins for the night – no pre-announced campfire and no staff time-off for that evening. (I must admit that, had we had a good supply of phosphorous, it would have been both novel and thrilling to hold an underwater campfire in its traditional location. No such luck, though.) By 6pm, our devoted and heroic Head of Buildings and Grounds, Reed Harrigan, had cancelled his own weekend off and arrived back on location. On Reed’s recommendation, the boys of Seniors 1-3 grabbed their mattresses, sleeping bags, and toothbrushes and headed up to the dining room for the night. While the waters rushing down the road in front of the Office (after over-topping a failing culvert) didn’t ultimately erode the foundations of the cabins, it made perfect sense to be super cautious, so that’s what we did. As a result, our 14s and 15s slept in the very space in which we normally eat our meals and sing songs about beating Camp Tecumseh. Their lullaby? The very remarkable sound of boulders thudding down the stream-bed just to the north, twelve- to fifteen-inch rocks bouncing over each other in the tumbling waters like the numbered balls in a lottery machine. It’s not a sound you easily forget.

Sunday, July 2

"Pemi Island" - three feet of water over the entrance road

“Pemi Island” – three feet of water cover the entrance road

Sunday brought a mercifully sunny dawn, but a quick 5:30 AM walk around the grounds revealed in a trice that the erosion damage in camp surpassed both the rains of ’73 and Hurricane Irene. There were three feet of water flowing over the entrance road, and waves lapped just twelve inches below the floor of the Lake Tent. Following reveille – and the common-sense cancellation of Polar Bear dips – Dan Reed and various other staff took the first steps (or paddles) towards reconstruction by retrieving vagrant sailboats, paddle boards, and wake boards from all over the pond. Meanwhile, Tom Ciglar and our other chefs waded bravely to their stations and had a hearty breakfast ready at the appointed 8:30 time. Tom determined along the way that, with a few menu adjustments, we had adequate stores in place to feed the camp family well for four days, should our access to supplies be affected.

The mood in the mess hall was distinctly buoyant, as might be expected when a group comes through shared excitement in good order. Boys and staff alike listened with rapt attention when Head of Nature Larry Davis (whose day job is as a university hydrologist) reviewed what we had all witnessed. This was absolutely a classic flash flood, he explained. The preconditions of soil being completely saturated by earlier precipitation and, in turn, resting in a very thin layer over the underlying granite meant that the three-plus inches of rain we received over roughly eight hours had nowhere to go but downstream – in massive quantities, at great speed, and with terrific power. Since there was a lag-time in drainage of approximately eight or ten hours, we could expect the lake to keep rising for that length of time. After that, it would likely take three or four days for the waters to return to something like their normal level.

Campers and staff pitch in to put camp back together again

Campers and staff pitch in to clean up

Intent on controlling everything we could, we proceeded with inspection clean-up just as usual, after which the boys left their cabins for various organized activities and, for those who chose to help, general grounds clean-up. Reed Harrigan was seemingly everywhere on his John Deere tractor, while Athletic Director and Grounds maven Charlie Malcolm, co-owner Peter Fauver, and Assistant Director Kenny Moore all buckled down to various essential tasks, often joined by keen volunteers from amongst our paying customers. In a further nod to normalcy beyond the morning’s inspection, we still required the boys to write their routine Sunday letters home. We admit to some curiosity about what they may have told you all about the recent cataclysm. If you have any amusing examples you are willing to share, please do.

Water basketball, flood-style

Water basketball, flood-style

That afternoon – still beautifully sunny – brought more activities, including water-basketball for the Seniors. A reprise of one of ’73’s most memorable post-deluge entertainments, this bizarre combination of water polo and hoops proved hugely popular and was repeated the following day for Uppers. (Check out this video captured by drone of Pemi’s water basketball, by Red Dog Aerial Video!). Meanwhile, Commodore Emily Palmer manned the safety boat and, with the assistance of TRJR and the rest of the trip crew, ferried an entire camp’s laundry bags (~240) from their cabins to the other side of the flooded bridge, where they were loaded into our sequestered vans for a Monday pick-up. By 5 PM, ten hours into his day, Reed on his John Deere had most of the camp’s roads beginning to look normal; certainly navigable if need be.

Saturday campfire, on Sunday. New location.

Saturday campfire, on Sunday. New location.

Speaking of roads, following our traditional Sunday evening cookout and because the campfire circle was still under three feet of water, we held our traditional Saturday night gathering for the first time on Sunday night AND with the bonfire built on the road just in front of the mess hall. The Senior camp had teamed up to bring all the benches up from athletic fields to which they had been moved to avoid the rising lake waters, and they made a cozy little semi-circle for the camp family to gather. The setting couldn’t have been lovelier, with a back-drop consisting of our green athletic fields stretching out for hundreds of yards, framed on either side by the wooded slopes of our valley (already blued with the coming night’s shadows) and the sunlit ramparts of Mount Carr, all the way down past Wentworth, modulating, as the evening progressed, from flaming yellow to glowing orange to amber. The entertainment was as good as ever – including Dan Reed and Becky Noel’s sweet rendition of Jason Mraz’s “Lucky,” Will Weber’s second tour de force on classical guitar, and Peter Moody’s infectious group-sing extolling the virtues of Bazooka Bubble Gum. As we swayed, finally, to the timeless words of the Campfire Song – “I wonder if anyone’s better for anything I’ve done or said” – many present could pat themselves modestly on their backs for the efforts they had made over the past 48 hours to pitch in at a time of crisis.

Monday, July 3

Monday brought still more brilliant sunshine, and a new week of occupations kicked off with each and every activity that didn’t involve swimming (either purposeful or inadvertent) carrying on as usual. That afternoon, Juniors 3 and 4 headed off under gorgeous blue skies for Rattlesnake Mountain, the only oddity being that the campers were piggy-backed through shallows to rowboats by the longer-legged members of the 15-and-under tennis team, also waiting to leave camp (and assisted in their St. Christopherian kindnesses by office-staffers Kim Malcolm and Heather Leeds). The boys were then towed to the newly emerged bridge by Sam Dixon, Will Katcher, and TRJR. Rarely if ever have Pemi hikers begun their mountain ascents with a voyage by sea, such as Dantrell Frazier, Teddy Rose, Atticus Barocas, Henry Ravanesi, and their cabin mates enjoyed Monday last. Surf and Turf, would it be?

First provisions arrive since the flood

First provisions since the flood

Monday afternoon also saw Tom Ciglar making a trip to the local grocery to top up provisions and supplies in the kitchen, and by 5PM Reed Harrigan had safely driven one of the camp pick-ups through hub-deep water to the bridge. It boded well for a dry roadway the following morning and, along with that, full communications with the outside world – Sysco food deliveries, FedEx, and the friendly UPS man alike. By 7:30, the weekly ladling of Bean Soup had begun in the Lodge, and the staple Pemi “Clam Song,” with its macabre narrative of a mollusk-sliced foot, was presented in re-written form to celebrate recent events – its infamous choral “Blood! Blood! Blood!” of course now altered to “Flood! Flood! Flood!” And so, as often happens, the wry and resilient human spirit responds to adversity with exultant laughter. Thanks, Wes Eifler, Harry Cooke, and Dan Reed, for lending your imagination and wit to the Pemi recovery.

Back to camp as usual

A few odds and ends of that recovery remained to be achieved, most notably a program of laboratory testing of our lake water to make absolutely certain that it was safe to let the boys swim in the pond. One week following the flood, we received the all-clear from the lab technicians, and at 5 PM Saturday the 8th, Charlotte Jones and her lifeguards oversaw the first swim since the storm clouds rumbled into our valley just a week before. Overall, not a bad rebound after a fifty-year deluge!

–TRJR

Videos and images of the 2017 Flood:

Junior Camp

Junior Camp

Junior Squish

Junior Squish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visitors arrive by boat

Visitors arrive by boat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferrying 240 laundry bags to the bridge for Monday morning pick-up

Ferrying 240 laundry bags to the bridge for Monday morning pick-up

View from the Library

View from the Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer clean-up crew!

Volunteer clean-up crew!

 

Rebuilding the road

Rebuilding the road

 

Reed Harrigan

Reed Harrigan

From Experiment to Trend to Tradition

2017: Newsletter #3

The following comes from the pen of director Danny Kerr…

Greetings from the sun-drenched shores of Lower Baker Pond! As we begin our third week of occupations, energy abounds and the boys are looking forward to a wonderful week of program, trips, and competition, as well as next weekend’s Birthday Banquet, our traditional, celebratory send-off for our first-session campers. Boy do these camp days fly by!

Over the course of its storied 110-year history, Camp Pemigewassett has developed countless traditions. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that traditions are both ubiquitous and gratifying for the entire Pemi community. Campers and counselors who take part in these customary rites and activities know that by doing so, they become part of Pemi’s history. In many ways, the camp experience here is still a great deal like when Teeden Boss’ father was at Pemi in the 1980’s or when Charlie Broll’s grandfather was a camper in the 1940’s. Visiting alumni often remark with a smile that things seem just like they did when they were at camp, however long ago that was. They are reassured, along with every year’s returning campers and counselors, that Pemi still provides a reliable and familiar environment in comparison to an outside world that constantly demands and presents change.

Seven-year senior camper Eli Brennan and I joke that when we try something new at Pemi, it’s an “experiment”; when we do it twice, it’s a “trend”; and when we do something for a third time, it’s a “tradition.” The idea of “new” traditions may seem like an oxymoron, but the truth of the matter is that some traditions do eventually go by the wayside and others become a familiar part of the Pemi year. With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the traditional activities that are a part of the Pemigewassett experience in 2017, and also hear what the boys see as especially valuable about those rites and customs.

Variation: "Pink polar bear" dip in the stream

Variation: “Pink polar bear” dip in the stream

Certainly a traditional and signature part of the Pemi experience is the morning “Polar Bear” swim, the quick dip right after reveille that everyone in camp, be they camper or counselor, young or experienced, Yankee fan or Red Sox fan, participates in for at least the first week of each session, and is something most campers choose to do every day of the summer. Truly, one of my favorite moments of the summer is the first day of Polar Bear, as 40 juniors dash with unbridled enthusiasm towards Junior Beach and their first Polar Bear plunge of the session. I asked a couple of our veteran campers, Teddy Foley and Suraj Khakee, both of whom have done Polar Bear every day of each of their summers (seven for Suraj, six for Teddy), why they still choose to hit the pond each dawn after so many icy plunges over the years? Suraj said he “love[s] the routine of doing the same thing each morning and bonding with the other campers who Polar Bear.” Teddy said that Polar Bear not only “wakes me up in the morning and makes me feel fresh and ready to go for the day,” but also allows him, on a daily basis, to enjoy “one of the most beautiful natural gifts at Pemi, Lower Baker Pond, with friends in a big group.” The Polar Bear plunge really becomes a crucial part of one’s picture of being at Pemi, such that when alums come for a visit, a work weekend, or a reunion, they invariably gravitate towards Lower Baker Bond upon waking, knowing this is really the only bona fide way to start a Pemi day!

FRB in Junior Camp

FRB in Junior Camp

Jacques Barzun, the social commentator, wrote more than a quarter of a century ago, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” Well, one could almost say, “whoever wants to know Pemi had better learn about Frisbee Running Bases (FRB),” which has become the unofficial favorite pastime at Pemi. Kenny Moore, our local Camp Pemi historian, says the game was introduced in the mid 1980s and quickly overwhelmed the previous crowd favorite, Capture-the-Flag. Well, that makes for over three decades worth of summers of mad dashing from one of three bases as campers try mightily not to be “tagged” by either a flying (and specially soft-built) Frisbee, or a counselor carrying said “kryptonite.” Nothing elicits a more boisterous cheer in the Messhall than an announcement that FRB is on the docket after dinner, and there is hardly anything more entertaining than witnessing the thundering herds run from base to base as they try to claim the title of “last tagged” for that game before all who suffered the fate of being caught are invited to rejoin and another game begins. I asked a couple of campers why they love FRB, and here’s what they had to say: Duke Hagen in Upper 2 said he loved playing games with counselors who “are trying their hardest but still can’t get us most of the time,” because “we’re fast and they’re not!” (Some staff might disagree!) Luke Larabie, a first-year camper and hence new to FRB, said he loves the “thrill of not getting caught and being one of the last few in the game.” Luke especially loves the last two minutes of each round, when the safe haven of being on a base is no longer in play, because then it’s “even cooler to survive.” I’ve never seen FRB played at any other camp or school I’ve known, so it truly seems to be a Pemi original. Perhaps we should challenge our storied rivals at Camp Tecumseh in a round on July 28th?

Another favorite tradition here at Pemi is counselors reading aloud to their boys each night, choosing from the many volumes of child and teen literature we have here in the Pemi library, or perhaps reading a favorite childhood story they themselves have brought from home. The quiet that descends on the divisions as this nightly ritual begins is heartwarming, and the cabins are filled with the tales of adventurous characters from beloved classics, old and or less old. As a follow -up this morning, I asked a few of the campers what they were reading and what they enjoyed most about the nightly ritual. Nate Broll said that Lower 1 was enjoying Candy Makers, by Wendy Mass, and that he loves fiction generally, and especially the fact that the story is told from the perspective of four boys about his age. Nate said that the reading at night helps him fall asleep, and that it offers the kind of comfort he “get[s] at home with Mom and Dad.” I had the pleasure of putting Upper 3 to bed one night last week; they quickly quieted down as I began the opening chapters of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Teeden Boss in Junior 2 said that Wes is reading them Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl (a favorite of mine as a boy, too), and that it reminds him of “when [he] was young and Mom and Dad read to me!” Finally, Luke Gonzales in Junior 1 said they are reading Big Friendly Guy, also by Roald Dahl, and that he loves the reading because he’s always “really, really tired at night” when he gets into bed, and the reading “makes me go right to sleep and makes the morning come so quickly!”

Singing in the Messhall

Singing in the Messhall

Singing in the Messhall just before the dessert course at every lunch and dinner is a tradition that everyone looks forward to. The songs we sing range from Pemi originals, many of them written by one of Pemi’s Founders, Doc Reed, to songs of Americana, college fight songs, and more. Pemi prides itself on being an inclusive community, and singing is about as inclusive an activity as there is. Ty Chung, in Upper 5, said that singing in the Messhall was great, in part because it’s “been happening for so long and is such an essential part of being a Pemi camper.” “Everyone can sing,” Ty pointed out. “It’s so much fun and adds to the group camaraderie and spirit of Pemi.” First-year camper August Matthews says the singing at meals is “fun because they’re all such great songs. I love the cheers and claps in them, and they make me laugh.” It is hard to keep from smilingl, or even laughing out loud, when we sing songs like “The Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “Mabel,” or “The Marching Song,” as the whole community sings with hearty enthusiasm, swaying to the beat, doing the sometimes crazy motions, or clapping along.

Traditions, whether they are as old as Camp Pemi itself, like singing in the Messhall, or relatively new, like FRB, are an essential part of a Pemi summer. They offer a familiar rhythm and a sense of being connected not only to the present community but also to people and times long ago. Of course, this is not to say that we are not keeping up with modern times, but that is a topic for another newsletter! Campers grow up and become adults, counselors leave for year-round jobs and to raise families, and we all change, year after year; but when we come back to Pemi, we can relive through these traditions all of the wonderful memories of our own camp days, whenever they happened to be. As the world changes in what often feels like a relentless way, Pemi is enduringly Pemi. What a comforting thought.