Pemi Lexicon

lex·i·con /ˈleksiˌkän/ (noun) The vocabulary of a person, language, branch of knowledge, or in this case, a summer camp.

A primer of Pemi words, traditions, and places

~ Download the Pemi Crossword Puzzle (pdf) and Answer Key (pdf) ~

Feeling included at summer camp comes from making friends and sharing experiences together. This is made even easier when you’re familiar with words and terms that are unique to the camp. Sharing a common language builds strong bonds and creates a deep sense of belonging. Will you be joining us at Camp Pemi? Here’s a head start on Pemi’s lingo:

AC: Assistant counselor. Most cabins have a junior counselor who assists the head counselor. He has just finished his junior or senior year of high school, and is almost always a former Pemi camper.

Activities: Daily, instructional periods, based on lesson plans, where campers learn and hone skills. There are three activity hours before lunch, and for juniors, a fourth after rest hour. Heads up: for over 100 years, these were called “occupations” but we’re making the shift to “activities.” Chances are you’ll still hear the word “occupations” and now you’ll know why. Read more about occu…I mean activities, here.

Bean Soup: Every Monday night the camp convenes in the Senior Lodge for a reading of Bean Soup, a series of articles, some humorous, about the week’s events at camp, read aloud by the editors. Campers are encouraged to hone their writing skills by submitting articles. Each season, Bean Soup is compiled, printed, and mailed to each camper and staff member. Learn more about Bean Soup from this 2018 newsletter.

Bugle Calls: Pemi is one of the few places where you don’t need to carry a watch: the bugle calls, played by a counselor, let you know what time it is. Read more about bugles and bugling at Pemi, listen to Pemi bugle calls, or download a pdf of all of Pemi’s daily calls and times. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Reveille: Played at 7:30 sharp, this bugle calls pierces the quiet morning air with an upbeat and clear message: get out of bed! Former Pemi counselor Lance Latham sent along this great video he shot in the summer of 1987 of counselor Dean Ellerton playing reveille.
  • First call: Played five minutes before a meal begins.
  • Tattoo: Played at 8:45 pm, this bugle call means that it is time to start getting ready for bed.
  • Taps: The bugle call, played at 9 pm, when it is time to sleep.

Pemi cabinBunk: A bunk at Pemi is an upper or lower bed in a cabin or tent.

Cabin: A cabin is the camper’s home for the summer. There are 22 cabins at Pemi.

Campfire: Set on the Senior Beach, the campfire circle at Camp Pemi is the sight of Saturday night gatherings, where campers and staff share their musical or storytelling talents with the rest of the camp community. The evening is capped off by a singing of Pemi’s traditional “Campfire Song” that asks, “I wonder if anyone’s better for anything I’ve done or said…” Download the pdf of music and lyrics, here.

Distance swim: In order to be permitted to take a boat out solo, a boy must first complete his distance swim: a closely supervised swim, about .5 mile long, from the high dive at the Senior waterfront, out to a marker in the lake, and back again.

Intermediate divisionDivision: There are four divisions at Pemi: Junior (~ages 8–11; 6 cabins), Lower Intermediate (~ages 11–13; 7 cabins), Upper Intermediate (~ages 13–14; 5 cabins), and Senior (ages 14–15; 4 cabins).

Flat Rock: Diagonally across from camp on Lower Baker Pond, this large, flat rock sticks out into the water. Sometimes, instead of dining in the Mess Hall, a cabin of boys and their counselors will canoe across the lake and cook their dinner over a fire.

Four Docs: There is no “k” in “docs” so, no, this doesn’t refer to waterfront facilities. The Four Docs are the founders of Pemi, all graduates of Oberlin College and three from Columbia Medical School. Learn more about them here.

FRB: Short for “frisbee running bases,” this game typically includes 3 bases, 4 counselors, and as many campers who want to run and be chased as each tries to be the last man standing by not getting tagged. Announcements for an FRB game after dinner bring deafening cheers. We know of no other place on Earth that features FRB.

Free swim: Every afternoon at 5 pm, campers have the option of enjoying Free Swim, which is held in both the Junior Camp and Senior Camp. Campers are closely supervised by counselors, and must swim in groups of either two or three.

Inspection: Every day, after breakfast, campers and counselors clean their cabins. Read an alum’s description of inspection.

Lower Baker Pond: This is the lake that Pemi is on. No exaggeration: it’s one of the most beautiful places around.

Metal Boy: A fictional character of Pemi lore, created by Tom Reed, Jr. He appears in multiple stories and poems, and also in a musical. Oh, and by the way, he’s made entirely of metal. Watch out for rainy days!

Mess Hall: The dining hall: a beautiful slope-roofed, high-ceilinged building perched on a hill overlooking camp, where all meals are eaten, family-style. Announcements follow each meal, with hearty singing after lunch and dinner.

Pemi Hill ShelterPemi Hill: Behind the Intermediate and Junior camp there is a wooded hill rising up about Pemi. A short, steep trail up the hillside takes Pemi campers to a wooden shelter that sits beside a fresh spring. Each cabin has the opportunity to spend a night up there at least once a season, and cook breakfast over the fire in the morning. It’s close enough to camp to still be able to hear that bugle calls, but far enough away to still feel like camping.

Pemi Week: The last week of Pemi, when the normal schedule of occupations ceases and daily events celebrate the season: Games Day, Woodsdude’s Day, the Triathlon, the Art Show, the performances of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, and more. It concludes with the Final Banquet, the Final Bean Soup, and the Final Campfire.

Pine Forest: Like Flat Rock, Pine Forest is a picnic spot across the lake that cabins can canoe to with their counselors and cook dinner over the fire.

Polar Bear: Every morning, campers leap out of bed with a glad cry (“huzzah!”), do quick exercises to wake up, and then jump in the lake. (Required for the first week that a boy is at camp for the summer, it’s optional afterward.)

Pink Polar Bear: Why jump in the relatively warm lake to wake up, when you can dunk in a very cold stream first thing in the morning? Many boys choose this option.

Rest Hour: After lunch, for a blissful hour, campers relax on their beds and quietly read, write, or listen to music.

Sunday "soap bath"

Soap bath: Every Sunday, campers take a quick bath in the lake, using their biodegradable soaps. While hot showers are available all week long, many campers figure, “why use a standard shower when I can bathe in a beautiful lake?!” thus, “soap bath.”

Squish: Where you head to brush your teeth and to go #1.

Squash: Squish’s partner…where you head when you want to go #2.

Tecumseh Day: Pemi’s historical, epic athletic rivalry with Camp Tecumseh. Think Athens vs. Sparta, but instead of bows and arrows and chariots, think baseball, soccer, swimming, and tennis, with exceptional sportsmanship and respect.

Two-day, three-day, four-day: Overnight trips. Visit our Trips page to read all about Pemi’s day trips, multi-day overnight backpacking trips, and canoe trips!

What can you do at Pemi?

It’s a new day at Camp Pemi! What can you do?

view from Camp Pemi messhall, early morning