For the third show of the 2018 season, both groups of Expedition Campers, sixteen in all, directed by XCamp leaders Ian Ford, Satchel Toole, Nick Miller, and Cole Gibson, produced eX-Camper, based on the movie Big. The curtain opens on an alternate Pine Island universe in which counselors Matt Miller and Noah Brodsky (Sawyer Carson and Alex Lanoff) are wreaking havoc upon island life. Carson and Lanoff’s confident and audible performances brought life to their portrayals of the goofy pair. Miller’s own tent experiences the worst of the abuse of power: Will Napolitano, Tom Straus, and David Austin (themselves) suffer nobly through Miller’s treatment. Ben Brill, leading the first half of the show with his usual charm, gave a memorable performance as himself. Soon, Brill meets the stuffed cow genie, played with whimsy and excellent comedic timing by David Donoghue, who offers to grant Brill a single wish. The next morning, they awaken as fully-fledged counselors: Cole Wofford fearlessly takes on the role of Counselor David Austin, Garrett Gellert as the charismatic Counselor Ben Brill. But being a counselor is not as easy as it once seemed: in a single day, they’re accosted by a nervous mother (Alex Dhawan) and her first-year camper (Dylan Ashby), who hilariously list their concerns with the son’s many allergies. Austin is awakened by his camper (Anders Westermann) and learns he has overslept on his OD day. Other campers, played by Alex Sidorsky and Alex Desjonqueres, make life miserable with constant questions throughout his day. Even payday is a disappointment – Emily Swan (Anders Westermann) distributes paychecks that are a meager seventeen dollars. The pair wish desperately to return to their original camper form, and with lesson learned, the wish is granted. Through this show, the Expedition Campers proved their ability to work as a team to create something sensational.
Satchel Toole is a Brunswick, ME native who spent two summers as a camper at Pine Island and several years as a counselor teaching riflery and fly-fishing. Last summer Satchel held the coveted position of Expedition Camp Leader (along with his co-leader, Cole Gibson) and this year we’re fortunate to have both Satchel and Cole return as our Assistant Directors. Satchel holds a Bachelor of the Arts in Economics and Environmental Studies and a minor in Spanish from Saint Lawrence University. He is a Wilderness First Responder. This will be Satchel’s 8th summer at Pine Island. He is the youngest of three brothers who all attended, worked, and now volunteer regularly at Pine Island. Satchel’s mother, Sandy Holland, is famous in the Pine Island community for providing delicious baked goods for our annual NYC Campfire and volunteer events.
This past camp season was a milestone for everyone at Pine Island—another great summer for campers, counselors, and everyone else connected with PIC. Even here, in the far reaches of northern Thailand, there were reports of splendid weather, vigorous activities on the mainland as well as on Great Pond, epic trips, brilliant campfires, and entertaining Saturday Night Shows. Although the island is quiet now, those happy memories will abide—and last a lifetime. Indeed, they remain with me still, reminders that exactly 60 years ago this past June I arrived for my first summer at PIC.
I was most unlikely counselor material, never having spent a night outdoors in my life. The only reason Ben Swan’s father hired me (sight unseen!) was that I came on the recommendation of my college roommate, Monroe Baldwin from Lynchburg, Virginia—who had acquitted himself creditably the previous summer. It also helped that I was attending the same college which Jun Swan himself had attended, the University of Virginia. More likely, Jun needed counselors, and Roe pointed out to him that I was available. As usual, I had made no summer plans—never being one to think very far ahead.
My parents had made their plans, however—a trip to Europe, leaving the family Pekingese in my care. (“Pine Island sounds like a great place for the dog,” my father said—not knowing that Jun Swan couldn’t abide them.) Anyway, in early June I struck out for the State of Maine in my ’53 Ford, turning on the car heater upon crossing the border from New Hampshire. It had been a brief spring; only the birches had leaves. Tourists were few, and there was almost no traffic north of Portland. At Augusta I followed Routes 8 and 11 where they forked at the camp road. Pine Island’s sign pointed the way. Someone had forgotten to take it down at the end of the previous summer…
The camp road was in awful shape. A rugged winter had heaved boulders; potholes were deep; shoulders had vanished. Even more disconcerting, there was no trace of any vehicles coming or going. Who was looking after this place, I wondered. Turns out, nobody… Anyway, arriving at the mainland shore, there was not a sign of life—but from Roe Baldwin’s description (and a famous PIC post card) I recognized the signal. Duly hoisting notice of my arrival, I sat on a bench and waited—wondering how a boat could land without a dock. An hour or so passed with no launch to my rescue; the dog and I were starting to worry.
And just about that time, I heard a car coming down the camp road. It was an ancient Chevrolet station wagon with luggage strapped to the roof, towing a splay-wheeled trailer behind. A man with his bow tie askew leaned out the window from behind the wheel and said, “Hi, I’m Jun Swan. Who are you?” The owner and his wife had arrived, and I had beaten them to camp!
My dog and I were led through a dark forest to the Rink—a wet and muddy trek that neither the dog nor I enjoyed. Loaded with the Swans’ luggage, I looked around for a light switch—but, of course, no electricity. In a wood stove, Mrs. Swan built a fire, then opened a #10 can of pork and beans. My first meal in Maine! By now it was cold and dark. I found my way to a bunkroom upstairs, borrowed a sleeping bag, and told the dog in no uncertain terms, “We’re not staying! First thing tomorrow morning, we’re out of here.” No objection from the Peke.
And, of course, I did stay. Morning brought a great breakfast in the nearby town of Oakland. The sun came out, and it warmed up a lot. More counselors appeared, and before I even realized it, I was wholeheartedly involved in opening camp and Another Great Summer. I returned for three more seasons, then directed Pine Island for 20 years. It all seems like yesterday to this old man who now lives on the other side of the world…
Cole Gibson spent five summers as a camper at Pine Island and went on to teach axemanship, fire building, first aid, emergency shelter construction, leave-no-trace techniques and much more as our head woodcraft instructor. For the past two years Cole has held the highly-coveted position of expedition camp leader (last year he shared this responsibility with Satchel Toole). We are thrilled to have him back this year in his new capacity as Assistant Director. Cole will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Psychology from Colby-Sawyer College. He is a Wilderness First Responder. This will be his 11th summer at Pine Island. His father, cousins, and brother have all attended camp. Cole’s father, Tad Gibson, returns every year to umpire the War Game.