Island Life and Traditions
"Pine Island has a special magic, a magic strong enough to have my
computer-game-playing son willingly unplug himself for four wonderful summers."
—Pine Island Parent
Life on Pine Island is simple. Although only the kitchen is equipped with electricity and running water, we live comfortably the same way Pine Islanders have for decades. The camp launch, shown at left, is our primary connection to the modern world.
Each boy lives in a comfortable platform tent with three other boys and one counselor. Tents are grouped by age in three areas of the island and are ideal for both hot summer days and the occasional rain storm. Older boys live on the more private southern end of the island, and while they have a little more freedom they are also given extra responsibility. Bullying is not tolerated on Pine Island, and older boys are expected to help younger ones adjust to island life, whether this means teaching them a skill or just being an older friend. Staff members and campers are all on a first-name basis regardless of seniority.
Three times a day, a conch is blown to summon the camp to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Our dining hall can accommodate the entire camp, though often many campers and staff are away on trips. Important announcements are made during meals, including trip signups, special activities and staff assignments, and birthdays.
Twice a day, there are activity periods (boys sign up for their activities each morning) which lasts two hours. Following each activity period is free time and a general swim, during which boys may swim in our cove provided they have a partner. Every general swim is monitored by three lifeguards: one on the swim float, one in a lifesaving dory, and a head lifeguard on the main dock.
There is also a rest hour every day after lunch, during which campers may relax in their tent or visit the camp library to read, write letters, play games, or look at old photo albums. The library (seen at left) is always supervised by a staff member at rest hour.
Free time is available several times a day. Boys can simply hang out with their friends, get extra instruction from a counselor in a particular skill, or fit in a little extra fishing. There is a medic on staff to take care of the occasional minor injury, and there is always a launch on the island ready to take a boy ashore at a moment's notice. The nearest hospital is less than a 20 minute drive away. There is a cell phone on the island in case of emergencies, but otherwise there is no connection to the outside world (aside from mail, which arrives daily by boat).
The social center of the island is Honk Hall (shown at right), where boys may play ping-pong, watch a Saturday Night Show, collect their mail, visit the library, play on our piano, or head for campfire on rainy evenings. The island has several other large buildings, including the infirmary, boathouse, dining hall, and pump house (all our drinking water is hand-pumped). Honk Hall is a popular hangout in the late afternoons, just before dinner.
After dinner, Boats Out is called. Boys with proper rankings in waterfront activities may take out a boat during this time, but only within a limited area in clear sight of several assigned staff members. Campfire follows Boats Out, and the younger campers are in bed by dark. Older boys are allowed to stay up a bit later.
PINE ISLAND TRADITIONS
With over 100 years of history, Pine Island Camp has developed many colorful traditions. Since the island is free from electrical power (except in the kitchen), we rely heavily on each other for entertainment - video games and television are simply not an option. Every night we have campfire, during which skits, songs, stories, and games keep everyone amused. At this time, the Black and White Knights (and their hideous assistants) may appear to duel in canoes as they have for decades. A hirsute Esther Williams and her water nymphs might perform some synchronized swimming. Or perhaps Johnny Credit Card will perform one of his memorable ballads.
Every Saturday night, a full-length theatrical piece - the Saturday Night Show - is performed. With titles like "Gone with the Wimps," "All My Campers," "West Porch Story," and "Kung-Fu Master of Great Pond," there is never a dull moment. Saturday Night Shows are created entirely by two staff members and a troupe of campers and are always a hit.
According to camp tradition, Pine Island was given to Clarence Colby in 1902 by the mysterious King Kababa. Though none have actually seen him, Pine Islanders continue to honor King Kababa throughout the summer. He watches over us to be sure we are using his gift wisely, and sends us signs several times over the summer to inform us of his opinions. A camper who finds one of these unusual signs is held in high esteem by his peers. Every Pine Islander hopes that our appreciation of King Kababa's benevolence and our dedication to his ideals of generosity and respect for each other and for the island will be rewarded at the end of the summer with the appearance of another of his extraordinary Sacred Animals.
Our fleet of boats is used for recreation as well as education. We enjoy a day-long regatta once a summer which makes use of Pine Island's entire rowing fleet. We also play Water Bemis several times a summer, which involves kayaks, canoes, ping-pong balls, and a lot of frantic paddling. And every evening after dinner, boys who have reached certain ranks in watermanship skills may take a boat out under the watchful eye of several assigned counselors equipped with a motor launch.
Perhaps our greatest tradition is the Pine Island Game, played at the end of each summer. The camp is divided in half for a two-day competition between two teams at our property in nearby Norridgewock, where the entire camp relocates. This tradition was inspired by a rotten apple fight between campers nearly one hundred years ago. We don't use apples anymore, and the game involves no physical contact or violence. For many campers and staff it is the highlight of their summer and a topic of conversation for decades
At Pine Island, we are always careful to make sure that our traditions remain a joy and not a burden. We welcome new traditions as they emerge - and we keep in mind that even the oldest tradition is only worth keeping if it still enriches the spirit and fosters a spirit of friendship.