27 Oct



A year ago, I participated in a month-long fundraiser called Movember where men grow mustaches to increase awareness about men’s health and raise funds to fight men’s cancer. This year, I’m doing it again (as is Shewahmegonite Dan Gibbons). It’s a great charity, a grand time and a great way to raise some money to prevent horrible illnesses that affect men like cancer, which 50 percent of us men will be diagnosed with in our lifetimes.

First things first, I have a team going and if you’re willing to grow a mustache for a great cause, you should join! Now, please enjoy way too much information about Movember…

A promotional image from the Movember Campaign.

An informational one-sheet about the charity and the rules of the competition.

The mo-growing rules of Movember.

A helpful graphic featuring different mustache styles.

The official Movember USA poster.

An explanation of what sort of man grows a mo.

Now, I fully understand if some—or most—of you can’t grow a mustache, but please donate if that’s the case! You can donate to my efforts here. Every little bit helps and all of us Shewahmegonites have prostates and testicles that one day may directly benefit from the funds raised during this campaign… so… you’re only helping yourself by being generous. Also, all donations are tax deductible. It’s win, win, win. Please donate.


Also, you can follow the my Movember efforts over at my other blog if you’re interested.

27 Oct


Adam "Pressy" Presbroten

Flat out one of my favorite people ever, I have about nine million amazing and embarrassing stories about Pressy (Adam’s nickname, cleverly derived from his last name… which is Presbroten). That’s how it goes when you live in a tiny cabin with a guy for five years. I’ll get to all those glorious tales later for reasons I’ll explain in my next post…

For now…

This photo was taken when Pressy and I were JCs (Junior Counselors, remember?) living in Cabin 4. Pressy is sitting on the gas station sign of the Drummond Conoco, known familiarly as Bear Country. Drummond, the nearest town to camp and Bear Country was a frequent, almost necessary, stop for anyone leaving Shewahmegon. Whether you were grabbing a soda pop, a novelty t-shirt or swiping a porn magazine (Mr. Trieshmann…), Bear Country was the closest bit of civilization to our remote boys camp.

This photo is also a great indication of the truly gorgeous summer days you get in the Northwoods.

Pressy is the man. ‘Nuff said.


A historical note…
Please enjoy the gas prices listed at Bear Country. Those prices were not an uncommon site in rural America back in the year 2000 (or was it 2001?). How far we’ve come…

27 Aug

A road, a man: Owen

Owen Aronson on Owen Avenue.

Photographed in the year 2000, may I present Owen Aronson: my friend and one of the brightest individuals I’ve ever known. I shared a cabin at camp with Owen for six summers, so I’ll likely have more stories featuring his involvement than you’ll be able to stand, so I’ll keep this post fairly brief for fear of Owen overdose.

This photo was taken when Owen and I were first year JCs. (Junior Counselors, both 15 years old at the time, I believe.) We were both on a day off, but being 15, neither of us could drive. So we ended up being dropped off in the closest town to camp: the tiny town of Drummond, Wis. During this afternoon visit with no ride to go anywhere more interesting, I remember that Owen and I (plus another party… I forget now who that was. Fernando Gasca?) went to the Drummond Public Library (Two elementary school-style trailers pushed together during, my time on staff at least. Like this, but more rustic looking.) to check our email and watch VHS tapes. During this occasion, Owen popped in “The Shining” and we watched about two thirds of it—the most I’ve ever seen of the film. Anywho, that’s what us young staffers did on days off without a car to hop in.

Also… a bit of description I omitted, Owen Avenue was in Drummond, and so I had to coax Owen into a quick photo.

Now for some additional info…
Owen is wearing a campaign hat featuring an advertisement for the aforementioned Gary Sherman. Also, Owen’s jean shorts with a racing stripe are yet another example of the ridiculous clothes often worn at camp—whether thrift or older garments relegated to the backwoods, we were an oddly garbed group.

That’s all for now, folks! Thanks for checking in! Also, please forgive the overly wordy nature of this post. HBO’s “John Adams” was on in the background, so the eloquent acting of Paul Giamatti may have informed the writing featured here.

19 Aug

The Archery Box

Ready for an afternoon at the archery range.

I’ve blogged a bunch about archery in the past, but here’s the first photo I’ve posted of the rustic shack where we kept the arrow-slinging equipment all summer. As I’ve stated before, Kodak one-time-use cameras are unfortunately not the best way to take excellent photos and this one is a bit wonky for that reason. Either way, this would have been exactly what a camper in 2001 saw if they came down to the range for an afternoon of archery—though, if it was a nice day, I might not have been smiling.

So, where to begin…

The Archery Box was fairly ancient. Constructed out of wood at some point in camp’s history, it kept rain and woodland creatures away from the equipment but was chock-full of tiny holes, plenty of chipped paint and even had bits of moss growing on the roof. Despite its age, the A Box (The archery portion was only half of the box. The other half had equipment for A-Field games. The entire structure was known as the A Box.) got the job done. The Box was down on the A-Field and, to the right of the picture, you can see the plastic trash bin full of lime for marking the field for games like Capture the Indian Clubs or Dodgeball.

Full of camp’s collection of recurve bows and wooden arrows, as well as campers who had brought their archery equipment (usually compound bows and graphite arrows), this was the place where each archery lesson would begin. In order of seniority based on how accomplished an archer they were, campers would get to select the bow and set of arrows they’d use for the afternoon. (To my left, in the photo, are camp’s arrow sets.) Instead of wearable Robin Hood-esque quivers, we mostly used metal holders that could be stuck into the ground. A bit like a long nail, twisted at the top to form a ring that would hold the arrows, the in-ground quivers could be flung down into the soft sand around the Archery Box, driven directly into the ground, in an impressively cool way. Probably the biggest perk of teaching archery? Only instructors were allowed to toss the quivers, thus experiencing the satisfying sensation of flinging sharp, dangerous objects into dirt with great speed in front of bewildered youths.

Other than that, this photo is another prime example of the impeccable style demonstrated at camp. Sneakers with yellows laces, tube socks, jean shorts and neon green tees! Flawless! That shirt came from a restaurant called The Satisfied Frog in Carefree, Ariz., where my grandparents (who sent both their sons to Shewahmegon) lived. At the end of the summer, I traded it to Chris Arnold for an orange shirt that said “Camp does kids a world of good.” (T-shirt trading was kinda big at camp. I’ll probably get into that in a later post.)

Note: Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. After Comic-Con, things kind of got away from me. Life, it’s busy—what can I say? I’ll be getting back into the swing of things now, but big thanks goes out to my cousin Ryan Bergstrom, Brent Parker, Adam Kwasman and Chris Arnold for their kind words about my blogging and their “encouragement” to get my ass in gear and start writing more about camp. Thanks, gents!

20 Jul

Cyclops on the A-Field: A Comic-Con mini-hiatus post.

This week, the absolutely massive San Diego Comic-Con International calls all nerds and fiction enthusiasts to Southern California with its siren song. As a bit of a nerd myself, as well as a Dark Horse Comics employee, I’ll be heading down to Comic-Con for the rest of the week. I was hoping to get in a few posts beforehand, but alas, preparing for the comics community’s prom is a lot of work. In flipping through my camp photos however, I found a shot that seems particularly perfect for this “my comics job calls, so my camp blog suffers no new posts” update.

I nabbed these goofy sunglasses from someone (Chris Arnold?) and "X-Men" came out that summer. What do you expect?

My Kodak disposable couldn't handle a shot at dusk back then. I've lightened this in Photoshop to show off a bit of the A-Field (aka the Athletic Field).

This photo features so many aspects of camp I plan to talk about later on this blog including the A-Field, the goofy items we used to purchase at thrift stores or the uniquely bizarre grocery stores of Northern Wisconsin, living without electricity and how schedules are determined by the 8 p.m. dusk of summer, my somewhat embarrassing and lamentable love of visors during my teenage years… there’s a lot I could touch on here, but I must pack my bag for San Diego, so I’ll keep it brief.

The summer of 2000 was my first year on staff. That meant, it was my first year with days and nights off to visit the small towns surrounding the remote Camp Shewahmegon. This was also the same summer that “X-Men” came out.

One night off while the rest of the staff out on the town went to carouse at the Hayward Musky Festival, Adam Kwasman, Bill Trieshmann and I went to see “X-Men” at the glamorous Hayward Cinema 4. (Actually, despite it’s small theater number size, the Hayward Cinema 4 was newly remodeled and quite nice.) Aside from loving the movie and having it inform this photo that proves I’ve at least been a huge nerd since age 15, I remember Adam Kwasman going on and on about how much he loved the opening sequence featuring a boyhood Magneto living through the terror of the Holocaust and how that lead to Professor Xavier’s arch nemesis suffering the stress that manifested his mutant abilities. It’s a badass movie sequence, make no mistake, but I remember Adam praising it almost to the point of hyperbole.

Recounting this viewing of “X-Men” actually reminds me that it was over a similarly nerdy moment that I think Adam and I actually became friends.

Camp’s fiftieth anniversary fell during the summer of 1997. One weekend, all of camp’s alumni were invited up to Drummond (At five miles away down a winding country road, the nearest town to camp.) for a big celebration. While camp was filled to the brim with SROs (Suddenly Returning Old-Timers: a phrase coined by Mac Harris.), our cabin groups were sent off on a hike to make room for the visitors. My counselor Ben McIntyre was the cousin of Bunkhouse’s counselor, my counselor a year prior in Cabin 12, John Kroupa. The duo decided to take both Cabin 14 (My cabin, the third oldest.) and Cabin Bunkhouse (The oldest cabin.) out on the same hike. You know what they say, “Less boredeom in numbers.” While Bunkhouse was full of some rad dudes, I wouldn’t have said my cabin group was particularly close to those cool, older campers. After that hike, I think our groups kind of formed a bond.

Anywho, thrown together by the aforementioned and unfavorable hiking situation, our cabin groups took to chatting and bullshitting in the hopes we could make the whole affair more enjoyable. Somewhere along the way, Kwasman and I started talking about superheroes. In hindsight, as I mentioned, I think this was when the two of us became buddies. Sadly, I don’t remember much of the actual conversation, but the one tidbit that does stick out is when Kwasman started talking about how much he liked Green Arrow. I was pretty much a strict Marvel reader at the time and had no idea who the Emerald Archer was, but years later when I became familiar with the superheroics of Ollie Queen, I remember thinking it was fitting that Kwasman was a Green Arrow fan and seemed destined for a life of politics. (Green Arrow’s known for a being a staunch liberal and was even the mayor of DC’s fictional Star City for a while.)

That’s all for now, folks! I’ll see you back here next week for more tall tales of summer camp life!

An art print of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox that I purchased from Banner Year Press at this year's Stumptown Comics Fest. I'm comics crazy right now!

16 Jul

Among the jolliest men I’ve known…

Cece and Pressy.

Behold, O Readers! Before your eyes I display two men whose mirth, even in their youth, rivaled that of the gods themselves! Feast your eyes upon the giggling countenances of Robert “Cece” Geilfuss and Adam “Pressy” Prestbroten!

Seriously, I love these guys. If I were to sit down and really think about it, I have no doubt I could recount at least five stories starring either of them that would make you laugh so hard milk would squirt out of your nose (even if you hadn’t recently drank any milk!). Funny guys, each with a great sense of humor, and I doubt many folks who attended camp could claim such a rad pair as friends.

I believe this photo was taken at Picnic Point during the previously mentioned All Day Hikes, which would place this photo in the year 2000. Pressy would have been around 15 years old and a first year JC while Cece, I believe, would have been about 12 years old and in Cabin 12.

This photo is as good a place as any to point out a phenomenon I’ve come across while flipping through these old pictures. The people, scenes and events featured in these snapshots are all recognizable and memorable, but I’m amazed how many bits of wardrobe are instantly recognizable as well. Shewahmegon wasn’t a place where you’d dress to impress, but after weeks and years of people sporting the same old shirts day in and day out, certain designs must have been burned into the back of my mind. I can’t for the life of me remember who the Dragons on Cece’s shirt are (Arena League Football? Minor League Soccer?), but the design is instantly and inexplicably familiar. Between the same worn-out old t-shirts and outlandish thrift wear (More on that later!), camp clothing wasn’t stylish in a traditional sense, but it was definitely memorable.

16 Jul

Some song sheets: Johnny Verbeck, Frozen North and more!

In my last post, I put out the call for Shewahmegon Song Sheets. A day later, the illustrious Brent Parker (Former Waterfront Director extraordinaire!) reminded me that he’d already posted a few on Facebook. Excellent!

While the men of Shewahmegon had flexed our vocal chords with many more songs than the ones featured here around the Council Fire or in Lodge, this is a nice smattering of songs that demonstrate the goofy and folky tunes we used to belt out at camp.

A collection of favorites, including the Boo Boop, The Far Northland and the Frozen North.

One of my favorite, and one of the goriest camp songs we had: Johnny Verbeck.

A rarity during my time at camp, but on eof the songs that's come up most since those days: Charlie and the MTA. Did he ever return? No. No, he never returned.

Hot damn, this was a great tune!

Many thanks to Brent for scanning these puppies in, and if you have more song sheets please drop me a line at jimgibbons1 [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d love to get some more up here!

16 Jul

Chipmunk Chatter: Vol. 53, No. 6

The Chipmunk Chatter was Camp Shewahmegon’s newsletter, which ideally came out on a weekly basis for all of camp’s 54 years of operation. A masterpiece of clip art and colored paper during my time at camp, The Chatter was an information source for parents and a venue for the staff and campers to goof around. Introductory articles about counselors and staff, camping trip recaps written by campers, announcements of award winners and basic camp information filled the pastel pages of this publication.

While the Chipmunk Chatter was undoubtedly a great source of information for most parents, it’s true potential was achieved when staff and some savvy campers worked inside jokes into articles and used it as a way to make each other laugh. I remember working an inside joke into a report I wrote about a 1997 camping trip on the St. Croix River. Former Shewahmegonite and Wisconsin State Legislator Gary Sherman (Now a judge on the Wisconsin State Court of Appeals, believe it or not.), who accompanied us on our trip, made a particularly delicious campfire meal on the final night along the river. A tasty mixture of rice, cream sauce and chicken, someone in my cabin (Cabin 14, for the record.) dubbed the dish “Mama Gary’s Chicken St. Croix.” I’m pretty sure I can claim credit for coining the dish’s name, and I’m positive I’m the first person to ever put it into print. Noted as one of the highlights of our trip, I reported that “Mama Gary’s Chicken St. Croix” was a meal worth remembering, and what do you know, I remember it to this day!

It’s kind of crazy to look back at The Chatter after working as a writer for a legitimate newspaper, national magazine and a major online comic book news site, but that tiny pamphlet was the first print publication I cut my teeth on. Kind of crazy, indeed. Another semi-crazy tidbits about the newsletter was how Chatter articles were penned. Scribbled in a plethora of appalling forms of pre-teen to teenage male handwriting, the quickly scrawled articles were then transcribed by The Chatter‘s editor. Having done my fair share of sifting through poorly written reporter’s notes and transcribing plenty of my own chicken scratch, I definitely have a whole new appreciation for the work Becky Will and Cathy Laatsch (the Chatter editors during my years at camp) put into this publication. They definitely deserve a Locomotive.

Now, without further ado, the final Chipmunk Chatter from camp’s second to last year…

Click the images to see larger versions of them.

2000 was my first year on staff, so I wasn’t eligible to win any awards. I did, however, help instruct sailing and archery, so I’ll take a smidgen of credit for nurturing those campers’ success. Otherwise, I hope this rekindles some fun memories for folks.

Note: I believe I have more of Chipmunk Chatters tucked away somewhere at my folks’ house, but if you’re a Shewahmegonite with Chatters or songsheets at home, I’d love to scan them in and record them. Drop me a line at jimgibbons1 [at] gmail [dot] com if you have anything like that you’d like posted.

14 Jul

All Day Hikes

All hiked out or maybe ready for more at (i believe) Picnic Point.

Each year during the fifth and sixth weeks of camp, the two oldest cabins (Bunkhouse and Cabin 15 during my seven years at Shewahmegon.) would go on a 10-day canoeing trip in Canada. While the Border Trip was an amazing experience, the real kooky fun was happening back at camp. Taking a break from the everyday Shewahmegon routine, Border Week was filled with all sorts of crazy activities including a mud-chucking battle in a swamp, campers throwing whip cream pies into Staffer faces, beach parties and much, much more.

In 2000, my first year on staff in the illustrious position of Junior Counselor, the entire camper population and counselor staff went out one day during border week on a series of All Day Hikes. After trudging through the woods, we stopped at Picnic Point to cook Puffers (more on these later!) and take a break before heading back into the woods to venture forth to our next destination. I have a lot of pictures from this brief stop and plenty of fun memories even though it only encompassed two or three hours of my entire camp career. That was always one of the interesting things about camp (As far as my memory is concerned, at least.), certain days just ended up being a ton of fun for no particular reason. All Day Hikes was not a favorite event among the campers or staff, so maybe that led to all of us banding together to make the best of a bad situation—I don’t know. Perhaps when camp shrunk as the oldest cabins left, the rest of us—shocked at the loss of our, dare I say, brothers—reformed our bonds of friendship stronger and faster in their absence only to welcome them back joyfully 10 days later into a more cohesive web of camp family. Either way, I remember this particular cookout was extremely enjoyable and chock-full of some seriously great bonding.

14 Jul

The Canoe Relay

Getting ready for the Canoe Relay.

One of the things I always enjoyed about camp and, to a degree, Northern Wisconsin was how timeless those places always felt to me. Or maybe “stuck in time” is a better way to put it. While the modern era came to camp in the form of CDs, Discmans and sleek Maglite flashlights, you could look around and see bits of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s intermingled with the new faces and newfangled technology.

This photo, which features a fairly common and genuinely timeless tableau of Shewahmegon life, has representation from each decade of camp’s operation. The brown boathouse in the background received numerous touch-ups over the years, but I believe (If memory serves…) it was one of camp’s oldest buildings. I’ll give that one to the ’50s, and parts of it to the ’60s as well. The red and white speedboat next to the boathouse, cleverly named The 70 (Right, Shewahmegonites?) due to the horsepower of its engine, is coincidentally pure ’70s. For the ’80s, I’ll allow Tim Will’s pink shorts to wave proudly (though Tim’s steadfast beard might date back to the ’70s), as well as the other speedboat. Known as The Lund, camp’s faster speedboat was an ’80s model that I believe came to camp in the ’90s. Then you’ve got the fiberglass canoes (’80s?), aluminum paddles (’90s), white and black camo t-shirt (Sported by, I believe, Danny Trevor… so, ’90s.) and any one of the docks pictured here was probably made up of bits from the ’50s through to the year this photo was taken. It’s like traveling through time while standing still.

All these camp contants make this photo a bit hard to date, but I’m fairly certain it’s from 2001. The fiberglass canoes were only pulled out for rare occasions, one of them being a game day called The Olympiad (Or did the Olympiad feature the Swim Relay while Shewahmegon Games Day had the Canoe Relay?), which means this photo was taken on a Saturday in the afternoon.

The event everyone’s preparing for in this picture was the aforementioned Canoe Relay, the first of the day’s team events. Each of the four teams, whose names were self-chosen at the beginning of the day, had to take every single member of their team around a buoy about a quarter of a mile away on the lake. The fastest team to have each member complete this task won the race.

Complicating matters was the fact that the fiberglass canoes were notoriously wobbly and the vigorous paddling this competitive event encouraged didn’t help matters. Most strategies for this relay put three people in each heat of canoe. (As opposed to loading more in each to lesson the number of trips. That almost never panned out.) An older camper would take the stern to provide power and experienced navigation, one of the younger and tiniest campers would ride deadweight after being given plenty of encouragement to sit still and not rock the boat, and a camper somewhere in between would take the bow to add paddling power.

Essentially, the Canoe Relay was a lesson in patience. Focus on long, powerful paddle strokes and careful maneuvering and your canoe would make good time without capsizing. Let the screaming, cheering masses on the shore speed up your paddling to frantic levels and you’d flip your ship, likely after losing your cool. In the end, like so many things at camp, the experience had value outside the Northwoods—it was a practical team building exercise with a camp twist.

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