by David Grant
(originally published in 1983 in A History of Three Mile Island Camp by Stroker Rogovin)
Once a day during the summer, the Sophie C. Mailboat docks at Three Mile Island, and the pulse of the camp quickens. Here is the link with the outside world -- the letters and newspapers; here is the late morning snack -- the ice cream bars and cokes; here is the pack of tourists who stare in stupefied amazement at the goings-on on our dock. And most of all, here is the opportunity for a mailboat skit, one of the great TMI traditions. In our years of management, we have raided the mailboat as pirates and repaired it as mechanics, staged a beauty pageant and reenacted the nuclear disasters on the other TMI; in our last summer, we even saw the birth of our son two months early. But when I find myself describing this lunacy on cold winter nights, there are three skits to which I always return as my favorites.
The earliest of the three is the "sheik Abdullah" skit, in which I played the title role. We gave Capt. Bigelow some lines to read over the loudspeaker as he steamed into the harbor: "There is a distinguished visitor on Three Mile Island today -- Sheik Abdullah, the richest man in the world." Sheiks this rich, of course, don't travel alone. The crew boys were the bodyguards, clad in turbans and loincloths, their well-oiled bodies glistening in the sun; the crew girls were the harem, wrapped in sheets and feeding me grapes. On the boat, we had planted a newlywed couple, toting a "Just Married" suitcase and Kodak instamatics. My bronzed servants carried me up and down beside the mailboat as I made magisterial gestures and spouted gibberish; international relationships were flourishing. Then I spotted her -- the young bride on the boat. I almost fell off my litter pointing and talking nonsense, while one of my bodyguards held up a sign: "Translation -- I WANT HER!!" the rest is predictable: the bodyguards boarded the boat; the new husband protested and was thrown overboard; the new wife was brought to Abdullah, bedecked with jewels, then led up the main path as a full-fledged member of the harem.
In the "Jaws" skit, the Sophie C. arrived with Capt. Bigelow informing the tourists of reports about a giant lake shark spotted near Three Mile Island. Out on the swimming raft were five or six crew members relaxing; on the main deck were two managers screaming. (Well...one screaming, one laughing.) "Get in here right now", I shouted. "Haven't you heard about the shark?"
"Ah, don't worry about it", the crew yelled back; "this is a lake".
"But it's a lake shark", I screamed. "Nancy", I cried, turning to her, "the crew is in great danger!" But probably hysterical with worry, all she could do was laugh.
Then it appeared -- the fin -- a fin so large the shark would have been about fifty feet long. Simultaneously from the launch house came the music from the movie "Jaws," and the next few minutes were pandemonium. The shark circled the raft -- all but one of the crew members swam frantically to the dock and made it -- one girl stayed behind crying "I can't swim!" "Try!" we yelled. With exquisitely bad timing, she jumped into the path of the shark and down she went. She came back to the surface long enough to scream and pop the bag of red food coloring hidden in her bathing suit, then disappeared for good (thanks to the shark's scuba tank).
Using movie themes for dramatic effect peaked with the "Superman" skit of 1981. Taking advantage of Brent Harder's Man-of-Steel looks and Bob Stanley's ridiculously powerful speakers, we put together a routine which Capt. Bigelow called the best he had ever seen. The skit began with Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen on the TMI dock collecting data for their story on island camps. One the mailboat was an evil gangster with henchmen, come to buy up all the islands in Lake Winnipesaukee for his own, no doubt evil purposes. Two of the crew girls were also on the boat, disguised as little old ladies. The boat landed; the gangster ordered everybody off the Island; Clark Kent ducked into the specially constructed dock phone booth and at the climax of the music burst it apart and appeared as Superman. He ran up the path, then flew down on the camp stretcher, which was supported by three bodies and disguised with sheets as a cloud bank. Superman quickly vanquished the henchmen, but the resourceful gangster had Kryptonite in his suitcase. Things looked pretty bad at this point, but one of the little old ladies on the boat, who had been screaming throughout, climbed off on the dock, beat Mr. Big with her umbrella, and disposed of the Kryptonite, restoring strength to Superman and peace, justice, and the American way to Three Mile Island. Capt. Bigelow made his "AMC stand for Asylum for the Mentally Confused" joke, then departed through the treacherous channel off Nabby's with the inevitable, "Well, we made it. Thanks for your help."