Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads – The Girls of Canby Hall #7: Four is a Crowd

Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads

We’ve all heard of Throwback Thursday, the day you post photos from the past to Facebook or Instagram. Retro Reads is my bookish version of Throwback Thursday. I’ll be rereading and posting a recap/review of books I loved when I was younger, mostly series books. Fair warning: These are more recaps than reviews. They will be thorough and there will be spoilers.

For the first few weeks, I’m going to be transferring my previously posted Girls of Canby Hall recaps over here.

Four is a CrowdThe Girls of Canby Hall #7: Four is a Crowd
Author: Carol White writing as Emily Chase
Published: 1984
Goodreads

Pamela thinks she can buy her friends the way she picks her clothes….

And Shelley almost falls for it. The movie star’s daughter is new to Canby Hall, and Shelley can’t believe the glamorous life Pamela has led. Despite Faith and Dana’s warnings, Shelley has to find out for herself that Pamela is up to no good. But Shelley can’t possibly know that Pamela spends more time on her enemies than she’d ever spend on her friends, and her current targets are… the girls of Canby Hall!

It’s September 5: back to school time! Dana’s arriving by train and van again, wishing her family could have driven her to Canby. Her sister (too young to drive anyway) is already back in school and her mother has to work. I guess she couldn’t take ONE day off to take her oldest daughter to boarding school. Come to think of it, this is how all the girls arrived last year, too: alone.

Dana is in for a surprise when she reaches Baker 407. Someone painted it over the summer. Instead of last year’s “Insane Asylum Green,” it’s now a bright electric peacock blue. Sherwin-Williams has a slightly darker selection, and this site offers a look at fully furnished rooms done in peacock blue, although I would not say any of them are bright or electric. Maybe peacock blue has changed over past three decades. Anyway, it’s not really my taste either, way too dark and depressing for me.

“Gadzooks!” is Faith’s reaction. Maybe she thinks she’s in a Scooby Doo cartoon. It turns out that Faith and Dana were on the same train, just different cars. You would think they might have discussed travel arrangements? They unpack as they wait for Shelley’s arrival. Faith is feeling a lot better since her illness, but she’s still down ten pounds. Johnny visited her in DC one weekend, and got to spend some time with her family, who he had met in July when they picked her up from school.

Dana hasn’t seen Randy, but he did write her some letters while she was in New York. These girls are talking like they haven’t seen each other all summer. It’s been maybe three weeks.

Shelley declares that the room is “incredibly, amazingly, unbelievably, atrociously awful,” and wants to paint it black. She thinks it would be dramatic.

Shelley’s gained some weight during her time at home (which she says was two months but I’ve done the math and it just doesn’t work) but is still down at least ten pounds from her chubby self of last fall. Actually, she calls herself a “little tub of lard.” OVER TEN POUNDS?

As the group makes plans to go into Greenleaf for banana splits, Dana looks out the window and sees a navy blue limo and matching Cadillac pulling up in front of Baker. Two uniformed chauffeurs start unloading: a color TV, a video-recorder, an expensive stereo, skis, four tennis rackets, an electric typewriter, seven baby blue trunks, and nine baby blue suitcases. I hope this girl, whoever she is, has a single room.

Faith points out that the cars have California plates. What? They drove all the way across the country? I do not think the “willowy blonde girl in white pants and a black new wave shirt” who emerges from Baker was part of that road trip. Even Shelley flies in from Iowa.

“Miss Young” is on the third floor. And she has a maid named Nanette to put away her stuff. I wonder if Nanette gets a room.

Miss Young, whose first name is Pamela, has decided to take the Cadillac into Greenleaf to find some food. She instructs Nanette to find someone to do something about the two girls who think they’re sharing her room. She’s going to require a private room, of course.

Casey comes into the room with exciting information about their new dormmate: She’s the daughter of none other than the famous movie star Yvonne Young.

Yvonne Young, is that you? No, it's Yvonne DeCarlo in her role as Lily Munster!Every time I read the name Yvonne Young, I think Yvonne DeCarlo. I like to imagine that Pamela’s mother is Lily Munster. Also, this book made me hate the name Pamela.

Casey joins the girls of 407 for ice cream and when they return to Canby, they take a walk around the campus. As they pass the headmistress’s house, they glance into her window and see her get into what seems like an argument with a good-looking younger man, who then takes a crying Miss Allardyce into his arms. It’s oh so mysterious.

Shelley goes to breakfast early and is surprised to see Pamela already in the dining room. She decides to be friendly and goes over to Pamela’s table.

She sure didn’t look like the typical Canby girl. Her blonde hair was long and smooth. The front was a sweep of an even lighter blonde. She was wearing quite a bit of makeup, but so perfectly applied that it seemed almost natural. Her nails were long and polished a bright red. She was wearing a black silk shirt with the short sleeves rolled up. One one arm, she was wearing about ten thin silver bracelets. On the other wrist was a big old man’s watch with a brown leather strap.

She’s overdressed for Canby, which trends toward the preppy look. Pamela is annoyed by the no smoking rules, the no car rule, and the thought of having to walk anywhere.

In California, nobody walks anywhere.

Well, Miss Pamela, you’re not in California anymore.

Shelley plays dumb and pretends she doesn’t already know who Pamela’s mother is, asking if Pamela ever sees anyone famous in the supermarket.

“Wellllll,” Pamela said, coyly, “Sometimes I run into them in my very own kitchen. My mother knows a lot of them. She does a little acting herself.”

When Pamela finally reveals her mother’s name, Shelley plays it cool and doesn’t gush all over the table. Bet she would have if she hadn’t had advance warning. Pamela says her mother is a jerk for continuing to send her to schools like Canby (that she keeps getting kicked out of). Shelley’s shocked that anyone would refer to their own mother as a jerk.

Pamela admits that some things about being the daughter of a famous actress are good. She gets to shop on Rodeo Drive and go to private movie screenings and meet actors like Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, and Michael Jackson.

When Faith comes over to the table and asks Shelley if she’s done eating (they have plans), Pamela mistakes her for a bus girl. Faith gives her a Look and walks away.

“Boy,” Pamela said. “And I thought we had trouble with servants in California.”

“That wasn’t any servant,” Shelley said, jumping up. “That was my roommate!”

“Oh,” Pamela said, not sounding particularly sorry, “well, I suppose she must be used to people making that mistake.”

No, Pamela, I don’t believe she is.

Shelley runs after Faith and says that Pamela’s just a jerk and that no one is going to let her get away with acting like that at Canby. Faith wants to know what Shelley said to Pamela after she left. Shelley now realizes that she should have defended Faith, so she tells Faith that’s what she did.

Casey is the first to see the new black walls of 407. She says it’s going to be the most talked-about room on campus. Alison is the second to see the room.

“Tell us it’s the sharpest decorating idea you’ve ever seen.”

“No. I went to the palace at Versailles, outside Paris, one summer, and the Hall of Mirrors there was sharper than this room.”

She’s not sure she likes it, but she has a contribution: a black light and some day glo posters from her brother’s dorm in the sixties. I had to wait many years after reading this book before I saw a blacklight and day glo posters in college. Finally I understood! You better believe I flashed back to this book, too.

Alison asks them to keep their door shut in case Miss Allardyce comes through on a dorm check and then heads down to the second floor to find a homesick freshman. Before she leaves, though, Dana pulls her aside and asks what she knows about Ms. Allardyce’s mystery man. Alison seems to know something but won’t open up.

You know, I don’t see any reason why Alison would know. Why would Miss Allardyce confide in an employee? I mean, we don’t know much about either one of them, but they don’t seem like besties.

A week into the school year, Shelley returns to her room to find Pamela waiting for her. She wants Shelley to show her where the creek is located so she can go swimming. Shelley is flattered that Pamela picked her out of all the girls at Canby to ask.

By now, word has spread about Pamela’s identity, and the campus is split on whether she’s cool or not. She really does know Michael Jackson, Matt Dillon, and Jennifer Beal; she has the pictures to prove it. Shelley’s friends, though, fall into the group that think Pamela is a snob and a show-off.

“Our pool isn’t really big enough for laps. I’m trying to get Yvonne to put in an Olympic-size. Now what me mostly do is work out with Jane Fonda.”

“Oh yes, me too,” Shelley said. “I have the book.”

“Not the book, dope, I mean Yvonne and I go over to Jane’s and work out with her.”

Pamela’s looking for someone to do her homework for her. She needs to pass to keep Yvonne happy, but she has a lifestyle to maintain: dinners at Greenleaf’s French restaurant, shopping in New York, at least two hours a day of tennis practice to keep up her game. She simply doesn’t have time to do anything as mundane as homework. Plus, she’s met someone: Bret Harper.

Dana’s Bret.

Shelley tries to warn Pamela about Bret’s womanizing ways, but Pamela isn’t having it. She’s better than the typical Canby girl, after all.

And then Pamela lays it on thick, telling Shelley that she’s the only girl Pamela’s met at Canby who has any real sophistication.

Randy picks Dana up early Saturday morning to see the sunrise. They go up to Lover’s Leap, which is usually deserted when Randy goes there — but today there are two cars. One is a beater. The other belongs to Ms. Allardyce! As Randy and Dana try to decide whether to stay or go, Ms. Allardyce comes running out of the woods, chased by the same man who was in her house that first night. There’s some awkward small talk before Miss Allardyce tells Dana and Randy they’d better get going if they’re going to see the sun rise.

Pamela’s taking the 407 girls to dinner at Auberge, Greenleaf’s French restaurant. Shelley is excited but Dana and Faith are only going for Shelley. Pamela, however, is an hour late and the girls are getting hungry. When she does arrive, she’s underdressed and does not apologize for being late.

Auberge is the fanciest and most expensive restaurant Faith and Shelley have ever been to. Pamela shows off as usual, speaking French with the employees. Faith and Dana are not impressed by anything she’s said or done so far, and when Faith makes a rude comment to her, Pamela starts to cry.

I’m pretty sure those were crocodile tears.

Yep, that becomes obvious when Bret, who’s there with his parents, stops by their table. Pamela’s frown turns upside down and her tears disappear real quick. Really, Bret? You SEE your ex sitting there with your current girlfriend and you can’t hide behind a menu or a potted plant? You have to approach them?

After he leaves, Pamela gloats over being with Dana’s ex. Dana and Faith decide to head back to Canby for dinner in the dining hall and leave. Shelley, however, decides to stay. She wants shrimp cocktail. I remember shrimp cocktail sounding soooo sophisticated when I first read this book. I can’t get fresh shrimp locally, but there’s a recipe for shrimp cocktail in homemade cocktail sauce that I have to try sometime.

Dana asks Casey to help her find out info on Miss Allardyce and her younger man. The plan is to set up a borrowed telescope on the roof of Baker to look into Miss Allardyce’s house, then sneak under her windows when they see he’s there. When even Casey is skeptical of your plan, you might want to rethink things.

Five nights later, Dana spots him in Miss Allardyce’s house. Dana grabs Casey from her room and they sprint to Ms. Allardyce’s. Aren’t there assigned study hours at Canby? I seem to remember that from the first book. When they get close to the house, they keep running into other students and teachers. Finally they’re able to make their move, sidling up to the house the crawling around to the right room.

Once they’re in position, they immediately hear some good stuff. The guy’s name is Yale and he feels like Miss Allardyce abandoned him — when he was in prison!

“Patsy,” he said, getting up. “I just can’t listen to this anymore. If you’d really loved me, you would’ve been there.”

He storms out, with Miss Allardyce following, leaving Casey and Dana enough time to get back to the dorm.

Shelley’s been spending a lot of time in Pamela’s room since the incident at the Auberge. Pamela gets movie tapes from her mom each month, so they spend most of their time watching the movies. Shelley likes it because she can spend time with Pamela without having to talk to her and get to know her better. She’s finding out that she doesn’t really want to know any more. Pamela’s negative attitude is wearing thin. But Shelley’s also started to feel sorry for Pamela. She’s noticed that Pamela doesn’t have any close friends and never gets mail from home except for packages from her mom.

Gee, could her attitude be a reason for that? If NO ONE likes you, maybe it’s not them, it’s YOU.

Shelley’s waiting outside in front of Baker for Tom when Pamela comes out. She’s on her own for a while because Bret’s gone home to Boston for the week. Shelley doesn’t mention that she saw him on campus with another girl ten minutes ago.

REALLY, BRET? AGAIN? This guy never learns!

Pamela weasels an invitation to join Shelley and Tom for pizza. She runs inside “for a minute” to get ready. Thirty minutes later, she’s back. I don’t know why Shelley and Tom (who arrived 10 minutes into the wait) didn’t just ditch her and go by themselves the way they had planned. Somebody has to teach this girl that their time is just as valuable as theirs.

Tom is VERY angry about the wait — until he gets a look at Pamela. It’s not spelled out, but I’m pretty sure he drools. Now it’s Shelley’s turn to be angry, as Tom and especially Pamela flirt right in front of her! So obviously the thing to do is go to the ladies room and leave the two of them alone. When she returns, Pamela’s moved into Shelley’s seat right next to Tom.

Shelley runs out. Tom chases her down and says he knows what Pamela’s up to, that he was just trying to be friendly, and he’s so earnest about it that Shelley knows he means it. He warns her that she should dump Pamela as a friend.

Back at Canby, Shelley tells Dana and Faith what happened and adds that she and Tom had gotten to talking and forgot to go back to the pizza place for Pamela. They didn’t remember her until they were almost back to campus, but when they returned to pick her up, she was gone. As far as Shelley’s concerned, their friendship is over. Faith warns her that Pamela is going to want the last word.

Shelley has a bad play rehearsal, and by the time she returns to Baker, Faith and Dana have already gone to dinner. Shelley decides to start her homework and goes over to Faith’s desk to borrow Dana’s typewriter, which is used by all the roommates. She sees that Faith has started a letter to her sister, and for some reason Shelley decides to invade Faith’s privacy and read the letter. It contains complaints about Dana and especially Shelley, calling her insufferable and making fun of her acting abilities.

Shelley starts to cry. Soon enough, Dana and Faith return from dinner having a laughing fit over a girl slipping on a pea. It sounds hilarious (really) but it’s difficult to believe a slip on a single pea would cause such a sight. Shelley shows them the letter, which Faith denies writing. Shelley doesn’t believe her, and Dana’s not sure she does either.

Two days later Faith’s developing film and looking forward to meeting up with her boyfriend Johnny when she gets a message asking her to meet Shelley. She cancels on Johnny (and it’s his birthday!), explaining that this is her chance to make up with Shelley.

Faith hikes out to the falls, which is where she’s to meet Shelley, but there’s no one around. Faith lays down to wait in the warm sun and falls asleep. It’s almost an hour before she wakes up, and she’s angry that Shelley lured her out there and then didn’t show up. She’s ready to go tell Shelley off but ultimately decides not to mention it, thinking that it will drive Shelley crazy if she thinks she didn’t get to Faith, or that maybe Faith didn’t show up either.

The next day is Wednesday: Room Check. This is the first we’ve heard of Room Check. I suspect it’s the first ever Room Check. Alison checks each room in Baker for 25 infractions. The girls in 407 have never had a perfect score, averaging around a 15 and they once had an 11. They’re always near the bottom of the list of rooms.

These rules are strict! Alison’s not checking for hidden puppies or illegal hot plates. She’s checking to make sure they emptied their wastebasket, dusted their furniture, and made their beds correctly.

Shelley rises and leaves first and because she doesn’t wake Faith the way she usually does, Faith oversleeps. She’s running late so it falls to Dana, who’s still asleep, to make sure the room is ready for inspection. To make it very clear to Dana that she has to clean up, Faith breaks it down to the basics:

Faith knelt by the side of her bed and gave it a shake. Dana opened one eye.

“Me Faith. Me late.”

Dana kept her one eye open.

“Today Wednesday. Room Check. You clean.”

“Okay,” Dana said. “No problem.”

When Faith returns to the room that afternoon, there is a problem in the form of a note taped to the door.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU GOT AN 8. ALL-TIME BAKER LOW. THE AVERAGE CAVE COULD GET A NINE. YOU MUST’VE WORKED AT IT TO GET THE PLACE INTO SUCH A MESS.

The room is a mess: soda cans on the windowsill, crumpled paper around Shelley’s desk, Dana’s bed unmade and with an open package of cookies in it. That actually doesn’t sound that bad to me. I was expecting it to be trashed. I suppose that’s why they earned an 8 instead of a 0.

Dana enters right behind Faith, who shows her the note and reminds Dana that she asked her to clean up. Dana insists that she did but Faith doesn’t believe her.

Dana goes up to see Alison, and they’re joined by Casey. Miss Allardyce knows they’ve been spying on her and wants to see them the next day at her house. As Casey and Dana head back to their rooms, Casey says they’re in big trouble, but at least Miss Allardyce hasn’t called their parents yet. Casey thinks someone told on them. She hasn’t told anyone what they’ve been doing, and Dana only told Shelley and Faith. She doesn’t believe either of them would have told, even with all the problems they’ve been having lately. Casey says it must be someone that one of them told.

Dana confronts Faith and Shelley about it. She no longer believes that Faith wrote that letter, nor does she believe Shelley called the newspaper office to set up a meeting with Faith. It has to be the same person, and it’s probably also the same person who tattled on her and Casey.

Who could it be? Who out of all the students at Canby would hold a grudge against the girls in 407?

They’re stumped. REALLY?

Finally Shelley says that she told Pamela about Dana and Casey. She did it to impress Pamela.

The next day, Dana and Casey go to their meeting with Miss Allardyce. Dana takes the blame — it was her idea — and says that Casey was just going along with her. Miis Allardyce points out that they would be outraged if she listened in on their private conversations. They both apologize and Miss Allardyce sentences them to campus restriction for a month.

Then she brings the guy in and introduces him as her brother!

Later Dana questions Alison about him. Alison says that Miss Allardyce raised her brother after their parents died. They were close in childhood, but when he started getting in trouble and stole a car, she had to distance herself from him for the sake of her career. Now that he’s out and has a steady job, she’s going to introduce him to the school at the Harvest Holiday dance next week.

Dana, Faith, Casey, and Shelley have a plan to get back at Pamela. Casey places a note “from Bret” outside Pamela’s door. The not apologizes for being inattentive and asks her to meet him at the Auberge restaurant. Tom’s in on the plan too. He calls the Auberge pretending to be Bret and asks her to meet him on campus instead. When she gets there, Tom’s friend Ed, pretending to be Bret’s friend, has her go out to the skating pond. The girls race out to the pond to prepare a romantic setting, then hide for a while to give Pamela time to arrive. Then they pretend to stumble upon the scene while out birdwatching, embarrassing Pamela who is sitting there alone.

The girls go back to 407 to wait for Pamela to contact Bret and find out he doesn’t know anything about the day and to realize that they were the ones who set them up. She’s furious when she confronts them. They tell her they know all that she did to them. She’s pleased that she almost split up their perfect friendship and says that she’s not done with them yet.

The Cover: WHAT is Dana wearing? It looks like a typical polo shirt (except the buttons seem to go all the way down?) under a weird blue blazer. Why would a high school junior be wearing a blazer to get ice cream in September? Shelley is wearing a thin long-sleeved shirt (nice touch on the Canby Hall insignia on the breast pocket) and Faith is in short sleeves.

The picture of Pamela reminds me of Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie.

Jenna