Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads – The Girls of Canby Hall #17: Graduation Day

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.

The Girls of Canby Hall #17 Graduation Day
The Girls of Canby Hall #17: Graduation Day
Author: Patricia Aks writing as Emily Chase
Published: 1986

For every beginning, there’s an ending.

Senior year at Canby Hall means a lot of fun, excitement, and problems. Faith has to win a scholarship to go to college, and Shelley isn’t sure if she even wants to go. Dana has pressing worries on her mind, too, but the biggest worry on all three girls’ minds is: What will become of their friendship?

The roommates have studied hard and learned a lot during their three wonderful years at Canby Hall. Now they’ve got to learn the hardest lesson of all — how do you say good-bye to your best friends? And how do you accept the new girls who will be taking your place?

Shelley’s returning to 407 Baker after break, but it’s not summer break like I thought it would be — it’s winter break. It’s suddenly the middle of senior year and, just like real senior years, things are moving fast. I’m not sure why the series skipped ahead from spring of junior year in the last book to post-Christmas senior year. I think senior year, most of all, deserves more than one book.

Because there was so much time skipped, there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Love lives: Shelley and Paul are STILL dating but also seeing other people (Tom). Faith is still with Johnny, who’s now graduated from Greenleaf High. Dana’s gone through a string of boyfriends and is currently single. Over break she hung out with a freshman from NYU who is “short, fat, and pimply” but also a lot of fun.

Future plans: Faith has applied to the University of Rochester, which has a good photography program, but she needs a scholarship to go. Dana’s father wants her to go live with him and Eve in Hawaii for a year — and delay college. (They don’t have colleges in Hawaii?) Shelley’s thinking of moving to New York to try to make it in theater.

Seniors get special privileges: extended curfew and senior lounges. Alison gathers the seniors in one of the lounges to make plans for Arch Day.

“As you know, Arch Day is in many ways as meaningful as graduation. The arch, bedecked with beautiful fresh flowers, will be constructed on the stage of the auditorium. All the other classes will pass through, symbolizing their being promoted to the next grade, and then return to their seats in the auditorium. The seniors, however, will pass through and exit off the stage and out of the school, symbolizing their departure from Canby Hall.”

The seniors are in charge of Arch Day, voting on the color for their robes (green), writing the school song (Dana and Terry’s job), and decorating the arch. Shelley volunteers for the decorating committee and Faith agrees to photograph the construction and decoration. Obviously Faith would be doing that. Alison didn’t even need to ask.

With each senior meeting and activity, it’s hitting each of the girls that graduation looms and after that they won’t be roommates anymore. None of them are willing to face that fact just yet.

Shelley got the part she wanted in the school play — her last at Canby — but no one wants to celebrate with her. Dana has choral rehearsal and then a songwriting session with Terry. Faith has a scholarship deadline coming up and she still hasn’t finished her portfolio. Shelley’s feeling sorry for herself when Casey stops by and offers to take her out for pizza — it was Dana and Faith’s idea. Shelley’s even more excited when they get to the pizza place to find both of their boyfriends waiting to celebrate with her.

Tom is in the play too. He plans to go to the New Haven School of Drama after graduation. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be the drama school at Yale? All the other schools mentioned are real, but most of the Google hits on that are for Yale although it doesn’t seem to be called that. There is a 2013 obituary for a woman who attended the New Haven School of Drama though. Name change, maybe. It has been 30 years since this book was written. Shelley tells Tom that he’s lucky his future is planned out like that. He’s surprised. He thought hers was too: Iowa and Paul. Shelley says she might go back and enroll in the University of Iowa, but she might go to New York instead. He points out that it will be hard without special training.

Dana and Terry are having trouble with their song already. He wants to use punk or pop music and she wants to rewrite a song from a Broadway musical. Dana doesn’t think punk has staying power. Does it matter? They’re singing the song one time, this June. Pamela wanders by with the same opinion. She doesn’t see what the big deal is. Terry and Dana defend themselves, but after she leaves they agree that an outside opinion might help. They decide to find Alison and see what she thinks. She offers a compromise: something “tried and true” that has been popular since the nineteenth century. Huh? She has to give a few hints before Terry and Dana realize that she’s talking about Gilbert and Sullivan. They decide to rewrite the lyrics to “The Major General’s Song” from The Pirates of Penzance.

Okay, then.

(I would have voted for Terry’s suggestion. This seems closer to what Dana had in mind.)

Faith talks the groundskeeper into letting her onto the roof of the Main Building so she can take landscape photos for her portfolio. She finally has the shots she wants. She develops them and puts them in the mail before meeting Johnny for ice cream. Johnny’s spending the year after graduation working for his father before going to college to study to be a police officer. He’s excited about he course catalog he just got in the mail. Faith, having lost her father in the line of duty, doesn’t like to think about Johnny becoming a policeman. They decide to think about other things, but then Johnny realizes that they’re not going to be together next year. Faith will be in Rochester or home in Washington DC and Johnny will be in New York City. They finally agree to think about the time they have left together instead of the future after that.

Everyone in the play has learned their lines except for one girl, transfer student Diana Washburn. Diana thinks that as long as she gets the meaning of the lines correct, it doesn’t matter if the words are the same ones as written. That’s the way her old school did it, she explains. Ms. Mac isn’t having that, but Diana is just so sweet that no one can be mad at her. No one, except Shelley, that is. She’s even more upset when she sees Tom in the group hanging around Diana after rehearsal. As she slips out unnoticed, Shelley admits to herself that she and Tom aren’t going to last, but she’s jealous because she thinks he has a crush on Diana. Back in Baker, she tells Dana and Faith what’s going on. Dana thinks she’s overreacting, but Faith says she saw him at the movies with another girl last weekend. Faith tries to point out that Shelley has had two boyfriends this whole time and that it’s not like her own relationship with Johnny. That makes Shelley even more upset, and now she’s mad at Faith too. Dana tries to lighten the mood by sharing the lyrics she and Terry have written (they’re awful), but does’t get the reaction she wanted and storms out to call Randy.

After spending some time with Randy, Dana returns to her room to find Shelley, Faith and Casey working on Shelley’s Arch Day robe as if nothing had happened. Shelley and Faith have places to go, so they leave Casey to explain to Dana how she smoothed everything over. Casey tells Dana that her problem seemed so much worse to the others. Her parents can’t make graduation. They’ll be at an art auction in London instead.

Time speeds up. Diana has learned her lines for the play, Tom and Shelley still go out, Terry and Dana finish their song, and Faith keeps busy with the school paper and yearbook. Terry, Sheff, and Keith send out invitations to a party they’re throwing in the senior lounge at the end of March. It’s a luau theme, so Shelley whips up grass skirts (straw donated by Randy) for the three of them and Faith makes paper flowers to wear in their hair. Dana teaches Faith and Shelley some hula steps, which they then use to win the hula contest.

Despite the party invitations stating that it would be held on the last day of March, the next day is March 15, and Faith thinks she should be receiving her college decision soon. She’s worried about it, but Dana and Shelley aren’t concerned and don’t see why she would be. They don’t want to spend their Sunday morning thinking about serious things, which leads to a few days of tension until Faith gets her letter. It’s a thick envelope; she’s in! But she only has a partial scholarship so she probably can’t go. I guess there’s only one scholarship in the world that Faith’s qualified for. There couldn’t possibly be anything else out there for her, the child of a police officer killed in the line of duty. There are no scholarships for minorities in Faith’s world.

Shelley and Dana try to come up with other ideas, but Faith doesn’t want to hear them. She doesn’t think she can earn enough over the summer, and with her sister in graduate school and her brother in boarding school, she can’t ask her mother for the money. She says they can’t understand. Dana’s mother constantly sends her clothes and money doesn’t seem to be a problem for Shelley either. Look, if money is THAT tight, Faith and her brother wouldn’t be in boarding school, even with scholarships. They would be home in public school and working all year round, not just in the summer. It’s unbelievable to me that Faith would get to the final months of her senior year of high school and finally realize, oh hey, college costs money! Before the internet, there were entire BOOKS of scholarships that could be found in every guidance counselor’s office. Maybe Michael Frank has one or several in his office right on campus. Has Faith been to see him?

I should point out, here, that the University of Rochester is a private school. While Faith may have her heart set on it, this money thing didn’t suddenly come out of nowhere and Faith should have applied to some public colleges as backups. It doesn’t have to be the University of Rochester or living at home and going to night school, which I assume means community college.

Faith calls her mother, who’s thrilled that she got in and says they’ll come up with the money somehow. Faith doesn’t want her mom to touch her savings.

Fast forward again. They are flying through this semester. The girls clash some more, over Shelley rehearsing out loud in their room while Dana is trying to study, over someone leaving Faith’s mustard on the radiator, and over Dana’s missing velour jogging suit. It turns out that Dana’s sister Maggie took the jogging suit. Shelley and Faith both saw her with it but didn’t stop her, which only further infuriates Dana.

Maggie lives in Addison House and, with taking different classes and having different extracurricular interests, the sisters rarely even see each other. Dana rushes over to Maggie’s room to confront her about the suit. She admits to her sister that she’s still struggling with their parents’ divorce, their father’s remarriage, and her decision on whether or not to spend the next year in Hawaii. Maggie puts things into perspective: “…whatever you do, it’s not the end of the world.”

The boys of Baker want to have a picnic: the three of them, the 407 girls, Casey, and Johnny. There’s no mention of Tom or Randy, but I’ll assume they’re invited if Shelley and Dana want to ask them. Casey rushes into 407 to let the roommmates know of the plans, but is shocked when she notices the tension. She’s been spending most of her time with Keith and didn’t know anything was going on in 407.

A few more weeks pass before Alison notices anything. I love Alison, but I don’t think she’s very good at her job. The girls don’t want to talk to her about their problems, so she asks them to write them down. Finally they all begin to talk, but they’re throwing around accusations so Alison asks to speak to each one privately before they talk as a group.

Alison’s cat’s name has been spelled both Doby and Dobie in this book. I think the version with the y is correct.

Each of the girls spills her problems to Alison in turn, then they meet up again when Faith is finished talking to Alison. This gets them talking again, and they’re finally able to ask each other about all the things they’ve been curious about for the past month. Dana tells them that Maggie had borrowed her jogging suit because it would make the perfect string bean costume for a party and Faith shares that her mother has arranged for a loan and to dip into her savings to pay for Faith’s college. She says she still feels guilty, but Shelley says Faith can just pay her mom back after she graduates and is making money. Then they turn to Dana’s problem, which is college vs. Hawaii. Faith reminds Dana that this could be her only chance to live in Hawaii, and that college will be there next year.

Shelley says she’s come to realize that Tom is right that her New York plan will be hard without training, plus she won’t know anyone at all. She’s still not sure she wants to go to the University of Iowa with Paul though. She’s afraid that he will pressure her to go steady. She doesn’t want to tell him no either, because she’s afraid of losing him, but she does want to go to the university.

I think Shelley is planning to keep Paul in reserve just in case nothing better comes along for her entire life. I’m starting to feel sorry for him.

Things are working out for Casey, too. Her parents still can’t come to graduation, but her favorite aunt and uncle will be there for her.

The school year is winding down. The spring concert and Shelley’s final play go off without a hitch. Faith finishes up her work on the yearbook. Finals hit the last week of May and suddenly the only things left are Arch Day and graduation. The group, including Johnny meets for a picnic (soda and chips) in the boys’ room, then they troop out to Greenleaf for a Michael J. Fox movie and pizza afterwards. Then they decide to stop for ice cream, even though they know they’re going to miss curfew. Casey knows a way into the dorm after hours: up the fire escape and in the window of the girls’ bathroom.

They make it safely into the dorm and it’s looking like things are clear, but when they get to their room, Pamela’s waiting. She was so worried when they were late that she told Alison. She says Alison checked Casey’s room and the boys’ room and discovered them missing too, so she’s probably with Ms. Allardyce right now.

WTF? Alison knew where they were! She was at the party in the boys’ room but declined to go into Greenleaf with them. Shortly after Pamela leaves, Alison comes in. She’s furious — and she did tell Ms. Allardyce. I know they broke the rules, but I hardly think it’s worth bothering Ms. Allardyce after midnight. It could have waited until morning.

The all go off to Ms. Allardyce’s house to face her wrath. After a lecture, Ms. Allardyce, who appreciates their honesty when they admit they knew they weren’t going to make curfew, lets them go without punishment. Everyone is so relieved that they decide to dedicate their Arch Day song to Ms. Allardyce.

Arch Day passes and it’s finally graduation day. The girls are getting ready for the ceremony when there’s a knock at their door. It’s a blond girl named Jane Barrett who’s moving into 407 next year. She’s planning on living there alone next year and wants to see what the room looks like so she can plan to decorate it. After she leaves, Dana tells the others that Jane is rich. Her family gave the money to build Barrett Hall.

There’s a reception after graduation. Everyone’s family is there, and some of the Oakley Prep boys stop by, including Bret Harper. I thought Bret was older and would have graduated by now. Maybe not. Dana and Shelley say goodbye to Randy and Tom, Faith to Johnny. The meet one last time in their room to gather their belongings, and then it’s over. It’s time to leave and the girls are not roommates any longer.

This is the final book of the series featuring the first set of girls, although they do pop up later in at least one book. In book 18 a new set of girls, including Jane, moves into 407. I don’t like the second set as much so I think I will end my Canby Hall recaps here, at least for now. I’m not sure yet what series I’ll be taking on next.