Wow, post #500. I can’t believe it’s been 500 posts already.
I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate post #500 than writing about something I truly love (nostalgia), coupled with a regular feature (a Throwback/Flashback feature), and something nostalgic that I loved as a kid (a classic book series), and a special occasion (classic book series with a birthday…the big 3-0!).
If there could be cake, it would have happened.
Earlier this week, I extolled my childhood love for The Baby-Sitters Club series of books, which I read beginning in 3rd grade (1992) until I finished 6th grade (in 1995). I still loved the books, but was afraid of starting seventh grade and everyone somehow finding out I still read The Baby-Sitters Club. I got rid of my entire collection sometime after that. I’m fuzzy on who got them, but I’d suspect a younger cousin, since I had a few younger female cousins who would have read them.
Such lucky kids.
I also watched the television show based on the novels, which ran for thirteen episodes in the early 1990s on HBO and The Disney Channel. In the mid-1990s, I had HBO, but not the Disney Channel. At this particular time, it wasn’t a station that came bundled in a cable package, and wasn’t one I would have watched with any frequency. Even when it became part of our package, I was in my late teens, and, well, I apparently went through a “that’s not cool” phase.
I’m so glad that ended. Because who knows what I’d be writing about?
I know the episodes are out there, but I actually do have one episode on an old VHS tape, recorded during a Disney Channel free preview weekend in 1995 (remember those?). I know it was 1995, because it was on the same tape as a Jimmy Carrey interview my mom was nice enough to tape right around the same time, and I was able to get an airdate for that interview as being March 27, 1995. That’s only relevant because I wrote an article about it for Retroist. Otherwise, it sounds creepy that I tracked that information down.
This was taped before that interview, presumably in the same month.
I should note that in addition to this obviously relevant anniversary, August 1st is also my mom’s birthday, and when I thank her for everything, “everything” always includes the times she had to tape stuff for me before I had my own VCR. Remember kids, there was a time when DVRs existed, and our old VCR didn’t have a timer, unlike the one I eventually got.
So, all that said…
In honor of The Baby-Sitters Club turning thirty years old this week, and my big 500th post, I’m proud to present a patented Allison-style recap of the ONLY episode I have in my video archives, “Claudia and the Mystery of the Secret Passage.”
Oooh, mystery. So it’s gonna be scary, right?
Um, no. Not quite.
But it will be mysterious, right?
G-rated mysterious. But mysterious, nonetheless.
Every episode begins with the saccharine-but-cute theme song “Say Hello to Your Friends,” and this one is no exception:
As we listen to the theme, the girls are going through a pile of photos Claudia got copied, . There’s a bit of everything, Stoney Brook in the past (courtesy of the local library), and photos of the Baby-Sitters Club girls as little kids. Also helping the sitters in their sorting are Mallory’s younger sister, Vanessa (a poet-in-practice) and Jessi’s younger sister, Becca.
As the music ends, the girls all begin to talk about how cute the photos are, and the resemblances between them at the time and now. There is even a comparison of photos to the two younger sisters helping out. Vanessa makes sure to take the time to rhyme (see what I did there?), and a discussion about sisters and the great struggle of personalities and siblings ensues. They compare siblings who are bound by blood but totally different (Claudia and her older sister, Janine) and sisters who are related by marriage, but not blood, and couldn’t be any more alike (Kristy and her stepsister, Karen, whom Kristy claims is more bossy than she is). They also discuss a sisters picnic they are hosting, which will be relevant later on.
Back to the earlier point about sisters who are different, this is a Claudia episode, and yes the basis of the story is sisters.
The purpose of these photos is for a community bulletin board that celebrates Stoney Brook’s past and present. Kristy, ever the industrious business person, mentions that a Club flyer will be included in the display, since people bring their children to the library, it will drum up business.
Such a great President.
Back at Dawn’s house, Claudia and Dawn are gushing about how great the copied photos came out, and discuss the project. There is a bulletin board for it, and Dawn stashed it in the Secret Passage, which is everything you’d expect it to be: a door from the closet to a ladder that leads to the attic. They try to get the bulletin board free of the space Dawn jammed it in, but it proves to be a struggle for both girls. And in the midst of this struggle, Claudia finds a piece of paper that Dawn thinks is probably insulation, but turns out to be…a letter!
The girls read the letter, and realize they have…a mystery! And where there’s a mystery…
…There’s Kristy Thomas to read the mysterious found letter. Dramatically. While wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat.
What, do you think I make this stuff up because it’s fun?
The girls get so excited about the idea of a mystery. The note was penned by an upset sister, Flora, who feels blamed for the misplacement of her sister Bettina’s ring. The girls believe the letter is old, considering the age of Dawn’s house, and feel a seance in the attic would be a swell idea. But first…
Baby-Sitter’s Club meeting!
I shouldn’t be this excited about all of this, right?
Oh, why not? This proofs to be the least embarrassing part of my childhood thus far, aside from the obviously top-notch acting. But if nostalgic life is best viewed through rose-colored nostalgia glasses…mine got thrown out as soon as I started watching this. I’m thoroughly engaged. Cheesy yes, but it is cheese I loved as a kid!
And here to interrupt the cheese fest…
Claudia’s big sister, Janine, and her stereotypical ultra-bookwormy/brainy intellect/condescending personality enter the room (yes, that’s the equivalent of two people) to inform Claudia that she has to be somewhere, and needs to start tutoring Claudia by 5:30 pm. Except she doesn’t say it that way, and it makes EVERYONE giggle when she leaves. Claudia has 13 minutes to wrap it all up, so they do.
But not before they discuss the opposite personalities of the sisters.
Meanwhile, at the Ramsey house…
Jessi is on the way to a sitting job, and her and Becca tangle when Becca’s jump rope interferes with Jessi’s bike. Becca’s upset because she had a record going. She secretly admits that sometimes she feels like Jessi would rather be around other kids that aren’t her.
Oh Becca, considering that I was your age at the time this aired, I would have hung out with you. Jessi just doesn’t get it.
Sometime later that week (I guess), the Club is shopping for their sleepover/seance. Claudia tries to justify the purchasing of chocolate by saying that “ghosts love chocolate.”
So do I, Claudia, so do I.
They wrap up just in time for a super awesome, fun filled meeting of the minds, but not before getting creeped out by the site of twin sisters. They clearly have sisters on the brain!
As for that meeting of the minds, it’s a Janine-tutoring-Claudia-in-math session. Which is not as much fun. You’d think it would be, but I’m like Claudia, I hate math.
Actually, watching her sister crumble under frustration (and use big words to explain it) is kinda funny.
OMG, that book! Where can I get one of those?!
Janine gets fed up with Claudia and wraps up their tutoring session, but not before she makes it clear via Big Word Language that Claudia is beyond help. But that all doesn’t matter, because…
SUPER AWESOME SEANCE/SLEEPOVER TIME!
Claudia attempts to begin communicating with Bettina to let her know that her sister, Flora, did not lose her ring. The girls begin to chant, and Claudia asks for a sign…which turns out to be stock Halloween noises on a cassette tape, courtesy of Kristy.
And then the candles blow out, but it’s during this chaos that the ring is uncovered by Kristy. Although they don’t believe her, you know, because of the tape recorder and all.
They found the ring! Comes a little late, as the seance was ruined by Kristy. But still, proof that the ring was somewhere!
The next day…
Claudia and Dawn discuss the find from last night, and believe the note is over 200 years old, to which Janine retorts “when do you think transparent tape was invented?”
You know, despite her bitchiness, Janine has a really good point!
Oh, and subscribe to the Disney Channel. Do it! Do it NOW!
The display looks great, as noted by Vanessa and Becca. At that time, Claudia and Dawn come out of the library, where Claudia has found out that transparent tape was invented in 1930, and that the sisters could still be alive.
And we learned something from this episode!! Because EDUCATIONAL VALUE!
And the hunt begins in the library – forms to find out who previous homeowners were, yearbooks, and all for nothing. No Bettina or Flora, but the younger girls come up with a great plan – take the ring to the jewelry store.
But the little girls don’t get to come along. They suggested it!
Meanwhile, at the jewelry store…
The jeweler notes that the ring was a popular item in the 1950s (he sold many of them), so it isn’t very valuable.
However, upon mentioning the names Bettina and Flora, the jeweler fondly remembers them. He remembers Bettina married the grocer’s son, but he doesn’t know what happened to Flora…whom he believes disappeared.
The girls then speak with the grocery store owner, who knew Bettina and that she owns a flower shop, which she purchased after she sold the grocery store upon her husband’s death. But he knows nothing about her sister.
Such a mystery!
So after consulting all the flower shops in town (how many could there possibly be, this being a small town and all), their last stop turns out to be successful -they find Bettina, but have a crazy misunderstanding with her and scissors that Edward Scissorhands would find impressive. She tells them that Flora is gone, which scares them nearly out the door…when Flora arrives.
The girls reunite the sisters with Bettina’s ring, and like sisters do, they bicker about how it got lost. But in the end, they are happy to have the ring back, neither one killed the other, and they speak to each other.
Mystery of the Secret Passage SOLVED!
Claudia returns home, where Janine is making cupcakes. And amazingly, she is being sweet, and wants to know all about the adventure. Claudia points out that Janine never bakes, and wants to know why she is.
Perhaps she plans to do away with Claudia?
Um, yeah right. Janine says that she wants to do something special for the sisters picnic, but wants Claudia’s help decorating. Claudia comes up with the for candy faces.
All’s well that ends well, as all of the sisters join together for a picnic, while wearing wreathes adorned with flowers on their heads, the creation of the very creative sisters who set off the chain of events in this episode.
They then play “Ring Around the Rosie,” as the episode ends on Claudia and Janine, who today, get along and love each other with the all important sisterly bond.
Wait till the next book, when they squabble all over again.
And because the episode ended the way it should, why not add the all-important cherry on top?
That’s right – theme song reprise!!!!
And as the outro comes to an end, the lovely ladies of the BSC walk away from us, off to the next adventure…
“Claudia and the Mystery of the Secret Passage” was the eighth episode (of thirteen total episodes) of this series, and aired on February 19, 1990. It was released to home video (along with the other episodes), and has been on Netflix and Hulu Plus in recent years. The episodes are still available via third party sellers on Amazon, but not on DVD. In fact, it’s no longer on Netflix. You Tube has clips and such scattered on their site, but that’s about it.
As most nostalgia goes, this actually is on the higher and slightly more impressive end of the stuff I’ve re-encountered as an adult. It’s slightly cheesy, sure, but so are the books. And you know what? They’re harmless. These are girls any young girl could look up to without parents worrying about their influence.
If you’d like to see the whole episode, go ahead and click play. Hopefully it brings back the great memories for you that it did for me!
And there we have it, my 500th post on WordPress. I’d like to thank everyone who has visited and liked what they’ve seen. I’d like to think Allison’s Written Words has been a fun place to come for great nostalgia, obscure, nostalgia, and everything random and different.
Thanks for your continued support!
Do you have a recording of the broadcast TV airing?
I put it on YouTube in 2016 when I published this article, but it is from a Disney Channel broadcast in 1995.