Memories of our younger days; we recall the carhop attaching a metal tray to the car window at the A&W. We remember drinking a frosty root beer float out of the heavy glass mug emblazoned with the orange, brown and white A&W logo. We reflect on those days when we didn't listen to digital music from an ipod; instead we put money into the jukebox that played scratchy 45s. It was a time when Johnny Carson was the only king of late night TV. Those were happy days.
Happy Days have come back to Milwaukee, if even for a brief moment. This week the creator of this classic show, Garry Marshall, and the cast are coming “home” to the city where it all began, Milwaukee. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you know that Milwaukee is honoring Henry Winker with a bronze statue; a statue of the Fonz.
Everyone seems to have his or her opinion on this statue. In fact, this might be only second to the Brett Favre saga in terms of drawing lines in the sand as to what people think. Some don’t like the artistic nature of the statue, others complained about the location, and some have gone as far as saying that there shouldn’t even be a statue. To those people I’ll quote the Fonz and say, “sit on it.”
We need to look beyond the bronze Fonz. Whether you are from South Milwaukee, West Allis, the East side or the North Shore, we are all Milwaukeeans and call this city “home”. It’s not just about the statue; it’s about what the statue represents and what it does for our community, our “home”.
So what if people will stand if front of it with their thumbs up and say “ayyyyyyy” as friends snap pictures. Plenty of people run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to imitate Rocky. There is even a Rocky statue in Philadelphia. Why is the Fonz an issue? Again, “sit on it.”
This statue will bring visitors to our city. They will see all that Milwaukee has to offer. They will see that this city is much more than was depicted in the TV show. Visitors will shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants and enjoy their happy days here in Milwaukee, home of the Fonz.
As baby boomers we vividly remember wearing black and white saddle shoes like Joanie did (albeit mine were always tan and brown). We recall a time when most teenagers were polite and mannerly, like Richie and Potsie. Mr. and Mrs. C would never have tolerated anything but good manners. It was a time when we watched Captain Kangaroo on the black and white console television in the living room. We watched television as a family, like the Cunninghams.
Growing up, Tuesday nights were dedicated to watching Happy Days. As a family we would sit in front of the color console TV to watch Richie, Potsie, Ralph, and of course, the Fonz. How many times would Fonzie snap his fingers to get a girl? How many times would he hit the jukebox to get it to play a favorite song? We were a family in Milwaukee watching a television show about a family in Milwaukee. It was as if the Cunninghams were our next-door neighbors.
The old console TV with a bulging screen and one speaker has been replaced with a sleek flat panel TV and sound system. Gone is one channel airing Happy Days on Tuesday nights. Now it can be found on many of the hundreds of channels and can be seen at various hours throughout the day. Times might change but something that has remained constant is the laughs that Happy Days brings to all that watch it.
I will admit that if I am channel surfing and see Happy Days listed on the on-screen guide, I will click on it and watch. Will it be an episode with Arnold or Al? Is Chachi in love with Joanie? Is it an episode WC (with Chuck) or AC (after Chuck)? I guess I’ll have to watch and see.
My daughter frequently asks me what things were like in the “olden” days. Yes, the “olden” days, those days when I was young. Old, great! I’m almost forty-four and my daughter is equating me with dinosaurs roaming the earth. Sit on it, kid. This bronze statue of Arthur Fonzarelli, the girl chasing mechanic with a heart of gold is not only a symbol of our past but it’s a gateway to the future.
With this statue’s presence in our city we will be able to teach future generations about our city’s history and also teach today’s youth about the pop culture icons that we admired in our younger days, the “olden” days.The unveiling of the bronze Fonz along the Milwaukee River and all the week’s events surrounding the unveiling remind us of those happy days; memories of our younger years. Memories of those “olden” days and as the theme song came to a close, those “Happy Days are yours and mine. Happy Days”.