A les­son in per­sis­tence from a child­hood idol

Tri-County Vanguard - - OP-ED - Steve Bartlett

“Happy Days” was all the rage with our Grade 2 class.

We talked about the ’70s sit­com end­lessly, be­fore school, dur­ing re­cess and lunch, and on the walk home af­ter the bell rang.

We all wanted to be The Fonz or Fonzie, the show’s hero. He was the epit­ome of cool, with his leather jacket and mo­tor­cy­cle, his abil­ity to fix things with a sim­ple tap, and his trade­mark say­ings, “Aaaaaaaayyy,” “Whoa,” and “Sit on it.”

We wore The Fonz T-shirts and fake leather jack­ets with our GWG Scrub­bies, the day’s most stylish denim.

Those were the in­no­cent in­flu­ences. Through the lens of an adult, there were also times when Fonzie may not have been the best role model.

For ex­am­ple, af­ter one show, where he jumped 14 garbage cans on his mo­tor­cy­cle in front of Arnold’s take­out, we all tried jump­ing five-gal­lon buck­ets on our pedal bikes. Dan­ger­ous!

And I once wrote The Fonz on a math test in­stead of Steve Bartlett. Our teacher, the amaz­ing Ms. Ban­nis­ter, fig­ured out whose exam it was by the power of de­duc­tion — mine was the only quiz with­out a name from the class list. She didn’t make a big deal of it, how­ever, af­ter I boasted about it to class­mates, many of them signed The Fonz to their next test and Ms. Ban­nis­ter was not too im­pressed.

All th­ese mem­o­ries resur­faced two weeks ago, when Henry Win­kler, the ac­tor who played The Fonz, won his first-ever Emmy Award for his role on the HBO se­ries ‘Barry.’

He had five pre­vi­ous nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing three in the lat­ter part of the ‘70s for The Fonz.

Yup, his Emmy wait was more than 40 years.

Win­kler’s win made me smile and trek down mem­ory lane to that much sim­pler time, a pe­riod of my life with, thanks to my in­cred­i­ble par­ents, few cares or wor­ries.

It also re­minded me of my Fonz doll, one of two toys that has sur­vived my teenage, uni­ver­sity and adult years. The other is a Tonka truck with a hy­draulic dump, which is a story in it­self.

On back of the doll, which sits on a base­ment ledge un­der some plaques, is a lever that lifts his arms up to make a thumbs up mo­tion. The Fonz would do so as he said, “Aaaaaaaaay.” I use it as a re­minder never to take my­self too se­ri­ously.

When Win­kler ac­cepted the Emmy, he re­peated some ca­reer ad­vice he once re­ceived — “If you stay at the ta­ble long enough, the chips come to you.”

“Tonight I got to clear the ta­ble,” the 72-year-old told the au­di­ence.

It’s a great line about per­sis­tence, about hold­ing on to your dreams, about not giv­ing up.

Forty-plus years later, The Fonz is in­flu­enc­ing me again.

If only my Grade 2 class was con­ven­ing in the yard at Coun­try Road Pri­mary to dis­cuss. I would opine that The Fonz is cooler now than ever.

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