Bookshelf: Happy Days #1 – Ready to Go Steady

Happy Days #1 – Ready to Go Steady
By William Johnston
First Published in 1974
Published by Tempo Books
152 Pages

Prolific TV tie-in writer William Johnston wrote eight novels based on Happy Days (one was a novelization to be technical). Ready to Go Steady was the first. I haven’t read any of the others but this one is notable for including Chuck Cunningham, Richie and Joanie’s older brother who famously disappeared from the television series after its second season. The story, however, revolves around Richie.

Richie, unlike his friends, is lucky enough to get a summer job working for Mid-State Distributors, a grocery supplier. On the way to his first day of work he meets Emma Watt, described as “uncommonly attractive,” and her younger brother Bobs. Yes, Bobs. Fonzie, by the way, is hitchhiking west during the summer, so he won’t be around. Richie makes plans with Emma to show her around town later that evening. The poor boy doesn’t know what he’s in for.

Ready to Go Steady Front
Ready to Go Steady Front – Copyright 1974 Tempo Books

When he takes her home after showing her the filtration plant and the statue in the park, Emma kisses him. He’s left in a daze for hours. Before long, Richie and Emma are dating. They double with Richie’s boss at Mid-State Distributors, Joe, and his wife Millie. Joe thinks being married is the bees knees and continually talks it up to Richie. So, Richie and Emma decide to get married. His parents don’t react that well to his announcement: Marion cries and Howard asks questions.

Unfortunately for Howard, his hopes that Emma’s parents would veto the marriage are dashed. They don’t mind at all. Richie becomes increasingly confused about the way Emma is acting and the reactions he’s getting from his friends. And when he learns that Joe and Millie are getting divorced (she wanted babies) he starts thinking. About college, about furniture, about being a kid.

Ready to Go Steady Back
Ready to Go Steady Back – Copyright 1974 Tempo Books

By the end of the novel, everything is back to the status quo. Richie and Emma decide to put off getting married and just go steady for a while. Then they decide to go steady in secret but date other people. Finally, they decide to just be good friends. The two meet, fall in love, get engaged and break it off all in 152 pages. Incredible.

Ready to Go Steady does a pretty good job capturing the tone of the series, although at times the dialogue seems a bit juvenile. Richie refers to women as females more than once, which is pretty odd. Ralph and Potsie aren’t given much to do and I don’t think Joanie even makes an appearance. The lack of Fonzie is certainly noticeable although at this early point in the series, Fonzie had yet to become the breakout star. He’s not even wearing his leather jacket on the cover!


5 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    ABC was the one who insisted “The Fonz” NOT wear a leather jacket in the early episodes because they believed viewers would perceive him as “a hoodlum” (the picture on the book’s cover is one of the earliest publicity photos taken during the series’ production, in 1974). But Garry Marshall got around the network by getting their okay to let “Fonzie” wear the jacket during his motorcycle scenes. Garry made sure there were plenty of them, where “The Fonz” was either tinkering with his motorcycle, or leaning on it, or riding it while wearing the leather jacket. By the second season, of course, “Fonzie” had become the unofficial star of the show, and ABC allowed him to wear the leather jacket whenever he wanted. Henry Winkler says he threw the original cloth jacket into a dumpster on the Paramount Studios backlot, and never saw it again.

  • RGJ says:

    Too bad. The cloth jacket could hang next to the leather jacket at the Smithsonian.

  • I’ve read two of the other paperback titles, though time has dimmed my memory of the actual names of the books. One of them was based on the TV episode where Fonzie decides to go back to school and asks Richie for his help to cheat on a test (is this the novelization you referred to?) and the other concerns a motorcycle gang that invades the town (a la THE WILD ONE). Nothing special about either of them, just a quick, painless read.

  • RGJ says:

    According to Kurt Peer’s TV Tie-Ins, the novelization was based on the episode “Fonzie Drops In,” which according to TV.com matches your description. It was the second in the series. The third was called The Invaders which is probably the other one you remember.

    I just checked and I have a copy of the fourth novel, Fonzie, Fonzie Superstar, waiting to be read.

  • Those are the titles — thanks for the memory jog, RGJ!

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