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"That's the way we all became the Brady bunch "

Fifty years ago, America heard those words for the first time as "The Brady Bunch" premiered Sept. 26, 1969, sparking a lasting legacy of fans — including local author Erika Woehlk.

In 2017, Woehlk published her second non-fiction book — "Bradypedia: The Complete Reference Guide to Television's The Brady Bunch."

The comprehensive guidebook took Woehlk 10 years to publish from start to finish, although more of that time was spent searching for a publisher than writing or researching.

Woehlk, who works as a photo archivist at the Missouri State Archives, said she always wanted to be a fiction writer, but she sort of fell into doing non-fiction. Her first book was part of the "Images of America" series — a book on the history of Kirksville.

When it came time for another book, Woehlk chose something she knew and loved.

"I've always been interested in the Brady Bunch, and just watched it after school, coming home on the bus," Woehlk said. "It was just a sort of feel-good television show that a lot of people could relate to, so I thought it would be fun to compile a bunch of facts about the show."

So the research began, which meant watching the 117 episodes across five seasons of the show she owned on DVD, reading countless IMDb pages on the actors and shopping for vintage teen magazines on eBay.

Other Brady books exist, but Woehlk wanted to make as comprehensive a book as possible, including covering spin-offs of the original series and full actor backgrounds.

"I wanted to pool all of that together and then find more information than had been published before, and create a comprehensive reference guide," Woehlk said.

Chapters in "Bradypedia" include an episode guide of the original series and each spin-off, including the animated "The Brady Kids" and made-for-TV films like "A Very Brady Christmas," a character encyclopedia, actor biographies and "bonus" biographies of some of their family members also in show business.

Woehlk said unlike some other books, hers also includes chapters focusing on the music the Brady children recorded — about 80 songs across four albums — and show memorabilia.

During her research, Woehlk discovered a collection of original materials by the show's creator, Sherwood Schwartz, that had been donated to a private library in Texas. After getting in touch with the owner, she was able to visit and examine original scripts and letters written by Schwartz.

"That was definitely like the treasure trove — the primary source of Brady info," Woehlk said.

One of the things she discovered at the library was a collection of original drafts for the pilot episode, including one script which included only two Brady children — Bobby and Cindy — instead of the now-iconic six.

Woehlk was also able to talk to Lloyd Schwartz, son of the show creator and a producer for several Brady projects himself.

Despite achieving only minor success when it originally aired, "The Brady Bunch" was picked up for syndication after it ended in 1974, and has been on the air since, allowing future generations to become fans. Woehlk credits this for it's lasting legacy.

"I think people have been inundated with it," she said. "It's just one of those things that people stumble onto and get hooked on."

For Woehlk, the appeal of the show is it's simplicity and values.

"I just has a really simple storyline. It's about family, togetherness and growing up, but also about blended families, which was something that was fairly unique back then," Woehlk said. "It just sort of has a general appeal that draws people in."

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, Woehlk is holding a book signing from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 26 at Downtown Book & Toy.

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