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What I love about The Waltons

Jon Kennedy
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I am not the boss of my house. I don't know when I lost it. I don't know if I ever had it. But I have seen the boss's job and I do not want it.

— Bill Cosby

Thought for today

Sin and the child of God are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony..

— John Stott

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Jon Kennedy's recent book, The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, from Adams Media, F&W Publications, is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and can be ordered here. It is also available on Amazon.



JONAL ENTRY 1197 | AUGUST 16 2011

The three responses to my pleas for input on this topic constitute the best response to a Jonal in some time. The first two, unsigned but identified by their return addresses, were casual not-for-publication comments (though they were not negative). The third, from Sallie Covolo, makes an excellent transition to the topic I want to address this time, what I consider makes The Waltons television's best series ever. But before going there, I should interject a side comment: I am now into the 1975 (third) season of The Walton reruns (on Hallmark Channel...INSP has disappeared from Dish network) and it's obvious that the producers were putting more effort and money into the production quality by this season than they had in the first two.

I actually watched the last two seasons of the show (1980 and 1981) on INSP first, and as I recall my criticism of their lacking quality was back by those final seasons. But the show must have been building strongly by the third season. Though the long shots of the faux Blue Ridge Mountains still are apparently California hills and forests, not eastern ones, the sets on which the house, lumber mill, campus, Rockfish, and the village are shot are much improved. No longer are the backgrounds fading to black, but they seem to lead to other places. The grass now looks real and even the pond is big enough to look like a location rather than a studio set (though reports are that all such scenes were shot on studio lots, not out in actual countryside). So this is a corrective to give credit where due.

Now for Sallie Covolo's thoughts:

Jon, We have been watching some of the series The Waltons. I can see partly why you like it, since you are also a writer from the Appalachian Mountains (even with the name of Jon (Boy). I remember watching Spencer's Mountain with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara.

I like programs about the South during depression times, since I was born there. One of my all-time favorites was To kill A Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee and made into a movie with Gregory Peck as Atticus. Both movies and tv shows remind me of a more innocent time, and childhood aspirations and life, a time that will not come again. Well, thanks for reminding us of these tv shows and we are adding them to our favorites. I hope you and your family are well.

Sallie Covolo

Spencer's Mountain was the name of the book Earl Hamner wrote about growing up in a large family in the place his family had owned in Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains for generations (and Hamner is the "real" writer depicted by the John-Boy character in the TV series and Hamner's voice is the actual voice recalling the stories in the background, when he is switching places with Richard Thomas by being the John-Boy of forty years after the times of the stories). But the movie with Fonda and O'Hara was shot and set in the Rocky Mountains, so although I have not seen it, I'm sure it must have a much different feel (I am looking for it on some TV rebroadcast sooner or later and hope to "TiVo" it if possible). Still following all this?

Sallie captures two of the reasons I rate the show so highly. The first are strictly personal, as John-Boy is "me" in more than a few ways. I was the son of a Baptist mother and a non-church-going father growing up in the mountains, who decided to be a writer in my teens, was the first in my family to go to college, and worked as a newspaper writer while in college, all of which I share with John-Boy. And though the Great Depression was over when I was in grade school, we hardly knew it (Mom and Dad still lived by its rules). We lived on a dirt road like the Waltons, had no telephone, and had only radio for entertainment until I was age eight.

And the second (and more important) thing that I love is the show's values. The family members take turn saying grace at mealtimes. Mother Livvy (Olivia) metes out copying Bible verses as punishments for the kids' failings (especially when they're moral-ethical ones). Grandma (as my Mom was) is so strict in her Baptist faith that she even opposes the church's holding a raffle (Mom would have declined to join one that used such fund raisers). Both of the Walton ladies oppose fraternizing with the old lady bootleggers in Walton's Mountain village (but of course the men and boys do it anyway).

These are the reasons I consider the show TV's best one ever, because I feel it instilled a nostalgia in the generation that grew up with it for more of this simpler (and as Sallie says, more innocent) way of life. Other shows have made similar contributions, but the others were not as long-lived as The Waltons, or as widely watched and discused.

More on the show next time. Meanwhile, keep the email thoughts and opinions coming. What other shows would you put at or near the top?

— Webmaster Jon Kennedy