ENTRY 1198 | AUGUST
response to the previous Jonal from a friend who asked that I withhold
her name is the first to suggest an alternate favorite show from the
history of television, and her reasons for liking it are similar to
mine in choosing The Waltons, She writes,
I just read
your most recent observations on the show The Waltons.
I was especially interested to learn a little more of your childhood,
wherein you stated that you had no telephone and only radio.
I, too, being raised in the Kooteney Mountains in B.C. Canada,
in a small (what would now be termed a suburb community, Warfield,
better known as Minnie Mouse Town.....really!). We did have
a phone by the time I was eight, but it was a three- or four-party
line. The first time I ever saw television was peering through
a window at a neighbour's new set and being mesmerized by Peter
Pan even though we could see very little from that obstructed
distance. Throughout the rest of my years at home we were constricted
to one station....and that transmission came from Spokane, WA.
I remember Mom ironing clothes and watching "Queen for a Day."
I also remember the "The Mickey Mouse Club," "The Little Rascals"
and ..."Father Knows Best"....Oh, and what seemed like an unreasonable
amount of airtime dedicated to hockey. Funny.
to you my nostalgia for a few of the old Mayberry RFD
shows. The ones I reference are all within the first two or
three years of the series (early 1960's...I never watched the
originals, possibly because we did not have the option) in black
and white and with a limited cast. Although I was always irritated
by Aunt Bee and snickered at Barney, some of the most sensitive
and beautiful father-son relationship scenarios I have seen
were incorporated into this 30-minute show. There is one especially
that I recall and still get a little teary-eyed thinking of
it. I expect there has always been a yearning for a daddy like
Sheriff Andy Taylor. In this episode, Opie (Ronnie Howard) killed
a mother bird with his slingshot. His dad, Andy, sternly disappointed,
made Opie listen to the heart rending cries of the baby chicks.
Chastened and convicted...Opie raised the chicks himself. When
it was time to release the full-grown birds, Opie had a reflective
and difficult time and finally took one chick out and set it
free. And then the others. The last words spoken by Opie (a
literal "empty-nest" syndrome!) were, "The cage sure
looks awful empty, Pa." Wherein Andy replied "Sure does, Son"...and
then looking up he said, "But don't those trees seem nice and
full!" Nobility, simplicity and sentiment..definitely...morally
"iconographic" as well. And just really very sweet.
your references to The Waltons. I will look up the time
slot on Hallmark [Channel]. It is so hard to turn the TV on
and maintain a godly attitude these days!
of my own first memories of watching television is also of watching
through a neighbor family's window. I have seen only a few episodes
of the Mayberry RFD show, but had very similar feelings toward
Robert Young as the father of Father Knows Best, wishing I
had such a loving dad. That is one I saw almost without fail in its
original airings and still consider it one of the best shows.
I elaborated a number of things I have in common with The Waltons'
narrator character John-Boy, I should also mention some differences
between him and me. The main contrast is the difference between our
fathers and the father-son bonding. There was none of that in my childhood
or youth, as my dad always distanced himself from children and though
he did start taking me fishing with him and some of his work buddies
when I was in seventh grade, he still spoke to me only minimally and
never offered constructive counsel like John Walton always had for
his seven children. My dad's closest approximation of counsel was
criticism, usually couched in harsh sarcasm. He really seemed to believe
that any words of approval would ruin ("spoil") a child.
Though I've always regretted that gulf, it didn't seem very strange
at the time, as it seemed to me that most male members of Dad's generation
were unexpressive and not very communicative with anyone younger,
including their own sons.
though John-Boy and I both followed our boyhood wish to be writers
as our adult vocations, I combined mine with a church-related mission
and ministry, while he took the more typical writing career path through
New York and eventually Hollywood book and script publishing. Though
he and I both spent years in newspaper work and both did some freelance
magazine writing (and I published my own magazines for decades), my
books have been nonfiction while his were fictionalized memoirs. And
of course I am describing "John-Boy" as though he is a real
person, because he is the fictionalized alter-ego of his creator,
I've also been impressed by some comparisons between the Waltons'
village of Waltons' Mountain and my home village of Belsano. Both
are villages with two Protestant churches, but whereas Waltons' Mountain
was on unpaved roads, Belsano was on a main east-west federal highway
(422) and a lesser north-south state highway, now route 271 (it has
been a state highway as long as I remember, but the number has changed
at least a few times), both of which were paved for as long as I remember.
But though Belsano's highways were more modern by the late '40s (when
I arrived there) Waltons' Mountain had some telephones in the '30s,
whereas Belsano didn't get telephone service until the 1950s (please
correct me if I am misremembering, but I don't recall a phone at the
school or anywhere else in town by the time I left the school there
in 1952). Ike Godseys' General Merchandise appears to be Waltons'
Mountain's only store, whereas Belsano had two general stores, one
of which had the town post office and Mobil gas pumps, two gas station/convenience
stores (Sunoco and Cities Service), and a restaurant/truck stop when
I first got there.
Belsano School was two stories with two classrooms which each served
two grades, whereas the Waltons' Mountain school is shown as serving
grades one through 12 in one room. This contrast is indicative of
an apparently much larger population in the area around Belsano than
around Waltons' Mountain. The Waltons' town was 28 miles from Charlottesville,
a major city that goes back to the early years of Virginia, and the
home of the University of Virginia (founded by Thomas Jefferson).
Belsano is 18 miles from Johnstown, which was probably bigger than
Charlottesville was in our youth (but no longer, as Johnstown is less
than half its 1950 size). The apparently fictional Fishcreek and Weston
are about eight and 18 miles, respectively, from Waltons' Mountain.
Fishcreek is the home of the nearest movie theater (Twin Rocks and
Vintondale had one and Nanty Glo had three theaters in the time period,
within a five-mile radius of Belsano). Weston is the home of Boatwright
University, which John-Boy is attending, about the same distance as
the nearest college to Belsano (Indiana State) in the '50s. I'm curious
that it is called a university, as even Penn State didn't get renamed
"university" until 1953. I can believe that because of the
history with Jefferson and two other U.S. Presidents, Virginia may
have been called a university earlier' but it seems reaching to call
the fictional Boatwright (actually named after one of Hamner's favorite
professors at the University of Virginia) was more than a college.
(The main distinction between the two is that colleges are bachelor's
level whereas universities include a range of post-graduate programs.)
for this outing, a word about my viewing options. I mentioned last
time that INSP (Inspiration Channel) had disappeared from my Dish
Network. The channel and the network subsequently accused each other
of willing the rupture. Initially, Dish started running Hallmark Channel,
free, on INSP's former slot, and it had The Waltons like INSP
and Little House on the Prairie as a substitute for INSP's
Highway to Heaven. Hallmark was also offered on Dish in another
slot for a premium charge. After a week or so, Hallmark was replaced
in the former INSP slot by GMC, formerly known as Gospel Music Channel.
GMC has The Waltons five hours a day, but nothing as good as
either Little House on the Prairie or Highway to Heaven.
But in general, its programming is better than INSP's, which is
mostly Pentecostal church services (I haven't seen any church services
on GMC), and its motto is "Uplifting Entertainment," so
it may be a better replacement to the old Family Channel than INSP
is. GMC was founded and is run by Charles Humbard, son of the late
Akron, Ohio-based evangelist Rex Humbard.
Webmaster Jon Kennedy