Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Some mysteries of the mountain remain

Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy    

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It's been two and a half months since my previous Jonal on the 1970s television series The Waltons, where I compared the Blue Ridge Mountain village of Waltons' Mountain, Virginia, where John-Boy Walton and his siblings grew up in the 1930s with the Allegheny Mountain village of Belsano where I spent my childhood in the late 1940s and '50s. But I've continued watching Waltons episodes (often two a day) in the interim. I described last time an interruption of the service from which I was recording my episodes. Details of the disruption are not worth going into now, but let it suffice to say that after a few weeks Dish Network and INSP (Inspiration channel) were able to forge a new contract resulting in INSP coming back at its previous location and GMC (its temporary substitute) becoming available only on another location as a premium channel.

The main upshot of my being unable to watch the shows in sequence is that there is still a large middle section of episodes I have not yet seen while on the other hand I have watched many of the early and late episodes more than once. And a side effect of that hole in my watching is that there are a handful of "mysteries" in my apprehension of what has come to pass in the Waltons saga. For quite a while two of these mysteries were how Ike Godsey and Corabeth Walton had gotten together to become a married couple (Corabeth was not a character in the first season or more), and even more mystifying was, how did the Godseys come to have a daughter of Elizabeth Walton's age when Elizabeth arrived on the scene long before Corabeth.

These mysteries eventually got solved as episodes about Corabeth's moving to Waltons' Mountain after her mother's passing in the even tinier village of Doe Hill (unlike Waltons' Mountain, a real Virginia place, a few miles east of US Highway 220) and how the couple fell in love, married, and adopted their daughter. But other mysteries remain: how, for one, did the Baptist preacher the Rev. Matthew Fordwick, played by John Ritter in his first major television role, come to leave Waltons' Mountain?

Most of my "missing episodes" seem to be the ones covering John-Boy's years at Boatwright University after his freshman one. So the main mysteries surround those years. Did he ever graduate from college, or did he drop out to move to New York to become a fulltime writer? How did he land a job at a local newspaper? And was that newspaper in the nearest sizeable town, Rockfish, or at Westham, the site of Boatwright U? (In the previous Jonal about The Waltons, I called Westham "Weston" based on my best guess based on only hearing it, but since then I have seen it on signs on places like the list of towns served by local buses and on a railroad station.) One episode hints (without giving hard evidence) that John-Boy's first newspaper job led to his starting his own newspaper serving Waltons' Mountain, but though I've seen some episodes in which he was the editor and publisher of such a newspaper, I have yet to see how it came about, and of course with my background in editing and publishing that's the most tantalizing mystery to me.

A much less-compelling mystery, which came along only a few days ago, is how Westham can have an elevation of only 385 feet above sea level, when it is apparently at least in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains (I got that tidbit from a town sign including the elevation). And I have learned that there was once a real Virginia place known as Westham (since renamed), which was in the outskirts of Richmond (too far away for John-Boy to have commuted to school every day), so there's some mystery, too, in why the show's creative team chose to resurrect it as a fictional town.

On the whole, I continue to greatly enjoy recapitulating the Walton family's saga. The loss and return of INSP channel resulted in my having to lose two other series I had been following there, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven. But Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman has proven to be a much more worthy substitute to those two than I had remembered from having watched it in its original seasons on the air in the '90s.

And I am also still following another series which, in some of its episodes I like even more than The Waltons, though it was a much-shorter-lived series. In fact, it could be called Canada's answer to The Waltons as both are set in the Great Depression and revolve around specific families. It is The Wind at My Back, and I hope to do at least one whole Jonal entry about it in the future...after I solve some of the mysteries that remain in my watching of it, having missed many of the middle episodes of it as well and for the same reasons.

A new TV season began last month and I have been so satisfied with my viewing of classic shows with substance and consistent values that I have returned to only one of the major network shows I had followed last season (The Mentalist). And if you have solutions to any of the mysteries I mentioned here, don't hesitate to let me know. I'm not afraid of "plot spoilers": I don't watch shows or read books for their plots but for the quality of their writing. And of course your other thoughts about these shows or television more generally are welcome, too.

— Webmaster Jon Kennedy