Episode 24 - A Decade of The Waltons

(22 May 1980)
Writer: Earl Hamner.
Directors: Harry Harris and Philip Leacock.
Editors: Bill Moshier and Marsh Hendry.
Art Director: Ed Graves.
Director of Photography: Serge Hargnere.
Music: Alexander Courage


This double-length episode is very special as it draws together the characters, the actors and their creator in this unique program.

As usual, the paragraphs within double quotation marks are Earl Hamners own words, occurring at appropriate moments throughout the program.


"This is Earl Hamner. When I was growing up in the hills of Virginia during the Great Depression, I would never have believed that I would some day end up in a studio in Hollywood, telling the story of my life on television. As a matter of fact, television as we know it today didn't even exist. We grew up here, in this house, where my mother still lives".


"From the earliest times I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I was told that to be a good writer one should write about what he cares for most passionately. That was my family, and I wrote about them in my novel Spencer's Mountain, and in a later novel, The Homecoming. Spencer's Mountain became a film, and The Homecoming became a Lorimar/CBS television special in 1971. From the special grew the series, The Waltons, which premiered in the fall of 1972. Since then we've covered ten years: a decade of The Waltons".


"On this special program we'll visit my home town where it all began, meet my mother, my brothers and sisters, and the actors who have portrayed them all these years. Stay with us for the next two hours for a visit to two fairly dissimilar towns: Hollywood, California, and Schuyler, Virginia, and a fond look back at A Decade of The Waltons:"


The children are seen walking across a snow-covered field as they bring Chance the milk cow back to the barn. This scene from the made-for-television movie The Homecoming introduces us to the Walton family as it premiered on CBS in the fall of 1972. The scene moves to the television set of The Waltons in Hollywood, California as Earl Hamner begins our reminiscence with A Decade of The Waltons.


The family gathers photographs for a picture album to be given to Grandma for her upcoming birthday. They remember back to the time when John-Boy wrote a love poem to Marcia Woolery.


Outside the school John-Boy recites his poem to Marcia Woolery, who doesn’t really understand his intentions. (From “The Foundling”, season one, episode one, September 14, 1972.)


Jason remembers the time Mary Ellen could not understand why G.W. liked Martha Rose more than her.


John-Boy says to Mary Ellen that there comes a time when a boy wants to see a girl in a pretty dress rather than with a catcher’s mitt. One-by-one the rest of the children enter John-Boy’s bedroom for advice and comfort. As John-Boy tries to write in his tablet, the children climb under the covers and all around his bed. (From “The Hunt”, season one, episode four, October 5, 1972.)


Erin wonders if the Baldwin sisters should be included in the family album. Olivia says their picture should be included, with them almost like family members.


John-Boy tells the Baldwin sisters the story he wrote about the time his Daddy and he stopped by their house for the Recipe. When the Baldwin sisters realize his story is about their Recipe but that ‘treacherous Yankees’ will not publish it because it was not typed, they decide to loan John-Boy their Papa’s typewriter. Miss Mamie notes that ‘nothing is more important than the nurturing of artistic endeavors’. (From “The Typewriter”, season one, episode five, October 12, 1972.)


Earl Hamner speaks about The Depression in the United States and about the terrible disease of polio.


Olivia is bed-ridden, finally accepting the fact that she may never walk again. But early one morning she dreams about Elizabeth calling out for help. Instinctively Olivia gets out of bed and walks a step to her daughter. She awakens to find herself standing up, wobbling but able to look out the window to see crocuses blooming after spring’s first shower. (From “The Crisis (The Easter Story)”, season one, episode twenty-four, March 15, 1973.)


Mary Ellen wonders if Grandma will feel old after seeing old photographs of the family. Olivia makes a cake while the others help with dinner preparations. Earl Hamner remembers how the television series was the first to show future episodes as continuation of previous episodes.


The family speculate at a picnic about what it would be like if they were rich. Away from the family, John-Boy reads and listens to their comments. (From “The Heritage”, season two, episode seventeen, January 17, 1974.)


Erin counts the number of birthdays the family has celebrated. Olivia remembers her favorite birthday.


Under a tree in the front yard, John-Boy reads his mother a poem that he selected for her birthday. He concludes its meaning to be that ordinary things are just as important as the most magnificent things. (From “The Air-Mail Man”, season two, episode thirteen, December 13, 1973.)


Earl Hamner talks about how the television series portrays older persons as vital, meaningful individuals.


Looking toward the Blue Ridge Mountains, Grandpa and Grandma reminisce about their early days together, why memories are important, and how frighten it was to be ‘in the family way’.


John-Boy tells his parents that a decision to move away from the Mountain should really be made by Jim Bob and Elizabeth. He knows the older children have lived in the house long enough to acquire a history of who they are. But Jim Bob and Elizabeth are too young to remember how special their home is. John-Boy recalls the sounds of their home, especially everybody saying ‘good-night’ to each other at the end of each day.


On Grandma and Grandpa’s golden anniversary, friends and family gather for the celebration and watch the elder, but young-at-heart, couple dance the clog. (From “The Heritage”, season two, episode seventeen, January 17, 1974.)


The women dress for the party while John brings Grandma home. Jim Bob comments how beautiful his mother looks in her dress. He accepts lemonade as a substitute for the Recipe, upon Olivia’s insistence. Jim Bob wonders if Corabeth is a Waltons. Olivia says ‘yes’, being the children’s second cousin.


Ike brings Cousin Corabeth to the house late one night. John introduces her to each member of the family and Corabeth thanks Mr. Godsey for his kindness to a stranger. Later Ike asks Corabeth out on a double date with John and Olivia. At the end of the date John and Olivia mention that the couple did not really get along. But, suddenly Corabeth runs inside, crying, and blurts out, ‘Ike asked me to marry him. And I said yes!’ Ike and Corabeth are then married at the Baptist Church. (From “The Matchmaker”, season three, episode sixteen, February, 13, 1975.)


Jim Bob returns from Ike’s without the lemons. Olivia says she’ll have to go on another sit-down strike.


While Olivia scrubs the floor, Mary Ellen describes crossing a cucumber with a watermelon, explaining the huge pickle it would make. Outside Olivia finds Chance walking through her flowerbed. Then Reckless runs inside the house with muddy paws. Tired of nobody doing what they are suppose to do, Olivia sits down in a chair, intent on having herself a sit-down strike. John gathers together the children and Grandpa, saying they are ready to arbitrate. Olivia just smiles. (From “The Honeymoon”, season two, episode sixteen, January 10, 1974.)


Earl Hamner speaks of the good times and the bad times involving a house that is a home.


A fire engulfs the house. Each member of the family flees, while John-Boy watches his unfinished manuscript go up in flames. Outside the family waits in horror as John reenters the house, looking for John-Boy and Erin. The three reemerge but the house is destroyed.


Earl Hamner talks about the family as each member reacts to the destruction of their home.


John comforts Olivia who is anguishing over another stumbling block set before them. John reassures his wife that he will rebuild their house with two strong hands and a strong back.


Earl Hamner talks about how troubled Elizabeth has became over losing loved ones.


John-Boy finds Elizabeth in the tree house. She confides that whenever she loves someone, they die. She does not want anybody in the family to die just because she loves them. John-Boy reassures her that loving someone doesn’t mean they will die. Elizabeth rejoins the family, again giving her love. (From “The Burnout”, season four, episode eighteen, January 10, 1976.)


The family surprises Grandma at the front door. Everybody hugs and kisses Grandma while Earl Hamner stands off to the side saying that we will now journey to visit the cast members and the people from Virginia who these stories are based upon. Supper is served for Grandma and Olivia gives thanks. Mary Ellen tells the family she found pictures of her wedding while Olivia remembers the incidents that led to it.


Mary Ellen calls off her wedding to David. After seeing them kiss, Erin admits burning the letter Curt left for Mary Ellen. Without any fanfare, Curt proposes marriage to Mary Ellen, but she flatly refuses. However, Rev. Fordwick soon unites the couple in holy matrimony. (From “The Wedding”, season five, episode seven, November 4, 1976.)


Earl Hamner remembers the role Grandma played in bringing up the children.


Grandma prepares notes of past sermons so John-Boy has material for his upcoming sermon that he is giving while Rev. Fordwick is away. She emphasizes the strength of the passages by pounding her hand to the dresser. Grandpa listens in, afterwards comforting her sore hand. (From “The Sermon”, season four, episode one, September 11, 1975.)


John remembers the time John-Boy warned the community about Hitler’s activities in Europe.


Rev. Fordwick and Buck Vernon prepare a symbolic book burning as a protest against Hitler’s burning of books. John-Boy interrupts the ceremony saying he was misunderstood. John-Boy looks down at a particular book, wondering if anyone knows how to speak German. Mrs. Brimmer reads, first in German, then in English, the passage, ‘In the beginning, God created heaven and earth …. let there be light.’ (From “The Fire Storm”, season five, episode five, October 21, 1976.)


John understands the power of John-Boy’s words. Olivia realizes that John-Boy is ready to leave for his new life in New York City.


John-Boy describes the sense of promise he felt during his first trip to New York City. Grandpa says not to forget where he came from. Olivia goes inside to darn his socks for the trip. John-Boy hugs his father, overcome with emotion about leaving the family and his home on Walton’s Mountain. The family say goodnight and John-Boy responses, ‘Goodnight everybody. I love you.’ (From “The Achievement, season five, episode twenty-four, March 17, 1977.)


Grandma opens her present, the picture album that contains as its first photograph, her husband Zebulon. Mary Ellen says we all have special memories of Grandpa.


Mary Ellen and Grandpa try to sneak up to Grandma’s hospital room, but are caught by Curt. He refuses to let Grandpa in to see Grandma because she needs her rest. (From “The Long Night”, season five, episode twenty-one, February 24, 1977.)


Olivia remembers the time Mary Ellen insisted on having her first baby on the Mountain.


Mary Ellen is in labor but Curt is worried about having to perform a cesarean section. John and Zeb wait downstairs with Zeb reassuring his son that we all try to ease the pain of others. (From “The Grandchild”, season six, episode seven, November 3, 1977.)


Earl Hamner says that in real life Ellen Corby had a stroke. She fought back, like Grandma, to return to the series after a two-year absence.


Olivia and Grandma snap beans when Olivia realizes that Grandma feels she is not needed. Olivia reassures her that the family does need her. Later Grandpa reads her diary, finding that Grandma has promised God that she will not complain anymore. Grandpa realizes they have treated her like an invalid. He breaks his promise, telling her to sweep the porch if she wants breakfast. Grandma responds in her old way, by swiping a broom across Grandpa’s backside. Zeb says, ‘Whoopee, you’ve come home Easter.’ Grandma responds, ‘You old fool.’ And they hug. (From “Grandma Comes Home”, season six, episode twenty-two, March 30, 1978.)


The family sings around Jason while he plays the piano. The children talk about their parent’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.


John has built a gazebo up on the Mountain for Olivia’s anniversary present. He and Olivia dance on their special day, sip champaign, toast their life together, and make a wish on the first star. (From “The Anniversary”, season six, episode seventeen, February 2, 1978.)


The family sings another song, while Earl Hamner says that on April 22, 1978 America lost a national treasure with the death of Will Geer.


On the Mountain at Grandpa’s gravesite the children - one at a time - talk with Grandpa. Olivia and John bring grandma to Zeb’s grave. She says, ‘Old Man, you live in all of us.’ (From “The Empty Nest”, season seven, episode one, September 21, 1978.)


John and Olivia say goodnight to Grandma.


Earl Hamner introduces the cast of The Waltons to the people they portrayed.


 Kami Cotler, Elizabeth, is introduced to Nancy Hamner Jameson, who lives in Richmond, works at the Virginia Commission of Game and Fisheries, and is married to Garnet Jameson.


David Harper, Jim Bob, is introduced to James Hamner, who lives in the home house in Schuyler, works for the University of Virginia hospital, and also found a peacock like Jim Bob.


Jon Walmsley, Jason, is introduced to Cliff Hamner, who has three children, works for a machine manufacturing company, and loves music but can’t carry a tune, unlike Jason.


Judy Norton Taylor, Mary Ellen, is introduced to Marion Hawkins, who has two sons  (Rob and Bill), works at Win Bus Line, plays golf and collects antiques, is married to a doctor of psychology at the Virginia Commonwealth University, and was a ‘terrible tomboy’, like Mary Ellen.


Eric Scott, Ben, is introduced to Bill Hamner, who has three children and works in Richmond; and also is introduced to Paul Hamner who has two children, works at Baker Shoe Stores, and lives in New Jersey.


Mary McDonough, Erin, is introduced to Audrey Hamner Hankins who lives on a farm in Bedford County near Roanoke, is married to Hank, has four sons and one daughter, and works as a Donor Resource Consultant for the Red Cross.


Earl Hamner tours his hometown, Schuyler, Virginia. He then visits his mother, Doris, at the house he grew up in. He reminisces about the good food she made and remembers his parents couldn’t sleep until they all were safety in their beds. Earl then visits the grave of his father, who died in 1969. He says:


"I have walked the land in the footsteps of all my fathers, back in time to where the first one trod, and stopped, saw sky, felt wind, bent to touch mother earth, and called this home. This mountain, this pine and hemlock, oak and poplar, laurel wild and rhododendron, home and mountain, father, mother, grow to the sons and daughters to walk the old paths, to look back in pride, in honored heritage. To hear its laughter and its song. To grow to stand and be themselves one day remembered. I have walked the land in the footsteps of all my fathers. I saw yesterday and now look to tomorrow."


Earl Hamner joins the actors as they all join hands at the supper table and say goodnight to each other in memory of Will Geer, and then say, “Goodnight Everybody!”


Episode Writers: Theodore Aptein, Peter & Sarah Dixon, Dale Eunson, Kathleen Hite, Earl Hamner, John McGreevey, Rod Peterson & Claire Whitaker, Kathleen Powers, and Andy White.

Episode Directors:  Walter Alzmann, Robert Butler, Fielder Cooks, Larry Dobkin, Harry Harris, Philip Leacock, Ralph Senensky, Jack Shea, Vincent Sherman, Ralph Waite.

Theme Music: Jerry Goldsmith.

Also appearing: Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards), John Curtis (Michael Reed), Mamie and Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson), Zebulon Walton (Will Geer), Curt Willard (Tom Bower), Marcia Woolery (Tammi Bula), Buck Vernon (Barry Cahill), Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe), Rev. Matthew Fordwick (John Ritter).

Special Appearance: Doris Hamner, Bill Hamner, Clifton Hamner, James Hamner, Paul Hamner, Audrey Hankins, Marion Hawkins, Nancy Jameson, Earl Hamner.