Episode 17 - The Career Girl

(27 January 1977)
Writer: Kathleen Hite.
Director: Harry Harris.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"It had been my father's dream that each of his children received at least a high school education, and for a good many years there was a Walton in every graduating class of the Walton Mountain school. So it was, in 1937 when it came time for my sister Erin to leave behind the security of high school and to face an uncertain future".


Family and friends gather for the high school graduation ceremony that includes another Walton, this time Erin. Before the ceremony, Rosemary Fordwick must ask John-Boy to give an impromptu graduation speech after Superintendent Tolliver’s car swerves off the road while driving to the event. While passing out diplomas Mrs. Fordwick tells the audience what each graduate’s plans are after high school: Claire Bates will attend West Hampton College, John Charles Ridings will work for the Civilian Conservation Corps, Merle Towbridge will attend trade school in Westham, and Molly Zimmerman will be a secretary at the highway department. When Mrs. Fordwick reaches Erin she has no idea what the young graduate wants to pursue and explains that Erin’s plans must be secret. Graduation suddenly becomes bittersweet for Erin when she realizes she is the first Walton not to have a career goal. At her graduation party, Erin seems lost when she realizes John-Boy is developing his talents as a writer, Mary Ellen has realized her dream to be a nurse, and Jason is involved with his musical abilities. Grandpa senses Erin’s sadness when he gives Erin a gift of a gold locket with her great-grandmother’s picture in it that he knows she loves.


During her party, Erin overhears John-Boy tell Jason that he needs a typewriter in order to type the manuscript he is writing about Waltons Mountain. He can not afford a new one at fifty dollars and renting one will probably cost as much due to his poor typing skills. Later Erin admits to Olivia that she feels strange and different about not knowing what her goals are now that school is over. Erin has been working at Miss Fanny’s telephone office but does not feel the job is well-suited for her. She says that even though she knows everyone, she never sees anyone so no one can connect a name or a face to her.


Jim Bob is watching the gas pump for Ike but it is a slow day with not much to do. Ike thinks the book John-Boy is writing is about him because his store is ‘at the crossroads of life in the area’. Ike cannot wait for the published book so tries to convince Jim Bob to sneak a peek at the unfinished manuscript. Jim Bob is not sure about the idea because John-Boy does not want anyone to look until it is completed.


Ben takes Erin to Shirley’s Truck Stop after she sees a sign for a job opening. The owner is unsure if Erin can handle the job because the place is not exactly a ‘tea room’. Shirley wants Erin to get permission from her parents. John and Olivia give their permission but tell Erin that, “you make sure the people you work for know you are a lady”. Jason arrives a few minutes before the end of Erin’s first day of work to take her home. A customer, however, becomes too friendly and Jason must remove his hand from Erin’s arm. A fight ensues that results in a bloody face for Jason and, more crucially, a bruised right wrist. Doc Willard says the bone bruises will take a month to heal. The news upsets Erin because she knows Jason will lose a whole month of pay from playing the guitar, all because of her.


Ike is practicing on his new key-making machine when Jim Bob walking into the store. Jim Bob tells Ike that he looked at John-Boy’s manuscript and found absolutely no reference to Ike or the store. Ike believes it is impossible for John-Boy not to mention the store in a book about Waltons Mountain.


Erin is sick over being the cause of Jason’s injuries. She feels everything she does turns out wrong and that she is a failure. John-Boy says to think about others instead of just herself. She apparently does not listen and continues to cry. While being driven to work, Erin sees a sale sign for a used typewriter. She jumps out of the truck and walks into the Rockfish Business School. With the telephone ringing and no one in the reception area, Erin answers the phones and takes messages. When Jane Stevens, the owner of the school, observes the easy way Erin handles the equipment she asks if Erin would work for her. Erin agrees to work as receptionist and bookkeeper in exchange for the typewriter. John-Boy accidentally finds out that Erin has been working at the school. When he learns how much she likes the job John-Boy offers Stevens anything in the way of advertising in his newspaper in exchange for her tuition. Stevens remarks, “What kind of a family are you?” She explains to John-Boy that Erin has been working to pay for a typewriter that he needs. John-Boy looks at Erin and gives her a big hug for her kindness.


"The family was grateful and pleased that Erin found a role for herself in life. She did go to business school, enjoyed it, and excelled in her work. Later, she married and mothered a family of her own. The typewriter, well, it typed my first novel, and interrupted the quiet nights on Waltons Mountain for years to come".


Ben: Hey John-Boy I can't sleep when that typewriter's goin'.
John: No one can. I mean it son, stop the typing!
Elizabeth: John-Boy's not home yet, I'm working on something.
Olivia: Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I want to get an early start on my career Mama. after all, I graduate from high school in about 8 years!
Olivia: Goodnight Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Goodnight Mama, goodnight Daddy!
John: Goodnight everybody!


Notes: A tidbit - excerpt from the dialog. John-Boy has just given the speech at the Graduation ceremony, and later, Ben is commenting

Ben: By the way John-Boy you talked really good today!
John-Boy: Thankyou.
Ben: Ever thought about goin' into politics?
John-Boy (laughing): No, never.
Ben: Well you should - you sound real good at the time and then later on no-one knows what you said.........


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Curtis Willard (Tom Bower); Shirley (Billie Bird); Eli Carr (Donald Holton); Spurgeon Conners (Ted Jordan); Fanny Tatum (Sheila Allen); Jane Stevens (Alice Hirson); Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe).