Episode 21 - The Quilting

(12 February 1976)
Writers: Rod Peterson & Claire Whittaker.
Director: Lawrence Dobkin.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"On Waltons Mountain, as our parents had before us, we grew up taking for granted the traditions that shaped our lives. When my sister Mary Ellen took a stand against a solemn mountain custom, it was a rebellion that rattled the complacency of generations. She was 17, but the custom was older than even my grandmother could remember".


Mary Ellen and Erin wash the living room windows as John-Boy brings Grandma home from Brightwood where Martha Corrine has been sick with bronchitis. Ben wonders if she put a mustard plaster on Martha Corrine, and Grandma says, “of course, how do you think she got well.” Olivia and the girls help Grandma unpack. Grandma shows Olivia the squares for Mary Ellen’s quilt. Some of them are from Martha Corrine, Margaret Brent, Cousin Estelle, and Cousin Nora May. Mary Ellen says she isn’t going to have a quilting. Grandma states it’s a tradition that when a girl reaches a certain age they have a quilting. Cousin Leonna is waiting for Mary Ellen to have her quilting.


John-Boy is putting on his pants when Mary Ellen barges in. Mary Ellen said he never used to mind her coming in with only his BVDs on. Mary Ellen is upset with Grandma about having her quilting party. John-Boy doesn’t understand why she can’t live her own life, and still put up with traditions. Mary Ellen wonders how he would feel if all the men got together to make him a tool box when what he really needed was a typewriter. He suggests having the ladies knit her a hot water bottle.


Grandma listens to a soap opera on the radio, the Poetry Pantry sponsored by Blue Ridge Bluing. John-Boy listens in behind her. Grandma is entering the radio contest: Why I like Blue Ridge Bluing in twenty-five words or less. One of her possibilities is: “I like Blue Ridge Bluing and use it in my wash every Monday. I’m glad that Monday follows Sunday because cleanliness is next to godliness.” John-Boy thinks it is humorous, but Grandma wasn’t trying to be funny and crumbles up the paper. He suggests they go over all of her sayings, and pick out the best one.


Ike and Corabeth come calling with store bought ice cream to welcome Esther home. John-Boy says he is writing an article on Virginia wild flowers. Grandpa wants to take a walk in the moonlight with Grandma, but John-Boy mentions he already has a date with her to go over her entries. Grandma states the prize is fifteen dollars, and she wants to take piano lessons. Grandma talks about Mary Ellen’s quilting, but Mary Ellen remarks that you might as well put up a notice that she is available for marriage. They laugh at the ways they can announce her availability. Corabeth says that she has been reading the book Coming of Age by Martha Meade, and if the girl doesn’t follow the traditions she often has to marry the least desirable man. Grandma announces that the quilting will be held a week from this Saturday. Mary Ellen is upset about being forced to have the quilting party, and runs upstairs.


Mary Ellen and Olivia look through the old trunk in the attic. It’s Olivia’s hope chest (three generations old, and now it goes to Mary Ellen who is Olivia’s first daughter). Olivia shows Mary Ellen the dress she wore when John first took her dancing, John-Boy’s first shoes, and a lace hanky that John gave her from Paris. Mary Ellen says she has nothing to fill it. Olivia shows Mary Ellen some pictures she drew, but she chose marriage over a career. She tells Mary Ellen that she must decide for herself. Grandma and Grandpa talk about Old Dominion customers, and who is coming to the quilting. They might have a “crazy quilt” if the Baldwin sisters bring the Recipe. Grandma finds something in their bed, a cold hot water bottle that Zeb has been using since she was away. They hold each other tightly.


Olivia reminisces to John about the lace hanky he gave her. John says he’ll have a talk with Grandma if Olivia wants him to, but Olivia agrees it’s not necessary. The next morning Ike shows Zeb the cotton batten for the quilting party, and Ike describes Mary Ellen as on her “high horse” with respect to the party. Zeb says the men folk have been barred from the premises, but Zeb thinks they should have a pool gathering at the store (and some Recipe from the Baldwin sisters). Yancy comes in with a list for his special red-devil chili. Zeb thinks he should join the pool party and supply the grub. Miss Emily shows Zeb a box of chocolates, and wants Zeb to take back her quilt square (a swirling leaf like the one that came down when Ashley Longworth came a-courtin’). Miss Mamie talks about her suitor, Porter Sims, in contrast to Miss Emily’s suitor. Zeb takes a jar of the Recipe, which he describes as white liquid pretty enough to be embroidered on a quilt square. Zeb looks at the Recipe when Ben comes in, telling him that it is turpentine. Ben and Jim Bob are working on a chair. Grandpa wants the boys take the furniture over to Westham on Saturday, and he might even give them enough money to go to the picture show with popcorn. Jim Bob states that “The Dawn Patrol” is playing at the Jefferson (the movie theatre). Grandpa sings “Camptown Ladies” as he leaves the barn, looking forward to playing pool and drinking the Recipe on Saturday.


John-Boy and Grandma listen to the radio contest, and she has won with: “I like Blue Ridge Bluing because it does what it is suppose to do, and not many things to that these days.” They are excited. Grandma says she couldn’t send in the one he wrote, because she didn’t write it. John-Boy knows her slogan was better anyway. Zeb escorts his wife to the stove. Grandma and Olivia work on the quilt. Grandma is having trouble with Miss Emily’s leaf square. They talk about Mary Ellen. John drives up with Maude Gormley as Reckless barks at the truck. Maude has been saving her carrot tops for Myrtle. John gives Grandma her letter and check from the radio contest. John and Olivia talk about the conflict between Grandma and Mary Ellen, with John states that these three women are like “a coop with three feisty hens”. When Olivia says she’s not a feisty hen, John responds, “you look pretty good to this old rooster”.


In the evening, G.W. Haines comes to the door. Erin finds out that G.W. wants to ask something of John, who says that he should ask Mary Ellen whether she wants to see him. With flowers in his hands and his suit on (and Jason playing romantic music), G.W. announces that he heard about her quilting party and wanted to come over before the others came. Mary Ellen explains to G.W. that she has plans to go away to nursing school in the fall and will be too busy for anything else. Mary Ellen throws flowers at Jason and Erin, and yells at the family (especially Grandma) for doing this to her. She flatly states that she will not be at the quilting. Olivia tells Grandma that she loves her dearly, but she must remember that she is the mother.


Ben and Jim Bob load the truck with the finished shipment. Olivia shows John her square, a house with eight windows (the children and her) with him as the door. Grandpa comes in to say that Ben and Jim Bob are taking the order in and suggests that they both take the day off. Jason says that John-Boy is finishing an article for the newspaper but will be over to Ike’s store later. John decides he will work in peace and quiet in the mill. Grandma tells Olivia that she only wanted what is best for Mary Ellen. Erin and Elizabeth come down in their dresses, saying that Mary Ellen is upstairs. Olivia finds John-Boy reading on her bed. He goes looking for Mary Ellen. Ike tells Corabeth to hurry so she will not be late for the quilting, and mentions that if the store gets busy, Zeb, Jason, and Yancy have offered to help out. Corabeth tells Ike a number of jobs that need to be completed. Ike promises he will do all of them. But as Corabeth walks to the Walton house, Ike puts up the sign “Closed for Repairs”.


The quilting party gets started with the Baldwin sisters (who talk about their coming out party), Maude Gormley, Mrs. Brimmer, Corabeth, and the Walton women. While at Ike’s store, Yancy aims at the cue ball. Grandpa tries a sample of the Recipe, but it tastes like turpentine. He wonders what happened. Ike remembers that Ben came in earlier wanting a jar of turpentine. It turns out that Ben used the Recipe on the rocking chair. Grandpa thought that rocker had a special glow to it. Yancy makes his special chili. Ike finds some of Yancy’s stump liquor that he shares with Zeb. They sing “Moonlight Bay”. John works in the mill. John-Boy can’t find Mary Ellen, and tells his Momma. He goes into the attic, where he finds Mary Ellen. John-Boy tells Mary Ellen that he doesn’t understand her. He says that Grandma did this for her, and all the women down there made a square because they care for her. Mary Ellen remarks that this is only to put her on the market for marriage, and it gives away her rights to live her own life. John-Boy knows this is nonsense; saying it is only a gift from these ladies. John-Boy acts like he doesn’t care, but says that Grandma will never forget about this day. He is especially concerned about the split between their mother and their grandmother, something for her to think about.


Corabeth states that her fourth cousin Jesse got blood on her quilt (which is supposedly bad luck) but had eleven children, out lived three husbands, and died rich at 94. Maude says she would like to remarry, but it is difficult to find a man at her age. John-Boy comes down, and motions to his Momma when Mary Ellen comes down in a very nice dress. She asks Grandma if she could sit next to her. Grandma gives her a present, the money she won from the contest. Mary Ellen hugs her grandmother, as Olivia looks on. Miss Emily states that John Walton will have to run off all the gentlemen with a stick. John hears men coming down the road singing “Seeing Nelly Home”. He joins them inside the house as the men and women sing with Grandma playing the piano and Jason the guitar.


"There may not have been true harmony in the singing that evening, but we could feel it once again flowing through our family. The gap between young and old, traditional and modern ways had been bridged by something we all felt for each other, an enduring respect and affection".


Elizabeth: Tell me about the picture show, Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: Tomorrow Elizabeth. I saw it three times so I won't forget. Goodnight.
Erin: When can I have my quilting Mama?
Mary Ellen: Goodnight Grandma.
Grandma: Goodnight Mary Ellen.
Erin: Mama? When can I have my quilting?
John: We'll talk about it in the morning Erin, goodnight now.
Jim Bob: Mama I met a girl at the picture show today. Looked a lot like you.
Olivia: That's nice, goodnight.



Mary Ellen is seventeen years old.

Brightwood, Virginia is about ten miles southwest of Culpepper, Virginia, on Route 29.

Grandma has been to Brightwood where Martha Corrine has bronchitis.

The license plates on John’s truck is T-6058 Virginia.

The lyrics to the song “Camptown Ladies” appears at: http://www.acronet.net/~robokopp/usa/decampto.htm.

The lyrics to the song “Moonlight Bay” appears at: http://www.rienzihills.com/SING/moonlightbay.htm.

The lyrics to the song “Seeing Nelly Home” (“The Quilting Party”) appears at: http://www.smsu.edu/folksong/maxhunter/0712/

Ben and Jim Bob see the movie The Dawn Patrol at the Jefferson theatre in Westham. For more information, go to: http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&id=1800054148&cf=info&intl=us.

The year is 1938 because Ben and Jim Bob see the movie The Dawn Patrol, which was released in 1938.

Information about Margaret Meade can be found at: http://www.mead2001.org/Biography.htm.


Also appearing:

Ike & Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley & Ronnie Claire Edwards); Miss Emily & Miss Mamie Baldwin (Mary Jackson & Helen Kleeb); Yancy Tucker (Robert Donner); Maude Gormley (Merie Earle); Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe); G.W. Haines (David Doremus); The Radio Host (Art Gilmore).