Episode 2 - The Carnival

(First USA transmission 21 Sep 1972)

Writer: Nigel McKeand.

Director: Alf Kjellin.

Music: Arthur Moreton.


The Carnival


"Few strangers ever came to Waltons Mountain. We got our news of the outside world from the radio or from an occasional copy of a magazine. But I remember when I was about 17 four visitors arrived and gave me my first unexpected glimpse of the other world beyond our mountain".


John-Boy and Elizabeth count the money to find out if the children have enough to go to the carnival. With two dollars twenty-two cents, they will be able to see all the attractions and to share a cotton candy. The kids run upstairs to get ready while Grandma cleans the supper table. But Olivia has placed Grandma’s glasses where Grandma can’t see them, resulting in her breaking them. Olivia says they can pay for new ones with the two dollars from the emergency money. Grandma reminds her that the money was already spent on Jason’s shoes. John-Boy tells the children what happened, and convinces them to donate their money to fix Grandma’s glasses, even though it will mean that they will miss the carnival.


At Ike’s store Jim Bob and Elizabeth begin to tell Ike why they didn’t go to the carnival, but Mary Ellen quickly asks for a two-dollar money order. Ike says that with postage it totals two dollars eleven cents. Inside the store Martha Rose Coverdale tells the children how wonderful a time she had at the carnival.


At the house Sheriff Bridges drives up to see John. But with him and Grandpa in Rockfish delivering railroad ties, Ep warns Olivia to lock everything up. He says that the carnival manager ran off with the snake charmer’s wife, leaving four carnival people behind. That night John-Boy reads Jim Bob and Elizabeth a scary bedtime story ("Little Orphan Annie (and the Goblins)"). After tucking them into bed, John-Boy writes in his journal. As Jim Bob and Elizabeth drift off to sleep Jim Bob sees a monkey at the window, and awakens his sister. John-Boy writes, “It’s eight o’clock. The train is just going over the trestle at Rockfish. It makes a lonesome sound and far out there in the night it fills me with a restless feeling I don’t rightly understand.” John-Boy hears the two kids open their window. He enters their room, but doesn’t see the monkey. Jim Bob and Elizabeth tell him what they saw, but John-Boy says to go back to sleep. Outside a man calls to the monkey.


The next morning John-Boy, Jason, Jim Bob, and Elizabeth follow the monkey into the barn where they discover that the four carnival people have taken up residence. Pete Harris, their leader, introduces Marco, Tommy, and his wife Belle. Inside the house John-Boy and Jason tell the rest of the family about what they saw. Olivia wonders if they have cigarettes and whiskey, unable to tolerate the two. Suddenly the foursome is seen walking up to the house. Olivia demands that they not be allowed into her house. John reminds her that they have never turned anyone away from the house based on how they look or what they do. John invites them inside, then Olivia wonders if they have had supper. Over a meal the carnival people tell their adventures performing across the country and riding the train to the grand cities. John-Boy is mesmerized by the talk of traveling. Olivia becomes uneasy at her eldest son being exposed to the outside world; hating the idea of some day he will leave them. Their next job is at the Chicago World’s Fair, hoping to travel there by the Rockfish freight train. John agrees to talk with Sam Holden, the night clerk. Afterwards Olivia admits that she saw for the first time how John-Boy reacted to news of the world. John reassures her as John-Boy lies in bed, listening to the train whistle blow off in the distance.


Mary Ellen, Erin, and Elizabeth bring leftovers to the carnival people. Belle gives Mary Ellen one of her old costumes, after the children admit they weren’t able to see the carnival. Jason and Ben look over Pete’s one-man band instrument as Tommy looks on.


In the morning, Olivia finds Ben juggling her supper plates. When he breaks one, he is sent to his room. Mary Ellen climbs onto the peak of the barn roof in order to perform her tightrope act. Olivia and Grandpa look on in horror as John drives up. For her punishment Olivia makes her memorize ten Bible verses. Later John and Grandpa drive to the railroad depot. Sam Holden agrees to let the carnival people ride the train that night. When Sam tells them that his boss, Homer Ferguson is very strict, Grandpa indicates that lately Homer is more dedicated to himself than to the railroad. John-Boy tells Tommy that they will take them to the station at eight-thirty tonight. When John-Boy admits that he feels life is passing him by (like in the book Moby-Dick), Tommy responds by saying that he will visit those distant places he dreams about.


As the family prays before supper a letter is slipped under the door. John-Boy reads the invitation, “To all the Waltons, we most humbly request the pleasure of your company in the barn at seven-thirty”. The family arrives to find Marco at the doorway announcing, “Welcome and Good Evening”. The carnival people perform, first Tommy welcomes everyone, and then Pete plays his one-man band. Later Marco performs his magic act and Belle walks her tightrope. Pete and Tommy then clown around together. At the end of the show the carnival people and the Waltons hold hands in a circle and sing Auld Lang Syne. At the depot Homer surprises Sam, telling him to go home because his wife is about to give birth. As the performers pack Olivia admits to Belle that she wrongly judged her. Belle gives her a needlepoint of flowers, asking Olivia want it is like to stay in one place. Olivia tells her that it is the only life she’s ever known.


At the train depot Homer refuses to allow the carnival people onto his train, threatening to call the sheriff. He finally agrees when Grandpa tells him that he knows about the six cases of bootleg whiskey that is brought on board Thursday nights behind his back. As the train departs with the carnival people riding in one of the cars, Tommy gives John-Boy his copy of the book Moby-Dick or The White Whale. John asks his son if he is okay. John-Boy is troubled but all right.


"And so the carnival people left Waltons Mountain. The postcard we received from them said they'd arrived safely in Chicago and were working at the World's Fair. Some years later, when I left to go to college, the book which Tommy gave me was one of the possessions I took with me. Now, whenever I open it I remember those four people who gave a 17 year old boy his first glimpse of the outside world".


Elizabeth: John-Boy?

John-Boy: What is it?

Elizabeth: You think they'll ever come back?

John-Boy: I don't know, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: I wish I could see that lady walk along the rope again.

John-Boy: One day maybe.

Elizabeth: Hope so, goodnight, John-Boy.

John-Boy: Goodnight, Elizabeth.



The carnival people consist of “Panhandle” Pete Harris (the Hobo Clown, and player of the One-Man Band instrument), “Beautiful” Belle Brown (the Aerial and Tightrope Artist), Tommy Trendel (Clown and descendent of Colonel Tom Thumb), and Marco the Magnificent (the Magician). Pete mentions that he and Belle became engaged on top of the Empire State Building.

The year is 1933 because the Chicago’s World Fair was held in 1933. The fair open May 27, 1933, so the episode probably occurred sometime in April or May. See the web site: http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/timeline/centuryprog.html.

Billy Barty died December 23, 2000 at the age of 76For more information on Mr. Barty, go to: http://www.billybarty.com/.

The scary bedtime story is "Little Orphan Annie (and the Goblins)." John-Boy reads this excerpt: "And they seeked him in the rafter room, and cubby hole and press, And seeked him up the chimney flue, and everywheres, I guess; But all they ever found was just his pants and round about! And the Gobble-uns'll git you if you don't watch out!" (http://www.jameswhitcombriley.com/litorphannie.htm) .

John-Boy is about seventeen years old.

The license plates on John’s truck are 35-178 Virginia.

Sam Holden, the night clerk at the railroad, and his wife have four children, with a fifth on the way.

The train leaves the Rockfish Crossing train depot at nine-thirty p.m.

Homer Ferguson, the boss to Sam Holden, has been with the railroad for about twenty-five years.

Tommy gives John-Boy his copy of the book Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville. More information about the book can be found at: http://www.melville.org/hmmoby.htm.

The song Auld Lang Syne, by Robert Burns, is recognized across the English-speaking world as a song of friendship and salutation. The song’s lyrics can be found at: http://wilstar.com/xmas/auldlangsyne.htm.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford), Martha Rose Coverdale (Cindy Eilbacher), Homer Ferguson (Arthur Peterson), Sam Holden (Jay Ripley), Pete Harris (Gino Conforti), Tommy Trindall (Billy Barty), Belle Brown (Barbara Davis), Marco (John Harper).


(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)