Episode 19: The Gypsies


(1 February 1973)

Writer: Paul Savage.

Director: Harry Harris.

Music: Alexander Courage.


The Gypsies


"Times were hard everywhere during the days of the great Depression, but on Walton’s Mountain we were better off than most. To many though, it was a time of wandering, of looking for some better place, a new grasp on life, or a change of scene. And I remember when some wanderers came to our mountain one wild stormy summer night".


Strangers find the Baldwin house empty late one stormy night. The gypsies break in and locate a house full of food and drink. With their wagon broken down, a mother with a coughing baby and an old woman emerge from the wagon with the help of two men and a boy. Inside the Walton house Grandpa tunes the radio, hardly able to hear The Lone Ranger over the static. The children and Olivia make popcorn balls, unsure what is more fun: making popcorn balls or eating them. Upstairs John-Boy writes in his journal: “I found a new word in the dictionary today: ‘ambivalence’. That’s me, wanting things to stay like they are forever here on Walton’s Mountain, and yet wanting to be grown up and away, to find new things to see and write about. Ambivalence, it’s a good word. The thing is, knowing the word doesn’t make the two wants any easier to live with.


Later Grandpa barely hears a static-filled radio report on John Dillinger, before turning it off. John tells Olivia that he is helping Matt Beckwith with plumbing tomorrow. Olivia saying she wants him to take a casserole to his wife Martha. John-Boy runs downstairs to ask Jason if he remembered to close the Baldwin sister’s second floor window, after airing the house earlier in the day (while the sisters are away). Olivia insists they check the house since Miss Mamie and Miss Emily are paying them well. However, outside they discover a large fox or dog raiding the chicken coop. At the same time, the gypsies eat the Baldwin’s food. Franzia (the mother) tell Volta (the father) that she thinks the wind is trying to suck the life from her baby. Zena, the old woman, treats the child while Zvelei, the other man, locates the Recipe room and takes two bottles. John-Boy repairs the hole under the chicken coop fence.


The next morning Mary Ellen announces she is going to throw the ball with G.W., but Erin says she should wash the dishes. John tells both to clear the table and wash the dishes. After forgetting to check the Baldwin house, Olivia reminds John-Boy and Jason to go there now. John tells his sons that he’ll give them a ride on his way to Ike’s store to meet Matt. The men repair the wagon’s wheel, while the boy gathers firewood and the mother prepares breakfast. After John drops off John-Boy and Jason he sees the gypsies drive the wagon back to the house. The brothers find the front door open and investigate to find foreigners inside.


The wagon then approaches and two men leap off and walk inside. The boys run off to report what they found to Sheriff Bridges. At the store Matt tells Ike about the good neighbors he’s found since moving into the Benson place, especially John who is picking up used U-joints at Drew Narrimer’s place. Just then the boys rush in to tell what happened. Ike thinks the sheriff should be notified, but Matt thinks a few men should deal with the gypsies. Ike wins out, and Ep Bridges soon pulls up. John-Boy, Jason, and Matt join him on the ride to the Baldwin house, while the men continue to repair the roof of their wagon, and as the baby’s condition worsens.


Sheriff Bridges confronts Volta, saying they are trespassing. Matt tries to antagonize them, but Ep intercedes. Volta explains their situation with the upcoming storm, a broken roof and wheel on their wagon, a sick child, and needing a dry place to stay. Finding from Jason that no damage was done, the Sheriff doesn’t know what to do. John-Boy suggests they camp at their place, but Matt is against the idea. Volta accepts the invitation.


Camping in front of the house, Olivia doesn’t like the old woman pouring dirty dishwater on her flowers, and notices the baby is sick. Grandma tries to give them eggs, but the Zena won’t accept the gift. Olivia is baking an extra pie for them while Grandma says to watch out getting “your head bit off”. Erin and Jim Bob ask Craska to swing, but his mother says they need firewood. Erin suggests using their wood, but she says they will gather their own. John-Boy finds out that they are from “across the waters” and not going in any particular direction. John-Boy thinks it must be wonderful to travel around.


Later that night John-Boy and Jason hear their music as it is played around their campfire. They notice their dog Mekla running loose. Jason tells his mother that Amos n’ Andy will soon be on the radio. Grandma tells Olivia that she thinks their baby needs a poultice to help her breathe. While Mary Ellen churns butter she learns from Craska that they are from Bulgaria. When she offers some butter to the boy, he says, “We ask nothing. We take nothing.” Olivia takes vegetable stew to Franzia, who accepts it and places it into their cooking pot. Olivia is not happy about her action, and Grandma makes it known what she thinks. John-Boy pays one dollar, fifty-one cents for groceries as Beckwith talks bad about the gypsies. John-Boy defends them, telling him that he doesn’t know their situation. John-Boy informs his father and grandfather about the confrontation he nearly had with Beckwith. John and Grandpa watch the gypsies’ dog jump on the chicken fence.


That night Volta confronts his wife when he finds meat in his supper. She explains, but he says, “You took from her!” When he insists that “I feed”, Franzia shows him their nearly bare food supplies. Volta insists, “We ask nothing. We take nothing, even if we go hungry.” In his room John-Boy ponders about these people as he writes in his journal: “It sure is frustrating to have these people right in the front yard and not learn a thing about them. What I would like to do is to go down there and sit around the campfire with them.” John and Olivia listen to their sad music while lying in bed. Olivia says to her husband, “We are so lucky, John!”


In the morning Grandma hears the baby crying. She tells the mother that the baby needs more attention than the roots that the old woman is gathering. The Sheriff soon approaches with Beckwith, after Matt claims that the dog killed some of his chickens last night. Volta insists the dog was with his son. Matt decides to quickly leave when he finds the baby might have influenza. Suddenly the mother screams. Grandma finds the baby’s throat is blocked. She takes the baby inside, while the old woman screams, “They kill gypsy babies”. Olivia and Grandma use steam to clear the baby’s passages. Later, Grandma finds the baby is breathing better. Outside, Volta discusses how badly they have been treated on their journeys. Grandma tells the father that the baby is “resting easy”. He thanks her. Soon, the dog is seen running away from the chicken coop. John, Volta, John-Boy, Jason, and Craska follow with guns. Volta prepares to kill the dog, but Craska pushes the gun away and runs to the dog. Beside the dog, John-Boy finds a dead fox, the real chicken killer.


The baby is well enough to travel, and it is time for the gypsies to leave. Volta says to John, “You have been good to us”, and gives John his ring for payment. John returns the ring saying, “We ask nothing. We take nothing.” The men shake hands and both families wave goodbye.


"They might have come from a different planet, but they touched our lives briefly and then in my mind went on in some gaudy, mysterious and wonderful world. Nearly thirty years have passed but still those days are bright in my memory. I can still hear the scratch of my pen as I recorded all that wonder, the cozy patter of rain on the roof, and our voices just before going to sleep as we called one last drowsy message".


Erin: Mama, Mary Ellen is sleeping on the floor.

Olivia: Mary Ellen, why are you sleeping on the floor?

Mary Ellen: I'm pretending I'm a gypsy, Mama, traveling in a caravan across Bulgaria.

Olivia: Try to be home by morning.

Mary Ellen: I will Mama.

Olivia: Sweet dreams.

Mary Ellen: You too, Mama.



The episode occurs in the summer.

Matt Beckwith’s wife is named Martha. They live in the Benson place.

The Baldwin house is located between the Walton house and Ike’s store.

Drew Narrimer’s place is mentioned in the episode as where John locates used U-joints for Beckwith’s plumbing job.

Comment: In The Reunion (s1/e13), all the Recipe had been stolen by Homer, yet when the gypsies entered the Baldwin's house, there were casks of Recipe marked 1924, 1927, etc.... Where had it all come from?


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford), Matt Beckwith (William Bramley), Volta, the father (Gregory Sierra), Zena, the old woman (Celia Lovsky), Craska the boy (Barry Miller), Franzia the wife (Karen Kondan), Zvelei the man (Victor Argo).


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