Episode 1 - The Empty Nest

(two hour episode) (21 September 1978)
Writers: Rod Peterson and Claire Whitaker.
Director: Philip Leacock.
Music: Alexander Courage.



"This special episode of The Waltons is dedicated to the memory of Will Geer"


"For as long as any of us could remember our house had stood in the shadow of Waltons Mountain. We counted time by its seasons, growing up and growing old, and even those of us who went away never really left it. It was a fitting place for my grandfather to be buried, and in the six months since his death we had learned to live with our grief. We never looked up at the mountain without feeling his strength. We were to need it: the year was 1941 and there was a tension in the air that threatened to pull us apart".


Part 1


John admits he still feels ‘awfully empty’ after the death of his father. When he tells Olivia that he is at a crossroads, not knowing what to do, she responds that Grandpa would say, ‘Get on with it.’


Ben shows up with a mustache, like Grandpa’s, hoping to gain more respect. John reminds him that Grandpa was respected, not due to a mustache but because he rarely made mistakes. Erin is anxious to hear from Mr. Pringle about an opening for a secretarial job with his company. As Erin and Elizabeth mop the kitchen floor Olivia answers a knock at the front door. An aggressively handsome man is looking for John Walton who owns, as he was told, one of the biggest lumber operations around. Matt Sarver offers John a lumber order but must decline because it’s too big for his operation. Sarver calls John a ‘two-bit operator’ in a day where he needs men with grit to fill big orders for the war effort. John does not like what he hears.


Erin receives a phone call from Mr. Pringle; she’s been hired. John and Olivia walk to Ike’s while relating his feelings that this may be the last chance to do something big. With the bank wanting their money from a loan that Grandpa secretly took out to pay for Grandma’s hospital bills, a large order from Sarver would help the family’s finances. At the store, Corabeth has moved the pool table, under protest from Ike, in order to open her ‘Ye Cozy Tearoom’. Ike gives Olivia a package from St. Louis. Patsy Brimmer has sent her deceased aunt’s cameo ring knowing Flossie would want Olivia to have it. Ike reminisces about the loss of Zeb and Flossie as Olivia, Corabeth and the Baldwin sisters share the somber moment.


Erin tries to sleep while Elizabeth reads with the light on. When Olivia tucks in her youngest daughter Elizabeth reminds her that next Saturday is Grandpa’s birthday. The two girls remember the flower names that Grandpa taught them. Meanwhile, John is working at his desk trying to figure out how to fill Sarver’s order. He thinks he can get together the other small lumbermen so they can work as one big co-operative.


The next morning, John is approved for a bank loan, but tells Ben that he ‘had to put him and Jim Bob up as collateral’. Jason finds Zuleika Dunbar in front of Flossie Brimmer’s old boarding house. She bought the house but will need to remodel before opening. Jason knows that with her vibrant personality she will attract plenty of tenants. John and Ben’s first stop is at Murdock Lumber. Joe Murdock tells John how sad he was to hear about the passing away of Zeb and reminisces about the time he tricked them into moving lumber down the river. John says this contract is on the level and proceeds to tell Joe his plan to join forces with Murdock doing the heavy timber, the Waltons working the two-by-fours, and the others performing their specialties. Murdock eagerly signs the contract. The rest of the day the other lumberyards are signed. With night already upon them, John tells Olivia they successfully signed and sealed the contract from all the lumbermen. The next day he wants to take the bus with her to Richmond in order to sign the deal with Sarver. But Olivia is unable to go because Grandma is lonely with Grandpa’s birthday soon approaching.


John places Ben in charge while he is gone but, while driving him to the bus station, Ben runs out of gas. He’s forgotten to fill the tank. Since Mary Ellen and Erin are both working in Charlottesville, they begin looking for an apartment to share. Mrs. Boren, the landlady, shows them a room complete with compact kitchen, ironing board in a wall, and Murphy bed. Back home, the girls announce they are moving out, much to the dismay of Olivia and Grandma and much to the delight of Elizabeth who now has a room to herself. Jason urges Grandma to practice the piano as a duet, her playing the treble and he playing the bass.


At Sarver’s office John is unable to see the busy boss so tells the secretary to have Sarver call him at the Fairmont Hotel. Later, John is told a tale that Mr. Sarver is away at a special meeting in Washington DC. John is frustrated by his inability to see Sarver. He looks out the window to observe a couple walking around a fountain, then stopping for a romantic kiss. He misses Olivia so calls his wife. She does not think she can get away until Grandpa brings her suitcase and says ‘Go’.


The first night in their apartment Erin and Mary Ellen finish unpacking and make supper. Erin surprises her sister with a bottle of wine, compliments of Mr. Pringle. While tasting the wine they wonder what the family is doing. They are homesick but won’t admit it. At the supper table Ben gives up trying to finish the order after encountering problems. Grandma motions to Elizabeth to bring a dancing doll that Ben made for her when he was nine years old. Ben remembers the difficulty of the project, until Grandpa told him, ‘Don’t give up. Figure it out.’ He realizes what Grandma had in mind and vows to complete the order.


Over the telephone in his hotel room, John finally talks with Sarver who denies he ever made an offer to him and calls John a ‘timber jockey from the sticks’. John is terribly angry when a knock it heard at the door. He finds Olivia standing in front of him and his misery melts as he kisses his wife many, many times.


Part 2


Ben rigs up Jim Bob’s car in order to power the ailing motor of the saw. He can now finish the job after help from his brother and grandparents. With the jukebox repaired Jim Bob sets it up in the living room so he, Elizabeth, and Grandpa can dance to it.


John brings flowers to Sarver’s secretary and while she is distracted slips into his office. Sarver looks over the proposal and tells John to bring his wife to dinner tonight. After shopping for a new dress John looks admiringly on his wife with her new outfit and hairdo. He presents her flowers saying, ‘We have a world to beat.’ At the Sarver house, Matt, Betty Lou, and Olivia make a champagne toast to ‘John Walton’. Matt Sarver then offers John the position of Vice President in charge of Lumber Procurement. Olivia suddenly realizes they would have to relocate to Richmond.


While Corabeth serves Miss Mamie and Miss Emily in her tearoom they hear a commotion in the store. When investigating Corabeth finds Ike picking up canned goods from the floor. She belittles her husband who refuses to alter his grocery store to accommodate her business. That night at the Dew Drop Jason listens to Ike talk about how he was called a ‘clod-hopper’ by Corabeth. Ike sings the song You Always Hurt the One You Love. Corabeth walks in to ask her husband to come home so she can show him something. Ike finds the tearoom replaced with his pool table. Corabeth suggests they call the new arrangement Godsey’s Tea & Billiard Parlor. But all that Ike hears is his wife calling him ‘dear’.


John and Olivia discuss the possibilities and the good that can happen with change. On the way home driving their new car they have decided to accept the offer. Back home Ben proudly shows John the contraption that allowed him to finish the order. John compliments Ben and decides to let his maturing son use Grandpa’s tools. Inside the house Olivia likes the jukebox but insists it does not belong in the living room, but rather in a roadhouse. She gives Grandma a locket that can hold Grandpa’s picture. Elizabeth tells her mother that Grandma has decided to celebrate Grandpa’s birthday at his gravesite on the Mountain. At supper John and Olivia tell the family that they will be moving to Richmond while Ben remains behind to run the mill. No one is excited at the prospect, especially Elizabeth who insists she would rather run away than leave the Mountain. In her bedroom Olivia tells Elizabeth they all need to pull together during this time of change. They hear Grandma and Jason sing and play the song, Let Me Call You Sweetheart.


As Erin and Mary Ellen prepare for bed, Mrs. Boren knocks on the door to tell them their father is downstairs. When Erin opens the door an inebriated Mr. Pringle appears with other things on his mind. When Erin resists Mary Ellen throws him out. They return home after Erin quits her new job.


Jim Bob takes the jukebox to Zuleika hoping she will buy it for her parlor. Without money she offers him a trade. Before going to visit Grandpa on his birthday Jim Bob surprises his mother with a new icebox. On the way to the Mountain John announces that Joe Murdock asked him to head up the co-op that was so successful with the Sarver order. John and the boys plant seedlings around Grandpa’s gravesite. The others clean up the grave while Grandma sits at the spot where she first announced to her husband that she was in the family way. Olivia and John visit the gazebo he built for their twenty-fifth anniversary. John admits he still does not know what decision to make, but feels ‘Pa all over these mountains’.


Around the gravesite Elizabeth tells Grandpa about how fat her pig Jayben is getting for her 4-H project at the upcoming fair. Jim Bob mentions how nice of a spot this is and Erin says she has been thinking a lot of him and G.W. Mary Ellen mentions how John Curtis likes to hold out his hands to all sorts of people and likes to play in the dirt. Ben tells his grandfather that he is using his tools and will take good care of them. Jason plays a song on his harmonica that reminds him of Grandpa. John, Olivia, and Grandma join the children at the gravesite. Grandma says, ‘Old Man, you live in all of us.’ Olivia tells Grandpa not to sit on the porch too much with Martha Corine, Uncle Ben, and Mrs. Brimmer. John tells Grandpa that they have no business moving to Richmond and will stay on Waltons Mountain, probably forever.


"For years to come, in times of doubt and trouble, different members of our family would make the pilgrimage up the mountain to visit Grandpa. He was always there to comfort us, help us make decisions, and to give us the benefit of his continuing love"


Elizabeth: Jim Bob, are you sure the light goes out in the refridgerator when you close the door.
Jim Bob: Sure, there's a little man down there who switches it off!
Elizabeth: Don't try to kid me Jim Bob I know better than that.
Jim Bob: OK go on down and take a look! While you're down there bring me a piece of that left-over fried chicken.
Elizabeth: It's all gone Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: Oh come on, who ate it?
Elizabeth: The little man in the refridgerator.
Jim Bob: Goodnight Elizab



Grandpa died six months ago while planting seedlings on the Mountain.

Grandpa’s gravestone on the top of the Mountain states ‘Zebulon Walton 1865-1941’.

Mr. Pringle owns the company Pringle Freight and Storage in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Matt Sarver was a plumber before making it big doing cost-plus contracts for the U.S. government.

Peggy Rea plays Mrs. Boren, the landlady. She later shows up as regular cast member, Rose Burton.

Mrs. Boren is a grandmother with thirteen grandchildren.

The apartment that Mary Ellen and Erin rent costs twenty dollars a month, including laundry facilities.

Joe Murdock recounts the time Zeb tricked them into moving lumber down the river. The incident occurred in The Intruders (season 4, episode 14).

Grandma daydreams about the time she and Zebulon first walked up the Mountain together, where she tells him she is in the family way. The scene first appeared in The Heritage (season 2, episode 17).

John and Olivia visit the gazebo that John built for their twenty-fifth anniversary. John built the gazebo for Olivia in The Anniversary (season 6, episode 17).

Jim Bob’s refurbished jukebox plays a record for five cents.

The license plates on John’s new car are 726-510 Virginia.

The icebox that Jim Bob traded Zuleika was the one previously used by Mrs. Brimmer.

Lyrics to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” found at: http://www.rienzihills.com/SING/sweetheart.htm

Lyrics to “You Always Hurt the One You Love” found at: http://www.rienzihills.com/SING/youalwayshurt.htm.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Corabeth Godsey (Ronnie Claire Edwards); Matt Sarver (Michael Conrad); Betty Lou Sarver (Jay W. Macintosh); Joe Murdock (Lou Frizzell); Mrs. Boren (Peggy Rea); The Secretary (Sima Conrad); John Curtis Willard (Michael and Marshall Reed)