Episode 22 - The Tailspin

(15 March 1979)
Writer: Claire Whittaker.
Director: Walter Alzman.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"Although my brother Jim Bob loved the mountain as much as the rest of us, since childhood he had dreamed of heights beyond its summit. Now, in the Spring of 1942, as those dreams appeared to be within his reach, it seemed that he was finding new energy and purpose. If we were disappointed, it was only because Jim Bob was quietly building to a crisis that would turn his life in a different direction".


A paper airplane flies down from Jim Bob to his father's feet. John observes that the airplane is shaped from an English paper with a grade of "F" on it. He finds that Jim Bob is flunking English and is performing poorly in his other school classes. Elizabeth suggests he get help from Corabeth. Jim Bob does not like the idea but is forced to call her.


Sergeant Chuck Turner, Curt's boyhood friend, visits Mary Ellen after getting a pass from Camp Rockfish. At the same time, Jim Bob and Ben are locating a blade for the power saw when a Charlottesville policeman stops Jim Bob for running a stop sign. Ben argues with the officer who then forces them to the county court house after noticing Jim Bob is driving on an expired license. Mary Ellen invites Chuck for supper while Jason and John wonder what has delayed the boys. They finally arrive but Jim Bob is upset after failing the eye test when applying for a new driver's license. He now realizes that without 20/20 vision he will not be able to become a pilot in the Air Corps. At supper Mary Ellen tries to bring Chuck and Erin together. Jim Bob leaves the table early, obviously still upset. John follows him to the tree house where he relates a story about a circus that came to town when he was ten years old. Wanting to attend the circus young John performs various jobs to earn the necessary twenty-five cents. But in the morning he finds that the circus had left a day early. Later that night, Grandpa brings his disappointed son a telescope in order to look at the nighttime sky. John relates to Jim Bob how small his problem felt after looking at the immense sky. John tells his son not to give up his dream.


Mary Ellen takes Jim Bob to Dr. Canfield for an eye examination. While waiting Mary Ellen runs into Chuck at the library. He is checking out a book on building houses in order to be ready for the post-war construction boom. Mary Ellen is reading the book 'Mardi Gras Summer'. Later Jim Bob tells Mary Ellen that he has astigmatism and will need glasses. Jim Bob tears down his flying-related pictures and model airplanes. While looking on Jason suggests that his younger brother become a navigator or maintenance officer. Jim Bob asks him how he would feel if he tuned pianos but no one would allow him to play one. Jim Bob takes his unwanted possessions to Buck Vernon's junkyard where he is offered two dollars fifty cents. Wondering why Jim Bob is not asking more money, he raises the price to three dollars. When Buck finds out Jim Bob has given up his dream he offers Jim Bob five dollars, promising to keep his possessions in case he changes his mind. On the way out Jim Bob notices a propeller hanging from the wall.


In the morning Chuck calls Erin for a date. She accepts because he is Mary Ellen's friend. Jim Bob walks downstairs to announce he is quitting school saying there is no point to return. He has decided to join the army. John refuses to sign his enlistment papers and forces him back to school. Jason tries to convince Mary Ellen to start a social life but she refuses, stating that she is now a widow with responsibilities.


Corabeth tells John that she hopes Jim Bob will resume his studies. She also tells John that Miss Winfield, the schoolteacher, hopes he can return to school after feeling better. John is surprised to learn all of this. As Corabeth leaves John confronts Jim Bob who becomes angry at her for butting in. He tells Corabeth that everyone laughs at her for her pompous ways. She leaves hurt by his words. Jim Bob admits that he has been visiting recruitment offices in the area. In desperation at his son's lying and back-talking John reluctantly signs his recruitment papers. Jason comforts his father telling him he made the right decision.


In the morning, Jim Bob prepares to enlist. Mary Ellen hands him his new glasses but he refuses to wear them. John says he does not feel good about what his son is doing but shakes his hand and hugs him. On the way to Rockfish, Jim Bob finds Corabeth stranded beside her car. Jim Bob offers to fix her flat tire and she coldly accepts. At the house Chuck arrives for his date but Erin has forgotten the. Mary Ellen tries to hurry her up. She learns that Erin does not have interest in Chuck but suddenly realizes she thinks highly of him. While changing the tire Corabeth says she would hate to see him give up his whole dream. Corabeth realizes what people say about her but has always dreamt about becoming a ballerina or tragic actress. When she found herself clerking in a general store she had to find a way to keep part of her dream alive. By speaking a French phrase or quoting Shakespeare she is fulfilling part of her dream. She advises Jim Bob that if he wants to fly he must find a way to do it, and not allow a pair of glasses to stop him. Jim Bob kisses her on the cheek. Instead of Erin walking downstairs for the date, Mary Ellen appears at the foot of the steps. Chuck is pleased, all along wanting to go out with Mary Ellen.


As the couple pulls out of the driveway, Jim Bob arrives with a propeller in his car. He announces his intention to build an airplane so he can gain experience as a mechanic for the Air Corps. While wearing his new glasses, Jim Bob shows John a picture of the airplane.


"Jim Bob failed English that term, but with Corabeth's help he managed to catch up in summer school. He never did excel in literature and he never flew for the Air Corps, but he hung on to his dream and one glorious day after the war the airplane that he had built on Waltons Mountain carried him briefly into the sky, and all of us were there to cheer him on".


Jim Bob: Goodnight Daddy, goodnight Jason.
Jason: Goodnight Jim Bob, goodnight Erin.
Erin: Goodnight Jason, goodnight Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Goodnight Erin, goodnight Mary Ellen.
John: Mary Ellen?
Erin: She's not home yet....
John: Oh Lord...... goodnight everyone.



Charles (Chuck) W. Turner lived down the street from Curt Willard while growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia.

John's truck license plates are I9-126 Virginia.

The sign at Dr. Canfield's office is 'Dr. E.A. Canfield, Optometrist, Glasses on Credit'.

Mary Ellen's truck license plates are 7L-619 Virginia.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Corabeth Godsey (Ronnie Claire Edwards); John-Curtis (Michael and Marshall Reed); Chuck Turner (Kevin Geer); Buck Vernon (Barry Cahill); The Deputy (John Lawrence); Dr. Canfield (Jerry Hoffman).