Episode 9 - The Marathon


(7 November 1974) 57-3-9

Writer: Nigel McKeand.

Director: Ralph Senensky.

Music: Alexander Courage.


“Entering Boatwright University in 1934 meant that I was also entering a whole new phase of my life. Although exposure to the outside world brought excitement and challenge, it also brought changes and conflicts which neither I nor anyone in my family had been able to foresee.”


John-Boy drives up to one of the downtown streets of Scottsville to pick up a set of headphones for Ben. The girl behind the “Five and Dime” counter is about to close for the day, but retrieves the headphones while John-Boy selects some pencils and notebooks. Daisy, the clerk, says goodbye to the proprietor Mr. Patterson who does not understand people today. John-Boy pays for the earphones, two notebooks, and four pencils. As he walks down the street, John-Boy notices a large sign “Big Dance Marathon”. He finds Daisy Garner standing in line to sign up for a seven-day elimination dance marathon that will give the winning couple two hundred dollars. With a week off from mid-semester brea,k John-Boy decides to become her dance partner.


At home, Olivia wonders why her eldest son is over three hours later for supper. She is already irritated when she yells at Jim Bob for going outside after dark without her permission. He goes upstairs to give Ben the screwdriver that he needs to build a radio, and warns the children about their mother’s contention that no one is thinking about other’s feelings. John-Boy finally arrives, explaining that he stopped to study and to pick up Ben’s headphones. When he announces that he has entered a dance marathon, Olivia is first stunned, and then absolutely forbids him to go, saying it is a trashy thing. John-Boy believes he is old enough to make his own decisions and live his own life. He stubbornly refutes his mother’s demand of him.


The next morning, John-Boy is drinking coffee when his mother comes downstairs, still against him going to the marathon. John-Boy leaves anyway. At the marathon, John-Boy finds all sorts of people, an orchestra, and many activities to excite him. Daisy introduces him to Spanky Logan and Helen Faye, two vaudevillians from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who work about thirty weeks a year. John-Boy and Spanky go to the check-in and rest areas. The announcer, Harry Brackett, along with his assistant Fred, calls in the contestants to announce the rules of the game. John-Boy and Daisy met Steve Bates and Priscilla May (P.M.) who say they want the prize money because they need to get married. The dance begins with the WZSI radio station broadcasting the event from the Rivana Dance Palace. Spanky and Helen give the audience a preview of their energetic dance abilities with the song “You’ve Got the Cutest Little Baby Face”. They say that it is important to get the crowd behind them.


Mary Ellen attaches the radio wires to the roof so that they can test Ben’s Crystal Set. John joins the children, and Olivia comes in soon after him. The radio works, and they listen to the station broadcasting the marathon. When Olivia realizes it, she walks out. John-Boy and Daisy look exhausted, as do the other dancers. Suddenly the tempo picks up and Spanky and Helen show off to the audience. However, Spanky begins to feel poorly, and holds his chest. A man in the audience yells to John-Boy and Daisy that he’s bet two dollars on them to win. John walks out on the porch to find Olivia staring off into the night. John says he’ll drive to Scottsville first thing in the morning to check out John-Boy, but Olivia doesn’t want to go. John finds the place deserted, except for a man sweeping the floor. He finds the men lying on cots. John-Boy laughs at the look of the place, not as exciting as when the dance began. The bell sounds for the dance to resume, and John and John-Boy laugh. The dance is highlighted by the technique of Spanky and Helen, and John-Boy and Daisy have a snappy step, too.


The announcer sets up for a “jack rabbit run”, an elimination dance, to the song “California Here We Come”. But, as the tempo picks up Spanky is obviously stressed at the pace, soon clutches his chest, and too heavy for Helen, falls to the floor. The attendants carry him off, as Helen screams for him as she runs off. While eating a snack John-Boy and Daisy find that P.M is chilled after getting overheated at the jack rabbit run. The dance is now into day two, hour nineteen. John-Boy says that Steve and P.M. will not last very much longer, and Daisy responds that if they drop out it will give them a better chance to win. Daisy admits she has lived all of her life here, and this money is her way out of here to New York City. Suddenly P.M. faints. John-Boy states, “This is crazy!” as he looks at the sign ‘Who Will Win?’


Late at night, John wakes up to find his wife staring off out the window. She is trying to figure out what is bothering her. Olivia realizes that John-Boy doesn’t tell her things like he used to do. John also admits he feels the same way. Olivia knows now that she must give up here children twice, and must see John-Boy so she can tell him that she understands. At the dance, the time is now day three, hour sixteen. John-Boy falls asleep and almost knocks Daisy over. Now awake, he tells his partner about his Grandpa, how he likes a pretty face, loves to dance, and would easily take first place at this dance. John and Olivia walk into the dance hall, but Olivia leaves, saying it looks worse than she expected. John yells over to John-Boy, who doesn’t know why he is there at four o’clock in the morning. He introduces Daisy to his father. Daisy goes for coffee, while John-Boy admits that he didn’t realize this marathon would be like this, and decides he will not stay. He tries to get Daisy to leave with him, but she stays, must have the money. She tells John-Boy that she doesn’t have the thing he has on Walton’s Mountain, and must find out for herself what he already knows. The dance resumes with Daisy dancing with Steve. John-Boy sees his Momma standing outside. She tells her son that she’s been his mother for eighteen years, and it’s hard to stop. John-Boy hugs her and says he never wants her to stop. John-Boy says that after he sleeps he wants to tell her all about what happened. John-Boy climbs up to the truck’s bed, and sees the big sign “A Test of Guts and Endurance”.


"As I continued growing up, the horizons of my world widened. I eventually moved far from Waltons Mountain, but the things we had then, the love we shared and the delight we took in each other's company have never faltered and remain constant to this day".


Alarm clock rings.

Olivia: Ben, turn that off!

Ben: I can't, it's stuck!

Olivia: You'll wake up John-Boy!

Mary Ellen: John-Boy!

John-Boy: I'm already woken.

Mary Ellen: John-Boy's back.

Olivia: Well let him get some sleep.

Mary Ellen: Goodnight John-Boy!

Ben: Goodnight John-Boy.

John-Boy: G'night.

Jason: Goodnight John-Boy.

Mary Ellen: Goodnight John-Boy.

Elizabeth: But it's daytime! You can't say goodnight..... Good morning John-Boy.

John-Boy: Good morning Elizabeth.



The dance marathon is at the Rivana Dance Palace in Scottsville, Virginia. It lasts seven days, and the winner receives two hundred dollars.

Daisy worked at Mr. Patterson’s Five and Dime.

John-Boy and Daisy are contestants with number 67, Steve and P.M. with 65, and Spanky and Helen with 17.

John-Boy quits the dance after over three days of dancing.

The year is 1934.


Also appearing:

Daisy Garner (Dierdre Lenihan); Harry Bracket (Bernie Barrow); Helen Faye (Joyce Jameson); Spanky Logan (Lennie Weinrib); Fred (Charles Haid), Steve Bates (Don Miller), Priscilla May “P.M.” (Ellen Moss), Mr. Patterson Lindsay Workman, Radio Announcer (Brad Trumbull),