Episode 19: The Cradle


(31 January 1974) 43/2/19

Written: Joanna Lee.

Director: Ralph Senensky.

Music: Arthur Morton


The Cradle


"I like to think back on my boyhood because though the times we lived in were hard, the life we lived was good. We were never hungry, for food was plentiful, we took it from the land, but still there was a lack of material things, and I remember with wonderment the way my parents wove the magic around us that kept us from ever feeling poor".


John-Boy returns home in the truck with a box that—once the children realize what it is—become very excited. As Olivia looks on from the sofa, John-Boy opens it up to find a red box filled with twenty bottles of Binckney’s Bubble Beautifier. Olivia is planning to sell each bottle for twenty-five cents. As they look over the bottles, Mary Ellen swirls like a dancer, hoping someday to be like Isadora Duncan. Elizabeth is confused, knowing that her big sister only last week wanted to be an actor.


Grandma has a better idea for her career, suggesting she become a dishwasher (in the kitchen). Mary Ellen responds, “Oh, Grandma!” Olivia tells everyone that the product is a bubble and soap product pure enough for skin and hair, but also appropriate for linens and fine silver. Suddenly, Reckless runs in, followed by the rest of the children trying to catch him. Olivia exclaims that at her commission of nine cents per bottle she will collect one dollar, eighty cents, and all collected during her spare time. Grandma exclaims, “What spare time?”


Olivia asks John if he could spare the truck and John-Boy for a couple of hours so she can call on some neighbors. They first go to the Baldwin house, where Olivia offers to demonstrate the product’s features to Miss Mamie and Miss Emily. But they are more interested in the “bottles” than the contents; being four bottles short for their latest batch of the Recipe and knowing the Ike will be out of bottles for another week. They give Olivia a dollar, but wonder why she always hastily leaves whenever the Recipe is mentioned.


Next, at Mrs. Brimmer’s house, Flossie decides to give a bottle to Rosemary Hunter for her birthday (knowing she will like the present as she and Rev. Fordwick court). Mrs. Brimmer also decides to treat herself to a bottle. John-Boy reads inside the truck while Olivia calls on Maude Gormley. As Olivia shows the product Maude wants to know why it doesn’t bubble, thinking it should be called “soup” rather than “soap”. But she takes three bottles after it removes the tarnish from her old basin. Driving home John-Boy tells his mother she’ll be the company’s best salesperson. But suddenly Olivia wants to walk the rest the way home, saying she wants to walk off a few extra pounds.


Back home, Grandma makes supper while John and Grandpa walk in. Grandma tells them to “Wipe your feet!”, probably for the millionth time. They inspect the food for supper and proudly announce they secured a railroad order for one hundred fifty ties. Grandpa smells the main course and yells, “Praise the Lord and pass the chicken fricassee.” John-Boy walks in with the red box saying the Momma is walking down the road to lose a few pounds. When Olivia comes in she is very happy after her successful sales, but then tells everyone how terrible the food smells. After Olivia walks upstairs, Grandma says that the last two times she felt that way was when she carried Elizabeth and Jim Bob. John asks his wife, “Are you pregnant?” Olivia admits, “Yes, John, I guess I probably am.”


Later, Dr. Vance prescribes calcium pills three times a day, but when Olivia doesn’t understand the request he says that the pills are equivalent to three glasses of milk. Olivia tells him that it’s been seven years, three months since her last child. Dr. Vance advises them that Olivia is not as strong and healthy now after her illness a year ago and because she is no longer a “spring chicken”. When John and Olivia return home, they tell the anxious children that they’re going to have a new baby.


At the supper table, Grandpa is saying grace when Mary Ellen runs in. Grandpa continues, and mentions the new life among them. But Mary Ellen only talks about Mrs. McMillon, the new substitute teacher from New York City, a dancer who studied with Isadora Duncan’s brother Raymond. She wants to take dance lessons but when John says they can’t afford the expense Mary Ellen blurts out that it is the fault of having another baby. She quickly apologizes.


The boys say they want another boy, while the girls indicate they want a girl. But Elizabeth abruptly stands up and yells “Babies, Babies, that’s all you talk about!” and runs upstairs crying. As Olivia runs after her she tells Jim Bob that he did that same thing when he was the “baby” of the family. When Olivia finds her, Elizabeth tells her that she’ll not be her baby any more. But, Olivia tells her that she’ll always be her baby, because a mother always thinks of her children, even the ones like John-Boy (who is all grown-up), as her babies. Olivia says that even though the baby will belong to everybody, if will be more Elizabeth’s because she is closer to the baby’s age. Elizabeth says that it will be ”kinda-like my baby”, and she is happy again.


Downstairs, Erin suggests a baby shower, and Jim Bob responds that it is appropriate because “it sure rains babies here”. The children think of things to give Olivia and the baby. John-Boy says he will construct a cradle so sturdy that it will last for generations. Over a week later, John finds John-Boy in the barn loft staining the new cradle. He tells John that his Momma thinks he’s out in the barn writing the great American novel. Just then Olivia calls out to John-Boy, asking him to drive her to sell more bottles of the beautifier. John-Boy says he is busy, but is sure Jason can help. Olivia mentions that she is setting up a booth at next week’s Ladies’ Aid Society meeting. At Mrs. Jonelle Breckenridge’s house, she doesn’t at first recognize Olivia but soon realizes that her daughter Nancy is in the same class as Erin. As Olivia demonstrates the product she suddenly feels faint. Jason runs to her, and they leave.


At home, Grandma helps Erin make a blanket for the baby. Mary Ellen stares off, pondering her destination at being born a woman. Grandma tells her what she feels about those words. After Jason drives his mother home, he tells John that she got sick. Knowing she won’t be able to sell any more of the bottles, Ben and Jim Bob decide to sell the rest of the bottles as their present to her. Grandma tells the family that Olivia is feeling “a might down”. Mary Ellen suggests they give her the presents now, and everyone agrees. Olivia rests as John listens to her. The children soon walk in with their surprises: Mary Ellen with a shirt, Elizabeth with her rag doll, Erin with the blanket, Jason with a carved rattle, Ben and Jim Bob with their idea to sell the beautifier, and John-Boy with the cradle (from all the children). Olivia says she feels better, but after the children leave John doesn’t think she is so happy. Olivia tells him, “I love you John, you’re not only my husband but my best friend!” John comforts his wife.


John and Olivia talk while looking at the cradle. Elizabeth tells them she wants to name the baby Joy because a girl at school has the name of Joy. Jim Bob wants to call the boy baby Seymour. Ben and Jim Bob ride Old Blue to Mrs. Breckenridge’s house to sell her some of the beautifier. They tell her that their Momma is pregnant, and they are selling her bottles to help out. Jim Bob thinks she would have bought some right now, but Ben insists they demonstrate the product first. But when it doesn’t bubble they add more to the basin, and when they add her handkerchief to the container, it turns green. She says, “Afternoon, boys!” They leave, with Jim Bob telling Ben that they should have sold it to her at the start.


At Druscilla’s Pond, John and Olivia go on a picnic, during the middle of a workday. John says he misses having the sounds of a baby in the house. Olivia and John talk about Mary Ellen having the colic, Erin being the prettiest, Elizabeth sleeping at three months, and Jim Bob being toilet-trained the first. John likes the name of Joyce Walton-“Joy” for the years of their marriage. They like the name a lot better than Zebulon or Eunice.


Grandma decorates the cradle while the children think about what the baby will grow up to be. Olivia suddenly feels sick, leaves to go upstairs, and then cries out for Grandma. John realizes something is very wrong. The family waits in John-Boy’s room as Grandma takes care of Olivia. Later, Olivia lies in bed as John gently kisses her. He leaves to tell that family that “the baby just wasn’t meant to be”. The children look crestfallen (especially Elizabeth, who runs into her Daddy’s arms).


As John-Boy prepares for bed, he hears Elizabeth crying. She is crying at the open window, realizing that Joy will never be born. John-Boy says that “we have each other, that makes it a little bit better” and reads her a poem as he unbraids her hair. Elizabeth promises that when she has a baby, she’ll name it Joy.


The children wash Old Blue as Olivia sits under the tree in the front yard. Grandpa joins her, saying the kids are baptizing Old Blue. When she says that the baby’s death is her fault, Grandpa exclaims that that opinion would make her too great for common people. He says that blaming herself is the easy way out, and that it’s more difficult to think that it happened for the best. He gets her a refill of hot tea. Olivia sees her children washing Old Blue, and then smiles and walks toward them.


"As the years went on and we all went our separate ways, we were to provide my mother and father with so many grandchildren that their lives were never without the sound of a baby or a growing child's voice. And all those grandchildren were beneficiaries of the extraordinary love that was given to us during those years we spent on Walton’s Mountain".


Olivia: Mary Ellen, do you still want to take dancing lessons?

Erin: If she does I want to, too.

Elizabeth: Me, too.

Olivia: Now children, Mary Ellen asked first.

John: Hang some lessons, there's a perfectly good piano downstairs, why doesn't somebody learn to play that?

Erin: Yuck!

Elizabeth: Me, too, yuck!

Olivia: What would you rather do, Mary Ellen?

Mary Ellen: Neither, Mama, I just started reading about Florence Nightingale, I think I'd like to be her.

Olivia: That sound's sensible.

Mary Ellen: And heroic, too. Goodnight, Mama, goodnight, Erin.

Erin: Florence Nightingale! Yuck! Goodnight Mary Ellen, goodnight Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Yuck! Goodnight, everybody.



John-Boy reads Elizabeth the poem To Amarantha, that she would dishevel her Hair that can be read at website: http://www.bartleby.com/101/346.html.

More information about dancer Isadora Duncan can be found at: http://www.isadoraduncan.org/. She “really” does have a brother Raymond!

Elizabeth named the baby’s name Joy after a girl at school.


Also appearing:

Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson), Dr. Vance (Victor Izay), Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe), Maude Gormley (Marie Earle), Mrs. Jonelle Breckenridge (Adrienne Marden).


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