The Waltons

The Waltons

Based on both a book and a film called Spencer’s Mountain, television’s The Waltons chronicled the lives of a poor rural family living in Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. The series started with a TV special called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which drew much acclaim from critics and audiences alike. That success green-lighted the popular CBS show, which ran for a decade on television, winning the hearts of millions.

The Waltons were a large family, consisting of parents John and Olivia, their seven children and John’s parents Zeb and Esther. When the show started, the family was trying to survive the tough economic climate of the early 30s by running a lumber mill; as the kids grew older, there was never a shortage of mill employees. The nearby towns of Rockfish and Charlottesville contained a bevy of quirky characters, as did the wilds of Walton Mountain, where the family lived.

The Baldwin sisters, for example, had a steady occupation of distilling moonshine according to their “Papa’s recipe,” Cora Beth Godsey ran the general store and put on refined airs and Yancy Tucker routinely raided other people’s chicken coops. Life on Walton Mountain was seen through the eyes of John Boy, eldest son and aspiring writer. The observant young man was just as kind as the rest of the family, who even in hard times opened their home to the less fortunate.

John Boy graduated high school and attended a nearby college, following his dream of becoming a journalist. His siblings also grew up and got married, starting families of their own. As the show’s story arc entered the WWII era, all four of the Walton sons enlisted in the military. Eventually, some of the actors in lead roles moved on to other projects and their characters were phased out; in John Boy’s case, the actor Richard Thomas was replaced by Robert Wightman during the last two seasons.

The series had a very recognizable and oft-parodied ending scene of the family home as night falls and each light in the house winking out as some of the characters share a brief conversation in voice-over. The phrase “Goodnight, John Boy” was always heard at the end.

The Waltons was a big hit in America and abroad and remains one of the most popular shows of all time. The kind, honest family earned a place in the hearts of millions of viewers who enjoyed watching the close Walton family bond that was oft-tested but never broken. After the end of the series, the Walton family returned to TV in six made-for-TV specials, the last one in 1997. And, although we haven’t seen the clan in quite a well, memories of this rural family live on in the hearts of anyone who ever tuned in to this wholesome show.

Were you a faithful fan of The Waltons television series? Did you have a favorite Walton? We’d love to hear all of your memories of this beloved show in our comments section below.

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