1 9 7 2 – 1 9 8 1 (USA)
220 x 50 minute episodes
This extremely sentimental saga told of the poor-but-happy and wholesome backwoods pioneer family headed by John (Ralph Waite) and Olivia (Michael Learned) Walton, who own a sawmill in Jefferson County in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Depression of the 1930s.
John and Olivia had seven children and lived in a house on Waltons’ Mountain that they shared with John’s parents, Grandpa Zeb (Zebulon) Walton (Will Geer) and Grandma Esther Walton (Ellen Corby).
The tale was told through the eyes of the eldest son, John Boy Walton (Richard Thomas), who kept a journal about his family and aspired to be a novelist.
He attended Boatwright University and established his own newspaper, the Blue Ridge Chronicle.
His first serious love affair was with Jenny Pendleton (Sian Barbara Allen), a runaway the Waltons took in. John Boy eventually left Waltons’ Mountain to pursue his career in New York as a writer.
After having his first novel published, he became a reporter for a national wire service. He later married and raised a family in California.
In real life, Richard Thomas decided to leave The Waltons in 1977 after five seasons, though he returned afterwards for guest appearances.
Mary Ellen, the oldest girl (Judy Norton), became a nursing student and married Dr Curtis Willard (Tom Bower). They had a son they named John Curtis Walton Willard. Their marriage later fell apart, and Mary Ellen dated and later wed Arlington (“Jonesy”) Westcott (Richard Gilliland).
Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonough) worked as an operator at the Jefferson County Phone Company and later at the Pickett Metal Products Company. Her first boyfriend, George “GW” Haines, enlisted in the army during World War II and was killed in action. She later married Paul Northridge.
Jason (Jon Walmsley) studied at the Clyneburg Conservatory and played with Bobby Bigelow and His Hayseed Gang band. He also played in a band called the Rhythm Kings and sang with the WQSR (radio) Gospelites. He had an after-school job at the Jarvis Used Car Lot and worked as a musician (playing the guitar) at the Dew Drop Inn.
Ben (Eric Scott) took over the family sawmill business and turned it into the Walton Lumber Mill. He married Cindy Brunson, and they had a daughter they named Virginia.
Elizabeth (Kami Cotler) was carefree and anxious to grow up. She had a sleepwalking problem because of a subconscious fear of a carnival Ferris wheel. Jim-Bob (David W Harper) had been a twin but his brother, Joseph Zebulon, died at birth. He was a loner and constantly lost in his dreams. Jim-Bob wanted to be an airline pilot but couldn’t because of astigmatism.
Other regular characters included Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), the owner of the General Merchandise Store; John’s spinster cousin from Doe Hills, Corabeth Walton (Ronnie Claire Edwards), who later married Ike; their adopted daughter (and Elizabeth’s best friend) Aimee Godsey (Rachel Longaker); local sheriff Marmaduke Ephraim “Ep” Bridges (John Crawford); and Matthew Fordwicke (John Ritter), the town’s preacher
Ellen Corby, who played Grandma, suffered a stroke in 1976 and was absent from the series for a year and a half, returning at the end of the 1977-1978 season. Before production resumed for the 1978-1979 season, Will Geer (Grandpa) died. He was not replaced, and the opening show of the seventh season concerned the family’s adjustment to Grandpa Walton’s death.
Later that season, Olivia Walton learned that she had tuberculosis and left Walton’s Mountain for a sanitarium (in real life, Michael Learned’s contract with the show’s production company expired late in 1978, and she announced her intention to cease appearing as a regular).
Based on the autobiographical novel by narrator Earl Hamner Jr (who narrated the series), this wholesome – at times almost sickeningly so – series also spawned three movies made for TV: A Wedding on Waltons’ Mountain (February 1982), Mothers Day on Waltons’ Mountain (May 1982) and A Day For Thanks on Waltons’ Mountain (November 1982).
The series was a huge hit with Middle America and earned six Emmy awards before the BBC cleverly slotted it into Sunday evening schedules in Britain from 1974, and it took hold in the UK.
“Goodnight, John Boy”
“Look, Grandpa, just go back to your own room!”
John Boy (John Walton Jnr)
Mary Ellen Walton
Mary Elizabeth McDonough
Jim Bob Walton
David W Harper
Grandpa Zeb Walton
Grandma Esther Walton
Ronnie Claire Edwards
Dr Curtis Willard
Arlington (Jonesy) Westcott
Sheriff Ep Bridges
Reverend Matthew Fordwicke
Earl Hamner Jr