December 10, 2018

Thank You
Earl Hamner

Earl Hamner and John-boy Walton
It is winter and that means it is time for me to start assembling and adjusting Classic American Clothespins. It's monotonous work but I can do it in my house while watching YouTube videos and online movies. That's how I came to watch The Homecoming yesterday.

I assume most everyone is familiar with The Homecoming. It's a Christmas story, and the precursor to The Walton's television series. Both are based on Earl Hamner's early life, growing up in a small rural town in Virginia during the Great Depression.

As far as I'm concerned, The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie were the two best television shows ever produced. Both centered around and celebrated traditional, down-to-earth families and  small-town communities.

I don't watch television any more, but in the early 1970s, when those shows were on primetime, I was an avid watcher. Both shows presented fathers that were responsible, hard working family men. As a teenager, I considered them role models. 

When my boys were young, I bought the videos of both television series, and we watched them as a family. I'll be watching them myself this winter... as I make clothespins.

As for The Homecoming movie, I must admit that I never thought much of it. Mama, Daddy, and Grandpa Walton were played by different people than in the television series. They were fine actors but not as endearing as their replacements.

As I watched The Homecoming this year, I appreciated it more than in the past. I now think it's on par with It's A Wonderful Life, which I've long loved (and I have written about HERE).

After I watched The Homecoming on YouTube (see below), I started watching several YouTube movies about The Waltons and Earl Hamner. THIS ONE does a good job of telling the story of Schuyler, Virginia and Earl Hamner's family (the real Waltons). 

Earl Hamner died in 2016, at 92 years of age. I was pleased to see (from This Obituary) that Earl and his wife were married for 62 years!

That obituary ends with this insightful quote from Earl Hamner...

“What has inspired my work has always been the family and neighbors I grew up with back in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Great Depression of the 1930s. They were decent, God-fearing, patriotic people. Like most Appalachian folk, they were frugal, proud and self-reliant.
To write about such people, it was inevitable that such stories deal with love and honor, pity and pride, compassion and sacrifice. And so much of my writing became a celebration of those traditional American values.”

I like that. God-fearing, patriotic, frugal and self-reliant. Those are, indeed, traditional American values. They are the values that made America great. They are the values that can make America great again.


  1. Really wish the Walton's and Little House were available on Netflix

    1. The Waltons is currently available on Amazon Prime.

  2. I really appreciate the quote you shared from his obituary. As I read it, I could actually hear it in Earl's voice in my head. As you probably already know, he is the voice of the narrator on the show.

    1. Hi Chad,
      I read the quote again after reading your comment and, yes, I could hear Earl Hamner's voice.

  3. Elizabeth L. Johnson said, I remember crying and wishing my family were so loving and warm like the Waltons. I was just out of high school, still living in my parent's house. I'd known the Lord for a year and wanted a family without trouble and arguing. I vowed that when I married I'd have a marriage without arguing and strife. I've kept that promise, especially in front of our children. The Waltons were a fine example to me!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      They presented an ideal that was worth emulating.

      An interesting side note on the show is that it was never expected to be a success by CBS. I've listened to several interviews with people associated with producing the show. This excerpt from Wikipedia is insightful...

      "Some sources indicate CBS put the show on its fall 1972 schedule in response to congressional hearings on the quality of television. Backlash from a 1971 decision to purge most rural-oriented shows from the network lineup may have also been a factor. The network gave The Waltons an undesirable timeslot – Thursdays at 8 p.m., opposite two popular programs: The Flip Wilson Show on NBC and The Mod Squad on ABC. "The rumor was that they put it against Flip Wilson and The Mod Squad because they didn't think it would survive. They thought, 'We can just tell Congress America doesn't want to see this'," Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth Walton, said in a 2012 interview.

      Ralph Waite was reluctant to audition for the part of John Walton because he didn't want to be tied to a long-running TV series, but his agent persuaded him by saying, "It will never sell. You do the pilot. You pick up a couple of bucks and then you go back to New York."

  4. The new blog is great! Keep up the good work! I try to watch the Homecoming every year, and this year I got ahold of a copy of the book of the same title. Interestingly, the book has a different "feel" to it than the movie or the series. So now I feel like I have three "Walton" families in my mind. All of them fine examples to me also.

    1. I also purchased the book and read it, or tried. It wasn't what I expected.

  5. Great article. Also..... I LOVE MY HERRICK CLOTHESPINS!!!! Roxy in Idaho

  6. I have been reading your blog(s) for a few years but the Walton Family has had such an impact on our family's life that it has prompted my first comment. I also really enjoy reading your ruminations...

    My wife and I will, Lord willing, be married 15 years next April 2019. On 19 January 2008, the very day our first daughter was born, I got onto the roof of our house and cut the TV cable. We had become way too familiar with TV-dinners while an incapacitated wife presented the perfect opportunity for such an undertaking.

    In 2012 we purchased the first season of The Waltons. By this time our family had grown to five - our second daughter had been born in 2009 and our son in 2011. The series was translated to Afrikaans and broadcasted on national TV when I was a boy. While I did not recall much of the narrative the dialog at the end of each program, where everybody says good night, was widely adopted by Afrikaans speaking families. Few nights out camping were ever ended without shouts of “Goeie nag John-Boy, Goeie nag Mary Ellen”.

    The five of us started watching The Waltons that fall - a ritual of Friday “movie” nights that has continued to this day. Every Friday evening has become a special occasion anticipated as much for the show as for the “special” (out of the ordinary) meals shared on the floor in front of the screen. I have been strict in sticking to one episode per evening and no catching up for Fridays otherwise engaged!

    Six and a half years later we have finally reached the last season in the series (Season 9) and are sad to see the few remaining discs in the cover. We have shared many memorable days up on Walton’s Mountain, though. We laughed through driving lessons, cried next to grave sites. We took courage after ravaging fires, celebrated new birth and learned to embrace old age.

    The story is wonderfully true to life with all its ups and downs - in stark contrast to the lie of a “comfortable” life Hollywood portrays. This family would be viewed as aliens by most of urban society today. However, you would not find a more beautiful representation of the strength of a multi-generational family. Each member acting as a strand in a cord. Everyone contributing to the family’s survival. Some financially, others emotionally and another through life experience.

    My hope is that our children would identify with this way of life and aspire to the qualities that underlie it. I sure aspire to most of Zebulon Walton’s qualities - particularly that of a patriarch whose wisdom and joy endeared him to old and young. I wish also to be surrounded by multiple generations without our modern day selfishness that tend to isolate us.

    Please continue ruminating...

    1. Hello Gysbert,

      I'm so glad that you left this comment! It was a delight to read.

      Too bad that no one cares to make a wholesome show like the Waltons these days. Or maybe such a show is out there, but I don't know about it. The "Road to Avonlea" series is a pretty good rural-community and family production, but from a Canadian perspective, and earlier in history.