I mentioned this fact the other day, sort of bragging, to a fellow writer at my corporate day job, and she looked at me with a blank expression and said, “Roy, I have no idea what you’re talking about; I’m only 25.” She had never heard of the show, and I was a bit stunned. Perhaps I was shocked because I realized I would be twice her age this summer: maybe.
In my youth, I watched many of those episodes when they first aired. I remembered them over the years, but they had slipped into the vault of memory. I was allowed to revisit them a couple years ago, thanks to my son Seth.
I walked through the living room one afternoon, caught him watching John-Boy and the rest of the Walton kids having supper around that long wooden table, and asked him what he was looking at: “Some show about a family,” he replied. I sat down beside him and watched the rest of it—explaining what he was watching and sharing with him how I used to watch it as a little boy, while growing up in Kentucky. He pushed some crazy combination of buttons on the DVRs remote and told me that we could watch some more together sometime—after they recorded—if I wanted.
If I wanted?
Hanging with my son and watching The Waltons? That’s a win-win for a semi-old guy like me!
So, on-and-off throughout that year (whenever we needed some “Dad and Seth” time), we’d hang out and watch The Waltons. Alone. Always alone. No girls allowed. (Sorry girls!) Of course, he’d get a season of Waltons for his birthday and a collection of their movies from Santa at Christmastime.
Fast-forwarding to the summer of 2014 placed me in a cafe in Southern Kentucky to meet up with Molly McCaffrey (our literary film columnist) and her husband, the novelist David Bell. I was headed to Louisville to launch our Spalding MFA Homecoming issue, and I wanted to deliver some back issues to Molly and visit with her and David. She said that they were meeting with a friend, and if I wanted to join them, I could stop by for some Earl Grey.
Sitting at a table in a café in what once was the Confederate capital of Kentucky, I had no idea that I should have brought Seth with me to the gathering. In walked Molly and David. Among those with them was Erin Walton—Yes, THAT Erin Walton. Okay, fine. Her civilian name is Mary McDonough.
Since her television days, she’s gone on to teach acting classes, she’s a life coach, and she delivers keynotes and speeches. Oh….and as I learned from the conversation over tea, she’s a published author. A few years ago, she published a non-fiction account of what it was like growing up on television, Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned From Erin Walton. And this month, she’s published a novel, One Year.
The visit was short, but the experience was well worth pulling off the interstate. And I knew immediately that as soon as her novel was released, we’d run a review of it. Actually, we’ve been lucky. Mary’s publishing outfit has been kind to us. Karen Auerbach is the Director of Publicity at Kensington Publishing Corp. in New York City, and she’s arranged for us to do an interview with Erin…I mean Mary. We’ll publish that along with the book review. And Karen sent us a press release and bio info, all of which will go live on our site over the weekend. And we’re thrilled to be able to say that we’ve been allowed to include a link to the first chapter of Mary’s new novel. What a treat!
Anyway, I was thinking about all this last night. I did a little channel surfing before bed, and I stumbled upon the Pearl Harbor episode of The Waltons. Interesting for so many important reasons. One of the main points that remained with me was how that show always treated the elderly with respect. I never had the impression that any of the older actors were secondary characters. Even after Ellen Hansen Corby (Grandma Esther Walton) had a near-fatal stroke in 1976, she returned. I think she was out for a season, but she returned. She was there last night, and she did a great job!
My son Seth is in middle school now, and he’s entered the “Cool Zone” of adolescence, but I can trick him into taking a trip with me every now and then back to Walton’s Mountain. I hope his generation takes a page from Mr. Hamner’s notebook and remembers that the elderly are equals to them and equally important and relevant in our society—especially since I’ll be one of them soon enough!