I’ve been watching Walton’s re-runs since the recent death of Ralph Waite. (He was the father of the Waltons.) So for you Waltons fans, here is a re-run of a post done after visiting Walton’s Mountain, VA…and what I learned about writers there.
I’m going to reveal my age here–I was born the same year as John-Boy Walton. I loved the Walton family, I own all ten seasons of their show, all the specials, and a few books about them.
So when our plane was overbooked and we didn’t get on our overseas flight, we drove from Baltimore to Norfolk, VA, to catch a plane flying out of the Naval Base there. We had four days to relax and read. I was looking at a map of Virginia when suddenly the words “Walton’s Mountain Museum” leaped out at me.
Forty Years Ago!
There it was! Right in the Blue Ridge Mountains, very near Rockfish. The Museum was in Schuyler, the small town where Earl Hamner, Jr. (creator of the Waltons) grew up. The drive took longer than expected, and we very nearly didn’t get there on time to see the 30-minute video before going through the museum. I was entranced, enthralled…
This was my favorite family during their ten-year run on TV. They were considered a goody-goody kind of show. When they were put on the air in September (’73, I think), they were in the same time slot as Flip Wilson’s comedy show and “The Mod Squad.” Earl Hamner said they didn’t think the series had a prayer against those two popular shows–but by Christmas just three months later, “The Waltons” was #1. They remained popular for ten years.
Write What You Know
I always love to see the homes of writers. The Hamner home on a steep hillside (above) was modest for a family that included eight children. The country store sits on the spot where Earl Hamner, Jr. had a writing shed. The church they attended was just around the corner on the country road. We passed several logging trucks and loggers at work as we neared Schuyler–everything very “Walton.”
Whether you loved the Waltons or not, as writers it’s worth thinking about its popularity at a time that everything was “mod” and becoming irreverent. Earl Hamner, Jr. tapped into something that spoke to people. First his books, and then the shows made from his books. How did he do it? He followed the advice of “write what you know.”
Writing That Connects
He observed dynamics between people and got to the heart of what made a common man heroic. He wrote and rewrote and rewrote some more.
[NOTE: Hamner is 90 now and lives in California, but you can still buy his autographed books at his boyhood home.]
I left the mountain inspired.
[Leave a comment if you were/are a Walton's fan!]