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Walton's in the Media.
NELSON COUNTY LIFE
NOVEMBER 2012





"It's the story. The family. The struggles. Everybody goes through it. And family means a lot to people. I enjoy it because it's wholesome. It's the trial and tribulations that everybody goes through. Not eh spectacular things everybody goes throught"




Kami Cotler, David Harper, Eric Scott and Jon Walmsley sign autographs at The Walton's reunion, an event celebrating the Show's 40th anniversary.



It's creator, Schuyler native Earl Hamner Jr. was on hand to chat about the show, and how being a part of it was a life-changing event.

 


Story By Woody Greenberg

Photography by Tommy Stafford

Money was tight. A war was about to start. But the boy who sat at this window still had his family. And he knew how to put words together.

 

"Our traffic has tripled from approximately a year ago at this time," said David Pounds. as he caught a break behind the counter of his gift shop at the Walton's Mountain B&B and General Store. It's been decades since The Wa/ionic first aired on television and though it went off the air years ago. re-runs have kept the series alive. "When they are watching the program. it gets the idea in their head that they want to find Walton's Mountain."


In real life, there is no Walton's Mountain but there is a Schuyler. Virginia, which is where the show is set in the mind of its creator, Earl Hamner. Jr. More than 200 members of the Waltons International Fan Club gathered in Los Angeles recently to celebrate the 40th anniversary of liamnees most famous contribution to American popular culture.


"When the show was on. people asked, 'Why would anyone want to watch a poor family in Virginia during the Depression,' said Hamner. "The answer was you - you, the audience."


"CBS stayed with us (and the audience kept increasing). For each one of us involved in the series it was a life-changing event. We were involved in a landmark TV series telling credible stories about credible people. The stories were about enduring values. And the cast was just like a family, with relationships that continue to this day."


The Waltons family was based on Hamner's own and the setting was Schuyler, where his parents had raised him, his four brothers and three sisters in the 1920s and 30s. The show is set during The Great Depression leading into World War II.


"The show had an impact." said Hamner. "Schuyler be-came a tourist destination. People came to Schuyler looking for Drucilla's Pond and Ike Godsey's store. I once was on the phone with my mom and she said. I can't talk for long. There's a couple here from Ireland and they just love the show."


Jopie and Ken Donnelly are devoted fans who rolled into town in a car bearing Ontario license plates.


Dorothy Brown and Richard Ball, a couple from Wisconsin, say visiting Hamncr's home town is like "being in another world."


"He's always wanted to come." Dorothy said. referring to Richard. "He got goose bumps the closer we got."


More than 20 cast members and writers were on hand for the celebration in Los Angeles and many of them spoke of the impact Hamner and the show had on their lives.


"What's special is the sweet energy he embodies. A Virginia gentleman," said Kami Coder, who played Elizabeth, based on Hamner's youngest sister Nancy.


"Earl is one of the sweetest men I've ever met." said Eric Scott. who played Ben Walton. "I had been in the business for five years when I met him. I didn't know I would ever meet a good old boy who made eye contact. He called me 'uncle.' I said, `No, we're brothers.'! was playing two of his brothers, (who were combined into a single character for the show). He's a warm and nurturing guy, and he reminded us all we were playing his family. But he gave us a lot of freedom to play the parts. He didn't want us to consider what his brothers might have done in a situation."


Several of the cast members talked about visiting Schuyler.


"Schuyler is a wide spot in the road," said Joe Conley, who played country store owner Ike Godsey. "Earl made it famous. It's beautiful there in the summer. I've been there a lot. The first time was in 1975. I had been making speeches for the American Cancer Society and I ran into a minister down in Williamsburg who offered to show me around. I drove to Charlottesville and met up with him at the Boar's Head Inn. He took me in his car to Schuyler and showed me around and introduced me to Mrs. Hamner and we had tea with her. Sweet lady. We visited an orchard and I brought apples home from Virginia. Louise (his wife) brought moonshine."


"I try to visit Schuyler every five years or so." said Eric Scott. "When I was 17 and the show was on. I went back East with Jon (Walmsley) and we stayed at the flamer house. Mrs. Hamner put us in the girls' room. Someone knocked on the front door and Mrs. Hamner said go answer it. it will be a nice surprise for someone."


Said David Harper of Schuyler, "It hasn't changed very much visually. It's kind of typical of mountain towns in Virginia...small houses...it's like a time machine, seeing where Earl grew up."


Kami Cotter came to Nelson County to teach for a few years and has been to Schuyler many times. "I was thankful to be in Nelson. I didn't really understand (everything about the show) until I went there and lived there. It encapsulates something Americans don't always celebrate but do value.. .a caring community."


 

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