Ep.16 - The Secret

  Original Airdate: January 8, 1976
Writers: Rod Peterson & Claire Whittaker
Director: Harvey S. Laidman


  Jim-Bob feels that maybe he is different than the rest of his siblings. He begins a journey to learn more about the circumstances of his birth. Jason feels obligated to Mrs. Breckenridge and overcommits John-Boy's writing skills to keep her happy.


  "There comes a time in a young man's life when he begins to wonder how he fits into the world around him. When that time came for my brother Jim Bob it brought the unfolding of a long-kept secret."



Jim-Bob is constantly playing with a yo-yo that Grandpa made for him. He is practicing for a yo-yo competition. Ben and Erin make fun of him and suggest that maybe he was left on the Walton doorstep by some traveling Gypsies. Elizabeth is quite fascinated by how different Jim-Bob is to the rest of the family. Inspired by her "Daphne" detective stories, she decides to do some sleuthing with Jim-Bob to figure out his past. They look through the old family photo album for pictures of when he was young. They then look through more photos stored in the attic. The adults wonder what the kids are up to upstairs and John goes up to send them to bed. He finds Jim-Bob and Elizabeth in the attic looking through the old photos. They ask him why there aren't as many photos of them in the album. He says that like many families they had more time to take photos when the family was young. He sends them off to bed but then talks to Olivia about how much Jim-Bob has grown. When she looks at one of his infant photos it is apparent that there is a painful memory attached to that time for her. John tries to console her as they retire for the night.

Jim-Bob and Elizabeth go to Ike’s store to see the Yo-Yo King perform his tricks. The children must buy a new Yo-Yo to enter the contest. He doesn't like it as much as the one his Grandfather made for him from Virginia pine. Inside the mercantile Jim-Bob learns from Ike that his Mama had to go into Charlottesville for his delivery and that the rest of the kids stayed overnight at the Brimmer’s house. He then goes to see Mrs. Brimmer who invites him in for a cookie. Jim-Bob wonders why he wasn't born at home like the rest of his siblings. She tells him that his Grandfather had the flu and that his Grandma was busy helping his mother with his birth and that his father brought over his brothers and sisters to stay overnight before he rushedhis mother to the hospital in Charlottesville.

Jim-Bob finds John-Boy at Crabtree Falls while he is doing work on an article for Mrs. Breckenridge. He tells his older brother about his concerns. John-Boy takes Jim-Bob to the County Courthouse to look at the birth records. They find Jim-Bob’s birth record but they also discover that Jim-Bob had a twin, Joseph Zebulon Walton who died at birth.

Esther learns from Ike and Flossie Brimmer that Jim-Bob is asking questions concerning he birth. She talks to John and tells him it is time for him to tell him about the circumstances. John-Boy and Jim-Bob arrive home and John explains to Jim-Bob that there was never any intention to hide the events from Jim-Bob but that it was especially hard for his mother and it was just easier to not talk about the circumstances surrounded his twin’s death. Jim-Bob hugs his Mother in a deep embrace as the family gathers around the table for a special dinner.

Secondary Story:


Jason drops an essay off to Mrs. Breckenridge that he had asked John-Boy to write for her historical society. She is so excited she asks if he will write another for her based on her father’s research on the settlers of Rockfish. Her father was born and buried in Crabtree Falls. She hands Jason a thick folder of her fathers research. She says there is no hurry, he has plenty of time as long as he could have it ready by Saturday. As if that request is not enough she then asks if John-Boy could provide be 3 copies.

John-Boy is overwelmed by all the commitments he has and learns that he must sometimes say "no" when people request his time. Ha manages to finish the second article for Jason but Mrs. Breckenridge asks for yet another story about her husband who was a Professor. John-Boy states that he is too busy with his other work to write the story. Jason feels obligated to her because she helped him get his scholarship to the Kleinberg Conservatory. Not wanting to disappoint he convinces Mrs. Breckenridge to write the story herself, saying that her passion for telling her father's stories is better than anything John-Boy could do. She is convinced and excited by the challenge.


  "The most valuable truth that all of us learned when that secret was finally revealed is that belonging to a family has less to do with being born than being loved. And with all the hurts and fears and wants we might remember from those Depression years, being loved is what we remember the best."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • This episode pays homage to Earl Hamner’s family which was comprised of 8 siblings. When the first story was adapted for the screen it was decided that there should only be 7 siblings due to the cost and challenges of filming such a large family. The character of Ben is in fact a composite of Earl’s two brothers Bill and Paul.
  • Grandpa tells John-Boy that before it became a term for writer’s and publishers a deadline used to be a line that was drawn in military encampments and if a prisoner crossed that line they were shot dead.

Additional Cast:


Adrienne Marden (Mrs. Breckenridge), Nora Marlowe (Mrs. Brimmer), Eddie Reider (The Yo-Yo King)

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