Ep.21 - The Quilting

  Original Airdate: February 12, 1976
Writers: Rod Peterson & Claire Whittaker
Director: Lawrence Dobkin



Mary Ellen is now 17 and despite her protests Grandma takes it upon herself to plan the customary "Quilting" party for her.


  "On Walton's Mountain, as our parents had before us, we grew up taking for granted the traditions that shaped our lives. When my sister Mary Ellen took a stand against a solemn mountain custom, it was a rebellion that rattled the complacency of generations. She was 17, but the custom was older than even my grandmother could remember."



Grandma returns from nursing Martha Corrine who had a case of bronchitis. As Grandma unpacks the women look at the quilting squares that she has been working on to make a quilt for Mary Ellen’s coming of age party.

Mary Ellen takes exception to the tradition as she has no desire to have a hope chest or to follow a custom that doesn't serve her interest to become a nurse. She barges in on John-Boy who is in the middle of getting dressed and still in his underwear. She clearly states asks her frustration when she asks how he’d like it if all the men in the community got together and make him a tool box when what he really wants is a typewriter.

Grandma wants to win the "Blue Ridge Bluing" contest that promotes the Poetry Pantry radio program she listens to. John-Boy reads one of her multiple attempts to write a 25 word or less phrase. When he finds is amusing she becomes dismayed as it was not her intention to be amusing. The contest prize is $15 and she plans to take piano lessons so that she can learn to read the notes.

Ike and Corabeth bring ice cream over to celebrate Grandma’s return. The converstion turns to Mary Ellen's "Quilting" but she doesn't want to put out the word that she is now available for a husband. The family rib's her about her predicament. Grandma then announces that she will have to get used to the idea of having a "Quilting" as she has already sent out the invitations which will happen a week Saturday. Mary Ellen storms off to her room.

Grandma practices the piano while John-Boy writes an entry for her contest. He gives it to her as a welcome home gift. Olivia asks Mary Ellen to help her in the attic. She cleans out her hope chest to prepare it for Mary Ellen. They look at the various items of importance that she had saved such as John- Boy’s bronzed baby shoes and a hanky John brought her back from Paris. She also tells her daughter that she doesn't expect Mary Ellen to make the same choices she made in her life like giving up on a career as a clothing designer to become a wife and mother.

As Grandma and Grandpa get ready for bed she tells him Delhi she has invited to the "Quilting". When he hears that the Baldwin sisters are coming he wonders if they will be bringing the punch. She says that they would then end up with a crazy quilt.

Grandpa picks up the quilt stuffing from Ike’s store. He makes up a plan with Ike to hold a game of pool with some of the men. Yancy Tucker arrives to buy some spices and supplies for his Red Devil Chili. Grandpa says that he is invited and will be bringing the food. He goes of to the Baldwin's to secure a jar of their recipe. Emily gives him her quilt square for Esther and explains how the golden leaf that she has made is like the ones that swirled around her and Ashley Longworth. When he arrives home he hides the jar out in the wood shop and tells Ben that it is nothing more than a jar of turpentine.

As the family sets up the quilting rack, G.W. Gaines arrives with flowers and asks John Walton if he can sit with Mary Ellen on the porch. He appreciates being asked but warns him to duck when he asks her. G.W. tells her that he wanted to be first to sit with her since her "Quilting" was announced. She tells him that she has plans to go to school in the fall and that the "Quilting" was not her idea. Jason and Erin tease her with romantic piano music and The Wedding march when she comes back inside carrying the bouquet of flowers. She throws them at Jason and tells Grandma that the "Quilting" is for Grandma’s sake and not hers. After she storms off to her room Olivia tells Grandma that she is the children’s mother and from now on wants her to stay out of her business.

The next day the family prepares for the various events of the day. Ben and Jim-Bob take a furniture order to Charlottesville and go to the picture show. Grandpa and Jason go off to Ike's to play pool, John decides to work quietly in the workshop and John-Boy works on a newspaper article for the Jefferson County Times.

Ike hurriedly tries to send Corabeth off to the "Quilting" but she leaves him with a long list of to do items. As soon as she leaves though he puts up the closed sign and the men get ready for some fun. Grandpa tries the Baldwin’s recipe he is shocked to discover that Ben had used it to strip furniture and replaced it with more turpentine.

Olivia asks John-Boy to look for Mary Ellen. He is unable to locate her but finally finds her hiding in the attic. They exchange heated words but in the end he tells her that by choosing to not join the ladies downstairs for her "Quilting" that it will be a long time coming before the rift between her Mama and Grandma is repaired. Mary Ellen makes her entrance downstairs in her best black velvet dress. She asks to sit beside Grandma and finds discovers that Grandma has given her the $15 dollars that she won in the contest for her to put in her hope chest. The men all arrive home singing the song “Seeing Nelly Home”. The family and friends all join in which brings the festivities to a close.


  "There may not have been true harmony in the singing that evening, but we could feel it once again flowing through our family. The gap between young and old, traditional and modern ways had been bridged by something we all felt for each other, an enduring respect and affection."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • Martha Corrine now lives in Brightwood.
  • The door in the Grandparents room is a closet.
  • Cousin Leona is younger than Mary Ellen but due for her "Quilting" as well.
  • The first 1/3 of this episode takes place on the same day that Grandma returns home.
  • For one scene the bathroom set is switched to appear behind the boys bedroom door and the girls room is seen behind the bathroom door.

Additional Cast:


Robert Donner (Yancy Tucker), Merie Earle (Maude Gormley), Nora Marlowe (Mrs. Brimmer), David Doremus (G.W. Haines), Art Gilmore (The Radio Host), Helen Kleeb (Miss Mamie), Mary Jackson (Miss Emily)


Music from this episode:

Jason places a romantic theme while Mary Ellen talks to G.W. Gaines on the porch
Grandma plays a tune on the piano
A common scene change theme heard throughout the series
Grandpa sings "Camptown Races"
Zeb, Ike and Jason sing "On Moonlight Bay"
Family and friends sing "Seeing Nelly Home"


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