Ep.24 - A Decade of The Waltons

  Original Airdate: May 22, 1980
Writer: Earl Hamner Jr.
Directors: Harry Harris & Philip Leacock



The family prepares for Grandma's birthday and the show creator Earl Hamner takes us on a journey as we look back at key moments in the lives of the family.

The children cast members interact with their real life counterparts from the Hamner family in Schuyler , VA.



"This is Earl Hamner. When I was growing up in the hills of Virginia during the Great Depression, I would never have believed that I would some day end up in a studio in Hollywood, telling the story of my life on television. As a matter of fact, television as we know it today didn't even exist. We grew up here, in this house, where my mother still lives.

From the earliest times I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I was told that to be a good writer one should write about what he cares for most passionately. That was my family, and I wrote about them in my novel "Spencer's Mountain", and in a later novel, "The Homecoming". "Spencer's Mountain" became a film, and "The Homecoming" became a Lorimar/CBS television special in 1971. From the special grew the series, "The Waltons", which premiered in the fall of 1972. Since then we've covered ten years: A Decade of The Waltons.

On this special program we'll visit my home town where it all began, meet my mother, my brothers and sisters, and the actors who have portrayed them all these years. Stay with us for the next two hours for a visit to two fairly dissimilar towns: Hollywood, California, and Schuyler, Virginia, and a fond look back at a decade of The Waltons."



Earl Hamner introduces this 2 hour special episode and praises all the crew who have helped to recreate the stories of his youth growing up in rural Virginia. He tells us that we are about to see the depiction of a very special day, Grandma’s birthday.

The children are gathered around the kitchen table with Mama and are looking through old photos to put in an album for Grandma. As they look through the various photos and letters they remember various events over the years and we see flashbacks to those moments including:

  • John-Boy’s love poetry to Marcia Woolery
  • One by one each of John-Boy’s brothers and sisters come into his room and disrupt his privacy.
  • The Baldwin sisters lending John-Boy their typewriter.

Earl Hamner reappears now in the Walton house and he reveals what life was like during the depression and it’s affects including the dust-bowl and polio. Flashback to:

  • Mama in bed stricken with polio.

The photo album is now finished. Mary Ellen wraps it with gift wrap and Mama begins to make a birthday cake. The camera pans from the kitchen to Earl Hamner standing at the border of the living room. This is the first time we see that the family and Earl are standing together on the set at the same time. Earl talks about how the show was written and what they planned to achieve in terms of creating drama. One significant characteristic of the show as to tell each weeks story and a continuation and make reference to previous events seen in the previous weeks. This was not a common technique in TV story telling at the time. They also realized that they were depicting larger traits of family values on the show.

  • the family enjoys a picnic by Drucilla’s Pond and imagine what they’d do with $100,000.

Erin tried to count how many birthdays they have celebrated together. She asks her Mama about which birthday was her favorite.

  • Olivia remembers her favorite birthday when John-Boy read her a poem “The Windhover”. He believes the poem means that even the simple and plain thing in life have a beauty as great as the most beautiful things in the world.

Earl returns by the fireplace mantel where we see photos of Grandma and Grandpa. He talks about how people over the age of 50 are viewed as “over the hill” and lack vitality. He says that The Waltons portrays older people as contributing members of the family. We see scenes of the family as they consider what life would be like if they sold their house and moved away from Walton’s Mountain.

  • Grandma and Grandpa sit on top of Walton’s Mountain and reflect on their memories of their life together.
  • John-Boy sits and watches the 2 youngest Walton children in bed and tells his parents that he’d regret it he they didn’t get the chance to have the same memories of their home on Walton’s Mountain like the rest of the older children.
  • Grandma and Grandpa celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

Jim-Bob sneaks some icing of Grandma’s cake. He ask’s his mama if Corabeth really is related. She says she is his Daddy’s 2nd cousin. Jim-Bob goes to Ike’s to get some lemons to make lemonade for the party. Olivia remembers the time when Corabeth first came from Doe-Hill.

  • Cora-Beth arrives unannounced after her mother passes away and decides to make herself at home at the Walton’s. Ike is smitten by her and they end up getting married.

Jim-Bob returns from Ike’s without any lemons. He’s hoping they can have some of the Baldwin “Recipe” instead. Olivia remembers when she had her sit down strike.

  • The children ignore their responsibilities around the house and Olivia becomes exasperated and to make her point clear that she doesn’t appreciate the lack of help she engages in a sit-down strike.

Earl narrates the next section about what a house means.

  • The Walton’s home catches on fire and family works to save what they can before they evacuate. The family is severely affected while they are broken apart as they rebuild their home.
  • Elizabeth is scared that everything she has ever cared about dies so she doesn’t want to care about anyone and anything anymore.

Grandma arrives for he birthday supper and party. As the family welcomes her home Earl sits of to the side near the staircase.

As the family begins supper, Mary Ellen recalls some wedding photos she had found earlier. The family remembers the tumultuous events leading up to her wedding.

  • Curt arrives back after disappearing from Walton’s Mountain. Mary Ellen is quite put out by his presence. He proposes to her in a round about way and she says she wouldn’t marry him if he was the last man on Earth. The next thing we see is their wedding day.
  • Grandma recalls when she helped John-Boy to deliver a sermon. She wants John-Boy to deliver a hellfire and brimstone sermon like she heard in the old days.

John remembers when John-Boy tried to warn the community about what Hitler was trying to do.

  • Reverend Fordwich hosts a community book burning which John-Boy tries to prevent. He fails to break through to the people gathered until they realize that one of the books they are trying to burn is the Bible written in the German language.

Olivia remembers when John-Boy decided to move to New York.

  • John-Boy sits on the steps outside the house but his mind is hundreds of miles away in New York City. His Daddy, Mama, and Grandpa are sitting not too far away and realize that their eldest is about to go out into the big world all on his own.

The family gives Grandma her present and the first photo inside the photo album is of her husband Zeb. Mary Ellen shares a memory of him when Esther was recovering from her stroke in the hospital.

  • Grandpa tries to sneak upstairs to Grandma’s hospital room but Curt sees him hiding behind a potted plant and tells him that he needs to let the doctors and nurses to do their job in caring for her and let her rest.
  • Mary Ellen gives birth to the family’s first grandchild.

Earl Hamner informs us of Ellen Corey’s stroke and how she was away from the show for nearly 2 years while she recovered.

  • Grandma tries to earn her role back in the family after her long stay in the hospital. Grandpa finally understands what he needs to do to make things right for his wife.

The family is now gathered around the piano and sing “As Time Goes By”.

  • John and Olivia celebrates their 25th wedding anniversary on top of the mountain in a gazebo he built for her.

Earl reminds of of when Will Geer passed while the show was on hiatus between seasons 6 and 7.

  • The family cleans the area around Grandpa’s grave up on the mountain. They talk to him about where their lives are now.

John and Liv say goodnight to Grandma as she settles in her room after the party. They head upstairs for the night. earl Hamner walks into frame and sets up the final scenes of the show.


In his office Earl Hamner is joined by the Walton children and each of them get the chance to interact with their real life counterpart via the magic of Hollywood effects and editing.

Kami Cotler talks to Nancy Hamner Jamerson. She lives in Richmond and works for the Virginia Dept. of Game and Fisheries.

David Harper talks to James Hamner who lives with his mother in the family home. He brought a peacock home once just like Jim-Bob. James served in the medical corps and served most of the war in San Francisco.

Cliff Hamner has had the luxury of entertaining Jon Walmsley. Cliff has 3 children and works for a machine manufacturing company. He likes to dance and loves music but can’t sing or play music like The character of Jason.

Judy Norton got to meet Marion Hamner when she came out to visit Earl in Hollywood a few years prior. She even got to appear in the episode they were filming then. Marion worked as a nurse and even married a Doctor of Psychology. They have 2 sons. She paints, plays golf and collects antiques and is a tour guide for a bus line.

Earl tells us that while the original novel of The Homecoming there were 8 siblings, the network asked if they could reduce the story down to 7 siblings thus Eric Scott’s character is a composite of Paul Hamner who has worked in the shoe business near his home New Jersey where he has 2 children. Bill Hamner is other brother who has 3 children and lives in Richmond.

Audrey Hamner lives on a farm near Roanoke and has 5 children with her husband Hank. She works for the Red Cross.

Earl shows us a valley in Virginia with the Blue Ridge Mountains on the horizon. We then see the Baptist church and the “shed” in front of the family homestead in Schuyler.

Earl walks up the front steps of his childhood home and is greeted by his mother. They go inside and sit at the kitchen table. She says that people ask if her children were as well behaved as the Walton children. She says that she answer “yes” with a chuckle.

Earl visits his father grave who passed. In 1969 and never got to see the show. Earl then narrates a short prose about his forefathers. Finally he ends up back at the Walton house and walls into the kitchen to join the Walton family seated at the kitchen table. The cast members say goodnight to each other by their real names.


  "Someone once asked my sister Marion, where Walton's Mountain is, and she said it is somewhere my brother was very happy. We've been happy here, and I hope that in the past eight years we've entertained you, that we've enriched your lives in some small way, and that whenever possible we've made some small affirmative statement about us as a people and about people as a part of all mankind."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • Flashbacks includes scenes from: The Homecoming - A Christmas Story, The Foundling, The Hunt, The Typewriter, The Literary Man, The Easter Story, The Heritage, The Air Mail Man, The Matchmakers, The Honeymoon, The Burnout, The Wedding, The Sermon, The Fire Storm, The Achievement, The Long Night, The Grandchild, Grandma Comes Home, The Anniversary, The Empty Nest, Founders Day.
  • Corabeth is John’s 2nd cousin.
  • Olivia has a sister named Francis in Esmont which only about 10 minutes away from Schuyler VA.

Additional Cast:



in flashbacks: Tom Bower (Curt Willard), Tammi Bula (Marcia Woolery), Barry Cahill, Nora Marlowe (Flossie Brimmer), Michael Reed (John Curtis), John Ritter (Reverend Fordwick) Special guest: Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton) Special appearances: Doris Hamner, Bill Hamner, Clifton Hamner, James Hamner, Paul Hamner, Audrey, Marion Hawkes, Nancy Jameson and Earl Hamner


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