Ep.20 - The Choice

  Original Airdate: February 6, 1975
Writer: Nancy Greenwald
Director: Alf Kjellin


  "One of the things that I find distressing about life today is that people don't really seem to enjoy their work anymore. When I was growing up on Walton's Mountain my father and my grandfather loved their work and they instilled a respect for work in each of us. But I recall one time when my brother Jason had to make a choice, a choice that was difficult for him, but even more difficult for my father."



Jason is incessantly practicing a song for a show-and-tell at school. The other children aren't too impressed and Mary-Ellen is jealous that she doesn't have a talent yet like Jason or John-Boy. When she encourages Elizabeth to practice her skills in the kitchen her Mama suggests that some women don't have to be good in the kitchen anymore and that they can have career aspirations. Grandpa and John discuss how things are better now and maybe it's time to grow the mill. They notice how Jason has grown up and consider bringing him into the business.  Grandpa likes the the ring of “Walton & Sons Lumber Mill”. They make plans to look at new equipment in town.


Jason sings “I’m Looking over a Four Leaf Clover” for his class-mates but they then ask his to sing a much more powerful song "The Maiden and the Soldier" which has a great affect on the group. Miss Hunter suggests that maybe it's time for Jason to take music lessons and she suggests that he visit with Mrs. Breckenridge.

John-Boy passes by the school and gives Miss Hunter a ride to Ike’s store. He tells her about college and how he needs to come up with a big idea for his class. She suggests that he write a novel. At first he feels that he has nothing great to write about, living in the back woods of Virginia but she argues that Thomas Wolfe and other successful writers have come from similar roots. They have a great discussion about the literary greats of the world.

Jason sings and plays guitar for Mrs. Breckenridge. She suggests that he continue his studies on the piano and work on scales. She then lets him listen to Mozart on her gramophone. She also offers him very wise and supportive advice.

At dinner John makes the announcement to the family of his plans to grow the business which will now be called “Walton & Sons Lumber Yard and Fine Furniture”. He is able to get a low interest loan from the bank and buy used inexpensive equipment. He tells Jason that he can now have a trade. He can become a furniture maker instead of cutting fence posts for a living. 

The men begin taking measurements and making plans for the new mill.  They are bothered by Jason's practicing at the piano. They ask him to stop while they discuss plans at the kitchen table. He goes outside in a fit of frustration and John-Boy pulls him aside to spill his problems before he explodes.  He tells Jason that he can relate to what he is going through, that his new excitement for learning music was exactly what it was like for himself when he first studied writing and reading authors like Thomas Wolfe. Jason wants to compose music like George Gershwin and doesn't want to be involved in the mill.

Mrs. Breckenridge is amazed at Jason’s skills for composition and recommends that he apply for scholarship to the Kleinburg Conservatory. He will be able to study music full time and his tuition and books will be paid for. He asks for his father’s blessing but John doesn't see a real future of supporting a family in music. He doesn't consider it a trade and forbids Jason from pursuing it as a career.

Jason later speaks to John-Boy in his room. He is troubled by his plans to apply for the scholarship. He learns that John-Boy is working on his first novel. They are both very excited by the possibilities of their future. They think it would be hilarious to someday see the family pulling their old truck and over-alls up to Carnegie Hall in New York to hear Jason conduct “Rhapsody of the Blue Ridge”.

Later at the dinner table Jason announces that he has submitted his application for the scholarship.  His father says that his ambitions are fine for a hobby but not to raise a family. Jason says that maybe running off to pursue his ambitions is exactly what he needs to do. When John-Boy sees his father in the barn he tells him that he is beginning to understand what it must be like to be a father and to make the decisions that he has to make. It is a very deep and moving conversation.

John finds Jason packing to leave. He asks him how he will support himself. Jason plans to pick up as much work as he can playing for Bobby Bigelow. His father feels that he will be on the road too much which will affect his studies. He asks if Jason would consider working part time in the mill. With relief Jason agrees on the condition that he still calls it “Walton and Sons”.  John-Boy later finds his father in the breezeway cleaning his rifle. He is bursting with pride for his father and is so moved that it has inspired him to write about his father and his family on Walton’s mountain.  When John wonders how the novel will end John-Boy exclaims that he doesn’t know yet as they are still living the story.


  "Almost all of us chose careers that took us away from Walton's Mountain, but no matter how far any of us traveled in later years we always came home, and while we were away my mother and father were always with us, in our hearts, and more importantly, in our attitudes toward life."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • Jon Walmsley wrote the song he performs "The Maiden and the Soldier".
  • Jeff Cotler (Kami's brother) appears in close-up as a student who listens to Jason as he plays his guitar.

Additional Cast:


Mariclaire Costello (Miss Hunter), Adrienne Marden (Mrs. Breckenridge), Mans Kjellin (Boy)


Music from this episode:

Jason Sings "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover" and his own song "The Maiden and the Soldier"
Instrumental theme which then goes into Jason practicing piano
Jason plays the piano for Mrs. Breckenridge
Jason practices the piano and then plays "Lullaby" at the end of the episode


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