Ep.23 - The Fledgling

  Original Airdate: February 26, 1976
Writer: Earl Hamner
Director: Harry Harris



John-Boy moves to Westham and takes on a full-time job to raise the downpayment for an old printing press.


  "The year 1936 was a momentous one in the history of the world. It was the year a king gave up his crown for the woman he loved, it was the year Adolf Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles, and it was the same year that Benito Mussolini, encouraged by Hitler's daring, overran Ethiopia. But none of these historic events was quite so important with our family as the struggle by one of us to attain an impossible dream."



John-Boy learns that Mr. Johnson has in fact closed his paper The Jefferson County Times and is moving to Florida. He does however offer his original printing press to John-Boy, providing him the opportunity to start his own newspaper to feel the void now that The Jefferson County Times will no longer be published. Mr. Johnson wants $550 for the press to help finance his move but agrees to a $50 down payment and $15 a month there after.

He races home to tell his Daddy the news. When John questions how he'll get the money John-Boy announces that he will get a full-time job and adjust his study schedule.

John-Boy then goes to see Professor Parks who advises him not to forget about his novel and dream to become a writer.

He then runs into Mike Paxton at the student job board. Mike's Dad has cut back on his allowance and he needs to find a job to make up the difference.

John-Boy finds a job at the White Arrow Bus Depot in Westham. With the job requiring 8 hours, his classes 6 hours and still needing 3 to 4 hours a night to study he decides to find a place to stay in Westham. He runs the idea past his Daddy who gives him the advise he had always planned to tell him before he left home.

Tillie Shanks, the waitress tells him that the secret ingredient in her burgers is red wine. Mike Paxton runs into him at the lunch counter and suggests that they find a place and share it together. When they consider where they could find a room, Tilly advises them to see Mrs. Butterworth who has a boarding house across the street. They go to see it and accept her price of $3 per week.

John-Boy packs his suitcases for his move to Westham. Grandma gives him a bible to read before going to bed. His Mama makes him some fried chicken to remind him of home and gives him a bible as well. Outside he says goodbye to all of his brothers and sisters.

At the bus depot to Baldwin sisters surprise him with a visit and they enjoy one of Tillie's burgers as well. John -Boy stops by to see Mr. Johnson who is busy packing up for his move. John-Boy asks to look at the press again and learns that Mr. Johnson is throwing in the block type and typesetting table and stone with the press. John-Boy has saved almost half of the $50 downpayment.

The family expects John-Boy to come home for the weekend but he has to cancel when he learns that he has to work through the weekend. Ike and Corabeth stop by while on their way to see a movie. They have a new cocker-spaniel puppy named Clementine. Corabeth reports that they got the puppy because Ike wanted to hear pitter-patter sound of little feet around the home. They also bring a letter from Elizabeth. He reads her update from home and then writes her silly letter in return.

At work John-Boy learns that his job has been given back to the former employee who has a family to support. John-Boy looks for another job but is unable to find new employment. He goes to see Mr. Johnson to offer what money he has saved but finds his offices and the press emptied out. Defeated he returns home to his family. His Daddy tells h that he have to sleep the night in the shed and much to his surprise he discovers that Mr. Johnson has delivered it and set it up in the garden shed. He reads a letter that Mr. Johnson has left for him and learns that Professor Parks has made the down payment on the press. The family sneaks into the shed behind his back and surprise him with a big welcome home.


  "I had made a brief journey into the world. I'd known loneliness, desperation and friendship, and it stretched the horizons of my experience and of my life. Like the best of journeys it led to home again, and a whole adventure of my life was turning now in a new direction for I was soon to become the publisher, editor, writer and printer of a small country newspaper."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • This script is penned by Earl Hamner himself which is fitting considering how close the story would have been to him.
  • Virginia Gregg who plays Mrs. Butterworth also appears in "The Ordeal" (s6-ep19) as Ada Corley. She also played Miss Parker in Spencer's Mountain.
  • Michael McDonough who plays the character Boyd, is the brother of actress Mary McDonough (Erin Walton). He will appear again in "The First Edition" (s5-ep1)
  • Well known character actress Billie Bird (Mrs. Cox) appears again in "The Career Girl" (s5-ep17). She also made an appearance in another Earl Hamner TV series, Apple's Way.
  • Actor Dennis Redfield returns as college friend Mike Paxton. This is his 3rd appearance and he returns in "The Obstacle" (s7-ep14)

Additional Cast:


Walter Brooke (Mr. Johnson), Dennis Redfield (Mike Paxton), Lucille Benson (Tillie Shanks), Virginia Gregg (Mrs. Butterworth), Mary Jackson (Miss Emily), Helen Kleeb (Miss Mamie), Joe Conley (Ike Godsey), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Corabeth Godsey), Eddie Firestone (Rudyard Davis), Billie Bird (Mrs. Cox), Norman Andrews (Man #1), F. William Parker (Man #2), Beth Peters (Woman in Line), Michael McDonough (Boyd), Ted Jordan (The Carpenter), Paul Jenkins (Professor Parks)

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