Ep.1 - The Empty Nest

  Original Airdate: September 21, 1978 - Two hour episode
Writer: Rod Peterson & Claire Whitaker
Director: Philip Leacock


  It has been 6 months since the passing of Grandpa Walton and the family prepares to honor his upcoming birthday. John starts a co-op of lumber producers to win large contracts. Erin and Mary Ellen rent an apartment in Charlottesville.


  "For as long as any of us could remember our house had stood in the shadow of Waltons Mountain. We counted time by its seasons, growing up and growing old, and even those of us who went away never really left it. It was a fitting place for my grandfather to be buried, and in the six months since his death we had learned to live with our grief. We never looked up at the mountain without feeling his strength. We were to need it: the year was 1941 and there was a tension in the air that threatened to pull us apart."



John measures boards that Ben has cut. They are 5/8” too short and he chastises his son for the sloppy work. Ben has been trying to grow a mustache. He thinks it will gain him respect like Grandpa had. John tells his son that Grandpa had respect because he made very few mistakes and not because he had a mustache.

The ice box has melted and dripped water onto the kitchen floor. Olivia and Elizabeth mop up the mess. Erin comes down in her house coat for a glass of milk and complains that Elizabeth is slopping water on her. Erin is expecting a call for a new job offer at Pringle Crate and Storage. A tall smugly arrogant man knocks on the door at the Waltons and announces that he is looking for John Walton and his Mill operation. Olivia directs him over to the John and the new Mill. Jim-Bob comes down faking a sort throat in an attempt to skip school because he hasn’t done his algebra homework. Mary Ellen comes down from upstairs in her nurse’s uniform ready for work. She suggest that if Erin gets that job in Charlottesville then maybe she and Erin would rent an apartment.

Mr. Sarver is unimpressed with how small John’s mill is and doesn’t believe that he can fulfill his order for lumber to build army barracks, nor does he want to deal in partial orders. He becomes quite belligerent with John. Back at the house the phone rings. Erin answers excitedly and gets her first job as a real secretary that she was hoping for. John comes in and asks Olivia if she wants to go over to the store with him. They talk along the way. He wonders if he has made the right choices in life. Could things of turned out different. Could he have a fancy car like Mr. Sarver and be making large profits instead of just getting by. He also talks about the cost of Grandma’s hospital stay and how Grandpa had taking out a bank loan to pay the hospital bills.

At the store Corabeth explains her plans for a tea room to the Baldwin sisters. John asks Ike for the dimensions for the shelves he wants built. Olivia tries some of the perfume that is for sale. A small package has arrived from St. Louis, Missouri for Olivia. It’s from Patsy Brimmer, she has gifted Flossie’s favorite cameo ring to Olivia. The 3 couples remember Flossie who had passed away recently.

That evening Erin want Elizabeth to finish her bedtime reading so that they can turn out the light. She want to gets some extra sleep to be ready for her new job in the morning. Mama comes in and says goodnight. Elizabeth asks her Mama if she remembered that Grandpa’s birthday is coming up on Saturday. She would like to go up the mountain to Grandpa’s grave. The girls then remember and call out the names of all the flowers that Grandpa taught them. John works at his desk figuring out numbers. He tells Olivia that he is gonna work late and not to expect him upstairs for a while. He wonders if it is possible for him to fulfill the large lumber order. He is tired of being “two-bit”.

The next morning Mar Ellen feeds John Curtis and then Grandma takes over for her so she can leave early for work. Olivia asks Grandma if she would like to go up the mountain on Saturday to visit Grandpa’s grave. Grandma is very firm NO.

John gets the loan he needs from the bank to build his business and keeps Ben’s roving eye from getting in to trouble with a pretty blond woman on the street. Jason drives by Flossie Brimmer’s former boarding house and is flagged down by Zuleika Dunbar who is going to reopen it.

John and Ben meet with Joe Murdock at his lumber mill and offers him a contract to fulfill part of the order for Sarver’s lumber order. Joe is still a little bitter about the time when Grandpa tricked him to float a load of lumber down the Rockfish River. They come to an agreement and John spends the rest of a very long day convincing 2 more operators to come on board and deliver lumber to fulfill much larger orders. When he gets home he tells Liv that he wants to take her to Richmond to a fancy restaurant before he meets Mr. Sarver with the agreement to fulfill his large order. Olivia decides to stay home due to the preparations for the family’s upcoming birthday celebration for Grandpa.

The next morning Ben drives his Daddy to the bus in Rockfish but he has forgotten to fill the tank with gas. Although his father has placed him in charge while he is away John is upset at Ben’s lack of attention.

Mary Ellen and Erin check out an apartment for rent in Charlottesville. Mrs. Boren gives them a tour of the small attic apartment that will cost $20 a month. Mary Ellen is not sure but Erin finds it exciting.

Jim-Bob brings home a Juke Box from Buck Vernon’s that needs fixing which he hopes to repair and sell. Inside Jason practices the piano and Grandma steps up to watch. Jason invites her to play the piano with him and she tries to play the melody with her good left hand while he plays the bass part. Mary Ellen and Erin come home after her first day of work and announce to their mother that they have rented the apartment.

John tries to meet with Sarver at his office but after two hours of waiting he leaves the name of his hotel with the secretary. When he calls again Sarver is not interested in talking to him and has his secretary make an excuse. John then calls Olivia. He asks her again if she wants to come same with him at the Fairmount Hotel. She turns down his invitation but Grandma overhears her and gets her suitcase and insists that she go be with her husband.

Jim-Bob gets the jukebox working but it is playing the records twice as fast as normal. Ben on the other hand can’t seem to fix anything.

Erin and Mary Ellen adjust to their new apartment. Erin pours a glass of wine for them that her boss gave her. They imagine what the family is doing at home and what Grandma would think if she saw them drinking wine.

At home Grandma, Elizabeth, Ben and Jim-Bob spend a quiet dinner together. Ben feels that he has failed to run the mill properly. Grandpa asks Elizabeth to get the wooden dancing doll that Ben made when he was 9. Ben realizes that he mustn't give up to easily. The lesson he learned when making the doll was that it takes effort and you can’t give up too soon. Grandma takes some of that same advise and successfully plays a full song on the piano with Jason.

Corabeth hosts a tea for the Baldwins but gets upset at Mr. Godsey who accidently knocks over some canned goods in the store.

John finally gets through to Sarver on the phone at his home just before he is about to go out to a show with his wife. Sarver berates John and acts like he doesn’t remember him. John gets upset and begins to pack his bag to leave but Olivia knocks on his door which changes his mood completely.

Late that night Elizabeth joins Grandma in her bedroom and they discuss what death means and how they feel about Grandpa’s upcoming birthday.

The next day Ben gets the mill blade running with the help of Jim-Bob’s car. John brings Sarver’s secretary a rose and smooths his way into Sarver’s office. John presents his plan to Sarver who says that he will discuss the order over dinner with him later that night.

Corabeth holds a tea for the Baldwin ladies in her new tea room. She becomes incensed when Ike causes a disruption after he knocks over some canned goods in the store. Jim-Bob shows Grandpa the fixed up jukebox in the living room. He dances to the music with Elizabeth.

John buys Olivia a new dress and a corsage for their evening out at the Sarvers. At dinner, the men come to an agreement. He offers John a position as Vice-President of Lumber Procurement but it would involve him moving to Richmond.

Jason plays a new bar style piano at the Dew Drop and Ike is there drinking his sorrows about how Corabeth treated him earlier at the store. He asks Jason if he knows “You’ll Always Hurt the One You Love” and he sings his sorrows to Jason’s accompaniment. Corabeth walks in and convinces him to come back home with her. She has turned the tea room into a shared space with the pool table and suggests that they call it “Godsey’s Tea and Billiard Parlor”. Ike can’t believe that Corabeth called him “dear”.

Olivia finds John outside their hotel sitting on a bench in the park thinking about the new opportunity. He doesn’t want to leave the mountain but he has never had an opportunity to be a Vice-President of a large company.

John and Olivia go for a test drive in a new woody station wagon. He needs a better vehicle if he is going to be on the road doing procurement for Sarvers. They return home and the family is excited to see the new vehicle. Jim-Bob shows off the fixed jukebox to Mama who says that it is too big and has to go. Elizabeth is upset because she has been learning the Jitterbug. Olivia has brought home presents for everyone and has given a locket necklace to Grandma in hopes that she might put a picture of Zeb in it. Grandma has decided to go up the mountain and celebrate her husband’s birthday by his grave. Ben shows his Daddy how he managed to keep the new mill running and John allows him to use Grandpa’s old tools as a reward for his efforts. At dinner the family discusses the plans of potentially moving to Richmond. Elizabeth is upset that she will be leaving her friends behind and runs from the kitchen saying that she won’t go. Olivia goes to talk to her in the girls bedroom. Downstairs they hear Grandma singing the lyrics to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” The whole family is amazed at her new ability.

Erin and Mary Ellen are finding it difficult to live together. A knock happens at their door and Erin’s boss Mr. Pringle has pretended to be Erin’s Daddy. When she opens the door she runs mistakenly into Pringle’s arms who won’t let go. He tries to force himself on her but Mary Ellen comes out of the bathroom and scares him off. Erin admits that she didn’t tell him that she was living with her sister because she didn’t think that sounded very adult-like.

John goes in to see his mother in her room. He asks how she feels about moving to Richmond. Upstairs, the kids discuss the potential move in the boy’s room. John and Olivia can hear them and discuss their feelings as well.

The next day Jim-Bob takes the jukebox away in the truck just as Erin and Mary Ellen arrive back home for good. Jim-Bob shows the jukebox to Zuleika hoping that she will want it for her boarders. She loves it but doesn’t have any spare money but they agree on a trade.

Upstairs in the girls room, Mary Ellen and Erin talk about their feelings concerning the potential move to Richmond.

John shows Ben how to keep track of all the orders in the mill. Joe Murdock pulls up in his truck and asks John about the rumor that he is going to work for Matt Sarver. John admits that he is thinking about it. Joe asks if he would consider keeping things the way they are with John overseeing large orders for their consortium.

The family gets ready for the picnic birthday celebration for Grandpa. The kids ask their Mama to come downstairs and to cover her eyes for a surprise. They reveal a slightly used electric refrigerator that Jim-Bob traded his jukebox for. It used to belong to Flossie Brimmer which makes Olivia even happier.

The family makes their way up the mountain in the old truck and new woody wagon. Olivia asks John what he has been thinking about since Murdock stopped by the mill. John says that he wants to keep the co-op going with John in charge. He won’t make as much money as the job in Richmond but he can work with Ben and they can stay at home. Olivia says that it must be pretty nice to have two good things to choose from. When they get to the mountain top the children take out all the plants and seedlings that they are going to plant in honor of grandpa. Grandma goes off to sit alone and think about Zeb. Olivia and John go to the gazebo. John is still torn about his decision and wishes he could speak to his pa. Grandma remembers the last time she sat up on the mountain with her husband. The children each talk to their grandfather by his grave. Grandma walks up and says that he lives in all of them. Olivia tells Grandpa not to spend to much time on the porch with Martha Corrine, Uncle Ben or Mrs. Brimmer. John tells his Dad that they have no business going to Richmond and that they are going to stay on the mountain where they belongs.


  "For years to come, in times of doubt and trouble, different members of our family would make the pilgrimage up the mountain to visit Grandpa. He was always there to comfort us, help us make decisions, and to give us the benefit of his continuing love."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • Grandpa died six months ago while planting seedlings on the Mountain.
  • Grandpa's grave stone on the top of the Mountain states 'Zebulon Walton 1865-1941'.
  • Actress Peggy Rea plays Mrs. Boren, the landlady who rents an apartment to Erin and Mary Ellen in Charlottesville. She will return in Season 8 and 9 as Cousin Rose.
  • Actress Nora Marlowe passed away during the summer hiatus as well. Her charaxcter of Flossie Brimmer was paid homage to as well.
  • The twins Michael and Marshall Reed who play the role of John Curtis Walton receive a "Featuring" credit.
  • This is the first appearance of the family's woody wagon.
  • The family now have their first electric fridge.

Additional Cast:

    Joe Conley (Ike Godsey), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Corabeth), Michael Conrad (Matt Sarver), Lou Frizzell (Joe Murdoch), Jay W. MacIntosh (Betty Lou Sarver), Peggy Rea (Mrs. Boren), Sima Conrad (Secretary), Michael and Marshall Reed (John Curtis)


Promotional Stills:


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