a visit to walton’s mountain

“Without courage, honor, compassion, pity, love and sacrifice, as William Faulkner pointed out, we know not of love, but lust. We debase our audience. But we can enable and enrich our viewers and ourselves in our journey through this good time, this precious time, this great and wonderful experience we call life.” ~ Earl Hamner, Jr.

Earl Hamner’s boyhood home in Schuyler, Virginia.

Saturday, when the air was cool and crisp, and autumn leaves were raining down like shimmering gold coins, Len and I drove out to Schuyler, Virginia, birthplace of Earl Hamner, the real “John Boy” of the popular Emmy-award winning TV series, “The Waltons.”

Richard Thomas as John Boy Walton

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Schuyler (sky-ler) is more a community than a traditional town (there’s no main street to speak of). Call it a hamlet, whose main feature is a meandering country road going up, over and around hills, with houses nestled here and there.

The Hamner home has been completely restored thanks to a Waltons fan, who purchased the property after hearing it was slated for demolition. It’s now open to the public (you can see photos of the interior here), and is across the street from the Walton’s Mountain Museum, which is housed in the old Schuyler Elementary School building (now a community center).

This was once a high school as well as an elementary school. Earl graduated at the top of his class in 1939.

The museum features Waltons and Hamner family photos and memorabilia, as well as several rooms of set replicas.

There’s John Boy’s bedroom:

Boatwright, John Boy’s fictitious alma mater, was actually the University of Richmond.

the Waltons’ living room:

Ike Godsey’s store (not an exact replica but designed to represent an old fashioned country store),

 Visiting Ike and Cora Beth! No, not in jail, at the post office.


and my favorite room, the kitchen!

 A nice basket of biscuits at the table.

When I designed the baking center for our kitchen, I used the Waltons’ hoosier cabinet as a model.

Mmmmm, pie!

Oh, must not forget the Baldwin Sisters and their famous recipe! You can learn all about making moonshine if the spirit moves you.

An actual still that was confiscated in the area.

We also watched a 30-minute video featuring cast interviews and glanced through a couple of episode scripts on display in the Script Room.

 This was our third visit to Schuyler, the only time we didn’t get lost. Although the series wasn’t actually filmed there, it’s always fascinating to see where the stories supposedly took place. “The Waltons” was the first TV show I ever saw in color back in the day, and remains a cherished favorite. It was the first I’d heard of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, and Rockfish. It was the concept of “Virginia” I carried with me through much of my adult life. Little did I realize, watching the show in my parents’ home in Hawai’i all those years ago, that one day I’d actually live in Virginia and be able to drive to the place where “John-Boy” and his family actually lived.

Cast members and their real-life equivalents (left to right: Kami Cotler (Elizabeth) and Nancy Hamner, David Harper (Jim Bob) and Jim Hamner, Mary McDonough (Erin) and Audrey Hamner, John Walmsley (Jason) and Cliff Hamner, and Judy Norton (Mary Ellen) and Marion Hamner).

I have to admit that no matter what I’m doing, whenever I hear the Waltons theme song come on TV, it gives me a good feeling. In this crazy, violent, unpredictable world, it’s nice to have something comforting and reassuring with good, solid family values.

♥ The man who works at the Walton’s Mountain B&B and Country Store mentioned that Michael Learned (“Olivia”) and Mary McDonough (“Erin”), will be sharing their Waltons memories and reading from The Homecoming at Life Church in Roanoke on November 13th at 2 p.m. The charity event, “A Christmas Homecoming,” which will also feature a concert by Stella Parton (Dolly’s sister), and The Appalachian Gospel Show, will benefit the Adult Care Center of Roanoke and the Alzheimer’s Society of Central and Southwest Virginia. No tickets required, but donations gladly accepted. Hope I can make it!

Typewriter on display in the Walton’s Mountain Country Store.

♥ You can purchase autographed copies of several of Earl Hamner’s books via his official website. Also, don’t miss reading this article about the Hamner family by George Brosi, to learn all about Earl Jr.’s parents and his seven brothers and sisters (there were actually 8 Hamner children, not 7, as in the TV series).

♥ Check out DelsJourney.com for a nicely written webpage about his visits to Schuyler.

The S&H Grocery (burned down in the 80’s) was the model for Ike Godsey’s Store (Source: DelsJourney.com).

♥ “The Waltons,” which ran on CBS from 1972 to 1981, was based on these two semi-autobiographical novels by Earl Hamner, Jr., recounting his youth in Depression era rural Virginia:

♥ This post is brought to you by Family. It’s good to remember that people are more important than things.

♥ More F is for Fall 2010 posts here.

Hamner Home before restoration (source: DelsJourney.com).

In his closing narration, on the very last episode of “The Waltons,” Earl said: “I hope you will remember this house as I do. The mystical blue ridges that stretch beyond it into infinity, the sound of warm voices drifting out upon the night air, a family waiting, and a light in the window. Goodnight.”

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.