Is there really anyone who doesn’t want to revisit a special time and special place — even if that place were only imaginary?
When The Waltons was being cast, series creator Earl Hamner Jr. took one look at the line-up of kids that his casting director picked and gave each one the thumbs up. He thought all the child stars were “wonderful,” but of them all, Hamner said in an interview with the Archive of American Television, “I was most thrilled to get Richard Thomas for the role of John-Boy.”
“He was marvelous, and as it turned out, he was perfect in the role,” Hamner said, joking, “I often said he made a better John-Boy than I did being me.”
Describing his character based on Hamner, Thomas said John-Boy came from a “completely rural upbringing but has the soul of an artist.” The oldest son, he had a special role in the household, but the way he differed from his father created a space between John-Boy and the other Waltons.
Elizabeth and the Magic Lamp
Like many popular television shows, The Waltons spawned numerous tie-in products. There were board games, lunch boxes and even action figures. There were also many books.
In 1975, the Western Publishing Company published six books for teenagers about various events happening on Walton’s mountain. That same year, they also released a book aimed at a younger audience called Elizabeth and the Magic Lamp.
The book opens with Elizabeth finding an old genie-style oil lamp near her house. Daddy says she can keep it if no one claims it for a week. She hopes no one will come for the lamp because she desperately wants someone her own age to play with. A week passes by and no one claims the lamp. Elizabeth’s joy soon turns to disappointment when, at the last second, a man asks if they’ve seen an old oil lamp.
Written by Charlotte Graham and illustrated by Jan Neely, Elizabeth and the Magic Lamp is a fun little addition to the lore of that wholesome TV family from rural Virginia.
Mail a Postcard
Best known as the childhood home of writer Earl Hamner Jr. who created The Waltons and used many of his experiences there as the basis for the show, Schuyler, Virginia hasn’t changed much.
The Walton’s Mountain Museum is a must-visit for any diehard fan. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop, reminiscent of a general store and post office like the one run by Ike Godsey in the show.
If you mail a postcard from the museum, the real post office next door will stamp it with Walton’s Mountain, Virginia.
Did You Know Grandma was a Writer?
Ellen Corby will forever be remembered as Grandma Esther on The Waltons. She appeared on the show through most of its run, even persevering after suffering a severe stroke in 1976. She was also in the TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which aired first and was then developed into the show. No other adult actors crossed over from the original movie to the series.
She also wrote an “autobiography” about a traveling pebble called The Pebble of Gibraltar. Except it’s not her autobiography, it’s “as told to Ellen Corby” by the pebble – according to the book’s cover.
Though she started writing it in the early 1970s, it wasn’t officially published until 1988. The book was inspired by her love of travel. She enjoyed visiting Morocco, India and many other places around the world. Who knew homebody Grandma Walton was played by such an avid wanderer!
Jerry Nelson is an American writer living the expat life in Argentina. You can find him at any of hundreds of sidewalk cafes and hire him through Fiverr, join the quarter-million who follow him on Twitter or contact him at [email protected]