What was rural life like in Virginia during the Depression? It probably wasn’t as sweet as The Waltons, but we can hope. It was a simpler age, but an age when life was lived from day to day. And The Waltons showed us the importance of family in surviving the most difficult times.
The series was created by Earl Hamner, based on his book Spencer’s Mountain, and was based on his own childhood memories of growing up not far from Charlottesville, Virginia. You may not remember, but there was a Spencer’s Mountain movie first, and Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara were the original Walton parents.
The TV show ran for nine seasons on CBS from 1972-81. It debuted against strong competition – The Flip Wilson Show and The Mod Squad. Wilson’s program was number one the previous two years, and it looked like The Waltons had been given a doomed time slot. But the show blasted the others, leading to the cancellation of The Mod Squad and causing Flip Wilson to pull the plug on his own show.
Lots of elements of the show resonated with a modern audience. Ike Godsy’s general store… the banter between loving but still irascible grandparents… the Baldwin sisters’ “recipe”… the approach of World War II. And, of course, “Good night, Mary Ellen.” “Good night, Ben.” “Good night, John Boy.”