Good night, Mr. Hamner


Other than “The Wonderful World of Disney,” no doubt my favorite television program growing up was “The Waltons.” So, when I received a text last week from a niece, who also shares a fondness for the show, telling me that Earl Hamner Jr., the author behind the show, had died, I felt a twinge of sadness.

I’m not really sure why I liked “The Waltons” so much. It was probably something about a more simple time, the warmth of a close family, and the setting nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you know anything about “The Waltons” you know that the primary character, John Boy Walton, was a writer, and his role was based on Hamner’s Depression-era upbringing in the mountains of Virginia.

I suppose it would be reasonable to think that maybe that’s why I liked the show. But that had nothing to do with it. Heck, when I enjoyed the show during my youthful years I had absolutely no idea that I’d someday write for a living. And John Boy was not among my favorite characters on the show.

My favorite character, by far, was Grandpa Zebulon Tyler Walton. I guess that’s because he always seemed a bit of a rascal, yet was always willing to lend a hand, wise as only someone with several years behind them can be, quick with helpful advice, and enjoyed the simple things of life more than anything else.

Next came Grandma Eshter Walton. Her sassiness kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but she was gritty old gal and I liked that. She may also have been the best actor in the bunch.

Then came the mother, Olivia Walton. I think she reminded me of my mother – kind, caring, always doing for her family and others, but with a bit of reserved flair, too.

The father, John Walton Sr., was next on my list. His hard-working honesty reminded me of my father, but there were sides of him that reminded me of myself, too.

I guess John Boy would come next, but that’s probably because he was the only decent actor among the siblings, and he got all the good parts, too.

Then there was the Baldwin sisters. I liked any episode they were part of. There was Yancy Tucker, who lived in a shack with coonhounds and lots of other animals and was always finding a way in and out of trouble; Martha Corrine Walton, who lived a pioneer-like life, up in the hills and off whatever the land gave her and her’s; and so many others who made the show what it was.

I liked the musical entry to the show, how each episode ended with various members of the family saying good night to one another, and most everything in between.

The Waltons ran for nine seasons starting in 1972. It was those early seasons I enjoyed most, when the Walton family was altogether, helping each other through whatever adventure each show brought their way. The show probably lasted a couple seasons too long. By those later seasons many of the characters had been written off, had passed away, or had been replaced by a different actor. I paid little attention to the show those last couple season anyway. I was in my late high school and early college years and no doubt thought I had moved beyond such programming.

But every once in a while a sequel would come along and I would be reminded how the show took me back to a more simple time, and gave me a peaceful, easy feeling.

It must have been after watching one of those sequel reruns that my interest piqued and I started searching my TV to see if the series was running anywhere. As it turned out, I discovered that “The Waltons” reruns were getting ready to start in just a couple days, from the very beginning, and that they would be airing daily Monday through Friday.

That was a few years ago when my work day started at 1 p.m. and those reruns aired mid to late morning. So I started watching and I watched pretty much each and every episode. When the series ended I watched it again, maybe not quite as closely, but making sure there was nothing I missed.

It is more than unlikely that we will ever see another show like “The Waltons.” That’s too bad. Because if there’s anything this country could use it’s a little more wholesomeness and common decency like the show brought into our homes each week.

I was a bit to sad to learn that Mr. Hamner had passed. But he was 92, had accomplished much in his life, and brought lots of joy to me and many others.

Good night, Mr. Hamner.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist

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