There were a lot of great programs in the 1960s and 70s,. A few of them are particularly noteworthy for their excellence. One of these programs is The Waltons.
If I had to pick an all time favorite TV show, this would certainly be the one. I was a teenager in the 70s. I remember watching this program during its initial run. Although this is a family oriented show, the stories have more appeal for older children and of course adults. I still enjoy watching The Waltons. They certainly don't make programs like this any more.
The program featured very likeable, believable characters. The family members were people that anyone would be glad to know and have for neighbors. Those who were living during the Great Depression depicted in the show could relate to the everyday struggles the family went through.
The program lasted for nine seasons. We watched as the kids grew up and America and the rest of the world was involved in the Second World War.
This program was one of the most successful dramas during the 1970s. Other top programs from that decade were mostly comedies like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family and a few others.
The Waltons stories had a very realistic look at life during the 1930s and 1940s. What follows are some of my thoughts about this great program.
Cast Reunion for the 40th Anniversary
Some Thoughts on The Waltons
I grew up with the kids on this show. Mary Ellen and I were almost the same age. I thought they told very compelling and interesting stories that had wide appeal.
The stories took place on Walton's Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This type of wholesome entertainment something we rarely see today. They had their conflicts. like any other family. The Waltons were not portrayed as saints. The family had flaws like the rest of us do. They certainly had their share of problems. The most pressing one was generally financial due to the time they lived in.
John Walton often struggled to provide for his family. In this regard they were just like many other families during The Depression. John and Olivia never had fights. They didn't always agree, but managed to find a consensus if necessary . The program was a genuine portrayal of family life in the 30s and 40s.
John and Olivia Walton had seven children. This would be very unusual today, but it was common in those days. Most couples did have large families at that time.
In the first seasons the opening theme showed John returning home with a radio. The family came running out to greet him as he brought it from the car. You could see their joy and excitement in everyone's face to finally have a radio. Some scenes featured the family gathering around the radio to hear the latest news, or to listen to comedy programs.
The Waltons was well known for the way each program ended. After some comments about the events that had taken place that day, they would say good night. The final dialogue featured someone saying 'good night John Boy' and a final light being turned off, signalling the end of the program.
One of the things the show depicted was self motivation and reliance. They had to be very creative at times to make ends meet. It was never easy for them, but they always managed to keep a roof over their heads and provide for everyone.
At one point, John left the family and went to the city to find work. Although they struggled financially like many others did during that time, they never lost faith or hope.
There was a memorable story about a Jewish family that had fled Europe before the war. Another one centered around John's old friend Tip coming to visit. It followed the history at the time from the 30s and 40s, where major events in history took place.
These episodes included some education along with the stories. Other episodes were more lighthearted, such as when the carnival came to town and when John and Olivia finally went on a honeymoon after being married for 18 years.
CBS did not really expect the program to be successful, yet it was high in the ratings for many years. It lost popularity in the final couple of seasons, which often happens with long running series. I did miss Richard Thomas, and no one else could really play that character. It was nice when he eventually came back. John Ritter got his first major break in his career by playing a pastor on the show.
The Waltons Was One of the 70s Best Programs
I thought the Walton children were portrayed realistically. John Boy of course was the oldest. He did his best to set a good example for his younger siblings. He did very well in that regard.
Mary Ellen was quite headstrong and gave her mother worries. Eventually she married and settled down. She became a nurse and had a child. Her husband was believed to be killed in action, but it turned out later that was false.
The supporting cast was good as well. Ike Godsey, the kindly store owner, found happiness at long last with his wife Cora Beth. The wealthy Baldwin sisters were quite eccentric.
Walton's Mountain was a close knit community, even though some of the residents seemed to have little in common.
Ellen Corby, who played Grandma, had a stroke in real life. Eventually she was able to return to the series. Her stroke was written into the show, and it showed Grandma coping with her condition and struggling to be able to speak again.
When Will Geer, who played her husband, passed away, the character was written out of the series. The program laid Grandpa Walton to rest. Zeb and Esther were married for decades and had a strong and loving marriage.
Ralph Waite, who played the father John. passed away in February of 2014 at the age of 85. He had a long career in TV and movies, but was most identified as the strong but kind patriarch of the Walton family.
Sequels were done after the series ended its regular run, with most of the cast returning to play the characters that were loved by millions of people. Many of the actors who grew up on the show have other careers and are no longer acting. Surviving cast members reunited several years ago for the 40th anniversary.
All images featured here are in the public domain.