Earl Hamner, Jr passed away just a few weeks ago. Now, some of you may know who he was, others probably know the characters he created. Most notably was John Boy Walton, which was also modeled after himself. The other family members and neighbors were made up of family and friends from his past.
Earl grew up in the mountains of Virginia during the depression. Like many families of that time, they had to survive off the land, make ends meet and keep faith alive. The rest would take care of itself.
He left the mountains to do what he did best; tell stories. The stories of the Walton’s resonated with people. They could relate, perhaps because they were part of a large family, or they knew hard times. But, some I suspect enjoyed the romance of a loving family that survived life intact. Not everyone did.
I remember many of the episodes. You knew right away that it was coming on when you heard the first few seconds of the theme song. You could see the house as the episode opened up and you always knew how it was going to end. Those two things always remained the same, while everything else in the middle would make you laugh till you cried or cry till you laughed.
Our grandparent’s, on dad’s side, lived in Scottsville, VA, during part of the time The Walton’s was on the air. Scottsville was just outside of Charlottesville, so we kinda felt like we had a connection to the Walton Family. Especially when we visited our grandparents. Granddaddy was a Methodist minister, so they moved often. But, I remember this house very well. It would have been closer to the Baldwin Sister’s house than the farmhouse the Walton’s lived in. It wasn’t as grand and I doubt there was any recipe tucked in a secret room, but it was a brick house. It had a central foyer and stairway. To the right was the dining room. Behind that was the bright kitchen, with windows under the sink and a half bath under the stairs. To the left was the living room, which took up the left side of the house and off of that was a huge screened in porch. All the bedrooms were upstairs, but I don’t really remember those. I guess we spent most of our time there, like we did most of our time together; playing, talking and eating. I remember a few occasions when we were there along with our Uncle Jim & Aunt Joan and their two kids. My Uncle David was just five years older than my oldest brother, so he was still at home then too. When we were all there, it was a huge family with three generations.
I remember Sunday dinner at their house always meant Grandmaw’s roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, slices of white bread and deviled eggs was going to be on the table. She would be up before any of us on Sunday morning, and before church, she had everything prepped and the roast in the oven. It seemed like we would only be back for 10 minutes and it would all be set. We all ate together too, no matter how big a group we had. They would add a kids table to the end of the big table, but we were there together. Grandaddy would get out the ice cream bucket on summer days too and we could take turns helping to crank it. It felt like that took hours before we would have anything to celebrate, and the celebration was that we finally had ice cream!
Every morning at their house meant waking up to the smell of bacon, toast and scrambled eggs. Grandmaw would be in the kitchen in her robe, with her hair wrapped. Granddaddy always sat at the head of the table and he ruled the meal. He would get mad at us if we used our knife to butter our toast and then stick it in the jelly too. Grandmaw was running around getting everything to the table. Mom would help her, but she would always have it ready to go. We all sat down together for meals at their house and we ate from sun up till right before bed, then we would have a snack. A sandwich and Ginger Ale. It was pure heaven. And, it was something we only did when we were there. I’m sure we had our own version of “Good Night John Boy”. It probably ended with mom telling us we better stop and to go to sleep!
Earl Hamner, Jr. was a great story teller. I was affected by what he wrote and the characters that he created. I honestly didn’t know that he was still living at the age of 92 in California, but I kind of miss him. It may be the nostalgia for it all, it may be because I had just started to write this blog when I found out. Whatever the reason, I will miss him just a little bit. It’s kind of sad to know that no one will write another good night.
Since today is #NationalSiblingsDay, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write about the three other people in my life, that know as much about my growing up as I do. I am the youngest of four boys. I don’t know how my parents survived as long as they did. Both of them are gone now, but they did see us into adulthood, or at least past the age of 32. Being adults is something I think we are all still struggling with.
My parents had the four of us in the span of just five and a half years. We are probably closer now than we were when we were kids, but that’s just a part of being family. You don’t always appreciate what each other brings. After all they’re just family, what do they know! I think all of us being in a relatively small house, made us want to expand our own worlds a little bit. Now we can appreciate, even if we don’t necessarily understand, what we each bring to our relationships.
Our parents always made sure that whatever they did for one of us, they were able to do for all of us. One year for Christmas, we all got new bikes. Lots of Christmases we would get up to find each of us had our own pile of presents, with our names next to them, where Santa had written a note to each of us. And, both our parents came by it honest; the idea that we be treated equally. Grandmaw Edge once made us all robes for Christmas, and in the pocket of each one was a small Whitman’s Sampler. Grandmaw Barton didn’t often give us presents, it just wasn’t done. But, every now and then, we would each get a Kennedy Silver Half Dollar.
My brothers and I, at times, seemed to test the boundaries of life and limb. The registrar at the ER knew who we were when we came in and would simply ask “Which one is it this time?” There were sprains and broken bones, minor stabbings with an inanimate object or two, and trips over the handlebars of our bikes. Yes, two of my brothers did that.
There was one afternoon that I was playing in the front yard, when suddenly I felt something sting my knee. I looked down. I didn’t see anything, but man did it hurt. I started rubbing it and then I heard someone laughing. I looked up, only to find my oldest brother, hanging out of a bedroom window, laughing his fool head off. I also noticed the BB gun in his hands. A laugh and a point was all it took. I let out the most blood curdling scream I could manage. Mom didn’t know what had just happened either, until she looked up. My brother suddenly stopped laughing and hiding was not an option. She was in the house and at the doorway before he had time to pull himself back in the window. As I said, our parents believed in treating us equally. So, since I felt pain from the BB gun, so shall my brother. She turned that thing around and with one whack, the butt end met the butt end. It was snapped in two after that, but I think he managed to salvage it for a little while. He never shot me or anyone else again, that I know of.
We didn’t always try to hurt each other. Sometimes that was just part of the fun. We were there for each other when it counted. That is also part of being family. My brothers all have kids now and even as cousins, they treat each other like siblings. Hopefully not as intensely as we did, but as importantly as we do. So, Happy National Siblings Day to my brothers, and now to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.
Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, in Shenandoah County, we didn’t think much about the fact that we were living in Appalachia. We knew we had the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side the Appalachian Mountains on the other. But, like I said, we were in the valley. We considered ourselves, and everyone we knew, to be mountain folk or country folk. As kids, we just didn’t think too hard about it. I guess it really was a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
Here it is. My first blog. My very own domain! The Appalachian Tale will be filled with stories of my life, my imagination, recipes, helpful tips, useful and useless information and I guess anything I feel like writing.
This evening I took my very first writing class as well. I’ve written little things, here and there, over the years. I’ve written for work, for pleasure and for things I’ve felt very strongly about. Now I need to work on writing more. This blog and the class will move me in the right direction.
Let me know what you think of the title, and as time goes on, what you think of the blog itself. I can write just for me, but that’s not really what its about.