Search This Blog

A Bit More

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

WOW! A WALTON'S MOUNTAIN MUSEUM IN VIRGINIA'S BLUE RIDGE

Yes, Virginia, there is a Walton’s Mountain Museum, and if you were a fan of that television show, it is definitely worth the visit to Schuyler, Virginia not far from Lynchburg or Charlottesville, Virginia.

More than two years ago while driving down to North Carolina, Rob and I passed a sign advertising the Walton’s Mountain Museum, and I’ve been anxious to go ever since.  We were passing through the Rockfish Valley at the time, part of the Walton Mountain’s locale.  It was kind of exciting that we finally did visit the museum.

I’ll be honest and say that I thought this would be a quick visit simply to satisfy my curiosity.  I loved that TV show.  But we spent two good hours in the museum throughout which time people constantly came and went.  It’s a busy place.  It is a good museum.  I’ll also add that Richard Thomas, the actor who played John Boy, the oldest son, was coming the following weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the museum.  Events were scheduled, and I bet it was going to be nice.

So many discussions took  place in the Walton living room where people entered directly through the doorway
Walton’s Mountain ran from 1971-1981. We viewers watched this Blue Ridge Mountain country family make it through the depression and through part of WWII.  The children grew up, got their educations, married, and followed their dreams. We viewers were all part of it.  New characters were added, and some departed.

Decisions were often made around the family's kitchen table
Grandpa Zeb passed away when the actor Will Greer died, and Ellen Corby who played Grandma had a stroke and was out of the show for a while recuperating, unable to walk and barely able to speak. 

I learned at the museum that Ellen Corby really wanted to return to the show.  She was the long-time actress you might remember in It’s a Wonderful Life as the woman in the Savings and Loan whom George Bailey kissed when she asked for only a small amount of money. 

On The Walton’s, one of the most meaningful episodes for the writers as well as for the cast was when Grandma returns home from the hospital after her stroke, barely able to speak.  The family hustles about to do everything for her, continually asking her what she needs.  Finally Grandma says two words, “Need me.”  That says it all, doesn’t it?  Thematically it fits right into the series’ aim.

A visit to the museum begins with a video about the series.  It includes interviews with the cast members and their feelings about the show as well as their special memories.  We also get to see them as they were when the video was made, and it’s always nice to get the “Where are they now?” viewpoint.  Then there’s time for visitors to tour the museum.

That’s when I learned that Kami Cotler, who played the youngest Walton, Elizabeth, was so impressed by the locale (although filming was done in California) that she became a teacher and went to the Blue Ridge to teach for a number of years.  She then went back to California and opened a Charter School.

Schuyler, Virginia is actually a pretty little town where the show’s creator, Earl Hamner, Jr. grew up. His voice is the show’s narrator, ostensibly an adult John Boy.  The Walton family is based on Hamner’s own.  In the museum’s photographic displays, we see that the actors actually resemble their real-life counterparts.  Some of the locations for the show are still there in Schuyler, a tiny town of about 2,000 tucked away in a beautiful section of Virgina.

The picturesque Rockfish River  runs alongside Schuyler, Virginia
The road to Schuyler is only a bit more than six miles off Rt. 29, but it is slow going.  It follows the twists and turns of the Rockfish River, and though it is barely wide enough for two cars, the speed limit is 55mph.  As Rob rarely broke 35 because of the twists, turns, and narrowness, we joked that if a person really drove the speed limit, it would be a one time drive.  It was a pretty road, though, as it came into the town of Schuyler with its general store, homes, and churches.  “Country—After All These Years.”  (Chet Atkins)

The museum is housed in Schuyler’s former elementary school.  The former classrooms are decorated to replicate the series’ sets, so a visitor enters the Walton’s house and sees that famous kitchen and living room, visits John Boy’s room, Ike and Cora Godsey’s store and post office, and even has an opportunity to visit the Baldwin sisters’ living room and see a still where bottles of “the recipe” fill the shelves.  The still used in the museum is actually one “confiscated” but not working.  However, diagrams teach how one could put it back in action. It just makes me smile even to think back on it now.  It’s all there; no imagination needed.  An absolutely pleasant visit. 

Here are the delightful Baldwin sisters, those lovely Southern ladies who just loved to make "Papa's recipe."
There is a gift shop, of course, and I couldn’t resist sending a few post cards and taking a picture with Ike and Cora at the Post Office.  And I could not resist buying a t shirt.  It was a good day. 

I couldn't resist taking a picture with Ike and irrepressible Cora Godsy right in their store that doubled as the post office.

Schuyler was proud of its native son, and it honored Earl Hamner, Jr.

And with this final photo of my tshirt, I will give a Walton's line that every fan memorized:  
GOOD NIGHT, JOHN BOY















Post a Comment