December 5, 2019
In 1971 I was in my first year of college and found myself meeting and greeting all kinds of new people and ideas. It was my first glimpse into a big world, full of new experiences, people and situations of which I had been totally unaware of up until this time. I was excited about opportunities and cutting-edge ideas that were in the future and honestly, I wasn’t too interested in the past, its old-fashioned thoughts, methods and ideas. I looked at the ‘70’s as a time of great change, advancement and enlightenment. After all, we had vinyl landau tops and hide away headlights on our cars. Our modern kitchens were being filled with trendy harvest gold appliances, and central air conditioning was making its way to even our modest home in the country. There just wasn’t any room in my life for old fashioned ideas, thoughts or looking back.
It was during this time my mother was interested in watching a new television show called, “The Waltons”. I don’t recall exactly my first time viewing this show or how I got interested in some of the episodes. It did certainly have several plots and story lines with which I identified. As I watched, I found myself being drawn toward it in spite of my determination not to be attracted to the story. I vividly remember hearing my Dad and grandparents speak of the Depression era and the struggles that accompanied that difficult time, so I really didn’t think I wished to revisit it in a television show. However, as I watched those early episodes, and actually many others that followed, I found myself being drawn to the emotional connection and experiences I had with my own family.
The Walton family came from a very strong, humble family background. Parents loved and supported their children and in return, children loved and supported their parents. Grandparents played an active role in the life of the family. Problems were encountered, kids made bad decisions and economic stress was always present. Of course, the family was self-sustaining by living off the labor and sacrifices of the parents on their own piece of Walton’s Mountain land. The family had a strong faith and practiced it by attending church regularly with other friends, relatives and neighbors. Of course, a little excitement and local color was always added by happenings at Ike Godsey’s General Store and the neighboring Baldwin sisters were always near adding a bit of spice and mystery to mountain life with “The Recipe.”
As I watched several episodes over the years (and honestly several reruns since), I found myself being reminded of some of the best times and richest blessings in my young lifetime. Since my family were farmers, we too found ourselves living off our own land. My parents were dedicated and hard workers who along with myself and my sister, built a family farm that provided food and income to live and sustain our needs. I’m not sure if we were considered poor. If we were, I did not know it at the time as my parents never discussed or showed any worry about money in front of me. I am not saying they never worried about bills or money, but they certainly protected me from that worry. We did not have luxuries, but we certainly had all that we needed at the time. All of us worked on the farm and were always on call as the occasion, season, crop, garden or animal demanded. There were times I really wanted to do something else. Some of my relatives who lived in town seemed to have a much more exciting life that I often envied. I later learned my town family often envied me for the life I enjoyed in the country.
Like Grandma and Grandpa Walton, my own grandparents were a strong influence in my life. While they did not live as long as I had hoped, I recall their hard work, advice, encouragement and working with my parents on the farm on various tasks of gardening, preservation, butchering day and many other projects. The family unit was strong and always ready to support, care and nurture other family members. That is not to say we all were in agreement on everything, but nothing was more important than the love and support of each other. No disagreement or difference of opinion ever interfered with our relationships.
We also often visited the local general store in our nearby communities which provided us a little taste of Ike Godsey’s store. My children and grandchildren will never know the fun of reaching into a pop cooler full of cold water to retrieve a bottle of pop. While we had most of own meat and milk from the farm, we often got some great frankfurters, pretzels, bubble gum and other specialty items we couldn’t raise on the farm. These general stores also provided a wealth of education for a young boy. I often learned some interesting facts of life from old men, neighborhood gossip and news of the community. Ike Godsey’s General Store had nothing on me!
When my Dad was a young man, he became acquainted with a couple of older ladies that were sisters and lived together just outside of town. We did not visit with them, but my Dad sometimes spoke of them. He would occasionally stop to assist one of them, mow some weeds around their house in summer and plow snow out of their driveway in winter. He never took me with him when he stopped to help them. I am not sure why, but because I had an active imagination, I began to conjure up all sorts of reasons. They were to me a little secretive and mysterious. Sometimes when passing their home, I would catch a glimpse of one of the sisters at the window. They always seemed to be at home and rarely left because their cars were always in the drive. Once I watched the Walton’s I immediately knew these ladies had to be the local Baldwin sisters. I just knew that most likely they had been cooking up that special recipe all these years. That had to be the reason Dad had never taken me to their house.
A great deal of time has passed since watching The Walton’s with my Mom. While I didn’t want to admit it at the time, my own life had many similarities to the show. As I have aged, I have certainly changed my perspective a bit. Yes, I still have a pretty vivid imagination, but I’ve certainly come to value and appreciate the values portrayed on the television show. Strong family, faith, support, love- these are the traits I have learned that last. Harvest gold appliances and vinyl landau tops may come and go, but values portrayed by the Walton family endure the test of time. Looking back, I guess I was growing up on my own version of Walton’s Mountain- I just didn’t realize it at the time. I still value my progressive ideas, but if I were a kid again today, I think I would again choose to grow up on Walton’s Mountain, but today I do hope they have good wi-fi.