As a kid (and yes, as an adult too) I loved the TV series ‘The Waltons’. My favourite characters were the absolutely marvellous Mary-Ellen and John Boy, Mary-Ellen because she never let being female stop her achieving anything and John-Boy because he wrote stories about his extraordinarily large, but otherwise very ordinary, family.
Having recently seen a now unsurprisingly older Richard Thomas on other programmes, including NCIS New Orleans, I thought to look up the ‘real’ John Boy, ‘The Waltons’ writer (and voice-over narrator) Earl Hamner Jr.
One of eight children (one more than John Boy) Hamner was genuinely brought up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia – in a town named after its first postmaster. ‘The Waltons’ was based very much on his personal experiences, just as everyone who watched it hoped it must have been (those people are real, right?) Yes, even the Baldwin sisters were based on people Earl Hamner actually knew.
I admit that I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Hamner had a string of high-profile work to his name, not just ‘The Waltons’. He was a best-selling novelist who wrote numerous books (including ‘Spencer’s Mountain’), he was the author of a number of episodes of the 1960s TV show The Twilight Zone and he adapted the popular children’s story Charlotte’s Web into a successful 2006 film. He also created the long-running TV drama Falcon Crest and wrote for other TV shows including Gentle Ben, Wagon Train and The Wild Thornberrys. He continued writing into his 90s and died in 2016.
All this new information just makes me love Hamner’s stories and his characters even more. Perhaps I’ll have to dig out that box set …
If you’d like to find out more about Earl Hamner, visit the official website for Earl Hamner
Photo: Earl Hamner with Richard Thomas on The Waltons set ©Copyright 1976 CBS Television