The Waltons“The Waltons” cast and crew as it appeared in the 1970s.
When creator Earl Hamner, Jr. first introduced American viewing audiences to the Waltons, 40 years ago this TV season, the climate for a sentimental series about rural Virginia could hardly have been more unlikely. Yet Hamner, with his gentle tale of faith and family, would make an indelible mark on television, transforming the Hollywood Hills into the stunning Blue Ridge, and turning a handful of Burbank soundstages into a Depression-era farmhouse where, despite the myriad on-screen hardships, generations of TV viewers still longingly wish they could have grown up.
“It’s a kind of wish fulfillment,” says Hamner. “It’s the way they wish their childhood had been – the sort of family they wish they’d had.”
Despite basing “The Waltons” on his real-life adolescence in rural Schuyler, Va., Hamner is quick to admit he always sought to portray his family in the most positive light.
“His father liked to party a little bit more than Earl allowed me to party on the show,” says Ralph Waite, who portrayed a fictionalized version of Hamner’s father throughout nine seasons on CBS.