The Waltons was a reflection of Earl Hamner Jr.'s family in real life

Earl Hamner Jr. knew The Waltons like they were family.

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If you're a fan of The Waltons, then you know Earl Hamner Jr.'s whole family by now. Throughout nine seasons, fans became like family to The Waltons. They even considered Ellen Corby the quintessential American grandma and John-Boy as the brother we all wanted.

Each week an increasingly large amount of TV viewers would tune in to CBS to watch The Waltons. For creator, writer, story narrator and editor, Earl Hamner Jr., The Waltons represented an entire time period and way of thinking.

According to a 1973 interview with Detroit Free Press, Hamner said each of The Waltons' family members was based on the real Hamner household in Virginia.

"We stress values that are unique in a medium where violence has reigned supreme," Hamner said. "The Waltons have the kind of pioneer virtues this country has stood for in past years."

Those values included: Frugality, the meaning of family and continuity of tradition. Hamner said those values weren't just made up for the show. They were part of his everyday life growing up during the Great Depression era.

They are also values that he had passed down to his own kids and kids across the country as they tuned in each week. 

"Every one of my brothers and sisters are secure people," Hamner said. "My parents loved each other and passed that on."

The Waltons had seven children, and Hamner's real-life family had eight; Earl was the oldest.

The character John-Boy, played by Richard Thomas, was created by Hamner to portray himself onscreen. No, he was never called John-Boy or Earl-Boy in real life. Although, his uncle did call him Clay-Boy.

Much like John-Boy, Hamner aspired to be a writer. In his early days, Hamner mostly wrote scripts about "people in the cities who were romantic and dashing." As time moved, so did Hamner's focus. "Then I found my own family just as exciting."

Hamner broke into writing by selling scripts for the Dr. Christian radio show in the '50s and by writing for the Ma Perkins radio soap opera. Hamner was also an author. His first book, Fifty Roads to Town, was published in 1953.

Despite his success in various projects, Hamner said he found writing The Waltons to be the most rewarding project he had ever worked on.

"They're all autobiographical in that we're anchored to a real family," Hamner said. 

During the first season, several episodes were based on real people and events, including the episodes about carnival workers and the episode called "The Calf." (Season one, episode three).

Earl's mother, Doris Marion Hamner, said she never minded or cared about how their family was portrayed on TV. She didn't mind the fans either; however, she did have one request: Stop taking pictures of the Hamner house.

According to the interview, Mrs. Hamner was shocked when she saw how much The Waltons' house looked like theirs.

"Some critics said the house looked too good," Hamner said. "But my father always fixed things. If the walls got dirty, he painted. My mother washed every day. They were vigorous, hard-working people."

Hamner said he owed the show's success to the feeling many American families had while watching his series. Many of them longed for a kind of close-knit family with secure futures.

"My children have had a chance to know the life I had as a boy," Hamner said. "I think they have the best of it: A beach house in California, a grandmother in Iowa and a grandmother in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have made an effort to give them the sense of continuity, family and tradition."

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13 Comments

McGillahooala 10 months ago
Lame, lame, lame show. Why is this on MeTV?
Barbusca McGillahooala 6 months ago
Can't please everyone. So if you don't like family, country or history, what do you like?
InformedTopic 10 months ago
Oh and I forgot to mention: I have the original paper back book.
InformedTopic 10 months ago
Lot's of people don't know to visit the homestead in Virginia. Even people around where Earl grew-up don't know what history is in their own backyards. We were down by Winter Green Village (South of Charlottesville VA) asked directions from a store and the person said Who? When I mentioned who (Earl Hammer: Waltons) the person was: I did not know this, image not knowing an attraction like this.
Mblack 10 months ago
So is Spenser's Mountain a more direct depiction? It's got Clay-Boy.

Some early episodes were less wholesome than we remember. John aims a rifle at the CCC runaway trying to steal money. J ohn throws John B oy around for some reason. When Ben gives a girl a ride in John Boy's car, he gets rough treatment from his father. And there's the two part episode where they join the mountain relatives in an armed standoff against the government. The one time that Grampa gets made at John Boy for not wanting to be involved.
Runeshaper 10 months ago
I never knew that The Waltons were based on a real family! So cool 😎
birddog 10 months ago
Bottom line... Great Show!!! 👈
Andybandit 10 months ago
I am not a fan of the Waltons, sorry about that.
McGillahooala Andybandit 10 months ago
That is fine. It is a lame show taking up an hour of the MeTV schedule. It doesn’t belong here. I’m surprised they don’t have an hour of watching paint dry.
Barbusca McGillahooala 6 months ago
Huh? this was the number one show on TV for years, runni g 9 years toral. great writing, acting, and directing. You from this country?
keishie McGillahooala 19 days ago
Well you're just un-American
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Always interesting to hear Earl Hamner Jr's perspective on the series. The cast that were children on the series seem to remain in touch on social media and appear at various events (not always Waltons specific). It was nice that The CW Network had interest in reviving the series and made an effort with the specials they ran in 2021 and 2022.
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