Boomer Grandpa: Lessons still echo from Walton’s Mountain

When my wife gets home from work, she needs to rest awhile. We have been having a cup of afternoon tea and watching "The Waltons" together.

Most boomers are familiar with this television series and the legendary fictional Walton family. One of the main characters, John Boy, was portrayed in the show as a remarkable young man.

There is quite a bit of history to "The Waltons." The series debuted in the fall of 1972. I was starting my second year in college, so a television show about the country's Depression years and a kid named John Boy did not appeal to me. I did not even have a TV my first two years at college.

Even years later, as a young adult, I never did watch the series, and found it sort of corny when each episode would end with the characters saying "Good night" to each other. The series ended its run in 1981.

Now viewing some of these episodes in 2016, I hold dear the messages it can still bring 40 years later. The story is told by John Boy, who narrates the beginning and end of each show. The show supposedly takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Each member of the family learned many lessons from their life on Walton's Mountain.


Rural relation

I feel that our generation is the last that still can relate to some of the rural life depicted in this show. The whole family, from the young Waltons to Grandpa and Grandma, have responsibilities and chores to help the household. Money is tight and they fix everything they own if it breaks down. They grow vegetables in their garden, build most everything they need and operate a lumber mill. Occasionally they shop at the small local grocery store, which is also the gas station, post office and community center. This large family gathers each day at their large table, where many discussions about life are held.

My father and mother were raised during the Depression. My dad was tough, strict and old school. He grew up penniless, in particular after his dad died and his family lost the farm. No benefit checks for the family back then. This experience was followed by a stint seeing the Pacific Ocean and landing on several islands during World War II.

As I grew up, Dad always had me doing something such as helping with a big garden, mowing, painting, helping work on the house or vehicles, moving snow or tearing down buildings that he would buy. I'm still amazed I survived my teenage years because he had me doing some crazy stuff.

I can also say I didn't particularly like all the lessons I was supposedly learning. When I got married and became a father, I decided not to make my kids do many tasks around the house that I had disliked so much. Although for the most part my children grew up town kids in Rochester, there was still work I could have made them do.

Old fashioned ways

I am wondering if parents today are following this same scenario — to make life easier for their kids. Shelter them, protect them, give them no responsibilities — just let them worry about school. Now as I look back, I wonder if that philosophy was a mistake. Should I have taught them more?

Old fashioned ways aren't always bad, and I think the more a kid learns about helping the family, loving each other, working and getting uncomfortable at times, understanding money and caring for what you have are remarkable lessons to learn.


We all had approaches and beliefs about raising our children. Some of us made kids do chores to earn an allowance. Some required kids to get jobs to pay for their own clothes, vehicle and insurance. Others didn't, but might have had discussions with their children about money and the danger of wanting instead of needing.

I don't know if there is a particular right way for parents today to raise their kids. Times change. We hope some middle ground is reached. Our grandchildren do need to learn to help and to take responsibility in their home.

Grandparent's role

The grandparent's role is limited in this, but I think we need to model those old fashioned behaviors. Gather at the table (no technology allowed), work together and support each family member no matter what. Let them see us help our neighbors and treat everyone with respect.

I do believe that when you do work for certain goals in your life, you appreciate what you have worked for. I paid my own way through college many years ago. I was very proud of that.

My dad and I struggled in our relationship, but I did learn many lessons and I think his close oversight may have kept me out of mischief. Discipline was learned. When I think of the only grandfather I had, I don't remember chores he had me do.

I remember the kindness he showed to my grandma. I remember loving every minute that I was around him. In a number of "The Waltons" episodes, Grandpa Walton gets in trouble with Grandma for saying too much about something or talking about the old days. Boy, can I identify with that.

It's also pretty wonderful to be able to say "Goodnight" to the ones you love. I guess that's not corny at all.

What To Read Next
Get Local