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Nelson : Remembering Earl Hamner – The Waltons Cast To Visit Schuyler Weekend Of March 24th

[ 17 ] February 13, 2017 |

Flyer Reunion

Schuyler / “Walton’s Mountain”
Nelson County, Virginia
By Jennie Tal Williams

When 10-year-old Mary Beth McDonough was cast as young Erin Walton in the 1971 TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, she didn’t ever dream of being part of the national treasure that become CBS’ The Waltons. The TV show, which aired from 1971 to 1981, took Mary Beth out of her “valley girl” California life and dropped her straight into the middle of the Great Depression, right here in Schuyler.

Photo By Hayley Osborne : Mary Beth McDonough who played the character of Erin on The Waltons checks out some of the memorabilia at Earl Hamner’s childhood home in Schuyler, Virginia in May of 2011 while back in Nelson County for a book signing.

Photo By Hayley Osborne : Mary Beth McDonough who played the character of Erin on The Waltons checks out some of the memorabilia at Earl Hamner’s childhood home in Schuyler, Virginia in May of 2011 while back in Nelson County for a book signing.

Now, 45 years later, Mary Beth and her castmates are gathering at Schuyler’s Walton Mountain Museum to celebrate their fans and remember the man who made the Walton’s Community a possibility – the show’s writer and creator, Earl Hamner, Jr., who died of cancer on March 24, 2016 at the age of 92.

“I love Schuyler and I love Virginia and I can’t wait to see everybody,” said Mary Beth, “We love each other and don’t get to see each other enough. We’re very connected – we talk and email and text – but being together at the same time in the same place is always incredibly special.”

Photo By Hayley Osborne : Mary Beth McDonough sits in a rocker on the front porch of Earl Hamner's childhood home in Schuyler, Virginia in May 2011. She along with many other surviving cast members of The Waltons will be returning to Hamner's hometown in March of this year as part of the 45th reunion.

Photo By Hayley Osborne : Mary Beth McDonough sits in a rocker on the front porch of Earl Hamner’s childhood home in Schuyler, Virginia in May 2011. She along with many other surviving cast members of The Waltons will be returning to Hamner’s hometown in March of this year as part of the 45th reunion.

Mary Beth then quickly – and somberly – added that Earl’s presence will be sorely missed.

“Uncle Earl is what he called himself to us. He would call me and say ‘Mary Beth, it’s your old Uncle Earl,’” she said. “We have so many special memories of him. He really molded my life and who I am.”

Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton, mother to the Walton clan, agrees wholeheartedly with Mary Beth – even if she and Earl had their spats from time to time.

“Earl and I become very dear friends, but at the beginning, i think I was kind of a burr under the saddle because I was constantly challenging him about the role of the perfect mother. Once, I asked him if she ever did anything wrong. He said no,” remembered Michael.

But despite the occasional disagreement, Michael remembers Earl as the man who wrote the teleplay that gave her her start — and managed his fame humbly and kindly.

Photo By Woody Greenberg : Earl Hamner, Jr. and BRL Publisher Tommy Stafford (along with a pouty Peyton Stafford) stop for a shot on the front sidewalk of Hamner's boyhood home in Schuyler in April 2014. He was back in his hometown during the filming of a biography on his life. Hamner wrote for many columns for this very magazine in our early days as well.

Photo By Woody Greenberg : Earl Hamner, Jr. and BRL Publisher Tommy Stafford (along with a pouty Peyton Stafford) stop for a shot on the front sidewalk of Hamner’s boyhood home in Schuyler in April 2014. He was back in his hometown during the filming of a biography on his life. Hamner wrote many columns and poems for this very magazine in our early days as well.

“I’ll say the usual thing about Earl, which is also absolutely the truth,” she said. “He was a really nice, kind, gentle man with a wicked sense of humor, which made him bearable. Because otherwise he’d be too good to be true.”

For so many people involved with the show, Earl became more than a colleague, but a family member. Whether it was “Old Uncle Earl” to Mary Beth and the other Walton Kids or a father figure to those who worked for him, Earl was always there with a smile and a story to help you get you where you need to be.

“For me, he was kind of like a father figure — he was a mentor,” said Earl’s documentarian, creator of the documentary Earl Hamner Storyteller, and organizer of The Walton’s 45th Anniversary event, Ray Castro.

Photo courtesy of Earl Hamner Storyteller & Ray Castro : Earl Hamner, Jr. (center) is joined by the crew of Earl Hamner Storyteller during the shooting of his biography in April of 2014 in Schuyler, Virginia. Ray Castro in the back center in glasses is organizing the 45th reunion of The Waltons' cast held next month in Schuyler.

Photo courtesy of Earl Hamner Storyteller & Ray Castro : Earl Hamner, Jr. (center) is joined by the crew of Earl Hamner Storyteller along with his surviving siblings during the shooting of his biography in April of 2014 in Schuyler, Virginia. Ray Castro (in the back center with glasses) is organizing the 45th reunion of The Waltons’ cast held next month in Schuyler.

“A lot of the time I got to spend with him was listening to him,” said Ray. “Listening to his voice and the stories he told. He had some very colorful stories. You always thought of him as the John Boy character, but in reality he was just like everyone else — he had a great sense of humor and was such a joy to be with. I miss him.”

Castro went on to say, “This reunion is about Earl. To honor him. The reunion is March 24-26. Happens to be the one year anniversary of Earl’s death. It’s a celebration of life and how he impacted our lives — not only as fans, but as part of the Walton family and his extended family and that’s exactly how he made everyone feel. The camaraderie we have between fans. It expands to Europe, Canada, Germany, England. Ww have them coming from all over to honor the show and honor Earl Hamner.”

Though the reunion is, in part, to honor Earl on the anniversary of his death, the cast is also looking forward to spending time together and celebrating the 45th anniversary of the show with its fans.

“I’m looking forward to the fact that I’ll see the gang and we’ll all be together,” said Michael, echoing Mary Beth’s hopes for the weekend reunion. “We giggle and laugh and Eric [Scott] tells jokes – terrible jokes – and they’re a really great bunch. We are also blessed with he best fans.”

Photo By Tommy Stafford : Earl Hamner, Jr. chats it up with one of his youngest fans during a visit back to his hometown of Schuyler, Virginia 10 years ago in March of 2007.

Photo By Tommy Stafford : Earl Hamner, Jr. chats it up with one of his youngest fans during a visit back to his hometown of Schuyler, Virginia 10 years ago in March of 2007.

“We have such loyal fans,” said Mary Beth. “The show is so important and we’ve touched so many people. Their love is amazing and always inspiring.”

According to Ray Castro you will have several opportunities to meet the cast members of The Waltons.

-The cast will be at the museum for the concert on Friday night 3/24 (Doors open at 7pm. Concert from 8pm-10pm. SOLD OUT)
-At the museum for autographs on 3/25 from 10am-3pm
-At the museum for Earl’s memorial on 3/26 from 9am-10:30am

Also on Sunday March 26 of that weekend Michael Learned’s Front Porch Reflections will be held at The Jefferson Theatre from From 1pm-3pm. We are told this is an excellent show! Plenty of seats are still available as of this post.

For the latest updates and additional ticket information visit earlhamnerstoryteller.com

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Comments (17)

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  1. David Bailey says:

    I love everything about the Waltons. I grew up with the Waltons when I was a child. Have DVDs, CDs, pictures etc.
    Been to visit Ellen Corby on two visits to the States. Once in 1988 and the other in 1991. Used to phone her at Christmas and on her birthday for a 10 year period.
    Love hearing all the news about Earl Hamner, his family and all the wonderful cast members who played them so brilliantly. I cannot wait to meet Ray who has done an excellent job in arranging this 45th aniversary and all my favourite Walton family and co-stars.Probably the EVENT of my life.

  2. jennifer lane says:

    Do we need tickets to just come and get get their autograph

  3. Michael Thomas says:

    Will Richard Thomas be there?

  4. Candace McAteer says:

    I have loved the Waltons since i was a lil girl. It is one of the best shows ever aired on tv. Watching the Waltons has got me thru some very hard times in my life. When i felt i had no one to turn to. The stories were always a great reminder that i can get thru all that was going on. The fact they were Christian based and real life issues was so very powerful for me. You will never know how much they helped me. I got to meet Mr. Hamner at Jim Bobs bed and breakfast. We were traveling and run across Waltons Mtn and he was there. I wish so much he could have known how much he helped me. i was face to face outside the inn shook his hand and got a picture of him but when i started to tell him my heart was so full of thankfulness of what i had overcome and the tears were so hard to hold back and i knew i would break if i tried to talk to him so i quickly left. I have and will never forget the impact The Waltons made on my life. Love to each of you and God Bless you all. Candace

  5. Tammy says:

    The Walton an America family. True bluebah

  6. Heike says:

    I was born and raised in Germany and my sisters and I grew up watching the Waltons. Absolutely one of my favorite shows of all times.I still enjoy watching the re runs when there on!❤❤❤

  7. Debi says:

    My husband & I still watch the Waltons, even though their re-runs, still enjoy a good, clean family oriented show, watched them with our two children, our grandchildren & prayerfully one day with our great grandchildren……we have followed all the ones that played on the waltons, love them & the show, prayers for Earls family &;the Waltons who were his family as well…

  8. Robyn Cooley says:

    My husband and I grew up with “The Waltons” and love them. Moreover, we DVR “The Waltons” daily, and that’s our TV entertainment just about every night. We miss GREAT TV like this show–so sweet, so wholesome, and it gives an education at the same time.

  9. Renee Kelley says:

    I have visited Schuler loved it beautiful place
    I seriously wish I could meet the cast
    I am 57 and watch Waltons everyday
    Can we get tickets or is the public invited to any events

  10. Paul Sutton says:

    Love ❤ the Waltons still after all these years. My comfort food, and I am 68 years young.Happy reunion to you all.Paul in Bristol, England x

  11. Connie Fluman says:

    I still watch the Walton’s every night and dream about living on Walton’s moutain .

  12. Christopher says:

    Besides Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons is the greatest show ever put on television in my opinion.

  13. Debbie says:

    Grew up watching the waltons, have every episode on DVD even the films still watch them now with my grandsons.

  14. Kathleen Gorman says:

    The Waltons were my all time favorite TV show. I have watched so many of the episodes in recent years when shown as re-runs on TV. I cannot get any more of them and am so disappointed. A trip to Schuyler is on my bucket list and thinking this spring might just be the time to make it happen. I have to get more information on that town, motels, restaurants, and be sure that the old homestead is open, Ike’s store, etc.

  15. Susan. Leinicke says:

    Love the Waltons have all the DVDs of the show

  16. Catherine Wilson says:

    How do I buy tickets

  17. Tommy says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Just follow links in the story to their sites and you can find more info on times, events, tickets. Etc.

    Tommy

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