"The Waltons" was a television series created by Earl Hamner Jr., set during the Great Depression and World War II in Walton's Mountain, a fictional mountain-area community. The show follows John Walton Jr. (known as John-Boy) and his family. He had six siblings Jason (Jon Walmsley), Mary Ellen (Judy Norton Taylor), Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonough), Benjamin (Eric Scott), James Robert "Jim Bob" (David W. Harper), and Elizabeth (Kami Cotler). The family also included parents John and Olivia Walton, and grandpa Zebulon "Zeb" (Will Geer), and grandma Esther Walton (Ellen Corby). Anne and Joseph (twin to "Jim Bob") both died at birth.
This classic American show captured the hearts of millions and is still widely considered to be one of the best television shows of all time. Hollywood based the show on Hamner's book, Spencer's Mountain, about a family in rural Virginia. Warner Brothers owned the rights to the book and movie version of Spencer's Mountain so the names were changed to avoid confusion. Read on to discover seven more facts you might not have known about the Waltons cast and behind the scenes stories from the beloved TV series.
1. The TV pilot was actually a made-for-TV movie
The Homecoming: A Christmas Story was so successful following its debut in 1971 that CBS ordered a TV show based on the characters from the show. Richard Thomas, who played John-Boy, was one of the only cast members who got to stay on the show from the movie.
2. Michael Learned suffered from alcoholism
Michael Learned, the actress who played matriarch Olivia Walton, has said she suffered from alcoholism for many years until she finally became sober at 78. She was so addicted she even auditioned for the show with a bottle of liquor in her pocket.
3. The setting was inspired by Earl Hamner's childhood in Schuyler, Virginia
The happenings in Hamner's rural upbringing in Virginia not only inspired the setting but also various storylines throughout the show. The close-knit community contributed to the character's values and storylines throughout the course of the show.
4. The Walton House was in "Gilmore Girls"
Well, kind of. A replica of the Walton House was built on the Warner Brother's lot in Burbank, California. It was used as the fictional Dragonfly Inn in the show "Gilmore Girls" which was set in the fictional east coast town of Stars Hollow.
5. Ralph Waite was apprehensive about auditioning
Waite, who played John Walton Sr., didn't want to be tied to a television show for years and years so he wasn't sure he wanted to go to the audition. His agent told him he didn't think the show would sell so he wouldn't need to worry about it. Despite the network giving the show an undesirable time slot, "The Waltons" went on to air a total of 9 seasons.
6. Boatwright University was inspired by Richmond College
The fictional alma mater of John-Boy Walton was based on Richmond College, which became the University of Richmond.
7. The show won many awards over the years
This beloved show consistently did well at the award shows. Patricia Neal won a Golden Globe for her role as Olivia in The Homecoming and Hamner won for Outstanding Writing. Michael Learned won the Emmy Award for Lead Actress in a Drama Series three times and Ellen Corby won three times for Best Supporting Actress. Will Geer won a Best Supporting Actor Emmy and the series won a Peabody Award for its first season.