"On Waltons Mountain the changing of the seasons marked the rapid day-to-day growth of the younger members of our family. With all the process of change there were lasting values in our lives, as enduring as the mountain itself. But there came a time when our values were tested by events which came upon us without warning".
John-Boy puts a lightning rod up on the roof as John, Jason, and Ben help out. Grandpa explains the purpose of the lightning rod. Grandma asks John-Boy to take her to a Rockfish store (but not Ike’s because last time he sold her a six-cents spool of thread that kept breaking). They are driving on Jefferson Street, just around the corner from the Whitley House. The Baldwin sisters are standing outside the house. They remark that Woodrow Wilson is said to have stopped there, and the Judge is said to have entertained his “lady friends” (according to Miss Emily) but his “cousins” (according to Miss Mamie) when it was a tavern. Grandma says many memories are contained within the house, one special one underneath the front window. Unfortunately, the house has been condemned. They confront Joe Wheeler, the county supervisor, but he says the owner lived in Atlanta and let it go for back taxes. It will have to be torn down because it has deteriorated. John-Boy suggests the women gather signatures on a petition to save the house. Later, Jason runs into the Walton house to announce to Grandma that he is going into the class Advanced Theory and Counterpoint, the only freshman to do so. He wants to listen to classical music on the radio during supper. Grandma says that he shouldn’t turn his back on country music because it is a part of his heritage, and it has been entertaining people for years.
Jason tunes in the radio’s classical music while Grandma wonders where Grandpa has gone. The younger children leave the table, not liking the music. Zeb comes bounding in to announce that he got a job. There’s no money involved but they’ll get a lot of good woods. He announces that he got the demolition rights on the same house that Grandma is going to save. Esther and Zeb argue their own sides to the case. John-Boy tries to look at both sides of the issue. Grandma remembers the dances and social events held at the house by the Whitley’s. But, Zeb doesn’t remember any details to the dances at the house. Grandma remembers walking by the house on her way to school, especially liking the high window with the stained glass. The ladies of the Rockfish Historical Society are on the march, according to Esther, and John thinks they should decline the demolition job. But, Zeb refuses to budge.
In Jason’s class, Professor Thaxton asks who listened to Hayden on the radio last night. He asks for two volunteers, and gets Hollis (the violin part) and Jason (for the piano part) at the next recital. They listen to the last part of the movement. At the newspaper, John-Boy says hello to Rosie, and Mr. Johnson asks him to write an editorial. He is thinking of selling the business, and moving to Florida. But, John-Boy thinks he is only joking. The editorial is about the Whitley house, the passing of a historical landmark. John-Boy tells him about the division between his grandparents, and Mr. Johnson thinks the best editorials come when there are deep feelings on both sides.
Jason practices for the recital, but Elizabeth interrupts with a harmonica. Grandma tries to get him to play one of her favorites, but he doesn’t want to stop practicing. Grandma remembers the parties at the Whitley house as Olivia listens to her on the porch: the men wearing bay rum, the Japanese lanterns, and Zeb kissing her for the first time (and then playing his banjo). Esther remembers, but she thinks Zeb has forgotten.
John-Boy jots notes for his editorial as he listens to Miss Mamie talk about the Whitley house. Esther and Miss Emily pass the petition around to the audience. Grandpa walks up to John-Boy and sees the enemy across the street. He can’t believe the Esther is on the side of the Baldwin sisters. They try to get Zeb to sign the petition, but he has to tell them that he is determined to demolish the house. They are flabbergasted at what he wants to do to the house.
Grandpa wants to know why John-Boy is hanging around the house. John-Boy responds that he is jotting down some phrases for the article. Grandma reminisces to John-Boy about the magical times she had in the old Whitley house. That night Grandma comes out to the living room to find Grandpa wondering what to do with all of the wood from the Whitley house. They discuss both sides of the issue. Grandma says she is sick about selling their souls and blaming it on the Depression. John, Olivia, and John-Boy come down, wondering what is going on. Grandpa says he has no sentimental connection to the Whitley place. Grandma says he is “heartless”.
Jason finds Grandma playing the piano, trying to lift up her spirits. Jason takes over playing “Take Me Back to Old Virginia”. Hollis and Jason practice their recital in front of Professor Thaxton. Jason has changed a few chords, but Hollis and Thaxton agree that changing the music is for Saturday night barn dances, not for classical music. According to the professor, their music sounds like a “war”.
John-Boy and Jim Bob visit the old Whitley place, and explore the abandoned rooms. They investigate all the old things lying around and the height of children marked on the wall. Jim Bob thinks creatures haunt the place as he opens closed doors in the house. John-Boy suddenly announces he knows what he’ll write in his editorial. They leave hurriedly because the place gives Jim Bob “the creeps”. Jason tells Grandpa that supper is ready, but is chopping wood and will come inside later. The family sits down to supper. Grandma comes out to talk with Zeb. She says he is “chopping out his anger”. Esther says that he has forgotten all the things they used to value. As the family watch on, Zeb angrily responds that he wonders why she and the other ladies didn’t save the house earlier when it could have been saved. The children say they hate the old Whitley house.
John-Boy comes down to find his editorial in the newspaper. He reads,
“It is amazing how quickly a town can grow right under the feet of its residents. The symbols of the past are swept away by a sometimes reckless and irresponsible future. But we must be ever mindful that what is important to our lives is never swept away uncritically in the name of progress. Our roots, for good or ill, are firmly planted in the past. Without them, like a poplar tree torn up by a winter storm we would fall and lay without proper orientation to the Sun we will molder and decay.”
“A controversy that has split the town in two must soon be resolved as we decide the fate of the old Whitley house on the corner of Jefferson and Elm. After a thorough investigation of the facts in hand there is not enough money in the community at this time to restore the building and in its present condition it presents a hazard to our children. Given this situation, there seems no alternative to the removal of the old home. However, those who have awakened us by protesting long and hard over the destruction of this historic old house should take nurture in the fact that the wood that has graced its rooms for so long might someday be a mantle in their own home, or perhaps in the house down the street, or it may become part of a kneeling rail in the Episcopal Church, or the tables of the library. In that way the Whitley house could always continue as a part of us in a way that the shabby old building on Jefferson and Elm never could.”
Grandpa gets up grumbling that he has work to do. Grandma also gets up and goes to her room. John-Boy doesn’t think it was a “big hit”. Olivia likes it. At the county supervisor’s office the Baldwin sisters say that their petition with twenty-one names should be enough to save the house. As vice-president of the Historical society (Miss Mamie) and president (Miss Emily), they say that they will vote him out of office if he won’t save the building. The man’s secretary comes out to say he can’t help, that the demolition has already begun. They are crestfallen, not knowing how they will tell Esther. Olivia wants Grandma to go with them to Jason’s recital. She decides to go, although not really in the mood to go out. At the concert, Jason and Hollis find out the neither of them brought the music. Hollis thinks Felicia took the music. Hollis must have music in order to play. Jason decides that he’ll play his guitar and Hollis his violin with the music that Jason brought. Jason announces to the audience that they will be performing some classical music from the hills of Virginia. They play “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” and “Get Along Home Cindy”.
John-Boy wonders what Grandpa is doing inside his bedroom. Zeb wants John-Boy to tell Grandma when she gets home to “pop” into the bedroom. The concertgoers come home. Grandma wants Jason to play the songs to them. Grandma goes into the bedroom. With Jason playing Grandma’s favorite song, Grandpa shows her the Whitley house window that Grandpa installed in their room. Zeb says she always said she wanted to see Walton’s Mountain through the Whitley house. Zeb remembers the time that they first kissed. They laugh, and dance to Jason’s music with the window and the Mountain in the background.
"The window was just the beginning. My father and grandfather parceled out the doors and mantels and paneling of the old Whitby house to our friends and neighbors. Somehow that bit of history in each of their homes brought us all a little closer together".
Bob: Grandpa? Is the lightning rod working?
Grandpa: You go to sleep Jim Bob. I'll wake you up the first sign that the lightning rod is doing it's duty.
Jim Bob: Goodnight Grandpa.
Grandpa: Esther? Don't I rate a goodnight kiss? Oom, well!
Grandma: What;s wrong?
Grandpa: You kissed me, I'd a sworn the lightning rod run a bull-smack down here in the room with us.
Grandma: Oh you big talker!
Grandpa chuckles: Goodnight everybody!
Miss Mamie’s full name is Mamie Eudora Winfield Baldwin.
Joe Wheeler is county supervisor (Jefferson County).
The lyrics to “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” are located at: http://users.erols.com/va-udc/lyrics.html.
The lyrics to “Get Along Home Cindy” are located at: http://tinchicken.com/songs/country/getalonghomecindy.htm.
Miss Emily & Miss Mamie Baldwin (Mary Jackson & Helen Kleeb); Hollis (Rusty Keller); Felicia (Sherry Hursey); Mr. Johnson (Walter Brooke); Professor Thaxton (Jay Robinson); Mr. Joe Wheeler (Bill Sorrells); The Secretary (Jane Lambert).