Episode 24 - The Achievement

(17 March 1977)
Writers: Dale Eunson, Earl Hamner, and Andy White.
Director: Harry Harris.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"It came as a co-incidence that just as I finally completed my first novel, Elizabeth for the first time became enthralled with a book. I wondered if what I had written would ever be published and read half so avidly"


Riding Old Blue to Godsey’s store with Elizabeth, John-Boy again asks Ike if a letter has arrived in response to his submittal of his finally completed novel to Hastings House in New York City. Ike knows that John-boy is very anxious to know whether his writings have been accepted or not. John-Boy is disappointed again when Ike informs him that no letter has arrived. While at the store, Elizabeth is investigating the list of “Most Wanted” criminals being sought by the F.B.I. She is engrossed in the book ‘Jessica: Girl Spy’ by Edith Catharine Hubert and believes she is the real girl detective. Back at the house, Elizabeth writes a letter to Miss Hubert whom John-Boy finds out is living in New York City with her mother. Elizabeth says to John-Boy, “Maybe someday someone will write you a letter.”


Another trip to Ike’s store finds no news about his still unpublished novel. Ike tells John-Boy that the book could possibly be lying in the dead letter office. John-Boy can not stand it any longer and calls Miss Belle Becker of Hastings House. He talks with the publisher’s receptionist, Miss Mattocks, who informs John-Boy that some writers have to wait three to four months before their book is reviewed. With the prospect of waiting several more months and still not knowing if his novel even made it to the publisher, John-Boy decides to travel to New York City and find out for himself. Feeling that his life ‘lies in the balance’, John-Boy informs John and Olivia that he purchased a bus ticket for New York City that leaves Rockfish at 8 o’clock the next morning. John drives him to the Rockfish station after Elizabeth requests he find out if Edith Catharine Hubert has published another book. At Hastings House Miss Becker shows John-Boy several piles of unsolicited manuscripts that someday she will find the time to read. John-Boy finds his novel within the stacks. Knowing that John-Boy came all the way from Virginia she invites John-Boy to sit and tell her about his book.


John Boy begins by saying. “Most of what’s in here is the truth. I mean, I fictionalized parts of it but most of it really happened. It’s about my family and me.”


Miss Becker states, “Start with you.”


John-Boy continues, “Well, I’ve always wanted to write. I can’t ever remember wanting to do anything else. As far back as I can remember I always kept a journal, with my thoughts and feelings about things in it. But because I felt that no one would understand that, I always kept it a secret. And then one Christmas Eve my mother found out.


(Olivia)                   “I don’t understand you, hidin’ things under a mattress. Is it something you are ashamed of?”

(John-Boy)            “What’s in that tablet, Moma, all of my secret thoughts, what I feel and what I think about; what it’s like late at night to hear a whippoorwill call and hear its mate call back, or just watching the water go behind the creek and knowing someday it will reach the ocean and wonderin’ if I’ll ever see an ocean and what a wonder that would be. You know, Moma, sometimes I hike on over to the highway and I just sit and watch the buses go by and the people in them, and I’m wonderin’ what they’re like, what they say to each other, and where they’re bound for. Things stay in my mind, Moma. I can’t forget anything. And it gets all bottled up in here and sometimes I feel like a crazy man. I can’t rest or sleep or anything until I just rush up here and write it down in that tablet. Sometimes I think I really am crazy.”

(Olivia)                   “I do vow.”

(John-Boy)            “If things had been different, Moma, I could have done something with my life.”

(Olivia)                   “You will John-Boy. You have a promisin’ future.”


John-Boy continues to speak to Miss Becker, “You see in families like mine, as soon as he is able to, the oldest boy is suppose to go to work as soon as he can, to help support the rest of the family. Now I fully intended to do that and I thought that my father expected that of me. But on that same Christmas Eve, I found out that my father knew all along about my writing. He had been working in Waynesboro that year and he had a hard time getting home that night. But when he finally did, there was presents for everybody.”


(John)                     “Open yours, Son.”

(John-Boy)            “Oh, yeah” (As he opens his present he sees Big Chief writing tablets.)

(John)                     “I don’t know how it got way up to the North Pole that you wanted to be a writer?”

(John-Boy)            “Well, guess he must be a right-smart man.”

(John)                     “I don’t know much about the writing trade, Son, but if that is what you want to take up, give it all you’ve got.”

(John-Boy)            “Yes sir, Daddy.”


Speaking again to Miss Becker, John-Boy says, “After that I wrote whenever I could make the time -- short stories, poems, scenes -- but I was floundering, I didn’t have any direction. And then one day I showed one of my short stories to someone for the first time.


(John-Boy)            “Aside from the grammar part though, what do you think?”

(Miss Hunter)       “I find it very moving. It’s a wonderful story!”

(John-Boy)            “You really believed it?”

(Miss Hunter)       “Every word.”

(John-Boy)            “Well what do you know about that!”

(Miss Hunter)       “And the characters of the mother and father are (m-m-m) especially fine.”

(John-Boy)            “Well, I guess you know where I got my inspiration for them.”

(Miss Hunter)       “What are you going to do with the story now?”

(John-Boy)            “I don’t know. What do you think I ought to do with it?”

(Miss Hunter)       “I think you ought to try to submit it to a magazine and try to get it published.”

(John-Boy)            “Just like a real writer.”

(Miss Hunter)       “You’re a real writer ..... young and inexperienced, but the talent is there, the gift is there, something totally your own, something to guard, to treasure and to use.”

(John-Boy)            “Thank you. I sure appreciate you reading it for me.”

(Miss Hunter)       “Thank you.”


John-Boy continues, “One of my best influences was my teacher, Rosemary Hunter, and one of my most unexpected influences was my grandmother.


(Grandma)              “My family was storytellers and long before we had luxuries like electric light and radio, and all this modernism’s, why we would sit around the fireplace at night and each one of us would take turns telling stories: ghost stories, witch stories, long ago stories of Indians and wars and things that happened in the history of our family. And I’ve kept them and now they’re mellow in my mind and ready to tell again.”

(John-Boy)            “You know, Miss Hunter told me the talent of being a writer was a gift and now I know where that gift comes from.”

(Grandma)              “Now all these stories I remember. I’ll tell them to you, John-Boy, and that’ll be my inheritance to you.”

(John-Boy)            “Grandma, I cherish you.”

(Grandma)              “And I you, boy. Good night!”

                (John-Boy)            “Good night!”


John continues telling Miss Becker, “By chance a professional writer came to the Mountain, A.J. Covington.”


(A.J.)                      “Moral stories are out of style, John-Boy, but then so am I. But my story has a moral. Don’t waste your life searchin’ for the one big story you were born to write. Write the little stories. Who knows, the sum total of them might be the big one. Write about Waltons Mountain, your feelings about your family and this place, just the way you’ve been doin’. Write about how it is to be young and confused and poor and groping; but supported by a strong father and a loving mother, surrounded by brothers and sisters that pester you and irritate you, but care about you. Try to capture that in words, John-Boy. That’s as big of a challenge as the Klondike, or the white whale, or flying the Atlantic Ocean alone. It was too big for me but I think you might just be up to it.”


Miss Becker is reading several books this weekend. John-Boy asks her that if he stayed in the city for the weekend, would she read his book and give him an answer on Monday. She agrees.


Back home, Grandpa and Elizabeth are tracing an outline of Old Blue’s hoof prints. After doing the entire family’s fingerprints, she is next tracing the prints of Chance the cow and Myrtle the goat.


Still in New York City, John-Boy calls John and Olivia at Ike’s store (and reverses the charges because he is low on money) telling them he is staying the weekend so Miss Becker can read his novel. As John-Boy walks the streets of New York City, he enters a dance establishment advertising ‘Ten Cents a Dance’. John-Boy hopes to find Daisy Garner inside, since this is the last address she gave him. After locating her, Daisy tells him she earns her living there but is a dancer who has performed in two musicals and tomorrow is auditioning for her first speaking part.


Later in the weekend John-Boy visits the address of Edith Catharine Hubert. Her mother tells John-Boy that her daughter died nearly two months ago. John-Boy explains that his sister practically lives the life of Jessica, girl spy. And Elizabeth asked him to find out, while he was in New York City, if the author had published any other books. John-Boy describes Elizabeth as “twelve years old, and she’s small for her age, she’s got beautiful, beautiful red hair, and kind of an impish face, she’s full of surprises, a wonderful girl”. Mrs. Hubert gives Elizabeth a copy of ‘Jessica, Girl Spy’ that has been personally autographed by her daughter. After reading the letter that Elizabeth sent her daughter, she also gives Elizabeth a page from the manuscript her daughter was working on before she died. Missing contact with other writers, Mrs. Hubert listens intently while John-Boy describes some of his experiences while writing his first novel. John-Boy goes into details about how a fire that destroyed their house also burn his writings, forcing him to rewrite his entire novel.


On Monday morning John-Boy is announced by Miss Maddocks to Miss Becker. As John-Boy is ushered into the publisher’s office, Miss Becker smiles at Mr. Walton’s innocent enthusiasm and anxiety.


John-Boy is met at the bus station by Jim Bob who is driving the car he has been fixing up. It finally runs. At the house John-Boy shouts that Miss Becker loved his novel, liked the title ‘Waltons Mountain’ for the novel, will publish it, and gave him an advance of one hundred fifty dollars. She also wants him to write another book. Olivia wants to read the book now but John-Boy admits he wrote her part ‘as kind of a Baptist’ and wrote the father’s character as ‘appearing to be a bit of a heathen from time to time’. Later he sets Elizabeth aside to tell her than Edith Catharine Hubert died. John-Boy gives her the personally autographed copy of her book and the page from her unfinished manuscript. Elizabeth feels she has lost someone very special.


At dinner John-Boy tells his experiences from New York City. At an opportune time, Mary Ellen announces she is pregnant. The boys yell they all are going to be uncles and the whole family showers her with hugs and kisses. After being ignored, Curt exclaims, “Excuse me! Who’s the father of this child?”


As John, Olivia, Grandpa, and John-Boy sit on the porch later in the evening John-Boy tells them how New York City ‘has stirred him up like nothing else he’s seen’ and that his reaction to the city was ‘like a love affair right from the start’. With his feelings of promise and adventure from his trip to New York City Grandpa asks John and Olivia what they think of their son ‘flying the coop’. John reluctantly knows he couldn’t get his son to stay - he understands. Olivia states she better start to darn his socks -- but really just wants to be alone for the moment. Grandpa says, “Don’t forget your way home.” John-Boy responds, “I never will.” John and John-Boy say nothing, just grasp each other. John-Boy then runs to the front yard, emotional at the prospect of going to live in New York City and leaving the only life he ever knew.


"I did leave Waltons Mountain to live and work in New York City. I wrote more novels and raised a family of my own. Today, we live in California, but no matter where I am, the call of a night bird, the rumble of a train crossing a trestle, the scent of crab apple, the lowing of a sleepy cow can call me home again. In memory I stand before that small white house, and I can still hear those sweet voices".


Ben: Goodnight Mama.
Olivia: Goodnight Ben. Goodnight Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: 'Night Mama, 'night Erin.
Erin: 'Night Jim Bob, 'night Grandpa.
Grandpa: 'Night Erin, goodnight Jason.
Jason: Goodnight Grandpa, goodnight Daddy.
John: Goodnight Jason, goodnight Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Goodnight Daddy. Goodnight John-Boy.
John-Boy is standing outside listening to the voices. He answers quietly:Goodnight everybody, - I love you.



The license plates on Jim Bob’s car is 33-4829.

Other than several appearances later in the television series and roles in movies continuing the Waltons saga, this is the last episode for Richard Thomas in the regular occurring role of John-Boy Walton.


Also appearing:

Belle Becker (Bettye Ackerman); Miss Maddocks (Maggie Malovly); Daisy Garner (Diedre Lenihan); Rosemary Hunter (Mariclare Costello); Mrs. Hubert (Joan Tompkins); A.J. Covington (David Huddleston); Curt Willard (Tom Bower); Ticket Seller (Lynda Sainte-James); Mail Boy (John Dayton); Ike Godsey (Joe Conley).