Episode 16 - John's Crossroad

(20 January 1977)
Writers: Andy White and Paul West.
Director: Richard Thomas.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"When I was young the thought of distant and mysterious cities would send me daydreaming for hours. But cities did not beckon to my father. He was content in the woods and fields of Waltons Mountain, until 1937. That was the year my grandmother became ill, and my father ventured away from the mountain into new and perplexing experiences".


With Grandma in the Charlottesville hospital and very little work coming into the mill, Grandpa is searching for one of the children to accompany him on one of his adventures; this time to inspect the new orchard. But Jim Bob is fixing his old car and Ben must finish newspaper advertisements for John-Boy so cannot go with a disappointed Grandpa. Following in Mary Ellen’s tomboy footsteps, Grandpa discovers Elizabeth is interested in seeing the young trees and uninterested in Lucas Farnham as a boyfriend.


With little cash coming in, John observes a government job opening that is posted in Ike’s store. The office position in Charlottesville requires work experience in construction, five years of county residency, and a high school diploma. While standing in line with other applicants, John finds that one man has two degrees in engineering and ten years of highway experience and another man has one degree and three years of building construction. John arrives home with a new hat and a new job after beating out the two college men. With the family seeing him off in the morning John drives off to his new job in a suit, tie, and hat that make him look “like a Philadelphia lawyer”.


The new boss, Mr. Morgan, informs John that the office compiles information on the age and condition of bridges and buildings. Morgan introduces John to Miss Agnes, Clem Beal, Mavis Crawford, and Kyle Jeffers. When Morgan ignores Mel Parson, John makes his own introductions to him. John later learns that Mel has nearly twenty years with the company and is just waiting for his pension. Morgan is very strict because he wants the highest rating in the state. As John prepares to stop work at quitting time, he is informed that no one leaves until Mr. Morgan leaves. John continues to depart until Mr. Morgan tells him to look over log sheets. When John returns home very late, he explains to a waiting Olivia that it is difficult getting used to sitting around all day but feels everything will be okay.


During John’s first day at his new job, Grandpa is smoking bacon in the smokehouse. He teaches Elizabeth that green hardwood, such as hickory or chestnut, must be used to generate a slow, easy fire. Grandpa feels Elizabeth could be his best farm hand. With no encouragement from Elizabeth, Lucas asks if he can walk her to school. Lucas continues to be persistent when he sends Elizabeth a love letter.


Later at work, Morgan criticizes Mel about his poor quality of work. Mel becomes flustered and drops a pile of papers. Picking up the mess, John suggests he help with the assignments. Morgan tells John not to help but John quickly counters by saying everyone helps each other because it makes the work easier. Miss Agnes says Mr. Morgan is not pleased with him. John responds that he is not pleased with him either.


Grandpa and Elizabeth go looking for beavers and find them eating birch bark. They step a bit too close to one of their tunnels and fall into the beaver pond. Grandpa exclaims, “We’re swimming with the beavers!”. When they return home, Olivia finds Elizabeth and Grandpa covered with mud She says to Grandpa that she wants his help to keep Elizabeth a girl because she does not need another boy.


Knowing Olivia did not want Elizabeth acting like a tomboy, Grandpa tells Elizabeth he can not take her fishing. Elizabeth angrily responds, “You want me to be a girl, too!” While talking with Erin about boys, Elizabeth changes her mind and decides to look like a girl. With flowers in her hair and wearing a pretty dress, Elizabeth finds Lucas and Grandpa fishing. She informs Lucas that Ike has a sale on strawberry ice cream, two for a nickel. Lucas leaves Grandpa with his fishing pole and walks with Elizabeth to Ike’s.


On Sunday, John’s only day off, the family lets him sleep late. With everyone supposedly at church, John finds breakfast waiting for him. While eating, Olivia sneaks up from behind wanting to spend some time with her husband. She tells him that Curt and Mary Ellen are coming for dinner. John says he is looking forward to playing horseshoes, sitting out under the tree drinking lemonade with Olivia, playing baseball with the kids, pushing Olivia in a swing, and taking a nap on the porch.


Monday morning comes too soon and John is off to work again. While walking into the office, Mavis informs John that he was hired to replace Mel. Morgan observes Mel arriving late and tells him about his incompetence and how he is dragging down the office. John has heard enough and yells back at the boss. Morgan admits he could lose his job if he does not attain the amount of work that is expected from his boss. Morgan states that if John does not like his management he can leave. In frustration, John throws up a folder and quits. After observing the confrontation, Mel opens a window in defiance of his boss.


Later in the day, John-Boy tells Olivia that he saw their truck outside the Dew Drop Inn. When Olivia finds John inside the bar, he admits he does not have a job anymore. John says the people in the office were “like trapped animals.... like a rabbit that is scared, and doesn’t move”. After talking with Olivia, John feels better now that he is back on the Mountain and is ready to go home after one more beer. Olivia agrees to have an “Orange Squeeze” if John promises, “you don’t dare tell”.


"My father never stopped looking to learn for himself and to support his family. He would be forced to go to cities from time to time to find work, but his stays there were always as short as he could make them, and his joy and ours was always his return to the mountain".


Elizabeth: Grandpa did you catch any fish?
Grandpa: Some little ones Elizabeth, I threw 'em back.
Ben: Hey Elizabeth got a fish - Lucas Farnham!
Jim Bob: Hope you threw him back.
Elizabeth: I may, and I may not.
Ben: Hey Elizabeth, are you in love?
Elizabeth: Maybe I am, maybe I'm not!
Jim Bob: Yucks!
Elizabeth: I hate you, Jim Bob....
Ben: She's in love....
John: Goodnight everybody.
everybody: Goodnight Daddy!



John is making “well over one hundred dollars a month” at his job.

Ellen Corby has suffered a stroke in real life. Her character, Grandma, is written into the episode where she is in the hospital so that tests can be conducted to find out what is wrong with her.

William Phipps plays Mel Parsons in this episode. He also plays John Martin Renshaw, a Rockfish storekeeper who went to high school with John s4/w4 and s6/e13.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Curtis Willard (Tom Bower); Clint Davis (Tom Howard); Kyle Jeffers (Daniel Levans); Mr. Morgan (Donald Moffat); Miss Agnes (Betty Jennette); Mavis Crawford (Patch Mackenzie); Clem Beal (Kenneth Tigar); Lucas Farnham (Christopher Gardner); Mel Parsons (William Phipps).