"My father was a gentle man. One of the small things I always remember about him was a little trick he had of spinning a half dollar with one hand, usually without even thinking about it. One summer day almost forty years ago, he suddenly found he couldn't do it. As it turned out, it was a traumatic day for both of us".
John-Boy meets Dr. Porter, the former president of Boatwright, who asks John-Boy what intentions he has for the rest of his life. When John-Boy tells him that he intends to be a writer, but the professor says that very few writers support themselves solely on their writings. He suggests that if John-Boy wants to eat two or three times a day, he should “marry money”. John-Boy comes home to find his father having a bad day. Olivia says he’s been in a bad mood all day. John says he’s mad at himself, thinking this year hasn’t been his best year. Jim Bob tries his father’s half-dollar coin trip with a quarter, but it won’t work. John tries, but can’t make his fingers work. Grandpa thinks it’s “ a touch of rheumatism” A car drives up, and John quickly goes inside, knowing its Eula Mae, who wants him to help with their twenty-fifth class reunion. John finally agrees to be the committee, with Eula Mae being the chairperson. At supper the children and Olivia kid John about whether schools actually existed twenty-five years ago and his ex-girlfriends.
On the porch, Olivia apologizes to John for kidding him, saying she isn’t really jealous about his old flames. John and John-Boy take a walk. John-Boy tells his father about what Dr. Porter said. John wonders what he has to show for twenty-five years of living. Grandpa, John, and John-Boy work at staining furniture while Zack drive up. Grandpa and Zack talk about the Depression, and then Zack and John talk about their concerns of the reunion. Zack says he’d “rather be in perdition with his back broken” than attend the reunion. John-Boy quotes Henry David Thoreau, “Beware of all new enterprises requiring new clothes” and “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”.
G. Cleveland Cathcart drives up, and John and he exchange handshakes. They uncomfortably talk with her other, with Olivia soon inviting him in for coffee. Later, John and Olivia drive to Rockfish. John tells Olivia that she looks “uncommonly pretty these days” in reference to Cleveland’s language. Back home, Mary Ellen finds that John-Boy is deep in thought, making a list on writers working full-time. He comes up with Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis, and Mary Ellen come up with Dorothea Dix and Mary Margaret Reinhardt. John talks with John Martin Renshaw at his store, while Olivia goes shopping. John finds out that John Martin’s mother has not had a drop of liquor since Decoration Day weekend. The reunion is at his mother’s house, but John Martin is worried because he is supposed to give the blessing. John assures him that he’ll take care of it so he won’t have to give it. John walks to Eula Mae’s house to find Rachel Stubblefield there. She gives him a big kiss, saying he wasn’t as bashful back in high school. Eula Mae walks in nervous about all the reunion details, and quickly returns to answer the phone. Olivia arrives to find Rachel talking with John. B.C. Graddy arrives at the house along with his wife and three unruly kids: B.C. Junior, Melvin, and Ernestine. Graddie, an insurance agent, says, “Graddy’s the name, and insurance is my game”. John-Boy tells the man that he’ll tell his father that he stopped by. Jim Bob sees and hears the car drive by Ike’s store as he picks up the mail and rides back to the house on Old Blue. He gives John-Boy a letter from Boatwright, seeing he has written in the dirt “10,000 unemployed writers”. Jim Bob thinks that’s dumb because how can a self-employed writer be unemployed.
Eula Mae drives up, frantic that John Martin’s mother has broken her hip, and is cussing up a storm in her house. They will not be able to use the house for the reunion. Olivia and Grandma volunteer their house, under John’s protest. The next day, at the party, Rachel tells Olivia that this is the best party of the season. Jason and fellow musicians provide the music. Grandpa and Grandpa eat with the children inside the house. John finds John-Boy in his bedroom. John-Boy reads part of the letter that he received from Dr. Porter, taking back part of their earlier discussion on the plight of working writers. John says that life would make some sense if he could see his son the writer sitting with his high school friends.
At the party, the graduates discuss the yearbook. John Martin wrote the class history, while Cathcart mimeographed off twenty-five copies of the yearbook. The class prophet was Hermione Willogard, biggest bull shooter was Zack Roswell, most original woman was Ethel Barnesdale, most original man was Grover Cathcart, prettiest girl was Winnie, biggest heartbreaker girl was Rachel, biggest heartbreaker boy was John Martin, and most likely to succeed was John. Cathcart says that he was galled at John who always beat him. He got the most pleasure by beating him out for senior class president, even though he never thought John really cared about it. The all agree that John was indeed the person who most succeeded in life with a happy home and fine wife and children. Zack says he married lucky. The graduates sing Till we Meet Again:
“Wedding bells will ring so merrily, Ev'ry tear will be a memory. So wait and pray each night for me, Till we meet again. Tho' goodbye means the birth of a tear drop, Hello means the birth of a smile. And the smile will erase the tear blighting trace, When we meet in the after awhile.”
After the party breaks up, John thinks about all that has happened. He spins his half-dollar, and this time he is successful at spinning it.
"Success is often measured in terms of how much money or fame one accumulates in a lifetime. My father knew little of either, yet he was the most successful man I have ever known. He lived each day with zest, a sense of adventure, and a twinkle in his eye. He loved his family well, and we miss him".
Olivia: Yes Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I never did get it figured out today - were you always stuck on Daddy?
Grandma: It looked to me like they were all kind of stuck on him.
Grandpa: I've always heard tell it's them quiet ones you've got to watch.....
John (outside, sitting alone at the now empty reunion dinner table): I'll be along, 'Liv.
He tries once more to spin the half dollar coin - and succeeds.
It is the summer of 1936.
John graduated from Rockfish High School in 1911, its now twenty-five years later. (Actually we learn in a later episode that John really never graduated high school, when the principal failed to submit his paperwork.)
B.C. Graddy Jr. is played by Jeff Cotler, Kami (Elizabeth) Cotler’s real brother.
Rachel “Rae” Stubblefield was engaged to John at one time, Winnie Tatum also dated John.
Sixteen people are left from John’s graduating class, with twelve coming from other parts of the country; the others are John, Eula Mae, Zack Roswell, and John Martin Renshaw.
John Martin Renshaw operates “Renshaw and Son – est. 1899” hardware store in Rockfish. He lives with his mother who drinks and cusses alot. She forecloses on mortgages. His father has passed on.
G. Cleveland Cathcart works for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington D.C. Winnie Tatum Cathcart is his wife. She is a hypochondriac, and a “decided blonde” as Olivia says.
Zack Roswell plays the fiddle.
Rachel Stubblefield lives on the East Side of New York City. Stubblefield has had two husbands. She has a son, Charles, who has been married twice, a daughter in Switzerland, and another son at the Stone Mountain Military Academy.
Information about Henry David Thoreau can be found at: http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Biographies/Literary/Thoreau.htm.
Stubblefield mentions that Olivia’s maiden name was of Italian descent.
B.C. Graddy and family is from Danville, Virginia in Pittsylvania County. Danville is a real city in south-central Virginia, at the intersection of Route 58 and Route 29. And, is in Pittsylvania County.
Lynn Carlin plays Eula Mae, but later will play Sarah Griffith, the wife of Ep Bridges.
The lyrics Till we Meet Again appear at: http://www.westfront.de/till_we_meet.htm.
Information about Dorothea Dix can be found at: http://www.civilwarhome.com/dixbio.htm.
Information about Sinclair Lewis can be found at: http://www.english.ilstu.edu/separry/sinclairlewis/.
Information about William Faulkner can be found at: http://www.english.ufl.edu/faulkner/.
Information about F. Scott Fitzgerald can be found at: http://www.fitzgeraldsociety.org/.
No information was found for Mary Margaret Reinhardt.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30,1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. See: http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/memorial/history.html.
Eula Mae (Lynn Carlin); Rachel Stubblefield (Sandra Deel); Zachary “Zack” Roswell (James Gammon); G.Cleveland “Grover” Cathcart (James Ray); John Martin Renshaw (William Phipps); Dr. Porter (Beaumont Bruestle); Ernestine Graddy (Nicole Henzel); B.C. Graddy Jr. (Jeff Cotler); Melvin Graddy (Brian Part); B.C. Graddy (Noble Willingham); Mrs Graddy (Deanna Lund).