Episode 16 - The Secret

8 January 1976

Writers: Rod Peterson & Claire Whittaker.
Director: Harvey S. Laidman.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"There comes a time in a young man's life when he begins to wonder how he fits into the world around him. When that time came for my brother Jim Bob it brought the unfolding of a long-kept secret".


Jim Bob carries a pail and plays with his yo-yo (that Grandpa made for him). Ben and Erin kid him for practicing the yo-yo. They think that gypsies left Jim Bob on their doorstep, and Elizabeth wants to know if he wants to be a gypsy. Jim Bob climbs into the tree house to get away from everyone. Olivia and Grandma put up the newly washed curtains. Elizabeth slams the door behind her. She asks if they were too poor to keep her, where would she go. Olivia says to the Fordwick’s because she would be raised in a Christian household. Mary Ellen wonders why Jim Bob is up in the tree house. And she agrees that Jim Bob was left in an egg basket by gypsies.


John-Boy shows Jason the essay that he wrote for Mrs. Breckenridge (that Jason asked him to write for the Historical Society). They ride in the car, talking about the days they didn’t like to go to school. Jason wonders if all of those things will be put in his book. John-Boy says they will. They drive over to Mrs. Breckenridge’s to give her the essay. She asks Jason if John-Boy will write another essay because Professor Breckenridge (who was born and buried at Crab Tree Falls) loved the history of the early settlers along the Rockfish River. She wonders if John-Boy could weave a story from the research that the Professor did, and have it ready by Saturday (three copies, one for her, one for the library, and one for the files).


Jim Bob washes his face while Elizabeth looks at him, thinking that he looks different from the rest of the Waltons. Grandma yells for them to come. Elizabeth asks Grandma if he was left on the doorstep. Grandma thinks that Olivia would be hurt if they believed such an outrageous thing. The next day, John-Boy tries to get Jason ready, already behind in his deadlines (and Grandpa explains the early meaning of the word “deadline”). Jim Bob kisses his mother, and Grandma says that Jim Bob has been more quiet than usual. On the way to school, Jim Bob finds Elizabeth hiding behind a rock. She thinks he should look for clues to see if he really was left on the doorstep, like lack of old photographs in the family album.


After their mid-day meal, Grandma cleans the table before they are finished. The women are doing some sewing for Rosemary Fordwick before her child is born. Grandma says, “Like father, like son.” and Olivia and Grandma smile as the men leave to do work at the mill. On the way home, Elizabeth tells Jim Bob what the other schoolchildren think Jim Bob looks like. At home, Grandpa talks to Jim Bob about the yo-yo competition tomorrow. He has to buy a yo-yo from the Yo-Yo King in order to enter the contest. He is looking at the family album, but some of the photographs are missing. Grandpa doesn’t know where they are, but suspects Grandma has been looking at them.


Elizabeth finds that there are only a few pictures of Jim Bob in the album. Jim Bob is more confused, but finds his Momma, Daddy, and Grandpa busy with other things. Jason tries to convince John-Boy to write another essay, by saying how he makes his characters come alive. John-Boy finally agrees to write it. Elizabeth looks in the trunk in the attic, and is joined by Jim Bob. Grandma wonders what is going on upstairs because the children are still awake. John investigates. He finds them in the attic looking over pictures. John says there are more pictures of the older children because there was more time. John can sense that Jim Bob is troubled about something. At bedtime John and Olivia talk about Jim Bob and how fast he is growing up. Olivia knows that he has been quiet lately. John tries to calm Olivia’s fears.


John-Boy wonders where his keys are located. Olivia asks if he is angry with her. John-Boy says so many people are pulling him that he doesn’t know what to do. Olivia suggests that he just say “no”. Jason tries to get him to write a third article for Mrs. Breckenridge. John-Boy thinks he has been handing him “soft-soap” and says “no” to him. John-Boy says that he is not beholding to Mrs. Breckenridge for getting him the scholarship. He suggests that she write the article herself, since she knew Professor Breckenridge the best. Mrs. Brimmer is crying over a soap opera (about Mrs. Noble) on the radio when Jim Bob arrives. Jim Bob wonders if she remembers when he was born. Mrs. Brimmer says that the other children came over to her place because Zeb had influenza and Esther was busy with Olivia. Jim Bob states that Ike said that Olivia went to Charlottesville for the birth and Mrs. Brimmer adds that it was because she had some difficulties.


Jason tells Mrs. Breckenridge, after she serves tea, that he thinks she is the best person to write an article about the professor, and explains how wonderfully she told the stories about the professor. She agrees to think about it. Jim Bob takes a walk and runs into John-Boy who is sitting near waterfalls. Jim Bob admits that he thinks he is not a Walton because he doesn’t look like a Walton, and he was born in Charlottesville (unlike the other children who were born at the house). He wonders if there is someplace where it is written down. John-Boy takes him to the County Courthouse. The records show he was born on January 13, 1923, but it also says that Joseph Zebulan, another boy, died at birth. Jim Bob says that it means he had a twin brother. Jim Bob wonders why his parents didn’t tell him, and John-Boy says he didn’t know anything about it.


At Ike’s store, Ike and Corabeth talk with Grandma who is looking for a dozen buttons and a dozen of those little, baby buttons. Corabeth says that Elizabeth and Jim Bob have been talking about Jim Bob being a foundling. Ike tries to turn the conversation to another subject, but Corabeth and Grandma continue to discuss the matter. As she walks out Mrs. Brimmer tells Grandma that Jim Bob dropped by after school and asked about the time he was born. Grandma goes to John and tells him that its time to tell Jim Bob what happened at his birth. John tells her that he’ll take care of it. As they drive back John-Boy wonders why they didn’t tell him about what happened. Jim Bob wonders if his parents are ashamed of him, or blame him for what happened. Jim Bob says sometimes he wakes up in the night and feels someone is there just like him.


Mary Ellen helps Grandma with dinner while Erin and Elizabeth frost a cake. Grandma wants the good tablecloth for supper. Grandpa smells “incense, heavenly odor, nectar, ambrosia”. John-Boy and Jim Bob arrive home. John-Boy tells John what happened at the County Courthouse (The Hall of Records). John says that it was a difficult time in Olivia’s life, and it was easier just not to say anything about it. John goes over to Jim Bob and tries to explain that his Momma wasn’t able to handle the situation. She blamed herself for one child not living. Because of this, John says that Jim Bob has been especially dear to Olivia. Jim Bob enters the house and hugs him mother. John asks Jim Bob to say grace before supper: “We thank you for the food on the table and for making today special in many ways. Mrs. Fordwick didn’t call on me on spelling for once. Saw an airplane after school, I think it was a De Havaline biplane, but it might have been just an old Gennie.


"The most valuable truth that all of us learned when that secret was finally revealed is that belonging to a family has less to do with being born than being loved. And with all the hurts and fears and wants we might remember from those Depression years, being loved is what we remember the best".


Elizabeth: I told you Jim Bob would win the Yo-Yo contest.
John-Boy: Who are you talking to Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Anybody that's still awake!
John-Boy: I think I'm the only one. And I never said he wouldn't.
Elizabeth: Well he did. And he's a real wow!
John-Boy: Sounds to me like your're feeling sorry about trying to convince him he wasn't.
Elizabeth: I told them I was sorry. So did Ben and Erin. For teasing him.
John-Boy: Well then just forget about it.
Elizabeth: Good idea. John-Boy?
John-Boy: Yes Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Do you think I could have been left by the Gypsies, red-haired ones?
John-Boy: Goodnight Elizabeth!
Elizabeth: Goodnight John-Boy.



Jim-Bob was born on January 13, 1923. His twin brother (Joseph Zebulan) died at birth.

Crab Tree Falls is located near Montebello, Virginia, in Nelson County.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Corabeth Godsey (Ronnie Claire Edwards); Mrs. Breckenridge (Adrienne Marden): Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe); The Yo-Yo King (Eddie Reider).