Episode 1 - The Sermon

(11 September 1975)
Writer: Kathleen Hite.
Director: Harry Harris.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"So much of what we learned in those early years was rooted in that small schoolhouse on Waltons Mountain. I remember it warmly, and well, along with our teacher Miss Rosemary Hunter. And long after I left her school Miss Hunter figured prominently in a special time of learning for my mother, and for me. A time when each of us searched for that most elusive of persons, one's own self".


The school children exit the school, and Ben calls the others “slow pokes”. Miss Hunter walks home with the Walton children, but won’t say why. Elizabeth announces to Olivia that Miss Hunter is here, and privately the two women go off to talk. At the bridge over Druscilla’s Pond, Rosemary tells Olivia that her wedding is set for next Sunday after church services. She asks Olivia to take over her classes while she and Rev. Fordwick go on their honeymoon for a little over a week. Knowing that John will say “Sure, Liv, if you want to” and Grandma will grumble a little, but say okay, Olivia agrees to substitute teach.


John-Boy drives with Jason as he sings Buffalo Gals. Stopping in front of Rev. Fordwick’s house as the reverend works in the front yard, he asks about Jason’s courses at Kleinberg. Taking John-Boy aside, Matthew tells John-Boy that Will Ewing from Charleston will officiate their wedding next Sunday but will be unable to return the following Sunday for the sermon. He asks John-Boy to take over the sermon, but John-Boy immediately is hesitant, unsure he has anything to say for such an important event.


At home, Jim Bob tells John-Boy that he thinks he’s in trouble (when Miss Hunter came to visit) for not writing his theme about his favorite person. John-Boy thought he was Jim Bob’s favorite person, but Jim Bob says he’s not. John says exactly what Olivia predicted he would say, and John-Boy and Olivia exchange the favors asked of them. Olivia rushes off to tell Grandma, while John-Boy confesses to his father that he doesn’t know what he would say. John tries to give advice, but John-Boy reminds him the limited number of times he’s been to church. Grandma is overjoyed at the news, and hopes that her grandson might “have the calling”. Grandma tells him that she is full of pride and love for him, and will help him all she can.


After Sunday services, the congregation waits for the newly wed couple to exit the church. The Baldwin sisters talk with John-Boy, looking forward to his sermon next Sunday. They comment on the time their Papa spoke at church about prohibition. Soon Mr. and Mrs. Fordwick run out of the church as people throw rice, and Grandpa kisses the bride. Miss Emily catches the bouquet. As they drive off Corabeth and Mrs. Brimmer talk (not knowing that John-Boy is directly behind them) about how little John-Boy could have to say for a sermon.


Olivia finds John-Boy studying for his sermon. Olivia says she is excited and scared at the same time for her first day of class. She says, “It does my heart good to see a son of mine studying the Bible.” In the morning the children leave for school. Grandma yells, “Don’t slam the door”, as the door slams behind them. John gives the teacher an apple as she leaves for school. Grandma asks John-Boy if she’s chosen a topic, and Grandpa suggests “sin”. John-Boy almost forgets about taking Jason with him, and Grandma comments that, “his mind is in the heavens”. Olivia begins class when Martha Rose immediately wonders why she and her husband waited so long to have her honeymoon in Virginia Beach that she just recently took. Mary Ellen argues with Martha Rose. Olivia asks Martha Rose to read her essay, but she says she has already received a “B”. Olivia returns the class to order, asking Jim Bob to read his essay. But, Jim Bob says he’s not written it. Olivia insists he will stay after school until it is finished.


John-Boy is confronted by trigonometry Professor Ranney who hopes John-Boy is checking out mathematics books, but observes John-Boy is carrying religion books. That night, Grandma shows John-Boy some of the material she has collected. She pounds on the top of the dresser to gain his attention and says, “Dust Thou Art, and Unto Dust Shalt Thou Return”. (Genesis 3:19) Grandma continues with her Bible samples, and John-Boy realizes she is still in the book of Genesis. She suggests talking about original sin, saying “And God saw that the wickedness of Man” (Genesis 6:5) and “And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:7) and “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”. (Romans 12:17). Grandma relates the “protracted meetings” she went to when a child and the old-time preachers. She gives John-Boy all the passages she has collected over the years. Grandpa comes in, asking his wife if she hurt her hand. He massages her hand as he quotes from Proverbs chapter 31, verse 26.


John finds Olivia and Jim Bob staring at each other inside the schoolhouse. He tells Jim Bob to think about things while he walks home. Olivia relates how terrible the day went, and how Jim Bob failed her. John walks into John-Boy’s room and wonders how he’s going to read all the books lying on his desk. John-Boy is still concerned about what to write, how to please everybody, and what everybody wants. John suggests he stop listening to everybody, especially his grandmother, and write what he feel because he has a way with words.


John and John-Boy find Olivia and Jim Bob asleep downstairs. John-Boy reads what his brother has written: “My favorite person is parts of a lot of people. If you put them together, they’d be swell. Orville and Wilbur Wright: on account of the airplane. Grandpa: the way he laughs and makes you laugh. John-Boy is a good big brother when he doesn’t treat me like a little brother. Momma’s pretty and nice, mostly when she’s just being a momma. And Daddy, who you can go to and he always gives an answer.”


The children swarm out of the hot school, and Olivia gathers them under a shade tree where a breeze is blowing. Olivia continues with their discussion on the Virginia Convention. Mrs. Brimmer walks by to see them outside. At Ike’s store, John-Boy walks out with the Baldwin sister’s groceries, placing them into their car. They admit his sermon is a grave event considering his limited experience. Mrs. Brimmer greets the threesome and walks inside. Miss Mamie suggests the Recipe is a stimulating drink, while Miss Emily considers it quieting. But both ladies consider it always to be trusted. Ike says it sounds like a good idea to hold class where the air is moving around, but Mrs. Brimmer and Corabeth question Olivia’s teaching technique, calling it revolutionary. Corabeth believes she is more qualified to teach the class. John-Boy walks in and hears what they are saying. He picks up Olivia’s groceries and says that he has gotten new ideas for his sermon.


At the mill, Grandpa and John work on the muggy, hot day. Grandpa thinks the “buzz, buzz, buzz” of the saw makes the day seem even hotter. They look up to the Mountain and say a cool breeze is always present up there. John decides to “close up shop” and eat supper on the Mountain. Jason plays his guitar as the family unloads the truck at the site of Rome Walton’s old homestead. John looks and Grandma and she says, “Remember?” Ben and Jim Bob steal a couple pieces of chicken. John-Boy goes to his mother who says that school is becoming easier. His sermon is still coming along slowly. Elizabeth goes to her Daddy to fix her toy. Olivia hopes that all of her problems are that small, and John-Boy hopes that he will always be there for her. Ben and Jim Bob ask their father if they can go down to the creek. Olivia goes to her husband as John-Boy looks on. John hopes that the hard-times are nearly over with so he can begin their new house on the mountain, right where they are standing. Olivia knows they’ll need extra furniture for all the grandchildren. Jason plays Beautiful Dreamer as John-Boy views the activities on the Mountain, gaining insight on his sermon.


That Sunday the congregation sings Faith of our Fathers as John-Boy sits in the minister’s chair. John-Boy begins:


“Today is Sunday, and once again we are privileged to come together in the warmth and fellowship of the house of our Lord. I think this morning all of our thoughts are with our Reverend Fordwick and his bride Rosemary as they start their new life together. And I’m sure our prayers are with them also that their life can be a happy one.”


“What does a young man know? And, how does a young man learn? I don’t have to remind you all that I’m not a minister. And to many of you, what I have to say this morning will not sound like a real sermon. But Rev. Fordwick asked me to be here in his absence and to speak to you and I am going to try. While I was preparing to speak to you this week I learned things I did not know before. And I was reminded of some things that I had forgotten or I at least misplaced for a time. I would like to share these things with you. I learned some of the many different ways that people have of worshipping their God. And I think I learned that everybody in his own way has a different way. Now I don’t know the Bible as well as most of you and I’m sure that all of you in here can quote me with chapter and verse to prove your belief, which I might not be able to do. But, I know that if we really looked into it we would find out each of your beliefs, like people are different from everybody else.”


“Now, I’m a college man and I tend to read a lot and to look for books that the answers are going to be found in books. So I went to the college and I checked out a lot of big, heavy books. I looked through them and I found a lot of answers. I didn’t find “the” answer. I also found an answer in an afternoon walk with my Grandfather. For he told me that God is everywhere and all we have to do is just to acknowledge and to listen. I spoke with my Grandmother who knows her gospel. And she knows the right of it and she knows the wrong of it in her own special way. She is a fine woman. I didn’t have much of a change to talk with my mother because she was busy herself and she had things of her own to do. But, I watched her and I found out that the Lord guides her in her footsteps in ways that are unique to her. And that makes her different from everybody. Whether it’s the way she tends a sick baby or the way she tends class at school.”


“This week I looked over the shoulder of my younger brother and I saw these words that he wrote about our father, “You can always go to him and ask and get an answer”. Now you all know our father, John Walton. You don’t necessarily know him from seeing him in church every Sunday morning. But let me tell you that what Jim Bob said is right. You can always go to him and get an answer. He’s always there for us. The special way of being with his family and giving them his answers, he also has a special way of being with his God and getting answers from his god.”


“We are blessed by our families and by our loving friends that help us and give us support. And we can be examples to each other and nourish each other, and help each other, in spite of our differences and many times because of them. Just as my earthly father is always with his family, so our Father in heaven is always with his family, which embraces all of mankind. And it seems to me that I’ve learned this week that our God must be very great indeed to encompass so many different kinds of feelings and so many different kinds of people in his everlasting love.”


“Will you now turn to hymn number 335 in the hymnal—Amazing Grace.”


"I was never again to stand in for Reverend Fordwick, but it was an humbling experience, and a growing time. One that I learned much from, and have had occasion to recall many times during my life".


Jim Bob: Mama do I get an "A" on my Favorite Person theme?
Olivia: You deserve it, Jim Bob.
Erin: He wrote about five favorite persons.
Jim Bob: So I ought to get five "A"s.....
Erin: Crabby.
Elizabeth: I think you deserve them, Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: Thanks, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: You stay after school longer that anyone else ever did! You're a champion record holder!
Olivia: Goodnight Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Goodnight, Mama, goodnight Daddy.
John: Goodnight honey.



The lyrics for Buffalo Gals appears at: http://www.kididdles.com/mouseum/b013.html .

The lyrics for Beautiful Dreamer appears at: http://www.kididdles.com/mouseum/b025.html.

The lyrics for Faith of our Fathers appears at: http://aradece.tripod.com/GIVING_THANKS.htm.

The young boy sitting to the left of Elizabeth while John-Boy gives his sermon is Kami Cotler’s real brother.

The lyrics for Amazing Grace appears at: http://www.kididdles.com/mouseum/a005.html.


Also appearing:

Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards); Miss Emily and Miss Mamie Baldwin (Mary Jackson and Helen Kleeb); Rosemary Hunter Fordwick (Mariclaire Costello); Rev. Matthew Fordwick (John Ritter); Professor Ranney (Basil Hoffman); Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe); Martha Rose (Cindy Eilbacher).