Episode 18 - The Caretakers

(23 January 1975)

Writer: Richard Carr.

Director: Ivan Dixon.

Music: Alexander Courage.


"When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia we never heard the words 'generation gap', yet, such a separation developed shortly after my grandfather recovered from an illness, and for a while it was to threaten the unity of the entire family".


John and Grandpa work on the Crowley order at the mill on a hot day. Knowing that Zeb is still recovering from his illness, John wants him to slow down. Zeb tells his son to treat him “like a grown-up man”. In the kitchen, Olivia bakes bread, while Grandpa peels potatoes. Mary Ellen runs in to show them the runner-up prize (a makeup kit) that she won in a contest. Grandma thinks it is “sinful” to paint up a face. Soon the other children run in but she warns them not to ruin the oatmeal cookies in the oven. They think she is grouchy, while she thinks they are acting like wild Indians. Grandma thinks Olivia is taking their side, and leaves upset.


John says the Crowley order is finished, and suggests that Grandpa sit for a while as he loads the truck. Zeb angrily leaves, and walks down the road. Henry Townsend drives past Zeb and offers him a ride to his house for coffee and to “rock a bit”. Townsend has recently lost his wife, and to keep busy has taken a sales job in Charlottesville. He is looking for a caretaker for his house (willing to pay a two-week advance in wages of ten dollars). They talk over a little of the Baldwin sister’s Recipe and a game of checkers.


Later, John asks Olivia if she has seen Zeb, telling her he left mad. Olivia says Grandma is mad, too. John says he is off to bid on Elmer Cane’s order. Outside the kids choose sides for a baseball game. But, Elizabeth walks off mad, after being chosen last (again). Grandpa offers to take her place, but Mary Ellen tells him that the activity might hurt his heart. Grandpa walks away disgruntled again. Inside, Zeb finds John-Boy working on an essay of Alfred Lord Tennyson, but has no time to talk. Zeb learns from Olivia that John is looking for him. Outside Zeb learns that John has secured the Cane order for one thousand posts. But, when John says he would like to hire an extra man to help with the large order, Zeb thinks he is implying that he is a “useless old man” and says, “Do it yourself.” Zeb walks away to find Esther sitting in the rocking chair in their bedroom. The both feel like a fifth wheel, and Zeb suddenly decides to pack their belongings and take the job as Henry Townsend’s caretakers.


The family sits at the supper table, but without the grandparents. Elizabeth says grace, and asks that they return home soon. Zeb and Esther sit down to supper with Henry Townsend, who remarks how much food Easter made. John tries to tell the family why Grandpa and Grandma left. The family misses them. Henry prepares to leave for his new job as Zeb asks for his advance in wages. After Henry leaves Esther tries to wash dishes with a water pump that is “driving her to distraction”. Zeb promises to fix it tomorrow. They sit in front of the fireplace, but obviously miss the family. Zeb turns on the radio for Fibber McGee and Molly, but it doesn’t work. The clock on top of the mantle irritates Zeb, and he hits it to make it stop ticking. They go to bed. Olivia and John prepare for bed. John is mad about what happened, and Olivia thinks he should visit Zeb to settle the problem. John refuses. Easter believes she was too harsh to the family, and suggests that Zeb talk with John. Zeb refuses. Elizabeth can’t sleep without Grandpa and Grandma in the house. Esther says, “Goodnight old man.” and Zeb responds, “Goodnight old woman.”


In the morning, the boys decide not to go fishing because Grandpa is not around. The girls talk with John-Boy about being unhappy at how they treated their grandparents. John-Boy confesses he was rude to Grandpa. Esther is having difficulties cooking pancakes on the house’s new-fangled stove. Just then, John-Boy arrives. Grandma serves him coffee while John-Boy tells them that the children are sorry about what happened and wants them to return home. Grandpa says they are not wanted and needed at home. John-Boy tells his grandfather than he is as proud as is his Daddy. Being proud runs in the family according to Grandma. John-Boy apologizes to Grandpa for ignoring him while writing his essay.


At Ike’s store, Corabeth tells Mrs. Brimmer about the new pattern styles she has bought for her customers. Mrs. Brimmer doesn’t think she and others have any reason to change their styles of clothing. Ike agrees with Mrs. Brimmer as he fills her order of such things as beans, salt, and catsup. John brings in a sign for Ike to display in the store about needing a hired man. After he leaves, Mrs. Brimmer tells Corabeth that Fannie Tatum told her that Zeb and Esther walked out of the house and now have been hired to help at Henry Townsend’s place. Ike rushes Mrs. Brimmer out, and then tells his wife that she will not go to the Waltons to find out what is going on. She reluctantly agrees. John-Boy drives Zeb to Ike’s, but end up arguing about their stubbornness. At the store, Easy Jackson asks Ike about married life, but admits he doesn’t want to go through it. Ike is very happy to see John-Boy and Zeb, feeling close to his new relatives. Ike privately shows John-Boy the sign that John posted. Easy reads the sign and shows it to Zeb, who angrily walks down the road. Easy asks John-Boy for a ride so he can apply for the job.


Esther and Olivia accidentally meet outside of Ike’s store and mend their dispute, and try to think of a way to mend the rift between their husbands. Easy and John work the new order. But when Easy bends the saw blade John switches what he and John-Boy are doing. Zeb finds Elizabeth at the front door, and both are very happy to see each other. Elizabeth says Mary Ellen thinks they are mad at her, and the other children think they don’t like them any more. Esther hugs Elizabeth as soon as she walks inside, and the little granddaughter tries to get them to return home. John-Boy leaves for class, John goes for a cup of coffee, and Easy takes “forty winks”. John tells Olivia that Easy is not working out, and Olivia tells John that she and Grandma have made up. She says that Grandpa wants him to apologize. Elizabeth runs in crying about how sad that Grandpa and Grandma feels. John promises to work things out with his father.


John tells Grandpa that he was “a bit pig-headed”, but “I need you at the mill.” Grandma has already packed, and is ready to return home. When they get home Easy has ruined much of the work. John gets mad but Zeb asks Easy to take care of Henry Townsend’s house, because it is too much for him. John drives him there. The family warmly welcomes Grandpa and Grandma home. Later that night John, Grandpa, and John-Boy finish up a good’s day work, happy to be together.


"It was good to have our grandparents home again, without them the family had been incomplete and our lives disjointed. But they were home, and our lives were back to normal."


Elizabeth: Grandma, are you asleep?
Grandma: What do you want, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Can I sleep with you and Grandpa?
Grandma: It's alright with me, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Will you come and get me, it's dark in the hall and I'm scared.
Grandma: There's nothing to be scared of.
Grandpa: Huh? What's the matter?
Elizabeth: What did you say?
Grandma: I said there's nothing to be scared of.
Grandpa: Old woman have you lost your mind hollering your head off in the middle of the night?
Grandma: I wasn't hollering at you.
Grandpa: I don't see anybody else here but me.
Grandma: Oh go back to your snoring!
Elizabeth: Grandma, I'm waiting!
Grandma: I'm coming, Elizabeth.




Henry Townsend recently lost his wife. He has taken a sales job in Charlottesville.

The biography of Alfred Lord Tennyson appears at: http://www.online-literature.com/tennyson/.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Corabeth Walton Godsey (Ronnie Claire Edwards); Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson); Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe); Easy Jackson (Britt Leach); Henry Townsend (Dan Priest).