Episode 22: The Graduation


(21 February 1974) 46/2/22

Writer: Lionel Siegel.

Director: Alf Kjelin.

Music: Arthur Morton


The Graduation


"Being a country boy on Walton’s Mountain, and looking like one, always seemed as natural and normal as anything to me. But a few days before my graduation from high school, I began to look at myself in quite a different way".


The schoolchildren outside the schoolhouse try to catch a glance at the seniors who are inside practicing the graduation march. John-Boy wants Marcia Woolery to write in his Autograph Book, but she thinks it is a very private thing to do, wanting a more private time to do her writing. Miss Hunter asks the seniors to practice once more, against their wishes.


Later, Mary Ellen practices the march in front of the house, and then tells Grandpa that Chance is acting strangely. Zeb investigates the family milk cow. When John-Boy arrives at the house, the family rushes to the supper table. Inside, John-Boy thinks they are acting strangely when they insist he go upstairs to change his clothes. As he changes, the family gathers at the truck. Downstairs, ready to go, John-Boy finds Ben and Elizabeth telling him to hurry up.


They load into the truck and drive off, not telling John-Boy where they are going. In Charlottesville, they stop in front of a men’s clothing store. The family is buying John-Boy a new outfit for graduation and for college. At first John-Boy doesn’t want the family to spend the money, but when he sees an outfit in the store window he imagines himself wearing it to college. After hours of trying on clothes and making final adjustments, John-Boy has decided on a double-breasted navy blue jacket with white trousers. Olivia agrees to sew the cuffs on the trousers.


While John-Boy changes back into his clothes, the kids, Grandpa, and Grandma select accessories. Grandma buys crepe-rubber soled shoes for three dollars, ninety-eight cents, Grandpa selects a shirt for one dollar, ninety eight cents, Jason buys suspenders for ninety-eight cents, Mary Ellen buys a bow tie for forty-eight cents, and the other children buy three pairs of argyle socks. The total comes to eight dollars, sixty cents. Two cents short, Grandpa gives the cashier his two cents worth. At the same time, John and Olivia pay for the jacket of five dollars, seventy-five cents and the pants of three dollars, sixty-five cents, for a total of nine dollars, forty cents. John-Boy hugs his mother.


At home, John-Boy tries on his new outfit. Admiring himself and his new clothes, the family runs in with the rest of his gifts. Putting on everything, John-Boy models his outfit in front of John and Olivia. Grandpa says the girls will be swarming around him, but Grandma says he is going to college to study. After everything quiets down the children worry about Chance. John promises they can visit her in the morning. John, Olivia, Grandpa, and Grandma all look worried.


In the morning, John-Boy finds Elizabeth crying in the tree house because Chance has died. John tells him that Chance died of old age, as the adults and Mary Ellen gather around the supper table. John-Boy goes to his room, knowing that the money spent on his new clothes would buy a needed, new milk cow. Grandpa suggests buying milk from the Logan’s until they can afford to buy a new cow. John-Boy comes down the stairs to tell his father that he would like to return the clothes to pay for a new cow. John refuses the offer, saying they will figure something out, hoping to save their money until they can buy a cow.


John-Boy rides Old Blue to Ike’s store where he turns on the radio with an episode of “Ma Perkins”. Ike abruptly tells John-Boy to turn off the radio, upset that he was not invited to his graduation. John-Boy says he was already automatically invited. Happy again, Ike tries to think of a present for his graduation. He learns that the family bought John-Boy a new suit from strangers, saying he must look like “a dude”. John-Boy isn’t happy with the idea that his family needs money and he has new clothes that could solve their problem.


At breakfast, Mary Ellen serves water to everyone, although Elizabeth still wants milk. Mary Ellen says she wants to eat supper at Loretta’s house, and Erin pipes up that the reason is that they have milk. Grandpa suggests to John-Boy that he try some of Grandma’s peach preserves on his bread, because it’s better than butter. John-Boy warns the children not to laugh when the seniors march in during graduation because it will hurt Miss Hunter’s feelings. Grandma promises to keep them in line.


John goes to Henry Cottle’s farm to negotiate another cow. The last cow that Cottle sold was for twenty-five dollars. He offers twenty-two dollars to John for a cow that looks like Chance—she’s three years old. John counters with eighteen dollars, and Cottle comes back with twenty dollars. John offers to do repair work, but Cottle needs cash.


At school, a girl tells Tylor to be careful putting up decorations. Marcia asks John-Boy how he liked what she wrote in his Autograph Book. He’s forgotten to read it, and she becomes very mad at him. Later, John-Boy overhears his mother and father talk bout their milk problem. He borrows the truck and drives to the clothes store to return the clothes. Explaining the situation to the clerk, the man asks the manager to make an exception to the “no return” policy. On the way home, John-Boy stops by the Baldwin house, after they invite him for tea. Miss Emily talks about Ashley kissing her under the maple tree one autumn day. She has given Ashley a present, but was unable to give it to him, after his quick departure. They present this tiepin to John-Boy for his graduation present, because Miss Emily is often reminded of Ashley when she sees John-Boy. He graciously accepts it, kissing Miss Emily on the cheek and Miss Mamie on her hand. They both sigh at the gesture, remembering back to earlier days.


John is cleaning trout (that he caught in the Rockfish River) in the kitchen sink when John-Boy returns home. He puts down money on the kitchen table, saying it will help with the problem. Olivia and John wish he hadn’t done what he did. Later as Olivia peels potatoes, the adults talk about John-Boy having to wear his old knickers to graduation. Grandma suggests altering Zeb’s old suit—the one he wishes to be buried in. Grandpa walks in and watches everyone stare at him. John says, “Pa, it’s about when you meet your Maker.”


At school, John-Boy reminisces with Miss Hunter about all the time he spent at his desk. Miss Hunter is disappointed that John-Boy was the only senior that didn’t ask her to sign his Autograph Book. John-Boy thought it would have been silly. She signs the Book as John-Boy stares out the window at a young mother who is showing her young son where he will start school. After Miss Hunter kisses John-Boy on the cheek and leaves, John-Boy reads what she wrote: “The Heights of great man reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night. I’ll always remember you affectionately, Rose Mary Hunter.” Just then the young boy enters the room (wearing horned-rimmed glasses, like John-Boy’s glasses). John-Boy shows the young student his old desk, saying his teacher will be Miss Hunter, “You’ll like her.”


Mary Ellen, Erin, and Elizabeth make supper while Olivia and Grandma alter and sew the suit. Grandma suggests that Elizabeth give Grandpa some comforting, who’s feeling sad about not being able to be buried in his tweed suit. Jason says that the seniors are staying at school for more graduation practice. Grandma expects they will be up most of the night finishing the jacket. In the morning, John-Boy wakes up to find a suit lying at the front of his bed. He can’t believe his eyes as he tries on the jacket.


John-Boy suddenly realizes what happened, and as he runs into the hallway, he finds the family waiting for him. Later, John and John-Boy bring home the new cow. John-Boy says that seeing that jacket this morning was just like Christmas. John tells his son that they’ll still know that you are a country boy, “a poor, country boy at that”. John-Boy has never heard his father speak like this before. When John-Boy asks his father “Who am I?” John says, “You are the eldest of the Walton children, son. You are loved and respected by your whole family and by a lot of others, too. And you are held in high regard by your teacher. If you remember all of that, you won’t have to worry about being country.”


At the graduation ceremony, Mrs. Brimmer plays the piano, while Ike talks with Rev. Fordwick. John-Boy practices his speech while Marcia brushes her hair inside the schoolhouse. John-Boy asks her if she “realizes that this moment is never going to come again”. Marcia says she tries not to “think about those things”. John-Boy recites what she wrote in his Autograph Book, saying “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” While they share a kiss Ike enters the room with John-Boy’s present, a ballpoint pen. Ike says, “Write good.” Marcia says “Bye” and she and John-Boy hug and kiss. They then run outside to join the other seniors (three girls and a boy). Rev. Fordwick starts the ceremony saying we are “all very proud of you”. Miss Hunter speaks next, and introduces the valedictorian and the winner of the Dabney scholarship to Boatwright University, John Walton, Jr. John-Boy begins his speech:


What an exciting time to be alive; to be venturing out into the world; to begin an enormous journey. We the graduating class of 1934, encouraged by the words of our president Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said when he was inaugurated a year ago ‘This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and prosper… The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’. This is a wonderful day: a day of hope and promise for me and my fellow students, a day without fear. New laws have been passed to eliminate child labor in factories, man’s working hours have been shortened, and no man can be paid less than the new minimum wage. It’s been a long time since any banks have closed in this country. And truly, our land is a land of progress and opportunity. As high school graduates, we will be able to take full advantage of these opportunities.


That we are high school graduates we owe to some very special people. Our fathers have put in hours of backbreaking labor to keep us in school. And I know in our house my mother went without in order that books could be bought for my schooling. But above these specifics, they have given us their support, their guidance, and their love. And we are deeply grateful. There is someone else that we owe so very much. She has given generously of her time and her intelligence and of her love for learning. And it is with sadness that we leave Miss Rosemary Hunter; but with the promise that we will strive to maintain her high ideals as we come to this parting of our ways. This is a landmark that we will never forget, the day that we the graduating class of 1934 set out on this great adventure of our lives.


"We could not have known then the great and momentous events that were to happen in the decades to follow. But that small school and those teachers like Miss Hunter had prepared us, and that preparation helped sustain us through those turbulent years, through war, the death of kings and presidents, and through those lesser day-to-day experiences whch added together make up the fabric of our lives".


Olivia: He'll be learning so many new things, science, biology, foreign languages.

John: That's what he's going to College for. Find out what the world's all about.

Elizabeth: If John-Boy learns all those foreign languages, will we still be able to talk to him?

Erin: He probably won't want to talk to us.

John-Boy: You're all talking about me as if I suddenly turned into a different person and making me very nervous.

Olivia: Don't be nervous, you'll be the smartest boy in that whole school.

John-Boy: Mama, please.

Olivia: Allright. Sleep tight! 'Night everyone!

John-Boy & Erin: Goodnight.

Olivia: John.

John: Hmm?

Olivia: He will be the smartest I just know it.

John-Boy: Mama......



John-Boy receives the Dabney scholarship.

John-Boy graduates high school in 1934.

Chance, the family’s milk cow, dies. John buys another cow from Henry Cottle, which the family also names Chance.

Inside Ike’s store is the sign “Coffee percolators $1.25”.

John-Boy sits in the second row from the left, three seats from the front.

John-Boy and Tylor Crawfut are the two boys in the graduating class. Four girls, including Marcia Woolery, are graduating, too.

Kami Cotler’s brother Jeff appears as the little boy with the horned-rim glasses that John-Boy shows around the school room.

FDR’s first inaugural speech can be found at: http://www.hpol.org/fdr/inaug/.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson), Henry Cottle (Gil Rankin), Marcia Woolery (Tammi Bula), Miss Rosemary Hunter, (Mariclare Costello), Rev. Matthew Fordwick (John Ritter), Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe), Tylor Crawfut  (Robert Clotworthy), Three Girl Graduates (Gaye Nelson, Peggy Drier, Geri Berger), Little Boy with horned-rim glasses (Jeff Cotler). Young Man (Casey Morgan), Young Woman (Vicki McCarty), Salesman (William Lanteau), Saleslady (Janice Canoll), Tailor (Ted Lehman).


(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)