My Trip to Schuyler - 2004
This piece is still being developed so stay turned for more to come.
In June/July of 2004, I finally fulfilled a longtime ambition of going being able to go the USA and visit Schuyler, Virginia, home of Earl Hamner. You will be able to catch up with other parts of my trip, but since so many people email to ask me about Waltons Mountain, I thought it would be a good idea to do this Waltons related section first.
Firstly since I have produced this site and been putting the Waltons Digest together, I have been lucky enough to meet, via email, and get to know a lot of really nice Waltons fans. I was very flattered that two of these fans travelled a great distance to meet me in Schuyler when my family and I visited and I was finally able to meet Carolyn and Dot, and their families, in person. They helped to make my visit to Schuyler very memorable.
Rod, James and I had arrived in New York from Australia in early June. After spending some time there we went to Washington, and then hired a car to drive to Nelson County from Washington, and I can tell you it was an interesting drive to say the least! Imagine having to drive a car which is quite different to one which you've ever driven before, has the controls on the wrong side of the car (by this I mean that you're driving virtually sitting in the passenger side because that's what you're used to) and to top it off you have to drive on the wrong side of the road. Well these are precisely the challenges which faced us. Oh, and you have no idea where you're going. Fortunately James became an expert navigator, Rod finally managed to keep the car out of the ditch on the side of the road, and I tried to relax in the back seat and look at the scenery.
All was going quite well until we hit some rain and it wasn't just a sprinkle at 4.45 p.m. but a deluge. We couldn't see a thing. Here in Australia we would have pulled over to wait out the rain, but since there was no space on the side of the road to pull over, we slowly crept along the highway. Fortunately we came across a Visitors Information Centre near Lynchberg and the lady here was very helpful, suggesting a bed and breakfast to stay in, phoning ahead to make sure there were vacancies, and giving very good directions. So, I would highly recommend a visit to this Centre when you're visiting. We were given an excellent map of the area too.
So back in the car and navigating through the rain we finally found our way to the Mark Addy Inn, which is a beautiful bed and breakfast inn. It's about a half hour drive from Schuyler and we were very happy to stay and enjoy their hospitality for a few days while we explored more of the area. More information on the Inn can be found at http://www.mark-addy.com/ . The breakfasts were delicious and the evening meal was just superb. We were all made very comfortable indeed and enjoyed our stay very much.
Now onto Waltons Mountain...
The day we visited Schuyler was very hot and humid, and rain was forecast for later in the day. One of the hazards of visiting during summer unfortunately. I believe that fall is just glorious though, with all the leaves on the trees changing colors. The Waltons International Fan Club tends to have a reunion in the area in the fall. If you're a member of this fan club you will receive all the information, or else keep an eye on either the Waltons Digest or the Waltons Forum.
We arrived at the Waltons Mountain Museum and met up with our party. So wonderful to finally meet them in person. I was initially struck by how big the Museum seemed. It is housed in the old schoolhouse, where the Hamner children all attended, and is just down the road from the Hamner house, where they grew up.
|Here's the front of the Waltons Mountain Museum, or the Schuyler Elementary School as it originally was. As you can see there's heaps of parking space at the Museum.|
The staff at the Museum kindly offered to show our party around, and we started in one of the back rooms viewing a documentary video of The Waltons, which had been produced early in the 1990's. There were many clips from episodes of The Waltons and these were interspersed with reminiscences and explanations from Earl Hamner and other members of the cast. Very interesting indeed. This takes about a half hour, and then it was time to explore the Museum's rooms, which are set up as replicas of the Walton house.
There's John Boy's Room, the Living Room, complete with the stairs which we all know lead up to the Walton bedrooms and bathroom, and the Kitchen with the wood stove that Mama always had coffee on, an icebox, and of course that table and benches where they sat for their meals. There's the General Store too, set up very like Ike Godsey's store, with a Post Office. Also in this area you can buy all sorts of Waltons related items as well as all sorts of crafts made by local people.
Throughout the Museum there's lots of other things to view as well. There's bits of local history from Schuyler, snippets of family history from the Hamners, including a year book showing Earl as the only boy in a class of girls! There are many Waltons photos and articles to see, and I was very taken by some paintings of the Walton children which were done by John Olvey. There's all sorts of memorabilia there too...great to see things you might never have seen before. Other very interesting displays include a whiskey still, like the Baldwin ladies would have used, and a wedding gown of the same vintage as Erin's.
|The replica of the Baldwin's still for making the Recipe.||A wedding dress and veil that Erin Walton may have worn for her marriage to Paul.|
There's also a model of the Walton's set, which is very detailed indeed. It was made by Julie Landis and is absolutely exquisite and authentic. You can see the tree house, Grandma's rocker, the porch swing, the see saw, or teeter totter as I think some might know it as, as well as other details in the garden area which we know so well.
More details about the Walton Museum are available at their website. http://www.waltonmuseum.org/
Finally we all finished looking around the Museum, and we headed next door to the Schuyler Family Restaurant. Lovely food here as well as more Waltons friends and a gift shop connected to it as well. I was very taken with some of the items here made from soapstone from the area. Again you can wander around and have a look at different pieces of memorabilia from the show. We spent quite some time relaxing here over lunch sharing stories and memories of the show.
After lunch we wandered down the road to have a look at the Hamner house - the home of Earl Hamner's childhood, and which had remained in the family before being sold late in 2003. Carolyn had thought ahead and contacted the new owner who consented to let us go up onto the front porch of the house and so we sat on the stairs contemplating the views which Earl would have seen as a child and thinking of the different stories which might have been told there. What secrets and stories could that porch tell us? I'm sure it holds many, many secrets. It was also a great photo opportunity and, of course, many were taken.
From there we wandered a bit further down the road to Polly's bed and breakfast inn. If you want to stay right in Schuyler and have the whole town experience, then this is a great option. She also has a lovely porch and we reminisced about Jim Hamner, a great friend to many there who passed away in April 2004. Polly has his special chair there, and many memories to share with visitors. Of course there's a gift shop too, and you can buy many newer Waltons related items, as well as some of the more collectible vintage ones such as the Waltons paper dolls. She also sells the videos and the DVD.
A bit further on again and we finally reached the church where Earl and his family attended each Sunday, and his father strolled past on his way to his fishing hole. It's a beautiful church and we sat in the shade of an outdoor area just listening to the sounds coming from all around us and imagining the singing that would have been coming through the walls each Sunday. Remember how Grandpa loves to sing his hymns.
And there we stayed until it was time to head back home. What a wonderful Waltons experience I had, and it's one that I will never forget. Carolyn had suggested that we head back via the Rockfish River, as the scenery is just lovely, but it was just starting to rain again as we were leaving and so we took the better road home, but on a fine day it would have been fun to do. As it was it was just fascinating to soak up the atmosphere of being in Earl Hamner's home town, a small country town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which became his inspiration for a television series which went for some 9 seasons as well as several reunion movies, created some much loved characters in Grandma and Grandpa, Ike and Corabeth and Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin, to name just a few, and has fans from all around the world who still find enjoy watching it and introducing it to their own families. It really is a phenomenon.
Through my involvement with The Waltons I found that I had made many more friends than I had ever expected, and it was such a pleasure to meet them all. One thing is certain, Waltons fans are terrific people and I can only look forward to a time when circumstances will allow me to return to the USA and go to one of the Waltons Reunions where I will meet many more fans, and some of the cast members as well.