Back then it often took two or three years before a television series was bought by an Australian network and televised, but then, if it rated well, we would get about three seasons all in a row. You have no idea how funny it was to suddenly find the children acting in a series had suddenly grown about six inches in just a week!
Anyway The Waltons became a regular part of my weekly television viewing. It was far removed from my life growing up in a large Australian city during the 70's but I loved it. Three and later four generations living in the one household seemed very practical to me, especially when a decade later I found myself a Mum at home with two small children. The house was filled with laughter and love and it all seemed idyllic. The weekly episodes showed me more of life during the Depression years, and later World War 2, than I had ever known.
Fast forward to the early 1990s when the Internet became more readily available. One of the first things I did was to scour the Internet for anything to do with The Waltons but there was barely a mention. It really didn't seem right for a show that I loved so much to have nothing out there on the web, when other shows seemed to have so much.
Whilst I was busy searching for tiny Waltons mentions on one side of the world, on the other side, in Schuyler, Virginia, a museum was being dedicated to The Waltons and a fan club was about to be born...The Waltons International Fan Club. It took a few years for this news to finally get to me.
By 1996 I decided that I would put together a web site for The Waltons. I spent hours going through old television magazines in our Victoria State Library, looking for any mention of The Waltons and its actors. There really wasn't much but I gathered enough to put together a site and an episode guide.
In fact, I can claim the honour of having the first Waltons website. Mine was uploaded, with the help of my two sons, Tim and James, in November of 1996. I began receiving email from fans immediately. One of the first emails I received was from the late Ralph Giffin, who was putting together an official Waltons site. He told me that he was about to launch his site in January and suggested we link to each other's sites, which we did. Ralph became a very dear friend and I regret that, due to distance, I was never destined to meet him. We emailed often and this very giving, special man opened up much more of the Waltons world than I suspect even he realised. He sent me photos to use and put me in contact with Earl Hamner, the creator of The Waltons. I can't tell you what a thrill it was to receive my first email from Earl! To hear that he supported my site was wonderful news.
Through my website I came into contact with so many fans from all around the world, all with our common interest in this timeless television show that ran for so many years. I decided that it would be great if we formed a little online Waltons community...my selfish aim being that I then wouldn't have to write so many of the same things to 40 different people! I also became aware that Easter of 1997 would see the airing of the Waltons special telemovie, A Walton's Easter so I asked people if I could put together just one long email, consisting of lots of emails from people who were corresponding with me. It became the Waltons Digest and went out to those 40 people on the day the Waltons special aired.
When I look back at those very first digests I see posts from Brenda, who took over the running of the Waltons Forum, one from Shirley in Canada who has put together a lovely website devoted to The Homecoming, another from DotP in Canada, who went on to host a very early Waltons chat room, and yet another from Carolyn who was busy forming the Waltons International Fan Club that went on to produce quarterly hard copy newsletters and regularly hosts the Waltons reunions that fans flock to. I am happy to report that many of the 40 who began with the Digest back in 1997 are still members today. They are among the 400 people who regularly receive the Waltons Digest in the Inbox each month. Many have become wonderful friends and I have gone on to meet up with many of them several times, during my trips to the USA.
Through the Waltons Digest we have shared news about the show, its actors, writers and producers. There has been sadness when Waltons actors have left us, particularly Ellen Corby, Joe Conley and Ralph Waite. We all shared feelings and stories and gave each other support during the 9/11 horror. Digest members have shared my family's news each month and offered me love and support during different health crises and the loss of my own father in 2006. We have lost some well loved Digest members too, including Ralph Giffin. Equally we have shared each other's blessings and news as our families have grown up. Digest members have heard about the successes of my two sons as they have grown through teen years into adulthood.
My husband and I have travelled over to the USA to visit Schuyler, to meet up with online friends and to attend some of the Waltons reunions. How lucky we have been to have been able to have done so.
A look at the statistics on my site gives us a clue as to how loved The Waltons is around the world. Certainly there are predominantly visitors from all over the USA but visitors also continue to come from the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and even South Africa.
Back in 1996 I never dreamed that my little Waltons website from Australia would bring me such opportunities to meet such wonderful people who have enriched my life enormously. I am very proud and thankful to be a part of the Waltons family!