By Marshall Jay Kaplan
The iconic TV family, who made their way through the Great Depression, brought love and family values to viewers every week for nine seasons. After more than thirty years off the air, it is time to catch up with The Waltons.
Airing first as a Christmas special in 1971 and then as a series in September, 1972, The Waltons was an immediate success. The show was about John “John-Boy” Walton Jr. (played by Richard Thomas) and his parents, Olivia and John Walton (played by Michael Learned and the late Ralph Waite). The show was set between 1933 and 1946, from the Great Depression through World War II. At the helm were Grandpa and Grandma Walton (played by the late Will Geer and Ellen Corby).
The series was groundbreaking, as Michael Learned recalls. “We dealt with segregation. We dealt with book burning.” Actress Judy Norton Taylor (Mary Ellen) concurs. “One of the most moving scenes was in the episode about book burning,” she says.
So where are The Waltons now? Here is a quick update:
Michael Learned (Olivia Walton) is 75, lives in northern California and continues to act on stage.
Ralph Waite (John Walton) passed away on February 13, 2014 at age 85.
Richard Thomas (John Boy) is 62, lives in Los Angeles and continues to act on television and has earned accolades for his appearances on the Broadway stage
Jon Walmsley (Jason) is 58. He composes and plays music, residing in Long Beach, California.
Judy Norton Taylor (Mary Ellen) is 56, lives in Los Angeles, and guest stars on television and independent films.
Eric Scott (Ben) is 55, lives in Sherman Oaks, California, and owns a delivery service.
Mary McDonough (Erin) is 53 and resides in San Diego. She published her autobiography and is currently authoring two more books.
David W. Harper (Jim-Bob) is 52. He has left acting and lives in Poway, California. He runs his own business.
Kami Cotler (Elizabeth), the youngest of The Walton clan, is 48. She resides in Los Angeles where she is the founding principal of a middle school.
Every Walton episode ended with an iconic closing scene. It is nighttime on Walton Mountain, only a few lights are on at the home. We hear a few voices talking about the day’s events, until family members bid each other good night. “To this day,” Richard Thomas says, “when people see me, they shout out, ‘Good night, John-Boy.’ “
And, with that we end his article. Good night, John-Boy… and the rest of the Walton family.