It just ain’t happenin’, John-Boy

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune
Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown -

Good night, John-Boy.

That old TV catchphrase from the 1970s show “The Waltons” offered an antidote to all of the aggravations and distractions, the trials and troubles of the disco era.

Now they’re bringing back the familiar homeplace of “The Waltons.” An enterprising couple in Schuyler, Virginia, a community at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Lynchburg, say they’re going to build a new Waltons replica home and turn it into a bed and breakfast. The replica will be next door to the standing, childhood home of the “Waltons’” creator.

Good night, Elizabeth.

Just as fans of the 1960s nostalgia TV classic “The Andy Griffith Show” can spend a night now in Griffith’s boyhood home in Mount Airy, John-Boy fans later this year also will be able to say good night and sleep and dream of the TV show’s fictional Walton’s Mountain where it all began.

Don’t expect any big doings in Schuyler. It’s even smaller than State Road and has little more than a post office along a two-lane state highway and a mining business for soapstone used for kitchen countertops. Don’t expect anytime soon a Waltons Days nostalgia weekend with a parade like they have in Mount Airy each September.

Good night, Jim Bob.

Because “Waltons” fans are disappointed when they come and see the modest boyhood home of the TV show’s creator, developers Ray Castro and Carole Johnson say they’ll build a house that fans will love. The married couple purchased property there in December.

“It’s really going to be the Walton’s Mountains experience,” Castro told a Lynchburg newspaper.

About 100 came to a groundbreaking that included family members of show creator Earl Hamner Jr. and “Waltons” actors. Earl’s Meadow development, including the Hamner home and the Waltons replica, is to be completed next year. Hamner based the TV show on his family and childhood experiences there. He died in 2016.

Good night, Mary Ellen.

Though there is no direct connection between “Andy Griffith” and “The Waltons,” both in their heydays presented a kinder, gentler vision of rural American life. They presented alternative universes where most of us would love to go for at least a visit if we could.

But we’re stuck here in 21st Century America with frayed nerves and relationships and insecure economics and politics.

What things could we do to make our communities more like Mayberry and Walton’s Mountain? Here are some suggestions:


Just put the things down and look at me, talk to me. I want to connect with younger people, but these days I can’t even get them to even make eye contact.


With all that’s going on these days, we should be packing out our houses of worship. We’re not. Finding our way back to better living requires first walking through the church doors on Sundays.


So much shoots us off in different directions. Work and school. Sports practices and adult gym workouts. Homework and housework. Day trips to parks, shows and attractions are more available now than ever. We should be packing out those places as well.


I’m not talking jobs here. Nothing brings people together like doing things together side by side. Service projects by churches, clubs and the like build a community in a way that sitting passively in a religious service or business meeting does not.


Phone calls and e-mails are poor substitutes. Our comfortable dens and locked doors pen us in when we should be getting out.


Hand sanitizers abound for germy hands, but angry words, blasphemous words, disrespectful words that wound hearts and spirits spread freely these days and can’t be just rubbed away. We are what we say. Just listen to yourself some time.

Places like Mayberry and Walton’s Mountain don’t just happen. It takes good people doing good things to make it happen.

These days it just ain’t happenin’.

Good night, Daddy. Good night, Mama.


In memoriam: I was saddened to learn of the passing last week of a former high school English teacher of mine, Bill Harrold of Hays. He and his colleagues helped lay the foundation for my journalism career and for these “Hometown” columns. RIP.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune