Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Visiting Walton's Mountain

Schyler, Va. was a company town. Alberene Soapstone Company was the main employer and at one time, Earl Hamner Sr. was an employee. Today, it is a town of about 400 people nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is also the location of the Walton's Mountain Museum.

When Earl Hamner created the Walton family, he based the characters on members of his own family. He condensed eight children into seven by combining two of his brothers into Ben but the rest are, if not named the same, a rough representation. Fans of the show had a hard time separating fact from fiction. After the show ended people would come to Schyler looking for Walton’s Mountain and for Ike and Cora’s store.

There isn’t a Walton’s Mountain or "the" general store. The people of Schyler needed a community center and they came up with the idea of having a Walton’s Mountain Museum to help finance the center. The schools consolidated in the early 1990s and one of the schools was available. With the help of a local designer who had made good, they created a museum about the fictitious Waltons. As a happy circumstance, the school which now houses the museum is also the school Earl Hamner graduated from.

This is a simple museum. The day we were there it was a quiet one and we did not get a guided tour. You can tour the museum on your own. We entertained ourselves in the main room while we waited for someone to notice us. The man who was in charge that day was very busy fixing some things that needed fixing around the building.

A 30-minute video runs whenever there are enough people to justify it. We had to wait quite a while because it was running for quite a bunch of people when we got there. It is still a surprisingly popular place even though the show has been off the air for more than 25 years. On the video we hear from Earl Hamner and we learn not only about the show, but about the real Hamner family. We also heard from the actors and how this particular show affected their lives. Will Geer and Ellen Corby were very much grandparents to the young actors on the show. Earl tailored the show characters to the personality of the actors.

What you will find here are recreated rooms from the TV show. None of the items from the show has found its way here, but the local antique stores have done a fine job of giving a similar feeling. You see the kitchen, the parlor, John Boy’s bedroom, the living room, and several exhibits including "the recipe machine" room. They also have a room with many of the original scripts from the show.

You can have your picture taken behind the grill at Ike and Cora’s store and there certainly is a very nice gift store on the premises. For fans of "Walton's Mountain" this will be an interesting blast from the past.

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