Visiting Walton's Mountain Museum in Virginia
Housed in a simple two-story building at the crossroads of Schuyler and Rockfish River roads, Walton’s Mountain Museum welcomes its visitors with a large tree in the front yard and a single rocking chair on the long porch.
During the Great Depression, this house served as a gathering place for the children of Schuyler where they would play ball and explore the countryside. It is the place where Earl H. Hamner, Jr., creator of the 1970s popular television show “The Waltons”, spent his childhood.
Now, the home draws over 15,000 tourists a year to learn more about the background of the person who created the Emmy-winning show that ran for nine seasons on American TV. In one of his interviews Hamner acknowledged that he was happy growing up there and a lot of the places mentioned on the series are real place names in Schuyler, located southwest of Charlottesville, Va., right at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The seven-room Walton’s Mountain Museum features a number of Walton memorabilia as well as set recreations. This quaint, community-run museum opened in 1992 features the Walton’s kitchen which is very popular among the visitors. In fact, the show emphasized strong family ties and it is the feeling of nostalgia for a simpler life that continues to evoke the visitors’ interest to the museum. Also visitors can walk around replicas of protagonist John-Boy’s room as well as the family living room. There is also Ike Godsey’s store on site, where you can not only see the exhibits but also purchase various gifts. Another highlight of this nonprofit museum is a moonshine distillery.
The bulk of the museum’s collection represents donations by collectors of Waltons memorabilia along with Depression-era keepsakes. Once Schuyler had a soapstone mine with over 1,000 employees but it downsized during the Great Depression.
Even though Hamners currently don’t live in Schuyler, Earl Hamner, 89, still visits his home town whenever he can. During one of those visits to Virginia he got a Lifetime Achievement Award. Among his other projects are “Falcon Crest,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Heidi” and “Charlotte’s Web”. He also wrote several books. But he became really famous after “The Waltons” that described the whole decade of the life of this family in a very challenging time, when they had to overcome the hardships of a deep depression. This difficult time made these people develop such qualities as resourcefulness, self-reliance and courage.
Hamner believes that such values are still important even these days and television has to do more to good. He thinks that television has to shape some kind of affirmative image of mankind. Such affirming messages can be experienced by visiting the small town of Schuyler that inspired the show. When in Schuyler consider visiting Walton’s Mountain Country Store, “Ike Godsey’s” convenience store, the Hamner family’s Baptist church, and the Hamner home which is open to the public.
Walton’s Mountain Museum works from the first Saturday in March to the first Sunday in December from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission fee is $8 for children aged 6 and up and adults. The museum exhibition includes a 30-minute video about the popular show.