‘The Waltons’ Star Judy Norton Reflects on Magical Sleigh Ride on ‘Homecoming’

by Lauren Boisvert

Judy Norton, in a recent behind-the-scenes video of “The Homecoming,” explained a scene that ended with her getting to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.

For context, John-Boy leaves the house to go search for his father. He finds Charlie Sneed at Ike’s store, in handcuffs, because it turned out he’d stolen a bunch of turkeys. John-Boy borrowed Charlie’s truck (with the stolen turkeys in the back) and headed out to look for his father. While on the road, the truck runs out of gas. John-Boy hears singing in the distance, and this leads him to Reverend Dooley’s church. He partakes in the Christmas Eve service that Reverend Hawthorne puts on.

John-Boy meets with Hawthorne, who suggests if he needs gas for the truck, they should go see the Baldwins. So, they go see the Baldwin sisters, who give them something to drink, and sing a song with them. Hawthorne asks them for some gas, but they don’t actually have any. Instead, they have a horse-drawn sleigh.

John-Boy and Hawthorne take the sleigh, and Judy Norton explains, “During the time that we were filming up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I remember getting to go for a ride in that sleigh. That was the only time I’ve ever had a chance to do that. It was just magical. It was like going back in time to my favorite Christmas movies from earlier eras when people did go for sleigh rides and the types of things that growing up in Southern California were never an option […] those were some of the very special memories that I took from that time filming all those years ago.”

Judy Norton Talks Recreating the 1900s for ‘The Waltons’

In the first video in the behind-the-scenes series on “The Homecoming,” Judy Norton explained how the creative teams on “The Waltons” recreated the 1900s for the film so successfully.

“I loved the way they really created the era in this original movie,” she started, “from the cinematography, which had a sort of darker, grittier feel to it, as if it really was hard times. Even more so than during the series, and I’m sure that was intentional.”

For the sets, she described a scene where the family is eating vegetable soup out of simple wooden bowls. “It’s a very simple meal which would be, I’m sure, very appropriate for that time period, and probably the type of lunch that Earl Hamner’s real family had during the time that he was growing up,” Norton explained.

It’s incredibly likely that Earl Hamner Jr.’s family did eat simple meals like that; he grew up during the Depression and based “The Waltons” on his childhood and family life. There’s so much that writing, set design, lighting, and mood can do to recreate an entire era, and “The Waltons” did it exceptionally well.