‘The Waltons’: The Real-Life Story Behind the Show’s Dance Marathon Episode

by Hannah Heser

The Walton’s was a popular show on CBS in the seventies. Dance marathons became popular when “The Marathon” episode aired in 1974.

The plot took place during the Depression-era when dance marathons first became well-liked. Although, dance marathons were definitely back in style in this time period.

The Walton’s dance marathon episode lasted for seven days with a grand prize of $200. In order to win, the couple had to outdance everyone and raise the most money for charity. This set the record for the longest dance marathon of the decade.

Judy Norton takes us on a journey behind the scenes of “The Marathon” episode from season 3.

Most of the episode takes place at the dance hall.

World Record for the Walton’s Dance Marathon

A world record set in June 1933 when the most extreme dance marathons persisted for 22 weeks and three and a half days. But, the real question is, how can someone dance for that long? It sounds exhausting!

Luckily, the participants took 6-hour breaks every day. These marathons continued through the 1940s and 1950s, but became less popular in 1960.

Don’t you worry, though! The seventies brought these marathons back, and they are better than ever. They motivate dancers to never stop moving. However, breaks are only lasting five to ten minutes now.

Marathon Examples

One example of a marathon is from 1974, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. People remained on the dance floor for 52 hours with dancers required to keep 75 percent of their bodies in motion. They were provided with half-hour breaks every four hours to remain safe.

In order to keep the same pace, handkerchiefs and towels were surrounding them, so they could wipe sweat from their faces.

The grand prize was a set of bicycles, and most of the marathons in the seventies were raising money for local charities. People also participated for the fun of it.

Another example is from Boston in 1974. This dance marathon was designed to have no end and was a 16-day cruise in the Virgin Islands. Everyone is wondering where the end is, but there is no sign of one yet. Fortunately, they kept ambulances and other equipment nearby just in case. Most couples say they even had backup crews ready to deliver extra food, water and supplies.

Event planners reviewed several applications to ensure no contestants had any underlying health conditions. For example, a 63-year-old man wanted to compete, but they told him to sit this one out.

Once the marathon began, the Boston event drew some pessimists who doubted the Seventies kids. They didn’t think they had what it took to remain in the dance marathon. But, they didn’t let those doubts stop them.