HomeAmerican EntertainmentTVClassic TVWhy ‘The Waltons’ Creator Earl Hamner Jr. Desperately Needed to Find TV Success

Why ‘The Waltons’ Creator Earl Hamner Jr. Desperately Needed to Find TV Success

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

For The Waltons creator Earl Hamner Jr., a decrepit old house served as the perfect motivation to launch his career that went down in classic TV history.

According to Hamner Jr.’s memoir titled The Avocado Drive Zoo, his beginnings were as humble as they come. Not only did he grow up in the Great Depression-era Virginia Blue Ridge mountains, but he also graduated from college with nearly no money to his name. Because of that, Hamner Jr. and his wife Jane Martin lived in a crumbling home that Martin called “the sod house.”

The not-so-cozy dwelling was never intended to be a forever home. Earl Hamner Jr. had his heart set on being a famous screenwriter one day. And he knew it was only a matter of time before his name was etched in small-screen history. But in the meantime, he and his family lived a less than lavish life.

In the memoir, Hamner Jr. wrote that the house was so small that their couch barely fit inside. And when the family sat down to eat dinner, parts of the ceiling would fall onto their plates.

“We fought the house every day of our lives,” Hamner admitted. And he didn’t mean that lightly.

The sod house was in irreparable shape. Every night that it rained, Hamner Jr. and his wife would have to fill the floor with buckets to catch water from the leaky roof. And they’d be up all night making sure those buckets didn’t overflow.

The writer also noted that the walls would collapse if anyone took too heavy of a step in the halls. And sometimes, the dirt below the home would shift and cause the garage door to stick in the ground. On those days, the family car would be trapped and rendered unusable.

After Taking a Chance With Rod Sterling, Earl Hamner Jr. Moved to LA and Began His Work with ‘The Waltons’

Luckily for the family, it was only a matter of time before Earl Hamner Jr.’s writing chops broke them out of the cursed home. Hamner Jr. had once met the legendary Rod Sterling while schmoozing with Hollywood greats. And in the 1960s he decided to take a chance and send him a few scripts for The Twilight Zone. Though, he admitted that he never imagined the creator would bite.

Sterling did bite though. In fact, he ended up buying eight scripts from Earl Hamner Jr., and the attention eventually led to the creation of The Waltons.

But with the proceeds from The Twilight Zone and a few subsequent projects, Hamner Jr. and his family finally moved away from the sod house and never looked back. The writer, his wife, and their children Scott and Caroline ended up living out their days among the rest of Tinsel Town’s icons in Los Angeles California.