The Waltons transcended what it was supposed to be. A down-home show about morals became something much of the world can recognize.
Perhaps the longest-lasting touchstone from the show were the “goodnights,” when the characters were heading to bed and one-by-one told each other goodnight. It has been replicated and homaged in countless pieces of media since.
But one instance of its use didn’t come for entertainment. It was used for pure communication.
In 2019, John-Boy Walton actor Richard Thomas sat down with Studio 10‘s Craig Bennett to discuss the show. The topic of the “goodnights” came up. Thomas spoke on the connection to fans thanks to the iconic phrase, but he also revealed an unorthodox situation involving it.
“Is it true that during the Vietnam War, when troops were in the field, they would call out, ‘Goodnight John-Boy?'” Craig Bennett asked Thomas.
While it is still anecdotal, Richard Thomas was able to at least give some context to the question. According to The Waltons star, it went even deeper than regular call-outs.
“I talked to someone who had been, years later, who had been a POW in Vietnam,” Thomas said. “He said at night, when they were getting ready to go to sleep, the guys would call each other from cell to cell with The Waltons‘ goodnights just to see who was there and that everybody was okay.”
Wow. The cultural impact of a show like The Waltons can’t be understated, but it being utilized among Vietnam POWs is especially incredible.
The Waltons Star Richard Thomas on His Connection After Hearing Story
Thomas then sums up what it feels like to have your work be so prevalent it was used by Vietnam soldiers.
“That was one of the most touching things I’ve ever heard,” Thomas said. “You can imagine, only imagine how that would make you feel to hear that. He said, ‘Yeah, we used to do the goodnights to each other and call out each other from cell to cell just to see who was still there.'”
Pieces of media and culture are sometimes all that we have to relate and connect with those around us. As Richard Thomas learns, sometimes it means even more than that.
In particular, the actor seems to really appreciate it, despite it’s longtime popularity.
“If I had a cent for every time someone said it, that would be a lot of money,” Thomas said. “But I have a feeling for every time someone says it, it makes me a very rich man in a very different way. It’s just wonderful to meet people who remember that show and have fond feelings for it.”