‘The Waltons’: ‘Goodnight’ Routine on Show Was Based on Real Activity from Creator’s Childhood

by Katie Maloney

Much of the success of The Waltons came from viewers who watched the show and were either reminded of their own families or wished they had a family like the Waltons. At least, that’s what The Waltons creator, Earl Hamner Jr. said.

Hamner said that the entire show was based on his own experiences growing up with a large family in Schuyler, Virginia.

“The story reminded people a lot of their own experiences or what they wished their own experiences could be,” said Hamner during an interview.

Hamer’s real life inspired everything on the show from the family banter to family conflicts, to the “little cracker box” house. However, there was one memory of Hamner’s that stands out among the rest for audiences – the goodnight routine.

Earl’s Real Life Inspired Everything on The Waltons

At the end of almost every episode, as the night descended on Walton’s Mountain, the camera panned over the Walton’s house to show the lights going out room by room. And the lights dimmed, the family said goodnight to one another and drifted off to sleep.

“Good night, John-Boy. Good night, Elizabeth. And good night, daddy. Good night, son. And good night, mama. Good night, Mary Ellen. Good night, Jim Bob.”

Hamner said that the goodnight routine depicted on the show is identical to his own family’s tradition.

“That was something that we actually did when I was growing up,” Hamner said. “Sometimes we’d get carried away saying so many good nights that my father, who had to get up in the morning, would say, alright, that’s enough.”

Hamner also joked that Richard Thomas, who played John-Boy on The Waltons, could never understand how the routine worked until he saw the size of Hamner’s childhood home.

“And Richard Thomas, after his first trip to Virginia, he said, ‘You know, I always wondered how you people could say good night and be heard. But then I saw the house and it was such a little cracker box that now I understand,'” said Hamner laughing.

The Waltons say “goodnight.”

Earl Hamner Jr. Died While Listening to John Denver’s The Rocky Mountain Collection

As The Waltons creator, Hamner was a country man through and through. When he passed, Hamner’s family surrounded him as they all listened to John Denver. If that’s not a scene fit for The Waltons, we don’t know what is. In an announcement, Hamner’s son wrote about his father’s final moments.

“I am very sorry to be the bearer of sad news. My father, Earl Hamner, passed away today at 12:20 PM Pacific time. Dad died peacefully in his sleep at Cedar Sinai Hospital. Our family surrounded him, and we were playing his favorite music, John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Collection. Dad took his last breath halfway through Ricky Mountain High,” wrote Hamner’s son.

His son shared that Hamner had an insatiable passion for life and family. “He never got enough of this great gift of life with which we have all been so deeply blessed — and he hung on as tightly as anyone could with insatiable passion and wonder. My heart breaks as I say, ‘Goodnight, Dad!'”