On April 12th, 2021, Actress Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen on The Waltons, released a youtube video as a part of her “ask Judy” series. In the video, a viewer asks Norton, “Which episode taught you the most about life?” But Norton says The Waltons taught her so much. Needless to say, Norton doesn’t stop at one.
The Firestorm is the first episode Norton mentions, saying that that episode, in particular, stands out. The episode, which tackles the heavy topics of book burning and censorship, is one of the many episodes of The Waltons that deal with heavy and nuanced topics. The episode addresses human tendencies to act out of fear and pain and doesn’t shy away from difficult discussions.
“That whole message that John Boy was trying to get across to people, that if you try to censor or destroy books and things, then people won’t know things that could be important or dangerous.”
The Firestorm isn’t the only time The Waltons addressed heavy topics. Norton also notes The Scholar, which addresses the subject of illiteracy, was also an important episode to her. In The Scholar, the Waltons’ neighbor, Verdie Grant, asks John-Boy to teach her how to read. Verdie says she’s kept her illiteracy a secret and wants to be able to sign the register at her daughter’s graduation.
The Scholar later went on to win an Emmy for Writer of a Drama Series for a Single Program.
‘The Waltons’ and Its Many Lessons
Ultimately, Norton notes that “We tackled a lot of subjects- so – I was so proud of the show for that. That we took on some of these topics and addressed them.” She also says she learned so much behind the scenes, such as learning how to milk a cow and play with a peacock. “It was wonderful, it was work, and it was a joy. I learned. What more can you ask for?”
Norton isn’t the only person on The Waltons who had to learn life skills behind the scenes. In a 2011 interview, Mary Mcdonough, who played Erin, said that the entire cast had to learn ranch work. She expressed gratitude for the opportunity, saying, “We got to learn to milk cows, ride mules and gather eggs from a chicken coop. It was a really diverse way to grow up, and I felt like I didn’t have to reconcile it other than to appreciate how lucky I was to do all this fun stuff.”
Whether it was behind the scenes or through the episodes, The Waltons taught many people important life lessons. Even though The Waltons was a show made in the 70s and set in the depression, many of its messages continue to be relevant today.