‘The Waltons’: Michael Learned Passionately Explained Why Program ‘Should Be Shown in Schools’

by Keeli Parkey

“The Waltons” is a show about a family living in Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. And, according to one of its stars, its historical setting makes it necessary viewing for school children.

That star is Michael Learned. She played matriarch Olivia Walton on the show, which aired from 1972 until 1981. Learned talked about the historical nature of the show during a 2014 interview with the Television Academy Foundation.

“And, I think, I think the first five years are really a history lesson for kids,” Learned said. “I think it should be shown in schools.”

One reason “The Waltons” was “a history lesson” was due to its creator, Earl Hamner Jr., according to Learned.

“Because Earl dealt with the Dust Bowl, the (Great) Depression, of course … all kinds of stuff that back in the Depression days,” Learned explained. “It gives you a sense of America back in the 30s.”

You can watch the now 82-year-old Michael Learned talk about the historical value of “The Waltons” below.

Michael Learned Also Said ‘The Waltons’ Was ‘About Family’

“The Waltons” is also a show about family, according to what Michael Learned said during the interview with the Television Academy Foundation. And, this message made its way around the globe.

“The premise of ‘The Waltons – family. Really, it’s that simple,” she also said.

This premise developed as the show went on, Learned also explained.

“I think in the first season they had a lot of guests people and guest stories,” she said. “But, I think they realized pretty quickly that what people really wanted to see was the family.”

And, while other characters came and went, the show’s focus remained on the Waltons clan.

“So there were, of course, people that influenced the family or how they reacted,” Learned said. “But basically, I think they, um, … it’s about family.”

The actress became aware of just how the show was viewed across the globe during a trip to a far away land indeed.

“I remember once going to Bangladesh and they all had seen the show,” Learned recalled. “I thought, ‘Bangladesh people have seen ‘The Waltons’?'”

The show’s message was just as clear to people from a culture very different from the one shown in the series, according to Learned.

“Family. That’s what they all said. It’s about family,” Learned added. “We all relate to family.”

As the seasons went on, however, “The Waltons” did change, Learned also said.

“And, I think as the show evolved as do so many shows it got a little, you tend to fall in love with yourself a little bit and run out of ideas,” she added. “… as the kids got older it was not the same show that it started out to be.”

Even so, “The Waltons” continues to be loved by numerous fans.