The season six episode of “The Waltons” titled “The Return” is remembered for many things. It includes the return of John-Boy Walton to Walton’s Mountain, as well as the return of actor Richard Thomas to the show.
According to his costar Judy Norton, Thomas had left the show at the end of its fifth season. The Mary Ellen Walton actress talked about this episode of “The Waltons” in one of her many “Behind the Scenes” videos she has recently shared on her YouTube channel.
However, the returns of John-Boy and Thomas are not the only interesting things about “The Return” episode. There is also the collapse of the mine. And, according to Norton, the way it was filmed is pretty interesting.
During the episode, John-Boy and John Walton go to visit Mr. Guthrie. Guthrie is the owner of the coal mine that had been closed for a few years. During their conversation, John-Boy convinces Mr. Guthrie that the community needs the mine and its resources.
Guthrie and John agree that John’s mill will provide the lumber for the shoring up of the mines, Norton recalled. This was done to make the mine safe for the miners to go in and work. However, things don’t go exactly according to plan. The mine caves in and the workers are trapped inside.
Judy Norton Explains How the Mine Collapse on ‘The Waltons’ Was Filmed
“Many of you have asked how that was shot – the mine cave-in,” Judy Norton said of the dramatic event in “The Return” episode of “The Waltons.” “Since I was not on set for the mine cave-in – all of the women were above ground. Basically, they arrived when the whistle is pulled and come to be whatever support they can above ground. Helping find the blueprints so that Ep and John-Boy can figure out how to get to the men that are trapped. And, the women are there ready to supply food and water, and blankets and comfort, and be there for each other – emotional support.”
In order to find out how the mine collapse was filmed, Judy Norton called one of her costars on “The Waltons.” That costar was Eric Scott. He played Ben Walton in the show.
“I said, ‘Hey, you were in the mine. How was this done?” Norton said. “Eric said they built an interior set on another sound stage. …”
This set was different than typical sets in an “interesting” way, Norton said.
“(Eric) said, which was interesting because they had ceilings,” she added. “They were closed in, which wasn’t typically the case when they built sets. They would leave the ceilings open so they could put lights up above and rig things that way. But in this case, because we see the ceilings of these mine shafts, they were closed in. …”
Judy Norton reported that Scott said styrofoam made to look like rocks and wood were used for the debris that fell on them in the mine collapse.