Two of The Waltons‘ boys were enamored with a young woman named Bobby Strom. She was a pilot and a daredevil. John Boy and little brother Jim Bob were smitten.
The episode “The Wing Walker” ran in season four of The Waltons. Here’s how John Boy (played by Richard Thomas) described it in the diary he kept and read as a narration:
“While we were walking the green meadows of Waltons Mountain, daring flyers were conquering the beckoning blue skies. We had come to know an airmail pilot who would fly slightly off course just to say “Hello” to us, and especially to Jim Bob. Jim Bob’s head was in the clouds back in those days, dreaming of machines which he hoped one day to fly.”
John Boy was assigned by his newspaper to do a story on the wing walker performing at the local fair. He discovered she was a woman and an attractive one at that. Bobby Strom started receiving small gifts. She thought they were from John Boy. Turns out, Jim Bob had the crush.
Earlier this week, Judy Norton did a behind-the-scenes look back with Lee Purcell, who was The Waltons wing walker. Norton, who played Walton’s daughter Mary Ellen, has remained close with Purcell since she was a guest star on the show.
Fans of The Waltons May Recognize Lee Purnell’s Face From Other TV Shows
Purcell was only on one episode of The Waltons. But you may recognize her face. She was nominated for two Emmys for Long Road Home and Secret Sins of the Father. She also made guest appearances on Marcus Welby, M.D.
Purnell received her big break when Steve McQueen picked her to be in his production company’s movie, Adam at 6 A.M. with Michael Douglas.
When Purcell did The Waltons, you could say she felt at home with what she was doing. Growing up, her father was a Marine aviator. Her father died and her mother remarried, this time to a Naval doctor. Purcell was around the military for most of her childhood.
She acknowledged to Judy Norton that parts of the Wing Walker Waltons episode were easy for her to do. And not to spoil any surprises, when the wing-walking scenes were filmed, the plane was on the ground.
Purnell Said Most Technical Part of Dialogue Was the Easiest For Her
Purnell said she felt especially at home, sitting on the living room floor at The Waltons, talking to Jim Bob.
“There’s a scene in the living room where Bobby is explaining to Jim Bob, using his (model) airplane how flying works,” Purcell said. “How a plane works, how it stays up in the air. It was a very technical scene, very specific. And the scene was really easy for me because I had been to ground school several years before.
“And ground school is when you’re learning to fly,” she said. “It’s on the ground, not in the air, which is why they call it ground school. And ground school is when you learn the physics, learn the math and the intricacies of flying. So that scene in the living room, although it was highly, highly technical, was really in my wheelhouse so it was really easy for me.”
You can check out the entire interview below.