The Walton’s Mountain Family Museum is one of our favorite neighbors. A short 15 minute drive from the Orchard House Bed and Breakfast awaits another world from long ago. Every week, we have guests from all over the country who visit Nelson County for the opportunity to tour the property that started it all. Earl Hamner (aka John Boy) and his family grew up in Schuyler, Virginia, right here in Nelson County. The Walton’s Mountain show was based on Earl’s recollections of growing up here, and included characters based on his childhood memories.
Recently, my mom was in town from Michigan and we decided to check it out. What an unexpected treat! We arrived at the museum parking lot and walked the short distance to the Hamner house. It is a much smaller version of the house that was showcased on the actual Walton’s Mountain tv series. It has several similaries (the front porch) and a few key differences. For example, on the show John Boy’s bedroom was on the left side of the second floor. In actuality, his room was on the right side of the second floor. The house today always has a desk light burning 24/7 in John Boy’s window, and you can just imagine him sitting at the desk writing his stories.
We elected to tour the Hamner home, and what a pleasant 30 minutes it was! Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about all things Hamner/Walton’s Mountain. We got to see all the rooms where the Hamner family grew up, and hear the stories about how they lived with ten people in the modest home. There were multiple antiques, all staged to represent real life in the Hamner home.
After our tour, we walked back to the school that Earl Hamner attended as a young boy. The school has now been converted to the museum, each former classroom set up to replicate rooms in the Walton Mountain Family show. You can tour John Boy’s bedroom, the living room with the antique radio, the kitchen with the long farmhouse table, even Ike’s Convenience Store. There are walls and walls lined with articles, awards, artwork created by Walton’s fans, and photos. We especially enjoyed the little theater with a winding movie featuring interviews and show clips.
Mom and I were so entranced by everything-Walton’s that we forgot about lunch. By this time we were starving and looking for something local. Not to worry, Ike’s Convenience Store was right there on the Walton’s Mountain “campus”. We enjoyed a picnic lunch of delicious fried chicken, potato wedges, cole slaw, and iced tea. Mom and I sat at a picnic table under a huge willow tree, looking around at the same landscape that Earl Hamner/John Boy would have gazed at every day.
I didn’t expect to be so impressed with the Walton’s Mountain Museum experience. But I loved everything about it. So did my Mom. We both remember Thursday nights, watching the show with our entire family gathered around the tv and a big bowl of popcorn. Everybody in my family had a character they could identify with, and we especially loved the ending. “Good Night, John Boy”.
As a wonderful side note, Season One, Episode Fourteen is based on the Orchard House Bed and Breakfast property. “Mr. Pickett’s Apple Orchard” is the episode where Mary Ellen contemplates running away to the big city of Virginia Beach, while the rest of the family is shown picking apples and enjoying the beauty of Nelson County. I feel a special connection to the Walton’s because of that episode, and we look forward to sharing the experience with our guests!
Good Night, John Boy!!