In Loving Memory of Earl Hamner

July 10, 1923 - March 24, 2016
 

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Our trip to the Walton Reunion 2010


On October 22nd and 23rd, 2010 Carolyn Grinnell organized a big Walton Reunion in Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg is about ¾ hour by car away from Schuyler, the hometown of Earl Hamner. Schuyler is the Waltons Mountain from the fantastic TV show The Waltons. Here is the birthplace of Earl Hamner and here is the well-known Waltons Mountain Museum, which we have visited last year and which we can recommend to every Walton fan. And .... America's No. 1 storekeeper, Mr. Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), should be the guest of honor this year. And this time we wanted to be there!


A few days before the Walton weekend started we ended up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our trip took us through the small town of Winchester directly on the Shenandoah Drive, thence to Charlottesville and then on to Schuyler, and finally to the Kirkley Hotel in Lynchburg. Here we already had booked a room for 3 nights.

For our stay in Winchester we wanted to attend a very special event and we already booked the tickets in Germany. In the Alamo Drafthouse, a large cinema, was a celebration for the 50th Anniversary of one of my very favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Here too was a special guest of honor invited, namely the main character from the book or from the film, Mary Badham who played the little Scout. Gregory Peck had another leading role as Atticus, the father of Scout. Unfortunartely he is no longer with us. The film and the book are so wonderful and I really love both. Very much to recommend.

First we joined the big buffet where we could choose between several delicate food. Following the buffet we watched the movie To Kill a Mockingbird  (an experience to see the movie on a big screen), then Mary Badham answered all sorts of questions of the audience. Finally, we could buy film photos and Mary Badham was so friendly to sign them.

Later that evening we were welcomed by the owner of the cinema - Kathy – who spoke to us in our german language.  Kathy told us that in 1950 ! at the age of 5 she had come from Germany to the United States with her parents. She came from a small town between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, namely - - - of our current residence!  What a joy and surprise. Kathy and we both could not believe it. Oh, what a small world.

Mary Badham          Kathy and Dagmar

Autograph Mary Badham

Kathy invited us to be her guest in the hotel we have booked (she owns it also ). We declined the invitation with thanks because we already had paid our hotel from Germany but a few days later, the money was credited to our credit card. Thank you, dear Kathy!

It was a fantastic evening and a successful start of our dream trip to the Waltons.

The next morning we started our trip through the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. Exactly 105 miles long is the distance from the northern to the southern part of the park. We have taken a couple of hours to enjoy this route. Here too - as well as on the Blue Ridge Parkway - there are very informative visitor centers and stunning views over the country. Unfortunately the weather was a bit down.It was not raining but the sky was very overcast, we had no good view. For that we had at last a very special experience: suddenly a young black bear appeared on the left side of our road. He came straight ahead out of the woods. He ran with quick steps in front of our car and disappeared in the woods on the other side of the road. We were so moved by this situation that we did not succeed in a photo shoot too. Before we realized what we just saw in front of our car the moment was gone. Bye Bear!


In the early evening we reached Lovingston to stay here for the night. From here it was only 20 minutes more by car to Schuyler and to the Walton Mountain Museum. After a quiet night in the nice and very clean Motel Village Inn we went to Scottsville first for breakfast and then to Schuyler to welcome Patrick at the museum. Of course, we had announced our visit to Patrick before. Great was the joy of reunion on both sides. We stayed only for a moment at the museum because we were on our way to Lynchburg, the Kirkley Hotel. There we finally should meet Carolyn Grinnell, the organizer of the Reunion 2010.

After about half an hour driving southbound we arrived at the Kirkley Hotel in Lynchburg. At the reception we met Carolyn, who just arrived as well. With great hello and hugs we welcomed each other. Carolyn was accompanied by her very friendly sister Bonnie. After checking in we were sitting together with both sisters in their room, talked about our Walton memories and admired the countless souvenirs of the Waltons from Carolyn, which should decorate the banquet Saturday evening.

Our Walton weekend had started wonderful.

Next morning at 8 o´ clock the phone rang. At the other end was a cute lively Carolyn who asked us if we like to  go to Schuyler with her and a TV crew at 10 O´clock in the morning. We did!

The television crew from INSP (Inspiration Network) picked us up at the Kirkley Hotel and with two cars   (Carolyn, Waltonfan Marcia, Dagmar and Manfred and the TV crew INSP) we drove direction Schuyler. On the advice of Carolyn we took the less frequented but very beautiful scenic route along the Rockfish River. Suddenly Carolyn's cell phone rang (Walton's melody sounded) and David from the second car told us that our car had a flat tire. We did not notice anything. So Manfred and the guys from INSP had to raise the spare tire first before we could finally continue our way to Schuyler.

When we arrived in Schuyler the television crew and Carolyn went to the Hamner House. After testing the sound and the lighting conditions the interview could start and David from the INSP interviewed Carolyn on the porch of the Hamner Home. Marcia, Manfred and me watched everything from a short distance. That was exciting. Finally the TV crew asked us fans of the Waltons for an interview. So, Manfred and I stood in front of the Hamner House and answered the questions of David with more or less good English (not very well). Then Marcia was also interviewed and she did it much better.
Then we hurried back to Lynchburg to the Kirkley Hotel because at 5 o´clock p.m the big meeting with Ike Godsey, I mean with Joe Conley, would start. Would he respond to my questions which I have sent him with  a letter few weeks ago ?

At 5 o´clock we all came together in the conference room on the ground floor at the Kirkley Hotel. There was a buffet set up with biscuits and cake and soon we noticed some people from the Walton forum such as Brenda, Ryan and Michelle. Finally we could meet all the nice people from Brendas forum in person. Carolyn gave a short speech and welcomed Joe Conley, who was sitting alone in a corner. Previously I had not noticed him at all, although I was standing next to him. We applauded.

After some hesitation on my part I walked over to Joe Conley and introduced myself. Joe smiled at me and knew immediately who I was. He assured me that he received my interview questions and he got the answers with him. This made me very happy. We talked about his 14-day cruise he made with his wife Louise before the Reunion and now he was actually pretty tired. Nevertheless, he took time for a nice conversation and he didn´t mind to do some photos with me. Manfred finally said it would be time for other fans to have some conversation with Joe Conley. I was so excited I did not noticed the other fans. Meanwhile a lot of fans stood around us and  everyone wanted to get a photo with Joe.

There was the possibility for the Waltonfans to purchase Joe Conley´s biography or a photo which he signed later. Since we already owned his biography and his photos – both signed - we just watched the people and we took some nice videos of Joe and his fans. It was an exciting afternoon and we both were very happy.

Later that evening we had dinner at the hotel restaurant and who was sitting next to our table - Joe and Louise Conley.

The next morning we went again to Schuyler, ääähhh to Waltons Mountain. This time we wanted to visit the Hamner House which was recently renovated and opened to the public. We bought our tickets at the Waltons Mountain Country Store then our visit started.  We first entered the Hamner house from the front porch. Like in the TV show we already stood in the living room when we entered the house. The kitchen has a large dining table, a very old stove and a beautiful view from the window, which was located above the sink (like in the TV show also). From here we could directly look across the street to the Walton Museum. On the right side of the living room is a staircase to the upper floor, far right is the door to the master bedroom. In the lower area is also a quite spacious bathroom with a tub. There are two more rooms on the top floor , a so-called girls' room and then a boy's room, carefully decorated with a pair of dungarees on the wall and an old typewriter on a small desk. It is amazing that in this small house parents once lived with their 8 children.

After this long-awaited visit to the Hamner House we walked up the street with Marcia and Michelle to the former hospital of Schuyler. Today this building is a meeting place. There was a huge variety of food and drinks and Waltonfans sat around everywhere and talked together. Joe Conley and Louise sat outside on the porch and we also were looking for a sunny spot in the garden and sat together with other fans ( Marcia, Ryan and his Dad Jim) with Apple Pie, coffee and apple juice and enjoyed the moment. It was wonderful!

In the early afternoon we started our way home to Lynchburg. The great event should start at 6 o´clock in the  evening.

After taking a shower and preparing the video camera and the digicam and checking the batteries we went downstairs to the large meeting room. The door  was still closed and we had to wait for a short while with many other fans until somebody opened the big door and we were allowed to enter. There were about 12 - 14 large nice decorated round tables for 8 people each. All the tables and the whole room was decorated for Thanksgiving. Our table was No. 1, in front of the podium. We sat together with Patrick, Carolyn, Kelly and Lance and Doris and Walter. Walter has rebuild an original Ike Godsey store in his basement. Like in the old days. He showed us photos of it and we could not believe it. An Ike Godsey's store in the basement. WOW!

After a short speech of Carolyn we went over to the big buffet. We ate sweet potatoes for the first time and they tasted delicious.

After dinner Joe Conley entered the stage and gave a beautiful speech about his life, his time as Ike Godsey and about his contact to some of the other Walton cast members. Following to his speech he gladly answered the fans questions. It was really great for us to watch him so much alive talking about the Waltons.

Following Joe's speech, which ended with standing ovation, the auction started. At the beginning of the evening we had the opportunity to watch the items that should go to the auction and submit a bid.
How lucky I was that among all the items I found a book of poems by Richard Thomas (John-Boy). For a long time I was looking for this book in Germany but it is not published there. There were also some original screenplays which caught my eye.

We `ll  see !

Well, at the end of the auction I was the proud owner of the book of poems by Richard Thomas. And .... I obtained the original screenplay of Joe Conley (which he donated for the auction) from the episode THE OBSESSION from the seventh season. Oh, was I proud to be the owner of an original script of THE WALTONS and then specially from Joe Conley, the guest of honor this year. Of course, Joe Conley had to refine the script with his autograph immediately. What a commotion!

Because Manfred and I have been the Waltonfans with the longest journey to the Reunion we got a gift from Carolyn from the Walton International Fan Club, a white Ike Godsey grocery apron directly from Ike's store ;-)). What a surprise and what a wonderful gift !

Later that evening we had a Square-dance presentation of some participants of the banquet. Well done!

There was a very reflective moment when we light up our candles which were laying on every table and we reminded to all the fans of the Waltons who could not be with us. What a nice touch and some of us were moved to tears by remembering old friends. This was a very touching moment of the evening.

Unfortunately, the most beautiful evening comes to an end and later at night we were back in our hotel room.  There we quickly uploaded some pictures on our website because we were not able to sleep right away.

The next morning we were sitting together at breakfast with Carolyn, Joe and Louise Conley and some other Waltonfans. Breakfast with Ike Godsey, who would have thought it ?

Then it was time to say Goodbye.  Goodbye to a wonderful weekend with Waltonfriends. Goodbye to nice people and new friends, Goodbye to Joe and Louise Conley, Carolyn, Bonnie, Patrick, Michelle, Marcia, Ryan, Anne and Big Bruno, Sandy, and many more. And Goodbye to Virginia as our trip went slowly towards the south.

See you next year!

 

   

  
       

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