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after I moved to California I discovered that one's neighbors
were often people of note. A famous director lived just
around the corner. One of the actors from Desperate
Housewives lived directly across the street. One of
the more gratifying discoveries was that the distinguished
novelist Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey lived nearby. When
my book Generous Women was about to be published,
I asked her for a comment. Her comment (which appears
on the book's back cover) was generous and gracious, and
it fills me with pride to read it:
reader often falls in love with a writer through his work
but can sometimes fall out of love with him on learning
about his life. Not so with Earl Hamner.
wise and tender creator of The Waltons, who so
memorably lent his story and his voice to his fictional
counter-part, John-Boy, now, in a book of enormous charm,
leads us through the further adventures of the aspiring
writer from a small town in the South by way of the 'generous
women' who helped him along the way.
What an original and delightful way to disguise an autobiography,
beginning with his rooted-to-the-earth-mother, who was
equally at home making biscuits for her family, or, years
later, entertaining the tourists and fans of her famous
son. But the chapters in this book are not just sentimental
bouquets. They are like the colorful pieces of a mosaic,
sharp-edged, each one distinct, yet together forming a
memorable portrait of the artist as a young man transformed
by time and experience into the older and wiser husband
and father who is my neighbor today.
Reading this book a chapter a night is like finding a
chocolate on your pillow." -- Elizabeth Forsythe
Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means
We fell in love with the house on Avocado Drive the first
time we saw it. We were house hunting and had become lost
in the Hollywood hills. Eventually, we came to a pretty
winding country road. When we saw the For Sale sign, we
parked the car and peered through the tall windows of
the empty house. From the outside we could see the tall
ceilings, a generous-sized living room with fireplace,
and a view that encompassed the entire San Fernando Valley.
Jane and I agreed on the spot that this was the house
we had been searching for. This is the house that became
"home" with all the warmth and comfort the word
implies. It was here we raised our two children and an
enormous number of household pets as well as wildlife
that occasionally became part of our lives.
And it is still home today for the house has sheltered
us well. The street has changed and many of our friends
have died or moved away, but we still love the house and
the street and we do not plan ever to leave.
Avocado Drive Zoo is a comical account of the colorful
cast of animals who have lived with my family on Avocado
Drive. Among them have been Jane's possessive cocker spaniel
pup, Clementine, who bit Earl as he proposed marriage,
twelve box turtles from Virginia, bantam hens and roosters,
a baby chick named Blackie, and Tallmadge the mouse, whose
gluttony ended an unusual relationship with the family.
And then there was Gus the dog, whose amorous inclinations
brought on his early demise, Willie the family rat, Yarrow
the white Labrador, and a family of coyotes. Also, Surprise
the cat, which nearly decimated the family of pet rats,
Raymond the rabbit and George the guinea pig, who were
soul and crate mates, the alligator who lived in the bathtub,
and a host of other unnamed pets and critters.
As time goes by, stories about each of these creatures
and my family will be read aloud by me for you right here
on the website.
WITH INTRODUCTION AND COMMENTARY BY TONY ALBARELLA
Writing scripts for The Twilight Zone was one of
the greatest pleasures of my writing career. I will forever
be grateful to my friend, Rod Serling, for the opportunity
he gave me.
I came to be a "Twilight Zone writer"
is as twisted and complicated a story as one of the scripts
for the show itself.
to 1960, I had been a successful novelist. I had supported
my family and myself by writing radio scripts at NBC during
the day and writing my novels by night. Television had
sneaked its way into the public awareness and had so gradually
established itself that to be a radio writer was considered
to be about the same as being a pterodactyl. I had written
some scripts during what has become known as the Golden
Age of Television, but the body of my work remained in
my novels or in my radio scripts.
1960, the script department at NBC where I had worked
as a radio writer was dissolved.
Television, its Golden Age now only a memory, had become
a major advertising medium. What was worse -- it had moved
to Hollywood; and rather than the innovative live dramas
created by a remarkable group of young writers, directors
and producers, it was now produced almost entirely on
film. Consequently the goal became not to entertain, to
elevate, or to educate, which the medium was so well equipped
to do, but to make as much money as possible.
By that time I had a wife and two small children to support.
I was tempted to move to a farm in Connecticut and write
novels. While that was an appealing idea, it was a highly
impractical one. Finally when the market for my work in
New York went west, my family and I were forced to go
west with it. Back in those days writers in Hollywood
were quickly pigeonholed. You were designated a particular
kind of writer and it was difficult to move beyond that
designation. In spite of the fact that I had written two
novels and several television scripts were produced before
live audiences, the powerful Hollywood establishment designated
me a radio writer. It almost proved fateful.
my severance pay from NBC, Jane and I moved our little
family as far west as her parents' home in Davenport,
Iowa. She and the children were to wait there until I
found work on the West Coast. Almost immediately I found
that I was unemployable. I HAD NOT WRITTEN FOR FILM!
It was the kiss of death. The prevailing notion at that
time was that if you had not written for film there was
no place for you in Hollywood.
I went ahead and rented a modest little house in Studio
City and was shortly joined by Jane, Scott, Caroline,
and two neurotic cocker spaniels, Clementine and Chloe.
Swiftly the NBC severance pay slipped away. What saved
us was the generosity of Jane's Aunt Minnie back in Davenport,
Iowa. Checks arrived along with suggestions that perhaps
Earl should look into another line of work.
there anyone I could turn to?
in 1949 when I was a student at the University of Cincinnati,
I had submitted a script in a contest under the auspices
of a radio show called Dr. Christian. Dr. Christian
was a kindly old family doctor who tended the citizens
of a small town called River's End. My script won high
honors, and I was invited to come to New York to appear
on a special broadcast featuring the winning writers.
Rod Serling was one of the other winners. We met. He and
Carol were both students at Antioch College in Yellow
Springs, but not yet married. It was the first of a haphazard
relationship that was to prove most beneficial to me,
and one that I hope was rewarding to Rod.
Our paths were almost to cross a few years later when
I resigned my job as a writer at WLW in Cincinnati to
devote full time to writing a novel. Rod took the job
that I had left and whenever we would meet in Hollywood,
years later, he would introduce me as "the man who
gave him his first job." As it turned out, it was
Rod who gave me my first job in Hollywood.
its inception I had been a fan of The Twilight Zone,
but my writing had been concerned primarily with homespun
material, stories about families, usually with Appalachian
backgrounds. It had never occurred to me that I could
with starvation I decided I could write fantasy. I wrote
out two ideas as the basis for a Twilight Zone
script and sent them to Rod. Days later a note came back
saying that story ideas were selected by a committee and
that he had sent my notions on to the committee. I thought
that Rod had politely told me that my ideas were not right
for the show, but then several days later the phone rang
and Buck Houghton, Rod's producer, said, "We like
those ideas you submitted. We'd like to buy them."
went on to say that they had learned that I had not written
for film, but would I consider writing the scripts up
in play form. I assured Buck that I would write them up
as television scripts.
This was the beginning of what was to establish me as
a working writer in Hollywood and led to writing scripts
for Rod that I am proud of to this day.
By Earl Hamner and Ralph Giffin
John-Boy is a memory book of The Waltons. Of
all of my books, this one has sold the most copies and
continues to be in demand. My collaborator and friend,
Ralph Giffin, and I set out to enrich the experience of
all those fans that had been such a force in getting the
show off the ground and keeping it on the air for so many
compiled a comprehensive episode guide filled with anecdotes,
comments, and memories from numerous people connected
with the series: writers, actors, directors, producers,
family, and fans. With its many photographs from the show
and from the Hamner family, Goodnight John-Boy
has become a treasured record of this historic series
which even today is being seen in reruns around the world
and continues to be beloved by millions of loyal fans.
An insightful foreword is provided by John-Boy himself,
actor Richard Thomas.
of Richard's comments resonates forcefully in today's
economically troubled world: "It is significant that
The Waltons celebrated familism and healing during
the tough times of the Great Depression, and that it was
first aired in the early seventies, a time when alienation,
cynicism, Watergate, and the last years of the Vietnam
War made its brand of family programming and deep-rooted
optimism truly unique and even daring."
my closing narration, on the last episode of The Waltons
I said, "I hope that you will remember this house as
I do. The mystical blue ridges that stretch beyond it into
infinity, the sound of warm voices drifting out upon the night
air, a family waiting, and a light in the window. Goodnight."
Earl Hamner and Don Sipes
my agent called to say that the Tommy Nelson Publishing
Company had asked if I was interested in writing a Christmas
story about Lassie, I jumped at the chance. Who doesn't
love Lassie! And my love for the legendary collie went
as far back as the film with Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy
McDowall. Six degrees of separation: The father in the
film was the delightful English actor Donald Crisp, who
was later to portray my grandfather in the film Spencer's
my association with the dog went back to even an earlier
time. Once again, the call came from Sam Adams, my agent:
"How would you like to write a Lassie special? The
offer's from Bunny Granville [he meant the one time child
actress Bonita Granville], and she's married to Jack Wrather,
who owns oil wells -- and they pay well." I said,
had met rich people before, but I had never known such
really, really rich people. When I went for the initial
interview, it was held in the Wrather Building in Beverly
Hills. I had hardly signed the contract before I found
myself on a plane sitting next to "Bunny," as
she instructed me to address her. The legendary oil man
was seated in front of us. He seemed genuinely interested
in the project and was a very down-to-earth man for a
man so wealthy. I liked them both.
those days I was nervous about flying, and it was obvious
to Bunny. "Darling," she suggested, "The
best way to get over it is to buy your own plane."
I promised I would do that. In the meantime, turbulence
had developed and I was terrified. She then did a most
surprising thing. She took my hand and said, "We
are going to pray." And then she said, "Lord,
bless this plane. Bless the engine. Bless the wings. Bless
the landing gear. Bless the pilot and all who make it
fly, and all of us who are aboard."
made the rest of the journey most comfortably. We were
royally received at The Plaza Hotel and also at the network
we had come to sell the episode to. The script was called
Lassie, A New Beginning and to be honest I haven't
the faintest idea what it was about or who was in it,
but I will never forget Bunny Granville Wrather.
I have become more comfortable about flying over the years
so it never really became necessary to buy my own plane!
It is remembered in my family that on Christmas Eve of
1933 my father was late arriving home. In families such
as mine the oldest son is sent to look for the father.
That night, and my quest to find my father, became the
basis for this book.
is a hamlet in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains
twenty-four miles south of Charlottesville. It came into
being at the turn of the century when it was discovered
that the area rested on a massive vein of soapstone. By
the late twenties we were a population of about seven
hundred folks. Most of the men worked in quarrying, finishing,
or shipping soapstone and its products. When the Great
Depression came, the mill closed.
My father was a skilled mechanic, and he was able to find
work at the DuPont Company in Waynesboro just over the
other side of the Shenandoah Valley. He came home on weekends
travelling by bus to Charlottesville and then transferring
to the southbound bus, getting off at Hickory Creek, then
walking the remaining six miles home.
that Christmas Eve of 1933, a heavy snowstorm began in
the afternoon, and by nightfall the roads were impassable.
The Homecoming is an account of the anxious hours
The book received good reviews and enjoyed modest sales
and might have passed into oblivion had not a friend --
an agent -- Malcolm Stewart sent it to a new production
company called Lorimar Productions. Lorimar submitted
it to CBS, which resulted in a two-hour, made-for-television
movie. That special then resulted in the landmark series,
I worked as a radio writer at NBC in the early fifties,
I became close friends with a writer whose office was
down the hall. His name was Jack Wilson. He worshiped
words and at heart he was a poet. I once described him
as "impaled on beauty," but that wasn't even
close. He was extremely sensitive to people. And while
he was aware of man's fragile nature, he believed equally
that above all we are creatures capable of nobility. It
just disappointed him when we failed to measure up to
that potential. The world was frequently a painful place
for my friend, and more often than not he took refuge
Back in those days, I stayed on at my office after hours
and wrote novels. Since the public elevators in the RCA
Building stopped running at midnight, Jack and I would
frequently run into each other on the freight elevator.
After a hard day's work, we would usually look for relaxation
in jazz joints like Jimmy Ryan's over on 52nd Street or
Eddie Condons down in the Village. Jack was fond of boilermakers.
I tried to keep up with him and failed. But while we were
still vocal we would play a game that Jack had made up.
It was called "You Can't Get There from Here."
The concept was that we, Jack and I, and indeed most of
the people we knew, had come so far from the precious
places in our lives and we ourselves had changed so greatly
in our journey that we could not get back to them. It
was simply a variant on the theme that Thomas Wolfe so
brilliantly wrote about in You Can't Go Home Again.
Jack was from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and that was the
place he could not get back to. The place I couldn't get
back to, of course, was Schuyler, Virginia.
I wrote this novel as a tribute to my friend, Jack. I
lost track of him after I moved from New York, but I learned
years later that he had stopped drinking and spent his
last years in an assisted-living home somewhere near Washington,
And if it is true that our spirits live on after death,
then I am sure there is a very devoted one keeping a loving
watch over Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Earl Hamner and Don Sipes
I had asked a friend, Don Sipes, to join me in producing
and writing a television series called The McGregors,
a spin-off of the wonderful Australian movie, The Man
from Snowy River.
Don was a distinguished television executive. He had been
president of the Television Division of Universal Studios,
so he knew the field from top to bottom. And he was also
a writer with a novel under his belt.
Home from Australia and "in-between assignments,"
we decided, as a lark, to write a parody of a murder mystery
using the television industry as a background. We threw
in every cliché: the flamboyant director, the maniacal
producer, the slimy agent, the aspiring young actress.
Producer William Link (of Columbo and Murder
She Wrote) described the book as (tongue- in-cheek):
"An action-packed mystery which rips the mask off,
exposing the real Hollywood." We sent the manuscript
to my agent, Don Congdon. Don was accustomed to the high
literary quality of manuscripts sent in by his clients
such as Ray Bradbury and William Styron, and so he fired
the manuscript right back to us with an indignant note
saying he had never seen so many clichés in one
manuscript in his entire career.
A friend in Tulsa took pity on us and published it as
a favor. He no longer speaks to me.
My collaborator Don Sipes is gone now, but we had a hilarious
time writing the book, and I still think it would make
a damn fine movie.
began work on this book in the hedgerows of Normandy.
We had recently waded ashore at Omaha Beach. The battle
front was a few miles away and the sounds of gunfire were
incessant. I was scared and young and homesick, and as
I wrote in my journal I began to remember a promise my
father made to my mother on the day they were married.
He promised that one day he would build her a house of
her own on the top of a mountain. He used to say that
the sun goes down too soon for a poor man, and so he never
got around to building the house. But the dream sustained
us as a family through hardships and trial. The book became
a New York Times bestseller, a film starring Henry
Fonda and Maureen O'Hara, and was published in ten different
distinguished novelist Harper Lee said of Spencer's
Mountain: "It is so easy to create a villain
or an eccentric. It is so hard to create good people and
make them unforgettable. Each character in Spencer's
Mountain is memorable, because life itself flows in
abundance from each. One finds pure joy in reading, for
a change, a positive statement on the potentialities of
was my first book -- a novel. I wrote it at night after
putting in a full day's work at NBC as a radio writer.
When I was a boy back in Nelson County, Virginia, I occasionally
visited a holy roller church in the backwoods near our
town. I was fascinated when the minister would work his
followers into a frenzy in which they would dance orgiastically,
have seizures in which they would writhe on the floor,
and speak what they called "the unknown tongue."
I had two goals in writing the book. First, I wanted to
tell the story of a young, sensitive Appalachian girl
whose life of drudgery and submission is dictated by the
culture she has been born into. As she approaches womanhood,
she feels a profound sense of isolation and frustration
of what seems to be her destiny in life. Second, I wanted
to reproduce in the written word the sounds and cadences
and beauty of the speech of the people of my area: the
"Ragged Mountains" of Virginia.
is a sensitive and lyrical love story. You can imagine
my shock when the publisher's blurb-copy on the paperback
explosive novel about a hell-fire and brimstone preacher
whose fever-pitched revival unleashes pent-up emotions
and smoldering violence among the primitive men and women
in an isolated mountain community."
by James E. Person Jr.
If you buy one book listed here, I strongly recommend
that it be this one. It begins with an eloquent foreword
by the gifted Kentucky novelist, Silas House. My friend
and biographer Jim Person then goes on to furnish a detailed
account of my life and my work. I recommend this book
without reservation and with a great deal of pride. Jim
Person is a gifted writer and editor, and in the writing
of this book he also became a treasured friend. I especially
like the following review:
"James E. Person's Earl Hamner: From Walton's
Mountain to Tomorrow is a truly insightful and brilliant
biography of a fine writer who has been largely neglected.
Person digs deep into the life and character of Hamner
and presents him to us with a flair for language that
transcends a mere presentation of time, events, and dates.
He reaches into the heart of this important novelist who
in our era of rapid changes and tempests has led us, through
the artistry of his craft, to enduring goodness, honor
and courage." --William Hoffman, author of Wild
Thorn, Tidewater Blood, Blood and Guile, and others.
Essential Lessons From 21 Extraordinary People
by John St. Augustine Essay
John St. Augustine has spent many years interviewing some
of the world's leading citizens, including Oprah Winfrey,
Jerry Kramer, John Denver, and Dorothy Hamill. Mr. St.
Augustine identifies each as having learned to live an
"uncommon life." He writes, "Perhaps if
there is one 'key' to living an uncommon life, it's developing
the ability to live what you already know is right,
true, and effective and letting go of what is wrong,
false, and ineffective." I was, therefore, extremely
proud when he included me in this formidable company,
in the chapter titled "It's All in the Family."
by Paul Saunders
Although I am mentioned in the book, this is not the reason
I list it here. Paul Saunders has written the definitive
book on Nelson County (VA), and he describes -- more fully
than I had time for on television -- the history, the
people, and the natural beauty of Nelson County that has
inspired and still inspires my writing.
Published by Saunders Publishing, Piney River, VA 22964
Delbert Mann: Looking Back at Live Television and
Academy Award-winning director takes readers on a lively
journey through the modern era of entertainment: from
the early days of live television, to film, Broadway,
Delbert was a good friend, and I was fortunate to have
him direct two of my scripts. He writes at length here
about each of those productions from a serious drama titled
The Gift of Love, starring Angela Lansbury and
Lee Remick, to the notorious Heidi, which knocked
the Oakland Raiders vs. the New York Jets game off the
air and resulted in so many angry calls to NBC by outraged
fans that the fuses blew out on the network switchboard.
55 People Tell the Story of the Book that Changed Their
by Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks
the interview with me, I describe the effect the book
The Time of Man by Kentucky novelist Elizabeth
Maddox Roberts had upon my life and work. In her work,
I found the language of Appalachia that opened doors for
A Literary Quarterly of the Southern Appalachians. Published
by Berea College, edited by George Brosi. Spring 2007.
George Brosi invited me to be the featured author of this
issue, I was honored and thrilled. Later, when I personally
met the man and his family in Berea, Kentucky, I found
myself to be an adopted member of his family dining with
friends at a café in fabled Harlan County, speaking
to audiences and signing books at Berea College in Kentucky
and at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, and even
attending an event at the Pine Mountain School which I
had written about many years ago and where George's wife,
Connie, had been a teacher. To know George and his family
is to find comfort, refreshment, joy, and confirmation
of the realization of the American dream.
Edited by Christopher Conlon
book was edited by novelist and poet Christopher Conlon.
In it, Chris invited two dozen writers to take a little-known,
unfinished story fragment that Edgar Allan Poe wrote near
the end of his life and turn it into a complete story
in any way they wanted. My story is called A Passion
For Solitude. And I hope I don't sound too boastful
if I say I'm rather proud of it!
"The Guide" by Earl Hamner
editor describes my story as "a tale about a strange,
strange fishing trip." To be honest, when The
Twilight Zone finished its lengthy run on television
I had some stories in mind I never had the opportunity
to write for the series. "The Guide" is one