James Hamner, The Real Jim-BobThe first thing a visitor senses about James Hamner is his relaxed easy-going manner. He speaks in that distinctive Virginia mountain drawl that fans admire in his brother Earl's narration on The Walton's. As we sat in the living room of the family homeplace he spoke about the The Waltons, the Hamner family, and the museum.
"The TV show has had a great impact on the lives of the Hamner family. My mother and I were particuarly affected because we stayed in the community. She lived in this house her whole life and I have lived in Schuyler all but a brief time. Some Saturday mornings we would look out the windows and the yard would be full of fans and well wishers. People would just walk up the front walk, ring the doorbell, and visit on the front porch. It was as if they felt part of our family. In fact, the doorbell wore out from so much use."
The white clapboard Hamner family home is located in the center of Schuyler Virginia. "Visitors sometimes said they were disappointed that the house didn't look exactly like the TV set, but by the time they left they always said it felt just right."
On the front porch was a huge Christmas cactus. "Mother brought it here and it has been in the family for over forty years. It was always in the girls' bedroom over winter and, in the summer, it was put outside. Probably over fifty plants have been started from cuttings. Jon Walmsley (Jason) and Eric Scott (Ben) both started plants from this one. My brother Earl used the cactus as part of the story line in The Homecoming. Our mother would put the cactus in the basement to sleep for the Fall, and then bring it up at Christmas time to bloom.
Jim said he and his mother loved The Walton's and watched it every week. "We would watch the show each Thursday evening, and as regular as clockwork, the phone would ring. It was Earl. What did you think of the show? Was it alright? Should we have done this or that? At first it was unnerving seeing some of your "family secrets" on television, but then the family got used to it and it was fun."
Earl Hamner listed his mother, Doris, in the credits as Technical Advisor. She frequently gave him and the show's authors storylines and they would call her from California to check out details and to confirm that an idea was plausible. "My mother was able to do many things in her life because of the series." said Jim. "She was in the audience when Earl received his People's Choice Award and she was the Grand Marshall in a parade in Appomattox Va. and rode in the parade with Lady Bird Johnson."
James reflected on the Jim-Bob character and how he was portrayed in the show. "I thought it was good but sometimes far afield. No one's life is probably as interesting as depicted on television. Jim-Bob liked to fly and work on cars and I like to fly. I started to restore an old 1938 car once but, unlike Jim-Bob, I never finished it. I could certainly see some of myself in the part, pieces of my life, but not everything of course. I was in the service like Jim-Bob and I did find a peacock. It was walking along the road one day and I brought it home. It eventually ended up on my brother's farm near Ashland Virginia."
"One of the most wonderful things to happen to me and my family was the opening of The Walton's Mountain Museum here in Schuyler" Jim said as he reflected back to October of last year. "We expected a big crowd but nothing like what happened. The entire family was so pleased. You can't imagine how proud we are of everyone's interest. It's obvious that people relate to the show. The Walton's portrays a normal loving family and that is all most people want and are searching for in their lives. The museum has brought a renewed sense of pride to the community and were all very excited about the future."
Jim and his sisters have gone to the museum after hours and sat in the Walton's kitchen and just talked. He said it made them all "just feel good".
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