Bring Back “The Homecoming”

I’m making a pitch for resurrecting an older TV Christmas special, “The Homecoming.”  Do you remember it?  This is the special that became the basis for the series, “The Waltons.”

The great thing about the special was, it was darker, funnier and less heartwarming than the series became.  Viewers really saw the widespread poverty of the Depression and the desperation that drove their daddy to work many long miles away in order to bring home food and presents for that large family.

The mother was played by Patricia Neal.  She was harsh and loving, fearful and strong, less pretty, more rawboned and real than Michael Learned, who played the role in the series.

As these dark days of winter roll in and aftermath of the Great Recession refuses to go away, I find myself thinking about how my parents and grandparents endured poverty and hard, manual labor during the Great Depression, and how their lives did not change for the better until World War II brought factory work and higher-paying jobs.  I think how hard they worked so my sisters, brother and I could go to college and have more comfortable lives.

Things may not have always worked out as they hoped.  But I never had to hoe tobacco or eat biscuits and sawmill gravy for dinner because I couldn’t afford meat.  “The Homecoming” is a gem in its own right, but I love it all the more because it takes the viewer inside a world my parents knew–a world I hope I will never have to know personally.  Good night, John Boy!

Here’s a link to part of the special on YouTube:



My Life in TV Shows

My friend Nancy commented that many of my stories almost seem like they are set in an earlier time–kind of long ago and far away.  In many ways she’s right.  My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and their lives were formed by hard work and poverty like I never knew.  They went from ancient Model Ts and farming with mules to watching a man walk on the moon.  Mother lived until 2004 and was almost 87 when she died.

I am the youngest of their five children.  So my early life was a mix of homemade biscuits, watching the Grand Ole Opry on TV on Saturday nights, and the Baptist church–and also being bused for school integration, watching riots and wars on TV, and knowing the high school drug dealers.  And I spent a lot of time watching TV.

My parents’ lives in their young days were a bit like “The Waltons,”  which was set on a farm during the Depression.  I loved that show!  I felt like a female version of John Boy, only more determined to get off the farm and to a big city.

The Waltons
Some of my classmates were more like “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  Ok, I admit, my first car was an aged  ’71 Plymouth Duster with a 386 8-cylinder engine, and cheater slicks and cams on the rear end.   The first thing Daddy did when I got it home was take off the cheater slicks and cams.  He thought it wasn’t proper for a girl.  I really never drove like a maniac.  I just liked to give the impression that I could.  That poor car kept going to nearly 200,000 miles, despite being a terrible gas gulper.

I think my favorite show, however, was “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”  She was determined to make it on her own, and she was beautiful and smart, and trying to learn to be aggressive enough to compete with the guys.  And she was so funny!  Here’s my high school senior picture.

High School Graduation

Check out the hairstyle.  Who does that remind you of?   Yes, for those of you who didn’t know me then, I was once a brunette 😉

As time went by, I moved on to watching “Dallas” and “Dynasty,” but I didn’t see myself in them.  It took “Murphy Brown” before I identified with a character again.

So, if you had to tell your early life in TV shows, which ones would you choose?

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