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The Waltons: What the Real Walton Family Ate for Thanksgiving

Television producer and writer Earl Hamner Jr. drew on his experiences growing up in rural Virginia during the Great Depression on the hit 1970s TV show The Waltons. Life was tough during those times, but Hamner’s nostalgic stories emphasized the positive as the family came together to overcome challenges and celebrate important moments together. That included Thanksgiving. In an interview conducted in 1993 before the premiere of A Walton Thanksgiving gatheringHamner thought about his family’s Thanksgiving traditions.

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Hamner based the character of John-Boy Walton on himself, while many of the other characters on the show were inspired by his family members. So that’s hardly surprising A Walton Thanksgiving gathering got him thinking about his own Thanksgiving memories.

“I thought about other Thanksgivings we had as a family in Schuyler [Virginia]’ Hamner told The Morning Call. “It was generally a happy and important holiday for us. In addition to the 10 of us, our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins ​​always attended the celebration.”

Hamner went on to share that the family’s small home would be so crowded that people “had to eat in shifts.”

“[T]It was impossible for everyone to be able to sit in our small kitchen at the same time,” he said. “Men ate first and then the women and children had their food.”

Earl Hamner’s sister Marion Hamner Hawkes was the inspiration for Judy Norton’s character Mary Ellen Walton. She also shared some of her memories from the family’s Thanksgiving celebrations. She remembered how much effort had gone into preparing the big meal.

“It was a two-day job because there were so many of us. Mom cooked most of it because our budget couldn’t afford a lot of mistakes, but my sisters and I helped,” she said.

Earl and Marion’s father was responsible for bagging the bird that would appear on the family dining table.

“He would take care of young tough toms rather than old tough ones,” she said.

In addition to turkey, the table was laden with side dishes such as stuffing, potatoes, “corn pudding made my grandmother’s recipe and other vegetables, as well as pickled peaches and watermelon rinds,” Hawkes said.

Meanwhile, Marion’s brothers collected walnuts to use in fudge, salads, and baked goods. Desserts typically included sweet potato pie, lemon meringue pie, pound cake, and chocolate cake. Sometimes applesauce pie was also served.

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Give A Walton Thanksgiving gathering an air of authenticity, the film’s set designers actually reached out to Hawkes. She shared many of the Hamner family’s traditional recipes with them. These were then prepared and seen on the dining table in the film.

Hawkes also shared some of these recipes with The Morning Call readers, including those for her family’s corn pudding, sweet potato pie, pound cake and their famous applesauce pie. Other traditional family recipes are collected in the Hawkes Cookbook. Mary Ellen’s recipes. It is available at the Walton’s Mountain Museum store.

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