“Good night, John-Boy.”
If those words mean nothing to you, you’re probably under age 40, perhaps a millennial. If they do, you’re probably a boomer, to whom they are unforgettable, bound to bring back visions of a better time and a better place, an era, in the words Thursday of one fan of “The Waltons,” when “family was so much more appreciated.”
That era, however, wouldn’t be the ’60s or the ’70s. The setting of “The Waltons,” from which “Good night, John-Boy” derived fame, belongs to “The Greatest Generation.” The television series was set in the Depression, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, just below the “taller ridges … rimmed with a fading autumn silver,” as Earl Hamner Jr. wrote in his semi-autobiographical novel “Spencer’s Mountain,” from which “The Waltons” was drawn.
On “The Waltons,” John-Boy was played by actor Richard Thomas, better known these days not as the bookish country boy he once personified but as the spy-hunting bureaucrat Agent Gaad on another hit series, “The Americans.”
In real life, John-Boy was indeed Hamner, creator and narrator of the show as well as author of “Spencer’s Mountain.” Now he is gone. He was 92, a veteran of World War II, one of America’s best-loved writers and, as the narrator of “The Waltons,” a much-loved voice.