For those of us who grew up in the 1970s, the refrain of “Goodnight John-Boy,” “Goodnight, Mary Ellen,” “Good night, Elizabeth” takes us right back to Walton’s Mountain. The good news is that if you’re nostalgic for those simpler times, you can actually visit the home of its creator, Earl Hamner (the original John-Boy), as well as a museum that pays tribute to the show.
This isn’t the only place where you can walk in the steps of some of your favorite TV or movie stars, either—fans of Dirty Dancing, for example, can stay in the Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA, where the movie was filmed and where they hold ‘Dirty Dancing’ weekends, and you can still have a drink in The Brick in Roslyn, WA, where they filmed the TV show Northern Exposure. You can even catch a ballgame at League Stadium in Huntingburg, IN, where the Rockford Peaches showed that baseball wasn’t just a game for boys in A League of Their Own.
I came upon the Waltons Hamner House by accident; I didn’t even realize that it was a real place until I saw the signs directing me to Schuyler, VA, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The house, built in 1915, was the boyhood home of Earl Hamner, Jr., who created The Waltons TV show based on his childhood memories. For those of you not as old as me, The Waltons told the story of John-Boy Walton and his seven siblings, who lived in Appalachia with their parents and grandparents during and after the Great Depression. The show ran for 10 years and was hugely popular in the days before cable.
Visitors can tour the home to see where Hamner grew up, and also visit Walton’s Mountain Museum across the street, which used to be the local high school. Walking inside is like walking back in time; not only is the show playing when you enter, but each room is a replica of a room in the Walton’s home, including John-Boy’s bedroom where he wrote about his experiences. The gift shop is Ike’s General Store, and even serves as the post office; it’s kind of cool to send a postcard and have it stamped from Walton’s Mountain.
One thing to note is that each site charges its own admission, so be aware that a ticket to one does not gain you entry to the other. June 1-3 is also a special Walton’s Mountain Mother’s Day/Father’s Day celebration, and will include appearances by Michael Learned (Olivia), Judy Norton (Mary Ellen) and Mary McDonough (Erin).
Anyone who ever saw the movie Dirty Dancing certainly remembers the iconic scenes in the ballroom and the lake, and you can re-live them during a Dirty Dancing weekend at the Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA. Known in the movie as the Kellerman Resort, these weekends—held three times a year—attract movie fans from all over the world. In addition to lodging, the event also includes movie site tours, dance lessons and a Saturday night party.
If you’re more about the dugout than the dance floor, you can tour the ballfield in Huntingburg, IN, where A League of Their Own was filmed. The movie, starring Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Gina Davis and Tom Hanks, followed players in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which was formed in the 1940s. The stadium was also used in HBO’s film, Soul of the Game, chronicling the days of the Negro League. League Stadium is now the home of the Dubois County Bombers, a collegiate wooden-bat team, who play in vintage inspired uniforms. Just don’t get too choked up watching them play…you know there’s no crying in baseball.
One really fun stop, even if you’re not a Northern Exposure fan or weren’t around when it aired, is The Brick in Roslyn, WA. Located 80 miles east of Seattle, the town, which was renamed Cicely, AK in the show, still has sites that viewers will recognize including the Roslyn’s Café camel mural, Ruth-Anne’s store and KBHR radio station. Better yet, The Brick still stands; Washington’s oldest continuously operating bar going back to 1889, it contains a 100-year-old bar that originated in England as well as a cell in the basement.