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The Story of Martha Corinne
The Story of
From Episodes #51 & #52: The Conflict
Of all of the
Waltons episodes, this two-hour show, which kicked off the third season in 1974, was
probably my favorite. It's a story that explores the conflict
between a family's heritage and the inevitable demands of modern
episode, we meet Martha Corinne Walton, a Waltons matriarch who is
threatened with eviction from her cabin by a
crew building the new Blue Ridge Parkway on the crest of the Blue Ridge
Mountains. John and Olivia, acting
as peacekeepers, encourage Martha and her family of three
generations to move to government housing down on "the flatlands."
Martha, stubborn yet pragmatic, inspects the house but ultimately
refuses to move. The episode culminates in a brief skirmish
between the Walton clan and the deputies, after which Martha agrees to
This episode was
written by Jeb Rosebrook who, while working at the University of
Virginia in 1952, heard about a co-worker's family being
evicted from their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the
1930s, to make way for the new Parkway. Rosebrook named Martha
Corrine after two of his aunts. Today, a stage version of The
Conflict is acted out each summer in Schuyler.
Corinne, in an amazing performance by actress Beulah Bondi, was one of
the most memorable characters ever portrayed in The Waltons (in
case she looks familiar, Beulah had played Ma Bailey in Jimmy Stewart's
1946 Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life). In the poignant closing scene
of The Conflict, after the skirmish, Martha returns to her cabin and
sweeps it out carefully, just before the construction crew arrives.
The bride of a Confederate soldier, she and her husband Henry had built
the cabin in 1865 and she wanted to leave it just as clean as it was when she
appeared in two more Waltons episodes after The Conflict.
In her final appearance, The Pony Cart (from the fifth season,
set in 1937), she stays with the Waltons for a while, but her
suggestions about doing things "the old way" cause tension in the
family. Things get resolved towards the end of episode, though,
when it's revealed that the 90-year old Martha has been having fainting
spells. Martha, whose maiden name was Tyler, writes down the
Walton and Tyler family history for John-Boy so he'll know where he came
from, and she paints Ben's new pony cart (or "shay," as she calls it) in
"the old way." When Ben finishes his pony cart, he takes Martha
for a ride, then she gets out to pick some daisies while Ben goes on
ahead. While Martha is picking the daisies, she clutches her heart
and passes away. In the final scene, we see John-Boy standing by
Martha's grave, which is next to that of her husband, Henry, high atop
her beloved Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Conflict in much more detail in
Episode 51 & 52: The
Conflict. To see photos
of the Blue Ridge Parkway during my visit in 2001, see
News: July 16, 2001.
Trivia questions for The
1). What kind of
animals chase Mary Ellen, Erin and Elizabeth up a tree on Martha's
2). Complete Martha's
quote from her widowed husband Henry: "You live with your land..."
3). Who gets shot
during the final confrontation?
Above left: The wise and wizened Martha Corrine.
Martha checking out the new house down in "the flatlands" that the
government had built for her.
Above right: The final
confrontation. That's John-Boy and Martha's son, Boone Walton.
Three little pigs, which the boys scare away. 2). "...and you die
with your land." 3).
John-Boy, but fortunately for the show, it was just a flesh wound.
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