Letter to My Children
original settlers in the area were reserved, resourceful, self reliant, close
knit neighborly group, law abiding and church going, Scotch and Irish for the
most part with a smattering of Italians and a few descendants of Hessian mercenaries.
They made good neighbors, good parents, and raised the kind of young people who
would cut short their education so they could help out at home. Most of them had
a deep love of country and a reverence for family that rivaled the Japanese Shintoist.
Young people never hesitated to answer the call to the military when their country
needed them. Sadly, we were a segregated community and I was robbed of knowing
Black people until I went out into the larger world.
As you know my family
and our neighbors were the inspiration for my television series, "The Waltons."
Because of their love for the "Walton family" fans from all over the
world came to visit the area. At first my mother would invite them to "pass
the time of day" on the front porch. She even served her guests tea, but
as time passed, the series became a curse. It attracted an undesirable element,
outsiders, opportunists, a crude element interested in exploiting my life and
my work for their own purposes. Because of a vengeful act of cruelty done to a
member of my family who was representing me, and subsequent attacks on me, I renounced
the oafish group who continue to control the village and all that I did to make
it famous all over the world. If I ever go there again it will only be to visit
the graves of friends and family. It was A. E. Housemon who most ably put into
words what I feel today for a place I once loved:
"Into my heart an
air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again."
my children if I ask to be taken home do not take me to Schuyler, Virginia!
during my first two years at the University of Richmond in the 40's was 29 Willway
Ave. in the West End of the city. Out of the goodness of their hearts three of
my father's sisters took me in so I might take advantage of the scholarship I
had won. In addition to the three aunts the household also included my grandmother,
a female cousin and a maid. I was awkward and countrified, but the ladies took
me in and tamed me as best they could. Already six feet tall, and all wrists,
I fell over things and was tongue-tied much of the time. In a hand-me-down suit
(narrow blue pin stripes) of my Uncle Clay's and my father's only white shirt
which he had contributed to the cause, I was more Icahbod Crane then Joe College.
Still I was surrounded by women and smothered with affection. It was a good time
and I remember it with affection. But I think today, like my mother in Shipman,
I would look at 29 Willway and say, "Take me home!"
War Two I lived (Oh, how I lived) in Paris for two years courtesy of the Army
of the United States. From backwoods boy to boulevardier came easy once I got
over the absurdity of it. I had never even been on Fifth Avenue and suddenly I
was strolling with a girl on La Rue de la Paix! Formidable! When we entered
Paris there were still German troops in the Place de la Concorde, trapped there
by our advancing troops. My fellow soldiers and I were billeted in an apartment
house in Aubervilliers, which had until a day or so before been home to a company
of German WACS. Large photos of Adolph Hitler decorated each room and on a shelf
in the closet I came across a short wave radio and a copy of "Mein Kampf."
The German ladies had left hurriedly and some of their uniforms still hung in
closets in some of the rooms they had vacated. After living in a pup tent in the
hedgerows of Normandy, warm water was an unimaginable luxury. And as soon as all
the Germans were hustled out of Paris I received a Class A Pass and was off to
see The City of Lights! I had a front row seat to see Edith Piaf and Yves Montand
on a joint bill at the Olympia! I attended an all Beethoven series conducted by
Pierre Monsieur at the Palais de Chaillot. I saw a two hundred and fifty pound
lady sing Carmen at the Opera Comique. My office was staffed with English speaking
French girls who proceeded to teach me French. Their good work was undone by one
evil old man, Monsieur Tellier, who under the pretext of teaching me French taught
me the vilest kinds of expressions. The Army lost my records and my mail went
astray. It was six months before mine caught up with me and when I was too busy
being a boulevardier I have to admit I was homesick. The last time I was in Paris
I looked for the old barracks, but the Café des Communists, which had been
located on the corner of our street and the Rue d'Aubervilliers, was gone. The
apartment house had been torn down and a large more imposing building had taken
I have never stopped loving Paris. Some nights when I cannot
sleep I retrace in my mind some of my favorite walks through the city. I used
to take the Metro, get off at just any station and explore whatever part of the
city I found myself in. When I was stationed there the place I called home was
in an industrial area out near Le Borget.
If when I ask you to take me
home, and you children decide to take me to Paris, this time I want to live near
the Bois de Boulogne. The Plaza Athene would be nice.
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