Will Geer played the role of grandpa and teacher for the Waltons kids

Will Geer taught the Walton kids some valuable life lessons onscreen and off.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Will Geer wasn't just Grandpa Walton; he was also a serious actor who worked in Hollywood and theater for decades before his time on The Waltons (1972). But anyone who grew up watching The Waltons may simply just call him "Grandpa."

Geer was around 70 years old when he started on the series. He played the loving, sometimes tough, but generally kind-hearted character of Grandpa Walton. Geer was everyone's favorite grandpa, and many TV viewers considered him part of their family.

But it wasn't just his fans who admired Geer. According to a 1973 interview with News-Journal, Geer said he wanted to charm the seven Walton children with his tales of being a wandering performer and theater actor.

These seven kids included: Jim-Bob (David W. Harper), Mary Ellen (Judy Norton), Elizabeth (Kami Cotler), Ben (Eric Scott), Erin (Mary Beth McDonough, Jason (Jon Walmsley) and John-Boy (Richard Thomas).

When Geer wasn't an actor, he was a teacher. More specifically, he was a teacher to The Waltons actors. He took his "Grandpa" responsibility very seriously both on and off-set.

According to the interview, Geer described himself as "a frustrated school teacher and farmer who is one part actor, one part politician and one part showoff."

"Kids look at me and think I should be gone," Geer added as he spun stories and anecdotes about his life of traveling while acting, tent shows and more. For him, educating the youth on what he's done and what's to come was important.

Geer believed that the way to learn something started by doing it. He used the same method that one of his favorite's Woody Guthrie used on the art of playing guitar: "You take the instrument in your hands, lean back against a fence and begin fiddling the strings."

And he used the same approach for the Waltons kids.

"I'm trying to get the kids on the show to learn a poem a day to train their memory," Geer said. "Then they can remember lines when they grow old like me and still hold a job."

Geer would make the kids cast in The Waltons go onstage and recite a poem every weekend when his theater group held meetings. He made it his goal to pass along years of knowledge and experience to his Walton family before his death in 1978.

Hopefully all the kids learned their poems because Grandpa Walton is one grandpa anyone would hate to disappoint. 

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2 Comments

coffinman 3 months ago
Did you know that Geer was gay and a commie? Wikipedia...
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