Will Geer's daughter once described growing up with Grandpa Walton
Ellen Geer on her childhood: "We used to have a spigot inside of the mountain."
On The Waltons, we’ve told you how you can catch Zeb Walton actor Will Geer’s real daughter Ellen Geer appearing in two episodes, "The Pledge" and "The Ceremony."
It’s fun for fans to note the features she shares with her father — even the lines on their foreheads seem to wrinkle in the same manner to express concern — when you catch these appearances.
For Ellen, stepping into The Waltons world must’ve reminded her a little of home, and not just because her dad was right there on set during her first appearance.
She once described the simple life she experienced during her childhood when Geer moved their whole family to a deserted canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains after being blacklisted as an actor.
Ellen told The Associated Press in 2001 that at the time, their family was penniless and homeless, and the move to the canyon was out of Geer’s desperation to keep them all together as they rode out the hard times.
For Ellen, her childhood was a time of truly roughing it.
"We used to get our water down at the bottom of the canyon," Ellen said. "We used to have a spigot inside of the mountain."
Although times were tough, Geer kept his family entertained by starting a makeshift Shakespeare theater right there in the desert.
Not having the funds, he didn’t even have a proper building for the theater. Instead, he’d put on shows under the stars, in a meadow by a dry creek, right by their home.
To draw attention to the stage, though, he planted a lush garden, similar to the garden he planted onset of The Waltons.
He called this new desert theater destination the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, and Ellen said she’d watch as he would "Put up a sign in the road. Get an actor up there in costume. Wave ‘em down and – you know – say, ‘Hey, please come to our show.’"
Geer’s plan remarkably worked, and he drummed up a loyal audience of fans for the theater, which also featured Woody Guthrie sometimes showing up and playing guitar.
An even after Geer regained success as an actor in the Sixties and Seventies, he never shut down the theater and he never moved back to Hollywood. Instead, he continued living in the canyon, and his daughter Ellen stepped in as director when needed, ultimately taking over control after he passed away.
In fact, the theater was such a special place to Geer that his family buried his ashes beside a bust of the actor that’s likely still positioned in the same place at the Topanga, California, theater today.
His daughter Ellen Geer remains a producing artistic director at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum.
In her acting career, she’s taken on many roles from the 1960s through this decade, most recently appearing on TV in 2020.
Though her childhood was unlike what most people experience in terms of enjoying modern conveniences, like plumbing, Ellen was always proud of her dad for holding the family together during hard times.
And when she took over the theater and started inviting young actors to come out and practice their craft under the stars, she felt confident her dad would have approved.
"I think Pop would have liked it," Ellen said. "I think he would have been very proud."