Monday, June 18, 2012

Good Dads

It is the day after Father's Day. I am so privileged and honored to be a dad. At this point in my life, I've become somewhat of an emotional sap and yesterday almost every time I called to mind one of my four (three from birth and now DIL) I got choked up.

So I don't need Father's Day. It's every day as far as I'm concerned. But thanks for the sentiment.


I have read a number of articles over the years about the "Top TV Dads."  TV Guide compiled a list a few years ago and there are a number of others floating out there.

There are two who tie for the best of the best TV dads as far as I'm concerned -- Sheriff Andy Taylor and John Walton.

Andy was a single dad and when he first came on the scene, Opie was just a little guy so had to have just lost his mom within the past few years. We never knew if Opie's mother died in childbirth or what happened, but Andy filled in beautifully. Aunt Bea performed the domestic duties of the household but she always deferred to Andy as Opie's parent.

Andy was gentle, kind and wise, but could be a firm disciplinarian when necessary. Opie knew his dad loved him and could laugh and joke with him, but he also knew who was boss. It never happened on screen, but there were references to, and it was clear that Andy had no problem with, rare corporal punishment when necessary.  

Andy set a positive example (even though he smoked in some of the early episodes). He was devoted to his job, revered and respected in the community, but knew how to balance his home and work life.

Andy married teacher Helen Crump when Opie was a young teenager (when "The Andy Griffith Show" was transitioning to "Mayberry RFD" and Andy was moving on, not long before Ron Howard reverted to the 1950s and became Richie Cunningham on "Happy Days").  But I doubt Helen was ever a true mother figure to Opie -- it was Andy who was there in his formative years.


John Walton definitely had a past. Before he married the refined Baptist Olivia, he had sewn more than a few wild oats. But Olivia was his prize and he straightened up to get her.

John had four sons and three daughters. It was tough during the depression, when the show opens, and John did whatever it took to piece together a living for his family. His primary occupation was the saw mill right there on Walton's Mountain but he also dabbled in farming and would barter his skills as a handyman on occasion.

The Walton children were no strangers to work and John saw that all of them did their chores before anything else. The boys, as well as John's father Zeb, all worked in the mill, and the girls milked the cow and worked under their mother and grandmother cooking and cleaning.

But John also knew how to have fun. He would take the whole crew over to the swimming hole and to picnics on the mountain. They would also gather in the evenings around the radio.

He was puzzled by John-Boy's aspirations to be a writer, but fully supportive. He worked and sacrificed so John-Boy could be the first one in the family to go to college. He supported all the other children in their endeavors as well.

Like me, he was emotional and could be drawn to tears or near tears in dealings with his family. He was a gentle disciplinarian but demanded respect for himself and Olivia.

In the later episodes, when Olivia contracted TB and was written out of the show, John became somewhat of a single parent but continued to be a strong rock for his family.

(As an aside, The Waltons was never the same after Olivia (Michael Learned) left and it got worse when they replaced Richard Thomas with John Wightman as John-Boy. Some TV shows could get away with it, but there was only one John-Boy. They would have done better just to write his character out completely. And they should have worked with Michael Learned to keep her on the show!).


I know, I know. It was only TV. But I appreciate that there was a time when networks saw the value of positive role models! 


Hal Johnson said...

It's kind of nice to hear that I'm not alone in the "sap" thing. Dylan gave me a card yesterday, along with a hug, and it was everything I could do to avoid being a blubbering fool.

When I told a friend with three kids that I was to be a father some years back, he just smiled and said, "Your heart will grow."

Kelly said...

I agree with you about Andy Taylor. I must have quit watching at some point because I didn't remember that he married Helen.

Bob Barbanes: said...

Lest we forget Ward Cleaver??

Or how's about the befuddled Steven Douglas who had to have Fred Mertz come live with them just to straighten out (ahem) his,, three again sons.

But yeah, John Walton and Sheriff Taylor were pretty good dads. On TV. We don't have many role models like that anymore.

Bob said...

Big fans of both Ward and Steve, Bob, and I certainly considered them when I named my top two.

Debby said...

You know, I watched Leave it to Beaver the other day. Ward Cleaver had forgotten what it was like to be a little boy. He rethought things and had a sitdown with Beaver. I found myself thinking what a good program this would be for some of the young fathers of today, the ones who walk around dressed like teenagers and talk about video games.