Robert Whale can be reached at

Robert Whale can be reached at

Good night, John Boy, from another generation | Whale

When I was growing up in the 1970s, like many others I enjoyed “The Waltons,” Earl Hamner Jr.’s televised account of his childhood in the fictitious Jefferson County of Depression-era Virginia.

To the kid I was at the time, tales about John Boy, Jim Bob Mary Ellen, ma and pa and rest of that huge clan seemed so far in the past, they may as well have been grunting in the caves of the late Pleistocene cavemen, chomping on bloody chunks of raw woolly mammoth.

“Wow, that was really a long time ago,” I remember thinking. “World War II is still in the future to John Boy, and Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini are still walking the earth.”

Well, a glance at the calendar tells me time has ticked on to early January of 2022. And, though I can scarcely believe it, that makes me 59 years old, teetering on the once unimaginable brink of 60.

I remember how old that once seemed. Dude’s ancient.

Now, I don’t know how many other people wake one day to the shocking realization of their own age, or who share my habit of measuring their lives by spans of time. But I suspect their numbers are legion.

And I wonder, how many of them feel old?

When I consider that, it hits me: the 1970s to the Waltons’ era was the same interval that separates 2022 from the 1970s. And that’s how today’s kids would look at the time span in which I grew up.

It all passed in the blink of an eye.

How did that happen? I ask myself. Wasn’t it just a moment ago I was playing Little League ball, and swimming and riding innertubes in the Green River and catching crawdads and riding my bike without a helmet and playing guitar in the Auburn High School jazz band?

Seems that way.

But then, I see the hard fact glaring out of eyes that never looked out on the town and area in which I grew up, with its plentiful fields and old barns, and its access to all those as-yet-unbuilt-upon lots around Lake Tapps with their long ropes to swing us out over the water on blistering summer days.

I see a kid’s reaction to a joke that was once funny, but now falls flat because the terrible crimes since committed by Bill Cosby have stripped away that part of the soundtrack of my kidhood.

And in my outmoded musical preferences, which would seem to kids like the tastes of that weird old cat in the old neighborhood, the guy under the fedora who was still stubbornly clinging to the stylings of Glenn Miller and his Big Band, or Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra: the music of our parents and grandparents, we sniffed.


My late father used to talk about how the span of his own lifetime measured up to the time span of the nation’s history, and how when he was growing up in the 1930s in Maspeth, a rough and tumble section of the New York City borough of Queens, old men were still walking about who’d fought in the American Civil War.

He marked the passage of each year with the anniversaries of two important events: tick, April 12, the day my brother died; and tock, the opening of the Puyallup Fair.

Thing is, I don’t feel like I’m 59 going on 60. But the calendar is not sentimental, it’s never confused, does not mislead.

So, to come full circle in this piece, here’s the truth I present to myself and to other members of my generation: we are the Waltons.

Not only are we the Waltons, but in a few years we’ll be gramma and grandpa Walton.

And that sobers me up.

Robert Whale can be reached at

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at
If you’re right, and you know it, then read this | Whale’s Tales

As the poet Theodore Roethke once wrote: “In a dark time the eye begins to see…”

Robert Whale can be reached at
Grappling with the finality of an oncologist’s statement | Whale’s Tales

Perhaps my brain injected a bit of humor to cover the shock. But I felt the gut punch.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Legislature back in session next week | Cartoon

State lawmakers return Jan. 8 to Olympia.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Santa doesn’t drive a Kia | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Salute to veterans | Cartoon by Frank Shiers

On Veterans Day, honor those who served your country.

File photo
Why you should vote in the upcoming election | Guest column

When I ask my students when the next election is, frequently they will say “November 2024” or whichever presidential year is coming up next.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Here’s a column for anyone who loves their dog | Whale’s Tales

It is plain to me in looking at dogs small and large that a decent share of them are exemplars of love on Earth, innocents who love unconditionally and love their chow.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Please protect your children from BS spreaders | Whale’s Tales

Among the most useful things I studied in college were debate, and… Continue reading

It’s time to change Kent’s City Council elections to districts | Guest column

If you were asked who your city councilmembers are, would you have an answer?

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact
Dear government: Hold your horses when regulating trucks | Brunell

Next to gasoline and diesel, natural gas also has the greatest number of refueling stations.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Mariners get red hot | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers