- 1: a return home
- 2: the return of a group of people usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home; especially : an annual celebration for alumni at a college or university
Homecoming is the tradition of welcoming back former residents and alumni of an institution. It most commonly refers to a tradition in many universities, colleges and high schools in North America. It usually includes activities for students and alumni, such as sports and culture events and a parade through the streets of the city or town.
Earl Hamner, Jr., creator of The Waltons, grew up an aspiring writer in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Schuyler, Virginia. His early novel, The Homecoming, was a literary recollection of his own Depression Era childhood, of which he speaks fondly: "We were in a depression, but we weren't depressed. We were poor, but nobody ever bothered to tell us that. To a skinny, awkward, red headed kid who secretly yearned to be a writer … each of those days seemed filled with wonder." In 1970, Lorimar Productions approached Hamner to create a one-hour television special based on The Homecoming, and hence, the Walton family made its television debut. Against the advice of reviewers and network executives who had little faith in the appeal of family programming, CBS took a chance and placed The Waltons in a Thursday night prime-time slot. To the surprise of many, the series not only held its own, but maintained a number eight position in the ratings for years to follow.
The family's unifying force, however, and perhaps the focal point of the show's broad demographic appeal, was that family members always maintained a high level of respect for one other, finding genuine joy in living while nevertheless working out the internal and external conflicts that defined their daily lives on Walton's Mountain. Perhaps, too, The Waltons fulfilled a desire in post-1960s America to return to a simpler time when families still ate supper together at the kitchen table, the General Merchandise was the social and economic hub of a community, and, at the end of a hard but honest day, familiar voices in the darkness of a white clapboard farmhouse could be heard to say, "Good night, John-Boy."