• July 19, 2024

The Waltons’ Mary Elizabeth McDonough was a ”very normal” teenager

Is there really such a thing as a normal teenager? It’s the time in our lives when we’re most likely to feel isolated from our peers, alienated because our experience simply must be unique to ourselves. Absolutely everything is the biggest deal in the world. It’s weird that this universal age, shared by everyone at some point, is something that feels so exclusive when you’re in it. Being a teenager is hard work.

Being a teenager and a television star is downright impossible, as we’ve seen proven time and again by the countless young lives run afoul in Hollywood.

Fortunately though, at least to a Universal Press International profile from 1975, The Waltons‘ Mary Elizabeth McDonough was able to sidestep some of the pratfalls of young stardom. To hear them put it, the girl that played Erin was a pretty normal teenager.

At the time of this profile, McDonough was 13 years old, and the article describes the life of a kid, not an actress, or a celebrity. Details about McDonough’s life are listed off, each painting a picture that anyone, really, could’ve fit in, Hollywood star or not.

First, there’s a mention of Mary Elizabeth’s fondness for hamburgers. If this were to be included in a profile today, it would come across as calculated, attempting to make the given starlet appear “just like us.” Instead, with McDonough, the love for hamburgers reads as authentic and candid; she’s just a kid that likes a burger.

Her home life seemed normal enough as well, again at least according to what was written at the time. Just like onscreen, Mary Elizabeth McDonough lived with a bunch of siblings at home. Mom, Dad, and four kids all lived together in a ranch-style home in the San Fernando Valley.

Particular attention is paid to the family’s vegetable garden, over which Mary presided as chief farmer. Their crops included beets, carrots, corn, and lettuce, a far cry from the agricultural drought of the Great Depression as seen on The Waltons. The writer goes on to praise Mary’s prized pumpkin patch, which apparently yielded enough for a whole neighborhood’s-worth of pumpkin pies.

While McDonough attended the studio-mandated three hours of classes a day onset, while the show was on hiatus, she attended school just like everyone else. The article even notes that she was treated like normal by peers and teachers alike. After nine months a year in the tattered wardrobe of The Waltons, Mary Elizabeth McDonough was happy to trade in her rags for her school’s blue blazer uniform.

You might even share a musical taste with the middle daughter on The Waltons. Before the profile’s end, Mary Elizabeth McDonough lists some of her favorite musical acts as Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

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