Grandpa Walton was so unflappable and mischievous, that I like to think he wouldn't have been at all shocked by the life of the actor who played him.
When we look at the history of the Gay Rights Movement in the USA, one name looms large. This is Harry Hay, considered by many to be the father of it all. Yet go back to 1934, to the very beginning of this civil rights story, and look beyond Mr Hay to his boyfriend.
Grinning right back at us is the face of a young Grandpa Walton.
Will Geer was more than merely Hay's significant other back then. That famous early gay activist credited Will with introducing him to activism!
As a young actor, Will was already a member of the Communist Party of the United States. He campaigned on behalf of striking workers, taking Harry Hay along with him. In 1934, the couple were on stage, entertaining trade unionists during the 83 day West Coast strike in San Francisco, when police began openly firing upon the crowd.
Just like Ellen Corby, Will had been advised by his agent to enter into a 'New York marriage' with a woman, to conceal his homosexuality. Will ignored it.
However, he also discovered that the Communist Party disapproved of same-sex relationships. This was a different matter entirely. Geer approached Herta Ware, his female co-star in Let Freedom Ring, with the request that she become his wife.
In the full knowledge of his true inclinations - and the presence of his boyfriend Harry - she agreed. They remained husband and wife for the next twenty years, until their divorce in 1954. They had three children, including actress Ellen Geer.
Another important activist befriended and mentored by Will Geer was folk singer Woody Guthrie. The actor introduced Guthrie to both Peter Seeger and John Steinbeck, at the time when the latter had just published The Grapes of Wrath. Throughout the 1940s, Geer was frequently on stage with Guthrie, and fellow performer Burl Ives, and appeared on many of the former's records.