In its Original location just north of the Gone With The Wind Train Depot. This house was relocated next to the Train Depot in 1963 to make way for “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, Jerusalem sets. If this set wasn’t connected to a TV series that was still in use, they would have just torn it down. It was needed, yet in the way of something that was bigger, budget wise anyway.
Built for the Television Show Guestward, Ho! Here is the original Mayberry R.F.D. house in 1960. Original location before being moved to a deserted spot close by.
In the T.V. Series Kentucky Jones with added front chimney (1964)
Here is the house post-1963 in its new location and slightly remodeled
Mayberry R.F.D. switched lots and this house was built at Warners also. It became most famous for the family that moved in with all those kids...But, this Desilu location saw tons of kids, right here, this was the official backlot party house. Just good clean fun!
Another scene from Mayberry R.F.D., the window on the upstairs left is my fort that lasted for years. Simple boxes left over from Hogan’s Heroes were what we sat on. Some said- Wine. Some said- Explosives. We hung posters on the back wall that framed in our private room. We even had a nice carpet we installed.
Let’s take a tour around here... Located in the hub of the RKO/Desilu backlot, there stood an ordinary house which over time hosted its share of occupants. First, there was Andy and Opie, then Sam and Mike, then the Waltons and lastly me. I was the last tenant of this house. What good times were had – for years. We never worried about guards here, only the German Shepherds that patrolled the lot in the very early 70s. Rounding up trespassers in this wild west ranch was impossible. This was the easiest of all the lots in Culver City to access. There is not even a fence along the La Ballona Creek.
We had 4 forts going in this place at our peak. They were located in Andy Griffith’s house, the Spanish Cantina, The Ranch house from Mayberry R.F.D., where we took over Opie’s, then Mike’s upstairs bedroom and the Saloon.
The Saloon would become our make-shift casting office. We even had a working rolling phone and used it to call random numbers from all over the country, letting them know we were famous producers calling from Desilu Studios in California. We would often order pizza from our favorite local spot and have it delivered right to the lot! The phone bill probably red flagged the old rotary phone so our Saloon/office fort was discovered and boarded up. Other than the saloon, these forts stayed active for years. I have those stories in my upcoming book.
The Mayberry R.F.D. farm house was located dead center of this lot. You could walk in the front screen door, or just walk up a flight of stairs behind it. The smell of licorice plants is intoxicating as they sprout behind this façade. Follow a wood stairway upwards takes you to a tiny bedroom set, fit for “four” teenagers. But, the roof could hold another 4 to 6 on a busy night hanging out. It served as an outside the window floor you could sit on and be part of this room.
We would usually have music and party as the moon climbed above the Baldwin Hills and gave us all the light we needed. If this ranch house could talk, what a story it could tell. We were confronted by security out front once-but he was drunk as a skunk. So we let him go, we stayed, what’s he going to do, call the cops? This was during the filming of The Fortune.
The view out the upstairs windows looks toward the old train depot, the area beneath where we would sit overlooks the scene of civil war soldiers in a triage medical situation in Gone With the Wind. At night, it’s easy to imagine the soldiers lying all around below us. It’s spooky. Behind that, a railroad ridge for Hogan’s Heroes, then finally a big mountain that frames every show ever done here. If you film this backlot, it’s hard for this hilltop not to show up. It’s the elephant in the room, if ever there was one. It’s part of the Baldwin Hills.
Ironically, the Waltons upstairs view also sees a big, similarly shaped mountain which is the backside of the Hollywood sign, in Burbank.
On one trip to the Waltons set at TBS, “The Burbank Studios” we were lucky to find a slightly beaten-up coupe with the key in the ignition. I was 14 and didn’t have a license yet, but when opportunity knocks… Besides my dad let me practice in the driveway a couple times. My first time driving a stick! After getting the hang of shifting gears, I drive my buddies to John Boy’s home. I have the idea to park the car and say good night to this most highly rated television family, but, I’m moving a bit too fast. This iconic house is quickly becoming centered between… the headlights and the hood ornament. And I can’t slow it down! Just at the moment of truth, the car decides to turn itself off like it wants us to leave! Miraculously, we are successfully parallel parked blocking the front patio stairs.
The Waltons made money before, so let’s try our luck again. Another house was built for special grown up Waltons episodes on the Warner Ranch. John Boy gets married was one, who would have guessed that? I will end this piece at what they now call the Gilmore Girls house. They built in the wrong community, the Warner Ranch will soon succumb to bulldozers and be the next backlot Same Old Song and Dance tragedy.
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…