Marcia Woolery’s Vital Role in Television History
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Marcia Woolery was John Boy’s first true love on The Waltons television series. Marcia was brilliantly portrayed by the very talented actress, Tammi Bula. Richard Thomas and Tammi Bula had a most incredible chemistry. There was something that spoke gently of the innocence of first love.
One of the most memorable and heart-warming scenes of all The Waltons episodes is when John Boy reads poetry to Marcia at the school playground. This quality of honesty, innocence and the pains of a first love, really was never quite demonstrated in television history, before this sensitive and endearing scene.
Sure, we had Wally Cleaver share an ice cream soda with Mary Ellen Rodgers. But, Wally had this air of confidence about him. After all he was a popular boy in his high school and played baseball on the high school team. Wally may have stuttered and stammered a bit, when he talked to Mary Ellen, but still the television viewer really didn’t feel Wally’s pain of putting himself out there, to the girl of his dreams.
Mickey Rooney came close to touching our hearts with that certain quality of vulnerability in his many films, portraying Andy Hardy. But, again, there was not that certain feeling of coming of age that Richard Thomas and Tammi Bula touched our hearts with, in their roles of John Boy and Marsha.
“The Foundling” was the very first episode of The Waltons. It aired in September of 1972. And, it is in this episode that we are introduced to Marcia Woolery. Remembering back that we were first introduced to John Boy, in December of 1971 with the television movie, “The Homecoming.”
I remember that in September of 1972, I had just turned 19 and began my sophomore year of college. There was a girl in my American Literature, to whom I had the most painful crush on. We sat across from each other and I remember it took all of my courage to talk to her after class and walk to the student center with her.
So, when I first saw the episode, “The Foundling,” where John Boy reads poetry to Marcia Woolery, it struck a deep chord in the innermost chambers of my heart. The chemistry between John Boy and Marcia just seemed to pour forth from the television screen. The scene was so well done. There was such an endearing sensitivity to the scene. It was just so gentle and caring. There was such a timeless quality about that scene.
I cannot say that I have ever seen that quality of the innocence of the first love of coming of age, ever portrayed with such sensitivity in a television show, as Richard Thomas and Tammi Bulla had so very thoughtfully and skillfully portrayed it. Truly, this gentle scene was a monumental moment in television history.