After hearing from his mother that jobs are becoming very scarce on Waltons Mountain, John Boy returns home to prepare a newspaper report on the job conditions in Jefferson County. John Boy's family is aware that there is a great deal of work to be had on the Virginian coastal areas, where both ship building and defense plants are employing people, but there is a decided lack of jobs in the nearby mountains.
When John Boy goes to visit Erin at the telephone exchange, on arriving in Rockfish, Fannie Tatum tells him that there isn't a lot of work for Erin either, and that she has taken another job, but Erin isn't saying what it is. John Boy is given a lift home by Hank Buchanan and surprises his family who had no idea that he was coming.
John talks to John Boy about the lack of work and tells him that he has been thinking of looking for work off the mountain. John Boy discusses the possibility of opening the old Guthrie Mine again to help to provide the area with some work for the men. He and John head on over to see Mr Guthrie and discuss what needs to be done to it so that it would be safe to work again. While there, Elizabeth calls for help after she falls down an old mine shaft, but is rescued by John Boy. Repairs to the mine are arranged and a group of local men gather together to discuss their new jobs. Grandpa feels quite left out though and doesn't attend the meeting. John has made it perfectly clear that he would not allow Grandpa to work in the mine, and Grandpa declares that he won't work there at all then. Instead he goes to work for an elderly couple who do need him.
By this time work is going on at the mine, and when John, John Boy and Harley Foster do an inspection, they discover some water leaking and hear some rumblings. Harley is concerned that there may be some weak spots at the mine. The next day John goes to enter the mine alone, but is followed first by Harley, then by the other men. Just as he turns to tell them all to go back out, the fault collapses and the men are trapped. Help arrives and digging begins, in hope to free the men. When the plans of the mine are checked, John Boy realises that the shaft which Elizabeth had earlier fallen into may be a way for them to rescue the men. They finally break through to the trapped men and the families waiting are reunited.
Erin's job is discovered when she is particularly late in coming home. John Boy discovers that she has been working at the home of a single father, caring for his two children. When John finds this out he is very angry, but accepts Erin's explanation that she was just trying to pay them back for all the money they had spent on her over the years.
- Richard Thomas as John Boy Walton
- Joe Conley as Ike Godsey
- Ronnie Claire Edwards as Corabeth Godsey
- Helen Kleeb as Miss Mamie Baldwin
- Mary Jackson as Miss Emily Baldwin
- John Crawford as Ep Bridges
- Sheila Allen as Fanny Tatum
- Britt Leach as Easy Jackson
- Lynn Hamilton as Verdie Foster
- Hal Williams as Harley Foster
- Deirdre Lenihan as Daisy Garner
- Lloyd Nolan as Cyrus Guthrie