By about the late 2000s, I had lived a lot of life, but I hadn’t written any of it down. Even though I’d been in the middle of some of Hollywood’s most celebrated and controversial decades (the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s), it never occurred to me that anything I’d done or seen was worth putting on paper. And then several things began to make me think otherwise.
In 2010 Alison Arngrim – known as Nellie Oleson to a lot of you – debuted her hilarious and heartfelt memoir Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, and I was knocked out. It was brave, smart, and flat-out brilliant. I read it cover to cover almost in a single sitting.
The stories she told about shooting “Little House on the Prairie” took me back to a time in my life in the 1970s that was so full and vibrant. Working on the Walnut Grove set – in the middle of Big Sky Movie Ranch in Simi Valley – was a great adventure and a period of my life packed with memories.
At about the same time as the release of her book, I had moved away from Hollywood, making a new home in Napa, California. Being away from the entertainment business gave me some distance to think about just what I’d been doing for all those years.
And then I befriended a writer in Napa, Andy Demsky, who one day announced to me, “I think you have a book in you.” To which I replied, “I don’t think so.” “I think you do, actually,” he said. “I don’t see it,” I’d say. This conversation went on for about three years.
What finally gave me a light bulb moment was you, the fans of the show. In the mid-2000s, Alison talked me into attending my first Little House on the Prairie® fan event. I had no idea who would attend or what they’d be like. I was positively knocked over by how many people loved “Little House on the Prairie” – 40 years after it had been on television. Living in L.A. all those years surrounded by the entertainment business, “Little House” wasn’t thought of as a big deal. I thought everyone had forgotten about it. Fortunately, I was completely mistaken!
So there I was at fan show after fan show, where I’d often sit next to Alison, and I’d sell Beadle Bags, chat with fans, sign autographs, and pose for photos. What I kept noticing was how happy fans were when they could get Alison’s signature on a copy of her book. Her story was so powerful and personal that it gave people who loved Little House a strong personal connection both to Alison and to the whole show.
After talking with Alison, they’d often turn to me and ask, “So when are you going to write a book?” Gulp.
Finally, I called Andy and said, if we were going to do this, I wanted to tell the real story of my life – not a fake, cleaned-up, Miss Perfect version. He was all for it. We would get together a couple of times a week over the course of nearly two years, and memories would pour out. First came the stories that I’d told many times in interviews and when talking with fans. And these anecdotes were polished with countless re-tellings. Then other stories started coming out – difficult, challenging memories that I’d kept to myself in some cases for years. Throughout this, Andy would scribble like mad on a legal pad. It seemed like every time I briefly touch on one of these embarrassing, painful, or distressing incidents in my life. He would stop and question me closely, pulling out every godawful detail. I’d often leave our session with a headache or an upset stomach.
Going back through your life in that kind of detail is hard. But as story layered on story, a book began to emerge, and I realized that it’s the things we don’t like to remember, the memories we want to keep to ourselves, that can be the most important.
So about 1,000 headaches and twisted stomachs later and a few tears – and actually a lot of laughs – we finally had a manuscript, and then before I knew it, it was being printed. And now my book Little House in the Hollywood Hills is available for everyone to read.
And that’s when I started thinking of stories we had forgotten to put in the book. Of course, right?
Something that came back to me recently was how much Michael Landon used to tease me on the set of Little House about Miss Beadle being totally oblivious to the safety of her schoolchildren. In an episode called “Little Girl Lost,” Carrie falls down an old mine shaft, and Mike chalked it up to Miss Beadle – she’d sent the kids on an insect hunt as a school assignment. Then there was the episode called “Blizzard” with the big snowstorm. We started filming at Paramount, and Mike looked over at me and said, “Well, Miss Beadle kills the kids again.”
In the episode, the children are at the schoolhouse when it begins to snow. Miss Beadle looks outside, sees it’s coming down pretty heavily, and rather than keep the kids at school, she sends them home. It turns out to be the worst blizzard in Minnesota history. The parents are terribly concerned, and they show up at the schoolhouse, and when they ask where the kids are, Miss Beadle can only say, “I sent them home!”
The snowstorm scenes were pretty amazing. Mike shot them in a huge water tank set at Paramount as they were blowing in a mix of man-made snow and some other artificial white stuff (insulation, I think). This was the set where they’d filmed old pirate and seafaring movies.
Miss Beadle wasn’t in any of these scenes, but I dropped by to watch the filming because I knew it’d be quite a production. It was one of those moments when I saw Mike Landon’s prankish, kid side come out in spite of what must have been a high-stress work situation.
Everything was actually very cold and wet during the blizzard shoot. The artificial snow was melting like crazy, and Mary Yerk, our script continuity person, was upset because her script pages were getting soggy, and her notes were smearing. At one point, she was totally exasperated and was waving a damp page up and down beside her trying to get it to dry.
This got Mike’s attention. While she was distracted and waving her script page around in the air, he snuck up behind her, pulled a lighter out of his pocket, and lit her script page on fire. A moment later she gave a scream and Mike had the biggest laugh of the day.
Now, as far as Miss Beadle, “killing the kids,” if it’s true, no one seemed to mind. The kids and I had a great time working together. At the cast Christmas party that first season each of them surprised me with gifts all of lotions, soaps, or perfume all smelling of lemon verbena – Miss Beadle’s favorite scent. That became a tradition for the four years I was on Little House. I had no idea you could find so many lemon-verbena scented things in the world! It became a favorite of mine, and I still wear it today.
Alison Arngrim is one of those kids who has remained close – we talk on the phone and email each other regularly. We had a funny moment in about 2005 when a number of us from the cast were invited to visit Big Sky Movie Ranch, where we’d shot the exteriors for the show. A great newsman, Lester Holt, was interviewing us for a segment on The Today Show. I remember that at one point, as the camera followed us, Alison and I were walking down the path that came over the hill and down past the lumber mill over the stream and into Walnut Grove.
I was feeling a little discombobulated because nothing looked like I remembered it, and all the buildings were gone. The one thing I recognized was the bridge, but there was no stream running under it.
I turned to Alison and said, “What happened to the stream?” I believe she thought I was joking and then realized my actual bewilderment.
“Charlotte,” she said, “That wasn’t real.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was artificial. There’s no water out here!”
We both got a big laugh out of that. Simi Valley, where the movie ranch is located, is dry as a bone most of the year and I knew that all the ponds were fake, but for some reason for those four years that I’d crossed the bridge coming into the Walnut Grove set, it had never occurred to me that that stream too was part of the magic. Michael Landon had pulled one over on me again.
Another thing I left out of the book, which I’d meant to include is the question of who I based my portrayal of Miss Beadle on. An actor doesn’t always need to base a character on an actual person, but in this case, it just came naturally. As I read through my first script for the episode “Country Girls,” the voice and personality that came through most clearly was that of my sister Barbara Jean. Where I had no children of my own, Barbara Jean had seven, aged two years apart. When I would visit her family, I was always in awe of how Barbara Jean could keep it together. She’d be nursing an infant, while a three-year-old was pulling the dog’s tail and someone else was falling down the stairs, and she would keep her cool, remain in charge, and run the show. She was unfailingly kind, firm, loving, and never seemed too rattled by any of it.
So if you love Miss Beadle, you can thank Michael Landon, my sister Barbara Jean, all that lemon verbena, and all the many people involved with making the show an enduring success. As they say, it takes a village. In this case, though, it’s a village that has no actual stream.
Facebook Live Video with Charlotte Stewart
Be sure to pick up a copy of Charlotte Stewart’s new book, Little House in the Hollywood Hills and enjoy this replay video of the live Facebook video she did with Little House on the Prairie’s Facebook Page.
Recommendations from the Website Editors
A number of the cast members from “Little House on the Prairie” have written about their experiences. Below are links to our website articles about them, as well as to their books, which make entertaining reading and inspired gifts for fans of the television series.
- Article: About Melissa Sue Anderson
- Memoir: The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House
- Article: About Alison Arngrim
- Memoir: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated
- Article: Melissa Francis: Lessons from the Prairie
- Memoir: Lessons from the Prairie: The Surprising Secrets to Happiness, Success, and (Sometimes Just) Survival I Learned on America’s Favorite Show
- Memoir: Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir
- Article: About Melissa Gilbert
- Memoir: Prairie Tale: A Memoir
- Cookbook: My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours
- Article: About Karen Grassle
- Memoir: Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma
Wendi Lou Lee
- Article: About Ketty Lester
- Memoir: Ketty Lester: From the Cotton Fields To Grammy Nominated “Love Letters” to Little House on the Prairie
- Article: Miss Beadle and Me
- Memoir: Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me
For information about Laura Ingalls Wilder whose novels inspired the TV series, please visit our Recommended Reading lists for children and young adults and adults. You may also be interested in a documentary film about Laura Ingalls Wilder.
We invite you to subscribe to the free Little House on the Prairie newsletter for all the exclusive interviews and events.
Charlotte Stewart is beloved by Little House on the Prairie fans around the world as schoolteacher Miss Eva Beadle. Her 50-year acting career also includes roles on the TV show Twin Peaks, Coach, Gunsmoke, My Three Sons, and The Waltons as well as films including Human Highway, Cheyenne Social Club and Tremors. She recently released her memoir Little House in the Hollywood Hills.
Sou professor. Tento ser um professor amável e amigo das crianças como é a srta. Beadle. Little House On The Prairie é uma inspiração para vivermos com amor, fé, fraternidade.
I am a teacher. I try to be a kind and child-friendly teacher like Miss Beadle. Little House On The Prairie is an inspiration to live with love, faith and brotherhood.
senhorita Beadle, corrigindo.
Miss Beadle, correcting.
i have watched little house for over 50 years ad still watchig.
I just wanted thank the cast of Little House on the Prairie for their endearing talent that has impacted the lives of many. One of my fondest memories was sitting in the living room with my mother and sister eagerly awaiting Little House on the Prairie. My mother has since passed away, and I find it such a comfort to sit down and watch a TV show that brings back such memories. Thank you…..
Nice people make for a great show! It’s been a favorite of mine since it was on NBC and thank goodness for the classic channels that carry it today!
Ms. Stewart: I’ve contacted you in the past, butr I lost your email address. I attempterd to add your name (I remember that much), with aol.com and msn.net, but found they were wrong (one of them went to a lady, who told me she’d interviewed you once).
I saw the rerun of The Waltons, in which you played the mother of a deaf (I’m not sure the cultural spelling, Deaf, woulld fit, here, because the girl couldn’t sign I am also led to wonder whether the actress, who played the daughter, was actually Deaf, since she learned to spell so quickly – I mean, after I lost my hearing, it took me about three weeks to memorize the American Sign Language Manual Alphabet, although I had much less trouble, learning signs, since I was a student at the old Georgia School for the Deaf, when I began and was fluent in American Sign Language in about sixx week.)
I hope you’re doing well.
I was born in 1970 and I watched Little House religiously as a kid. I still watch and record them everyday and i’m now 48! The show is a big and important part of my childhood. I learned a lot from each episode and every character. Miss Beadle/Mrs. Sims was a special character. She showed us that a woman’s job, inside or outside the home, was just as important as a man’s job.
Thank you, for giving us such an important lesson in gender equality that is still with us today.
I watched the show Every week with my grandparents. I was about 15 and looked forward to it so much. My grandpap made popcorn . we enjoyed it so much , It gives me such good memories. thank you so much miss beadle.
Where can someone buy or find patterns for dresses from the 1870’s?
How can I get a signed copy of your book
I was a teenager in the 70’s and this was my favorite show. Had a crush on Almanzo. Thank you for being part of a great show and giving us many good memories.
It’s one of my lifetime favorite shows. My Mom cried buckets when Mary went blind, and read from a braille Bible in the closing scene. Dad was laughing, of course, and I was like, “Well, I wear glasses – what does my future hold?” When I had vision problems a couple of years ago and needed special tests, I reminded everyone that I suddenly knew what Mary Ingalls must have gone through. To my surprise, most knew who I was referring to! It’s a great show, and as you said Michael Landon’s quirky sense of humor often seemed to be there. P.S. I was just out of High School when the show first aired in 1974, and for the longest time I was like, “Eww, a teacher with a bug’s name?” thinking Beadle was actually Beetle. Dumb me. Once I got it straight – actually years later – then the character became clear, and I laugh when she always sends Willie to the corner, or politely tells Nellie to shut up and stop bragging about having the best house in all of Hero Township (lol). Oh, and then there is the poison ivy episode – didn’t Miss Beadle know the area was populated with it (scratch scratch scratch). Killing the kids again! As Bob Hope would say, thanks for the memories!
I love the show so much, i still watch the reruns now. Reminds me of my childhood years and how we were as a family back then. They were good times. It gives you a chance to reflect. Thank you to all the cast past and present. God bless
Enjoyed your role on Little House which is currently running on VISION TV in Canada. I also saw you on the Waltons and an episode of Columbo.
I would just love an autograph of one of the members, I always loved this show, I grew up watching it and enjoyed watching it with my Mother who is gone now, but I would love an autograph from any of the crew cause I enjoyed them all…
I have watched the show since I was little, now at 45 I watch reruns and have DVD sets I watch at Christmas…my Mom loved the series and I have great memories watching it with her. Thank you for bringing the characters alive! Looking forward to reading your new book❤
Still my favorite show, “The Camp Out” is one of my favorite episodes, you, Nellie, and Willie scratching at the end of the episode was hilarious. I had to do a leaf collection in school so it was totally relatable.
I can’t wait to read your book!
that by far was my favourite episode as well
I began watching Little House on the Prairie at about age 20, when my room-mate at that time told me about the show. After that I was hooked and followed it faithfully, and also read all the books Laura wrote. So many wonderful memories. God bless you.
I wanted so much to be Laura and live during those days on the prairie. Watched the show ever since I was very young and still watch reruns today. It really makes me kinda sad to read about the character’s real lives and how they accomplished certain scenes because I want so much for Miss Beatle to be a real school teacher in a real one room schoolhouse in a real Walnut Grove. Sort of takes the magic away.
We love you and we miss you a lot miss Beadley!!
Best regards from Greece.
Love ya miss Beadle!
I was just a kid when this show came out. I loved it so much. I remember I would clap my hands every time the show started. It is one of my favorite shows. Thanks for the memories.
I still watch the show, in fact as I write this reply, I am watching the episode where Mary Ingals get her glasses, I can’t count the amount of time I have watched the show
It is still a favorite of mine and I continue to watch the reruns presently. In fact it is on right now. The cinnimon chicken episode. I love this show so much. It would great if they would air the pilot and subsequent episodes as they did not so long ago.
My name is Awilda Cruz
I use watch little house on the parties
we love the whole series , mutch love”s from Holland
I loved Little House from the beginning to the end. My uncle, Don Winter work for the show through its entirety. He was set construction coordinator. And I had the joy of being able to go to work with him when I went to CA to visit. I got to set the sets in Simi Valley and was able to watch a bit of filming. Also I was behind the scenes at the studios. My uncle is gone now, but I have life long memories. I am 60, so it has been awhile,
I wonder what the name of the episode you and the school children climb the mountain and sings? You left things you buried in the mud. I live in Luleå in Sweden. I love you as a teacher. I love the whole series.
Thank you for sharing your life. I have read all the Little house books.
I grew up watching Little House and so did my 2 kids. I was so happy when we finally got the Hallmark channel back and now able to watch it almost everyday. My uncle, Donald Winter worked on the set. Used to love hearing his stories, when he was still alive. Loved watching your interview, just now and I will be buying your book … And Nellie’s book, too. Thank you for providing my family w/ wholesome and wonderful entertainment for so many years… ❤️
I just read this article & wanted to comment on what you said about thinking after 40 years that the show was no big deal. I just want to say that I was a regular watcher & when the show was released for the 40 year anniversary, I bought the set. I watched it all again, along with the movies that were released that gave closure to the show. I am now watching it yet again & still love it! It was a wonderful show that makes me laugh, cry, & yes even get angry…especially at Mrs. Oleson, Nellie & Nancy!!
I love this so much! I have been watching Little House reruns since I was a child in the late 80s, and adore Miss Beadle! I hope I can get my hands on a copy of your book! Thank you so much for taking part in something that I plan to raise my future children watching. The show was and is beautifully made, and I cannot stop myself from watching it when I catch it on television. <3
Hello! I thoroughly enjoyed your video and will be ordering your book soon. I also appreciate the Miss Beadle Bag you allowed me to purchase from you after you appeared on Hallmark’s Home and Family TV show a while ago. The bag is beautiful and I just appreciate it so much.
You mentioned that you wear lemon verbena scent. Where do you purchase it or can you tell me the name of the one you wear? I would like to try it!
Thanks so very much.
I love Little House On the Prairie. Never get tired of it. I am so glad you have a book out. Did not know until now. I will be buying it. Love Miss Beadle. Thank you so much.
I still watch and record the show, I just wish they made more shows like it today.
This show will never get old. Brings back a lot of memories of my family gathering around the TV every week.
Even though Miss Beadle was the first school teacher she was a great one. Cause for a long time didn’t know that they taught all children not like they have been doing which they teach them from different ages. Loved it that way. Wish they would of still had it that way. It was a wonderful show and to this day I still watch it.
I watch every day
I am anxious to read your new book. I heard you had a battle with breast cancer a few years ago. I am having surgery Tuesday June 7th. I always loved the character of Miss Beadle. I always wanted to teach in a one room school, as my aunt and mother did.
Looking forward to reading “Little House in the Hollywood Hills”.
Hi love Little house so much
Who was your faverite to work
On set? How long did it take to
Make a season of the show ?
How many years did you play on little house on the prairie as miss Beadle
I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and I still watch it today. Why did you leave the show after Mary went blind. Was it fun working in a school that was a church too.
I love this story! I grew up with Little House on the Prairie and still enjoy it to this day. I have all nine seasons on dvd plus their own 3 movies. My question is, Why was Miss Beadle written off of the show.?
I still watch it two hours before work. I never tier of reruns love little house on prairie
I still watch Little House too. Never tired of it.