Original air date – 10/30/59
Written by Rod Serling | Directed by Robert Stevens
Starring Gig Young, Frank Overton, Irene Tedrow, Ronnie Howard, Byron Foulger, Patrick H. O’Malley
Walking Distance plays out like a Douglas Sirk melodrama with a time traveling element.
A New York advertising executive, Martin Sloan (Gig Young), drives up to get gas near his old childhood hometown. It’s been some twenty years since he left the town so he decides to stop by for a walk down memory lane, literally.
At the town’s diner, he finds the cost of ice cream still the same price as it was 25 years ago. In front of the waiter, Martin recalls the owner of the diner when he was still alive. The waiter looks at him funny. The reason for his expression, we find out later after Martin has left the diner, is that the owner is still alive and well in the back office.
Next, Martin roams the town. He stops by to talk to a little boy whose credit at the end of the movie is Ronnie Howard. Yes, this little Ronnie would go on to drop the second syllable of his first name and make it real big in Hollywood.
Series of encounters suggest to Martin that he might not be in 1959 anymore. When he walks up to his childhood home’s front porch, he is greeted by his mom and dad who look about the same age as himself.
Then he sees himself, a young Martin Sloan of 1934. Like a lunatic, he starts chasing the young Martin who seeks refuge at a merry-go-round (was it normal for a small town USA in 1934 to have a merry-go-round running on just any regular day?). The poor boy is so spooked by the image of his old self chasing after him that he falls off the merry-go-round and breaks his leg.
At that instance, Martin feels a pain in his leg. The old Martin has just caused an injury to the young Martin that will forever limp him for life. His 1934 father finds him later that night to return Martin the wallet that had fallen off his pocket earlier. From Martin’s content in the wallet, the father now knows that his son has traveled to this town from the future. The father dispenses some advices that all sum up to Martin should be going back to where he came from.
Martin has no choice but to limp back to the gas station where he left his car for the good old small town USA of 1934 is all but in the past.