I watched someof the last part of The Vounteer last night.In the scene about letting Erin go to see G.W.,they let her go,a few years ago they wouldn't have let her go.I think John and Olivia became less srtict in later seasons of The Waltons.
I agree, they did seem to be less strict as the series went on, but the kids were getting older. I think it's normal to be less strict with your children the older they become.
John definitely did not want Erin to go visit GW in the beginning. He and Olivia argued about it, and he eventually gave in. I think Olivia tended to be more strict with the boys as they got older, and John was more strict with the girls, especially Erin. He didn't want her to go visit GW, he didn't want her to be in a beauty contest, and he was very upset when she became a "pinup girl" because of some photograph.
I think Olivia, being a woman herself, understood how her daughters felt, and therefore, was more likely to give in to them. On the other hand, she became very upset when the boys did something to show their independence, like Jason working at the Dew Drop Inn, Ben leaving to go to work in Norfolk, and JimBob joining the Army Air Corps.
I thought it wasn't that he didn't want her to be in a beauty contest, but that he didn't want her parading around in a bathing suit. He was OK with it when they used the old fashioned bathing suits that convered everything.
Yes, you are right about the bathing suit. He was okay with it when she was fully dressed in an old fashioned bathing suit. But still, it was an example of him being strict, or maybe just protective, of Erin.