Thursday, February 24, 2011

Visit To Mayberry

For as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of the The Andy Griffith Show. Growing up, I never missed an episode. Then came cable TV, and I was in "hog heaven". I've read somewhere that since going into syndication, there hasn't been a single day The Andy Griffith Show hasn't been on a channel somewhere.

Once Barney Fife (actor Don Knotts) left the show, I lost interest. It was also about that time the shows went from a black and white format to color. (That's right kiddies, TV hasn't always been in color.) I don't care for the color versions because:
• Barney isn't a main character
• Helen Crump--Andy's girlfriend--is much grumpier than her black and white version
• The episodes lost their small town charm as Opie became a teenager and got all caught up in trying to be groovy and impress the girls with his cheezy band and mock turtlenecks...sorry, kinda rambled there for a second.

I recorded all of the B&W episodes (seaons 1 through 6) on VHS years ago. Some years later, I received all of those episodes on DVD for Christmas. I purchased and received as gifts several books about the show and it's characters--including one of Aunt Bea's recipe books. I also have an Andy Griffith Trivia board game, but no one in my family will play with me. To quote Barney: "He's a NUT!" (referring to myself) when it comes to Andy Griffith.

Well... a few months ago, I received an email about a business related conference to be held in February 2011. I kicked around the idea of attending, but really got excited when I noticed, looking at a map one day, that the conference was in Hickory, NC. Now there's nothing that really grabs me about Hickory, NC...except the fact that it is just south of MOUNT AIRY, NC which just happens to be the boyhood home of Andy Griffith, as well as the Andy Griffith Museum! Mount Airy also hosts Mayberry Days each Fall, the first weekend after Labor Day, but I've never been able to attend. Dana and I have talked about it, but it's just never worked out.

By now, I'm sure you've figured out where all this talk about Andy Griffith is headed. I registered for the conference, and with my boss' approval, booked my flight for a couple of days before the conference--turns out I got a cheaper ticket doing so--and made plans to visit Mount Airy!

Mount Airy sits at the top of the state, just east I-77 and about an hour north of I-40 and is the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry where Andy Taylor--played by Griffith--is the town's Sheriff. I landed in Charlotte, rented a car and drove to Mount Airy this past Saturday. I arrived in town too late to eat at the Snappy Lunch diner--famous for their pulled pork sandwiches, but I did have a little time to walk through the "historic downtown district." Floyd's Barber shop is there next to Snappy Lunch; and down the street is the Blue Bird Diner, businesses immortalized on the AG Show. Many of the street names in Mount Airy were also used in the show, as well as names of locals Andy grew up with.

As dumb as it may sound, it was a thrill to be walking on some of the very same streets that Andy may have walked on while growing up. The museum was closed by the time I arrived in town, but it was open on Sunday afternoon. I stayed the night and planned to hit the museum the next day.

Sunday morning, I made my way back to the downtown area where I found a couple of old buildings that appeared to have been restored and modeled after some of the businesses in Mayberry. Obviously, a lot of the town's appeal is Andy Griffith and many of the businesses have capitalized on that appeal, including "Mayberry" in their name or advertising Mayberry souvenirs. I also went by Andy Griffith's boyhood home. It has been purchased from the family and offers the opportunity for visitors to stay there! Wish I had known THAT in advance.

The highlight of the trip was the museum--filled with photos from the Andy Griffith Show, as well as promotional posters from movies and other television productions which starred Andy Griffith. Barney's suit, the "salt-and-pepper" complete with his hat, is there, as well as Otis Campbell's (played by Hal Smith) frumpy jacket and tie. One of Sheriff Taylor's uniform shirts is on display, as are the original signs from the Sherriff's office doors--SHERIFF and JUSTICE of the PEACE. Several items that sat on the courthouse desk are on display, including Andy's gavel. There are also items donated by Goober (George Lindsey) and Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), Barney's on camera girlfriend, in the museum. Newspaper and magazine articles chronicling The Andy Griffith Show line the walls along with many other items either used in the show or related to Andy's time living in Mount Airy.

I imagine I was grinning from ear to ear as I looked at each display, recalling particular episodes and/or memorable lines from the shows characters. My favorite episode is when Barney buys a new car. Barney and Andy are sitting on the front porch of Andy's house, waiting on the car's owner, Mrs. Lesh, to arrive.

Barney: This is just about the biggest thing I ever bought.
Andy: It's a major step.
Barney: Last big buy I made was my Mom's and Dad's anniversary present.
Andy: What'd ya get ‘em?
Barney: Septic tank.
Andy: [amazed] For their anniversary?
Barney: Yeah. Oh, they're really hard to buy for. Besides, it was something they could use. They were really thrilled... 2 tons of concrete, all steel-reinforced.
Andy: You're a fine son, Barn.
Barney: Well, I try.
I laugh every time I see that episode as if it's the first time I've ever seen it. The only thing that could have made the trip any better, was if Dana could have come with me. Of course, she probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did.

I left the museum,and snapped a couple of pictures of the statue of Andy and Opie that sits out front. And for just a moment, I think I heard somebody whistling the "Andy Griffith theme song"(It actually has a name--The Fishin' Hole and lyrics, though I don't recall hearing them on the show.)

One more thing to I can check off my "Bucket List". Thanks Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea, Opie, Gomer, Goober, Floyd...and all the others for the memories/laughs.

More Mt Airy pictures here


Doug said...

One of the things we share, a let love for the values and truths taught on the Andy Griffith Show. Thanks for sharing this experience.

Doug said...

Great memories of the simple truths and values that we learned in Mayberry. Susie and I drove through Mt. Airy when we lived in Raleigh, although not at the YMCA. It was well worth the slight detour.

Millard said...

Keith, I'm with you. I dropped the show when they dropped Barney.

Hey, we have some lost posts on the SF post again. Can you help? Thanks!