Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mayberry, My Hometown

The following is a post I originally wrote in 2010, but given the passing of Andy Griffith, I felt it worth repeating.





♫ My hometown is the greatest place I know,
Where the people I find
are gentle and kind
and the living easy and slow.
 ♫

These are the opening words to the song Bee Taylor and Clara Edwards wrote as a tribute to their hometown, Mayberry, North Carolina. Their hometown, my hometown.

There were many people responsible for The Andy Griffith Show: Sheldon Leonard, Aaron Ruben, Richard Linke, Bob Ross, Frank Myers, Sid Hickox, a splendid cast and crew, and a host of some of the era's greatest script writers. Though all these persons contributed immensely, I give my greatest thanks to Andy Griffith, himself, without whom there would never have been the classic sitcom.

I grew up on The Andy Griffith Show.  Back in the days when families had only one television set, our entire family would gather in front of our little black and white portable on Monday nights and watch Andy together.  As a family.  It didn't matter if the dishes hadn't yet been done or homework finished; it was time for Andy and things of lesser importance could wait.

When Andy decided, after eight seasons in the top ten, to leave the series while it was still on top, the show evolved into Mayberry, RFDAndy made several guest appearances, but the star became Ken Berry, as farmer and councilman Sam Jones. Andy reportedly stayed on as a story consultant, a role he had played, uncredited, since the beginning; indeed, he contributed to the writing of many, many scripts. The Andy Griffith Show, already in daytime reruns, went completely into Rerun Land, where it has stayed...for forty six years.

I watch Andy at every opportunity, even though I know every episode, even though I can quote much of the dialogue, even though I can tell when a scene has been deleted, or lines have been cut, in order to make room for more commercials. My children grew up watching Andy, and I attribute the wholesome goodness, the solid principles of that show, for much of their fine character. The moral values of The Andy Griffith Show are deemed so great that many churches have adapted the series into their Sunday School lessons.

It was a simpler time. Even though the series was set in the sixties, Mayberry was unaffected by the volatile nature of the rest of the country: there was no sex, no drugs, no war in Vietnam, no race riots. Maybe that's why it stayed on the top of the Nielson ratings charts for so long - maybe Americans needed that weekly escape from the harsh realities of the era. Maybe that's why, to this day, it still flourishes in reruns - maybe we still need that escape to a place where the pace was slower, the people kinder, and all dilemmas were resolved in thirty minutes.

My hometown? No, not really, for Mayberry is, after all, a fictional little hamlet. But I feel more ties to Mayberry than I do to my real hometown; indeed, to any town in which I've ever lived. I know every business in town. The courthouse, where Sheriff Andy Taylor and deputy Barney Fife hold dangerous criminals - like town drunk Otis Campbell, who has his own key and is allowed to lock himself up and let himself out.  Floyd's Barbershop, where the men of the town gather to gossip and play checkers. The Mayberry Security Bank, where guard Asa Breeney sleeps soundly in a chair in the corner.  Walker's Drugstore, the Grand Theater, the Mayberry Hotel, the Snappy Lunch, Mr. Foley's Grocery, Fred Goss' Dry Cleaning, the All Souls Church. I know the houses of each citizen: Andy's two story house, where he lives with son Opie and Aunt Bee; Mrs. Mendlebright's Boarding House, where Barney cooks illegally on a hot plate; Mrs. Wiley's, where socialites gather for dances; the Darling cabin, way out in the mountains, reached by crossing the Robert E. Lee bridge (a tree that fell over a shallow spot in a creek.)

Some of the program's greatest moments involve...nothing. Nothing more than Andy and Barney sweeping up the courthouse and having aimless conversations; nothing more than the family sitting on the front porch after a full meal, humming and strumming guitar. And some great moments involve the zany antics of overzealous Barney, who is allowed one bullet only, and must keep it in his shirt pocket.


There were classic hilarious episodes, like Barney's First CarThe Pickle StoryThe Great Filling Station Robbery, Barney and the ChoirDogs, Dogs, DogsThe Loaded Goat, and virtually anything involving Gomer Pyle, the Darling family, and Ernest T. Bass. But my favorite episodes involve strangers to the town, strangers who stumble upon a town stuck in time, and learn a lesson about themselves. In Man in a Hurry, impatient businessman Malcolm Tucker's car breaks down just outside Mayberry on a quiet Sunday morning, and, of course, the only thing open in Mayberry on Sunday is the church. Mr Tucker becomes outraged at the townsfolk, desperate to get to his important business in Raleigh, but by the day's end, he has learned to appreciate the slow pace, the friendly people, the generosity he's offered. Or Bailey's Bad Boy, in which spoiled young man Ronald Bailey sideswipes a farmer's truck, and is arrested and detained in the Mayberry jail. His lesson comes from watching Andy's firm but loving discipline of Opie when Opie breaks a window with a baseball. Or Sermon For Today, in which a visiting minister preaches to the congregation to "slow down, take it easy, what's your hurry?" He never realizes that Mayberrians have always lived by that adage.

Even though Andy was the sheriff, most of the episodes dealt with home and family and small town values. Barney Fife summed it up accurately in the episode Andy on Trial, when he said, "...when you're a lawman and you're dealing with people, you do a whole lot better if you go not so much by the book, but by the heart."

By the heart. That was the message that The Andy Griffith Show drove home.

I owe Mayberry and Andy Griffith a debt of gratitude; for teaching me and my children patience, kindness, a sense of fairness, and for entertainment value that simply cannot be matched.

Many of the cast and crew are now deceased, but they will forever be young on screen and in memories. What a legacy.

Thank you, Andy.

(Added July, 2012, after Andy's passing, and paraphrasing lines from Opie the Birdman:)



43 comments:

  1. Who couldn't love the Andy Griffith show. My favorite character - Don Knotts. If Barney Fife could make it in this world, so could I. I also liked the terminal drunk in the tank. And the fishng and pie baking. And the lesson to learn.
    Great show.

    And great to see a post from you. Hope all is going well in your life.

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    1. Wasn't Barney great? And now he and Andy are together again!

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  2. so sad...it was a staple of my afternoons after school...and sad to see him go....have been to mt airy as well....

    hope you are well...

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    1. Brian, have you been to Mt. Airy during Mayberry Days? the whole town turns into Mayberry, with a parade and show and special guests. It's so much fun!

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  3. And thank YOU, Ethelmae, for this beautiful tribute. I have the opportunity to watch three episodes a day here and do so whenever I can. In fact, the one about the hometown song was just on about a week ago. I envy your fantastic memory for details. But then again...there's a blessing in having a bad memory, too...after awhile, it's like watching a whole new series. :)

    I love your writing and have missed your regular posting. I'm so anxious to read your book. Remember me if you need another proofreader. :)

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    1. Linda, how sweet! I am watching a mini-marathon as I type...the Pickle Story is on (Kerosene cucumbers!)...and I have tears running down my cheeks even as I laugh.

      And thank you, you are on my list as proofreader!

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  4. I also knew the episodes by heart, and Andy will always remain the same in my heart.
    Long live Mayberry.

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    1. Long live Mayberry...beautiful. There's always hope for the human race as long as Mayberry airs.

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  5. It was like Brigadoon .. stepping away from reality and into a world where nothing really bad can happen, good times suspended for ever in our hearts... beautiful .. and a happy safe Fourth to you!

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    1. Daryl, that's it exactly! About the worst that could happen in Mayberry is that Barney would accidentally shoot a hole in the floor. Happy 4th to you!

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  6. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.

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    1. Thank you, Eva. Hope your book sales are going well!

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  7. Ethel, you're a love. I knew you would write something beautiful for Andy. You never, ever disappoint. Mayberry and its characters were such an important part of our childhood.

    I miss you, my friend. I hope your writing is going well. I have no doubt it is.

    Hugs to you.

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    1. Thank you, Hilary. Even though this was written more than two years ago, I felt it important to repost it.

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  8. A fine eulogy for a fine man and a fine show. We're all better for him and it.

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    1. Frank, that's the way I feel, too. You know, Andy started out in life with an intent to be a minister, and in a way, that's just what he did. He subtly "ministered" to masses, and his "sermons" will be seen by generations.

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  9. I totally agree, and thank you for writing the post I thought about writing but didn't have time to write. I grew up on Andy and I think searched for a hometown like Mayberry to raise my kids in. (And kind of found it!) Glad to see you back, even if it's for a sad thing like this!!

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    1. Great that you live in your own "Mayberry." Our little town has been referred to as Mayberry more than once, and I couldn't be happier about it.

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  10. To all the comments about my book - the writing is not going as well as I'd hoped. I had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my knee early this year, then developed a blood clot in that knee, which broke into pieces and settled in my lung. Two pulmonary embolisms have left me exhausted, both mentally and physically, and even though I've been off work for some time, I just haven't had the energy to do anything creative. Even my writing suffers, and I get easily discouraged.

    My breathing is improving slowly, and other symptoms are lessening, so I'm hopeful I'll be back on track with the writing very soon. Thanks to all who asked!

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    1. Oh Ethel Mae, I hate to hear that you've gone through all of this! I'm so glad you survived those pulmonary embolisms. I'll keep you in my prayers for a swift and complete recovery. Don't give up on your writing - I get discouraged about mine and don't have nearly the excuse you do! But you're so gifted - keep at it!

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  11. Thanks for this moving tribute to Andy! I cried real tears when I heard the news, just as if it was a family members passing I'd heard about.

    I had just been talking about Mayberry a few days before, when several of us were talking about the horrible way today's tv and the internet are affecting and sexualizing out children, how when we watched Andy we didn't have to worry about seeing a tv ad in the middle of it for cialis and have to explain what a 'harder,stronger, longer lasting erection' was. You know? Heck, today's kids wouldn't even be able to sit still for the black and white reruns, so many of them will never know the gift of the many lessons taught, nor realize the power that the hokey sheriff, along with his son and deputy and community, had on us.

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  12. Oh Linda, so true! Wholesome, family goodness. I saw it pointed out somewhere this past week that Mayberry was purported to be about family, yet there were no traditional families in it - almost everyone was single. True, but the relationships between all the characters were what made them a family. A family does not have to be made of a man, a woman, and 2.3 children.

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  13. Shhhhhhh, I'm not here....'just a figment of your imagination 'cause I'm on summer blogcation since I can't seem to master the summers on the Ponderosa and bloggin'. I'm an all or nothin' kinda chick, ya know?

    I had to pop in when I saw ya posted.

    To Andy I pay the highest respect and the remembrance of a simpler time.

    God bless ya sweetie. I hope your havin' a wonderfully blessed summer :o)

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    1. Good to see you, Nezzy! You take it easy now; we don't want you down with shingles or any of those maladies you've suffered the last couple of years.

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  14. So glad to see something by you featured at Hilary's place! And this is a GREAT piece, a wonderful appreciation of a tremendous show. My favorites are probably "The Pickle Story" and the one where Opie helps to mend the birds then set them free. "The cage looks so empty now, Pa..." "Yes, son, but don't the trees look fuller?" I get misty every time I watch it.

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    1. Suldog, thank you. Those are two more of my favorites, too, and as a matter of fact, I created a tribute picture using those lines from Opie the Birdman. I believe I'll upload it now and update this post.

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  15. aw. this was sweet. my sis continues to watch the old b&w reruns as she prefers to live in that simpler time (instead of watching modern day news). congrats on your POTW!

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    1. Thank you! I had no idea about the POTW until this very moment...must pop in over at Hilary's and thank her!

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  16. What a perfect post for a tribute to a great man and an enduring legacy. The show always brought me a sense of peace and faint homesickness...homesick for a time and way of life that I've never exactly known, but in any case identify with.

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    1. Oh Jo, how beautifully said. Thank you.

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  17. What a great tribute! I love this show to this day. I live in a small town...a transplant from Chicago. When my brother came to town for business purposes he found our little "greasy spoon" for lunch and when he saw our town barber (in his white coat) he said "Hey, I think I met Floyd the barber!" I just smiled and said "Welcome to our small town!" I just wish Andy Taylor was the sheriff!

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    1. Aw, what a great story! Thank you for sharing!

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  18. This is no doubt the best written tribute to Andy Griffith and the show. I believe that Ronnie Howard is of good character and someone to be admired, especially in today's Hollywood, and he no doubt got a lot of his examples of how to live by growing up around Andy Griffith and growing up on the show.

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    1. Sue, thank you. I read a tribute by Ron Howard last week, and he gave Andy so much credit for his own life. He also mentioned the first time he gave actual input on the script - he was only 7 years old, but he suggested a line be rephrased, "more like a kid would say it." When Andy told it was a great idea and used it, he was thrilled.

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  19. I've never heard of this show until now.

    Lovely tribute.

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  20. What a wonderful tribute. That's so nice of you. He's a great man and a good artist.
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  21. I just had to stop by to say how much I miss you. I hope you and your family are well and you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I still have you in my blogroll......just in case ;-)

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  22. Very sweet and touching post. It's only been a couple of years since my "baby" got his license, and now he seems like such an old hand at driving, but yes, it is definitely a time when they are free to make more choices on their own.
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  23. I loved watching this show growing up--I think the episode where Aunt Bea makes pickles would be my favorite. :)

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  24. Stopping by to say hello. Miss your posts! Your granddaughter is coming up on two years old. Where the heck does the time go, anyway?

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  25. I miss you... How are you ? I hope to talk soon and catch up. I updated my blog. Love you,

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  26. Hi Ethel,
    Miss you lots and lots. I have been away from BlogLand myself for a while because Mrs Bluelights, my dear wife has been very ill. Unfortunately I lost Maria last month - I have written a post about it at my place covering what happened. I miss her so much but I am grateful we had 40 years together.

    Hope your feet are behaving themselves - mine send their regards to them.
    Hope you and hubby are keeping well ~ take care ~ Eddie x



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  27. Well, growing up in England, I never saw a single episode of Andy Griffiths, or of Mayberry RFC. Looks like that's my loss, and I'm about to go over to YouTube to see if I can find some clips! Maybe we can get the series!

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