Well, not exactly. Fans of 60’s American TV situation comedies know Mayberry as the town that was the setting for the Andy Griffith Show. Mayberry is modeled on Mt. Airy, North Carolina, hometown of the star of the show and the location of the museum named in his honor. On a road trip to Fox Lake in Angola, IN, my son and I stopped for a quick visit.
Andy Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was an American actor, comedian, and producer. His characters were known for a rural North Carolina twang, tongue-in-cheek humor, folksy personality and healthy dose of country common sense.
Griffith was a Tony Award nominee for A Face in the Crowd (1957) and No Time for Sergeants (1958) before he became better known for his television roles, Sheriff Andy Taylor in the The Andy Griffith Show and attorney Ben Matlock in the legal drama Matlock (1986–1995).
In its day, The Andy Griffith Show was one of the most popular TV shows in America. Half-hour episodes appeared weekly on CBS from October 3, 1960, to April 1, 1968. There were 249 episodes — 159 in black and white and 90 in color. Starting in 1964, reruns have been in continuous syndication.
Wikipedia notes in part:
The series originated partly from an episode of The Danny Thomas Show. The show stars Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, the widowed sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, a fictional community of roughly 2,000–5,000 people. Other major characters include Andy’s cousin, the well-meaning and enthusiastic deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts); Andy’s aunt and housekeeper, Bee Taylor (Frances Bavier); and Andy’s young son, Opie (Ron Howard). Eccentric townspeople and, periodically, Andy’s girlfriends complete the cast….
The series never placed lower than seventh in the Nielsen ratings, ending its final season at number one. The only other shows to end their runs at the top of the ratings are I Love Lucy (1957) and Seinfeld (1998). On separate occasions, it has been ranked by TV Guide as the ninth- and thirteenth-best series in American television history. Though neither Griffith nor the show won awards during its eight-season run, co-stars Knotts and Bavier accumulated a combined total of six Emmy Awards. The series spawned its own spin-off—Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (1964–1969) and a reunion telemovie, Return to Mayberry (1986).”
Much of the Andy Griffith Museum and even economy of Mt. Airy, is devoted to The Andy Griffith Show.
Driving by the museum the thing that gets the your attention is a statue of Andy and his son Opie (played by Ron Howard) fishing poles in hand. Fans immediately recognize the sculpture from the opening of scene of the show where Andy and Opie are walking to the lake for an afternoon of fishing.
The opening scene ends with Opie throwing a rock into the lake. An interesting anecdote about that scene is that it was faked. Apparently, Ron Howard, who was six at the time, didn’t throw well at that age. A member of the crew is concealed behind the shrubs and actually throws the stone that splashes in the water.
Here is a 22-second video of the iconic opening scene. Notice that the splash doesn’t happen where Opie is aiming. If Opie’s throw caused the splash, the kid would have had one heck of a curve ball.
The museum is a collection of props, wardrobes, and other artifacts from The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock that were donated by Cindi and Andy Griffith, cast and crew members, and other individuals and organizations. I’m sharing photos of some of the exhibits.
Sheet music for the theme song, “The Fishin’ Hole”, is displayed in the exhibit below. I never knew the song had lyrics. On the show, the melody is whistled and never sung.
A mock up of the sheriff’s office set added a TV that runs episodes from the show.
Andy’s first performance was in the auditorium of the Rockford Street Grammar School. It is located within yards of the museum and is now home to the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
Admission to the Andy Griffith Museum also includes admission to five other exhibits operated by the Surry Arts Council: the Betty Lynn exhibit; the Mount Airy to Mayberry Photo exhibit; the Mayberry Mural in the Andy Griffith Museum Theatre; the Original Siamese Twins exhibit; and the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall at the Historic Earle Theatre, all within walking distance of the museum.
We wanted to get back on the road and had time only for the museum and the Original Siamese Twins exhibit on this trip. It is located next to and one level below the Andy Griffith Museum.
Chang Bunker and Eng Bunker (May 11, 1811 – January 17, 1874) were Siamese-American conjoined twin brothers who were brought to America from Siam (Thailand) in 1829. They were exhibited as curiosities toured the country and were exhibited as curiosities. Their fame led to the expression “Siamese twins” becoming synonymous for conjoined twins. Chang and Eng settled in Mt. Airy, married, and had a total of 22 children.
Mt. Airy celebrates its connection to Mayberry in several ways in addition to the museum. Walker’s Soda Fountain is the counterpart to Walker’s Drugstore from the show. It is the place where Andy met Ellie who became his 1st girlfriend on the show.
Floyd’s City Barber Shop, the 1950’s era barber shop on Main Street, was the inspiration for Floyd’s Barber Shoppe on the show. There’s Wally’s Service, the gas station where Gomer and Goober worked. The Mayberry Courthouse is a replica of the courthouse that appeared in the show. It is situated adjacent to Wally’s Service.
You can take a tour of town in a Mayberry squad car. One happened by while we were at the museum.
Andy Griffith Museum
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Admission: $8 per Adult. $6 Ages 12 and under. $2 Audio Guide. Includes admission to five additional Surry Arts Council exhibits.
Location: 218 Rockford Street, Mount Airy, NC 27030. Just off Interstate 77 near the North Carolina border with Virginia.
I fondly remember the Andy Griffith Show and its various characters. The show was an escape from the problems of the day and there wasn’t an issue that came up that couldn’t be solved amicably in 30 minutes. Andy was a level-headed policeman who solved disputes (there wasn’t much crime) with common sense, tolerance and respect for all no matter the economic status, reputation, or eccentricities of the characters involved.
Naturally, I noticed that there were few Black faces on the show, but that was S.O.P. for American TV in the 60s. Only one episode — where a former professional football player appeared as Opie’s football coach — featured a Black person in a speaking role. Andy Taylor treated the coach as any other townsperson. Skin color was not an issue.
Did you watch The Andy Griffith Show original broadcasts or reruns? What did you like about the show?