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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Remember Andy Griffith’s Town: Why Did It Skip The Civil Rights Movement?

MAYBERRY, N.C. — Former sheriff Andy Taylor died here last week. Mayberry is in mourning.

Sheriff Taylor was one of the last links to another, simpler time. Before there was a traffic light or drive-through banking here, before we got our first cellphone tower or Wi-Fi connection, before the Dairy Queen, the Wal-Mart and the Subway were built out on Route 89, before color was invented, back when people still appeared to one another in shades of black and white, Mayberry was a very different town in a very different America.

Over the years, some have criticized our town for the things that made us different. It has been noted, for instance, that Mayberry somehow managed to be a town in the South in the 1960s without a single African-American citizen, much less a civil rights movement.

But that’s hardly the only thing that bypassed our town. Mayberry never heard about the Cuban missile crisis or the Vietnam War, never knew anything about birth control pills or LSD, Malcolm X or Betty Friedan, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. President Kennedy being shot and killed in Dallas? That awful news never made it here.

The worst thing that ever happened in Mayberry was maybe when that little old lady swindled Barney Fife into buying that clunker of a used car. Or when Aunt Bee’s homemade pickles tasted terrible and nobody could bring themselves to tell her. Or when little Opie killed that mother bird with his slingshot and Andy made him raise the orphaned young ones.

It will be hard for a nation as thoroughly wired and utterly connected as this one to conceive that there was once a time and a town so far removed from the world outside that things such as those counted as crises. But there was. And when the crisis was resolved — as always it was, sensibly, fairly and with a touch of good humor — there always remained enough time, even on a workday afternoon, to slip down to the fishin’ hole and drown some worms.

  • This is a well crafted but self serving piece. Sure the story lines didn’t touch on race or civil rights directly but there seemed to be several people of color in Mayberry. Just about every crowd scene that incorporated random town folk had people of many races visible, not just blacks but Aisians too. No, Mayberry wasn’t the melting pot that is Miami or even Raleigh, still it did show in several instances that it was a part of those changes, Aunt Bee did run for the town council and in one of the first episodes a local farmer was suspected of growing marijuana. Class politics was also a frequent subject in Mayberry, remember the Rafe Hollister business and the fact that the town snobs were offended by Otis Campbell being related to a revolutionary war hero?

    Mayberry didn’t slap us in the face with the troubled sixties, it tried hard to stay where it was in the fantasy world of television but to say that those things never touched Mayberry is just false.

  • tokoloshi27

    Mayberry was an attempt to reach back to the fifties, and in some ways the forties. It was only ever intended to make that short hop; not the 3 or so generations that we’ve since endured. If you want to examine the topics, and not blame Andy Griffiths for 4 generations worth of inter-personal strife; I do believe that many were examined in Ron Howard’s later show, “Happy Days”.

    One last point, they were comedies. About life and escapism to ruder, more homespun values; do not lay an angstist, victimhood-blaming, progressive bleat on Andy.

  • Leonard Pitts Jr – just how old are you? Dairy Queen was around LONG before Mayberry.

  • nomaster

    Don’t knock the idea. I remember when I was a kid a long-long time ago. We all got together and did the fishing thing, the living life for what it was worth. Reality, what is reality but a depiction of whatever you want to make it. We grew up about the same time and found reality with a bang, lost in the jungles of Vietnam, the unclaimed war fought over politics and bull. Nostalgia is not an enemy, love it for what its worth or hate it if you need to.

  • Mr. Pitts: Is this your eulogy of a deceased white guy?

  • howa4x

    I grew up in a semi rural enviornment where everyone was pushed to the center and there was no toleration of the one who really didn’t belong, ridiculed for being too fat, not pretty enough, or different beliefs, or none at all. Women were brought up to be wives, and Gays, blacks and latinos were far and few.
    Why do we long for that rigid culture ruled by white men totally. What’s wrong with diversity? The simplicity was that everyone knew their place, and blacks didn’t really belong at that woolworths counter. That era was really a pot that was begining to get really hot, and boiled over in the late 60’s when one group after another broke free of the social prision. The only ones that long for that time are white men in their late 60’s, the ones that made up the foundation of the tea party. Everyone else is glad it’s over.

  • I just read your Article about Mayberry, NC and the Andy Griffin Show. You wrote No African Americans, in the Andy Griffin Show. Not true. Yesterday, I was watching the Andy Griffin Marathon, on TV Land. The episode, ‘Ernest T. Bass Joins the Army”. There were two(2) young Black men in line to join the Army with Ernest T. Bass. This was a 1963, Black and White episode. When the Shows went color, Mayberry RFD, in late 60’s, you occasionally saw Black folks playing cameo parts, but not much.

    I’m a 59 year old Black American and I loved the Andy Griffin Show, when I was growing up as a kid. It was good nature humor. I had an Aunt Bea, in my family too, she didn’t make Pickles . But she made a delicious Sweet Potato Pie.
    I became a State Police Officer, now Private Investigator, 24 years.

  • Arvid123

    I enjoyed the show very much. It was of a time before everyone was trying to get in your face with every criticism people could think of. You knew who your neighbors and friends were and you weren’t afraid of being suied by someone. It was a community where everyone looked out for each other. What’s wrong with that? In our critical world of today, that should be a good thing. But too many have an over riding need to put others down. Sad world we live in today.

  • david2s

    Andy was a bridge to the past and the future. Those of us raised in white middle-class America needed someone to grease the skids into the next millennium. I was 8 in 1960 when my mom told me, after I asked my first question dealing with politics, that Catholics voted for Kennedy, the rest of us for Nixon. It was as simple as that.

    She didn’t know any better, she was raised as a pampered child of a midwest industrialist. Her husband, a rebel semi-liberal from a family of working class conservatives and her kids elevated her to a higher plane a few years later with her foundation of Duluth realism backing her up.

    I also participated in the regular gay-bashing taught adolescents in the 60’s. I am ashamed of my being led by the nose as an ass; my easy acceptance of bigotry as a youngster.

    Andy taught us mortal lessons in the media to which most of us had access. I for one mourn his passing as a teacher most of us still need. When I retired as an executive in 2005 at age 53, I went back to school to earn a teaching masters. Andy was one of those influences that told me I needed to make the time, family and monetary sacrifice to do so.

    So was my Mom, Phyllis Quanbeck, Louis Armstrong, George Burrell, Paul Simon, Laurence Ferlinghetti, Allen Smith (after whom my son and I are named), Annette Lenning, Eleanor and Marion Erickson and the legions of poets, composers, artists, scientists and philosophers that lead those of us looking for another way of seeing the world into a new light. Thank you Andy….

    David Allen Stewart-Smith