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Saturday, December 10, 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.