On any given day of the week, if I search long enough, I can find the Andy Griffith show playing on television. It has been nearly 55 years since the first episode aired in 1961. The last show was made in 1968. In all the years since the show first aired, there has not been a year, month or day Andy and Barney were not making people smile.
I asked myself why an old black and white television show so out-of-date with the world is still in syndication. After all, is there any one episode that people have not seen at least a dozen times? Maybe it was the outstanding acting of Andy and Barney that keeps people interested? Or perhaps it was the complex story lines. Remember when Ernest T Bass threw a rock at the Darlings’ house and broke the window? Whatever made us enjoy the show, we still smile when remembering some of the episodes.
Do you remember the episode when Barney made a U-turn on Main Street and Gomer called to him, citizen’s arrest? I close my eyes and can still hear Gomer yelling, “CITIZEN’S ARREST! CITIZEN’S ARREST!” When I think of the words, and Barney making that U-turn, it reminds me when making the same kind of U-turn at the south end of Main Street, by the bridge, was the normal thing to do. It was not uncommon for downtown traffic to turn in front of the Point Fuel distributor and Schrader’s grocery store and head back up Main Street. That was fifty years ago, a time when the downtown area was our center of commerce. I don’t remember ever hearing of a local police officer ticketing anyone for making the turn. It was just part of our town’s normal traffic pattern. Gomer would have become hoarse calling out to all that made the illegal turn, “CITIZEN’S ARREST! CITIZEN’S ARREST!”
In a couple episodes set on a warm summer afternoon, Andy and Barney sat in front of the courthouse and watched Mayberry’s quiet Main Street. I wonder, were those Thursdays? I delivered flowers for Barth’s Florist and typically did not work that afternoon each week. The only time we remained open was if there was a funeral and flowers needed to be delivered. Don’t know if I ever really knew why businesses closed. I reckon it was because the businesses opened on Saturday mornings. With a half-day Thursday, and then again on Saturday, that gave them a full five-day business week.
On Sundays in those days no businesses were open, except for one drug store. The different pharmacies would rotate being open. That made it possible if someone was in need of their prescription, they could accommodate the customer’s needs.
Sundays were quiet, much like the show portrayed on Mayberry’s Main Street. It was not until the early seventies that businesses began remaining open on Sundays. If I remember correctly, the Sunday Blue Law prevented stores from opening on the seventh day. In the early seventies, shopping malls were being built and businesses located in them were open seven days a week. Small town businesses across the state began defying the law and remaining open to try and prevent loss of customers. With so many businesses remaining open the law was eventually taken off the books. Somehow, I think Mayberry stores still closed on Sundays, except for the diner. Small town Main Street businesses hoped by remaining open they could save their stores. They could not compete with big shopping malls and mega-stores. Storefronts with family names that had been in business for years slowly closed and were forgotten with the passing of time.
The television community of Mayberry had Fourth of July parades, town picnics, and even an occasional town band concert. Our community also had many of these social events back in the days now gone by. Since those days we have, like the rest of the world, grown and moved on into modern times, well except improving the main road thru town to help improve traffic.
The main highway reminds me of someone with clogged arteries to their heart. One small clout and the flow of blood comes to a stop. In our town, if there is a train on the tracks or a fender bender, the flow of traffic stops. It would be nice if we could modernize the flow to keep traffic healthy.
What have we gained with all this progress? Cable TV with hundreds of channels to choose from. On your phone you can navigate with a touch of a finger to watch TV, text someone across the world or call someone in California, in just a blink of an eye. Why, you can find the answer to almost any question by a search of the World Wide Web and never leave your chair. I guess the world around us has changed and communities like Mayberry have become old fashioned.
I can watch Andy and Barney and they never change, along with their Mayberry. But, that is the world of make-believe. I want to believe it is still on the air to remind us of a time when things seemed to be a little simpler. A time when you could pay ten cents and navigate a bottle of Grape Nehi out of a pop cooler filled with cold water. Do you remember those chest coolers? Remember the ones where you would move the bottle along tracks until it got to an opening where you could finally remove the bottle? It was a time when people sat on their front porches and watched for a car to pass, and they waved and smiled even if they did not know who passed by.
A few years back, Mary and I traveled to Myrtle Beach. On the way down we stopped in Mt. Airy to spend the night. The community was celebrating Mayberry Days. The price of a hotel room for the night was nearly doubled; they said it was an event weekend. Kind of funny, I thought. The characters of Andy and Barney could not afford a room to celebrate the make-believe town they made famous.
Well, I am going to see if Floyd can give me a haircut. I hope he uses warm shaving cream on the back of my neck and a splash of Witch Hazel when he is done. I’ll close my eyes and the pleasing scent will, for just a moment, take me back to a time; a time, when my hometown was a place a little like Mayberry Through the Lens.