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July 12, 2012 9:59 am

The Amend Corner: Who really wants to live in Mayberry?

Written by Don Amend

The death of actor/comedian Andy Griffith recently brought the little town of Mayberry back to the minds of everybody.

Well, maybe not everybody, but it did for those of us who were watching TV back in the ‘60s, and those who spent time watching reruns since then.



Well, I’ve done a bit of both — watching TV in the ‘60s and catching a few reruns, that is —before I gave up the boob tube a decade ago. Retiring from nearly all TV watching has separated me from such pastimes as watching reruns, so I have to rely on long-term memory to write about Mayberry. Since I have an ample supply of long-term memory, I’m going to risk it.

Those who have written about Mayberry in the past couple of weeks have talked about it as if it was the real America —the small-town place everybody would like to call home. Well, I have my doubts about that. In fact, from what I remember, Mayberry was a rather strange place.

The thing I remember most about Mayberry is that hardly anybody seemed to live there. You never saw more than a few people during an average visit, and there were hardly any cars on the street.

Not only that, but it didn’t seem like any of the residents could actually be making a living. For example, did you ever see Floyd the barber cut anybody’s hair? Mostly he sat in front of his shop and shot the breeze with people. I do remember that Floyd (Howard McNear) had a job as the desk clerk in a sleazy Paris hotel in the racy movie “Irma la Douce” about the same time he had his Mayberry gig. He had a pretty soft job description that seemed to consist mostly of reading the paper and handing Irma (Shirley McLaine) the key to her room when she needed to … uh … confer with a business client, but maybe it paid enough that he could live in Mayberry without working too hard.

Among the other characters, Andy’s girlfriend, Helen, claimed to be a teacher, but I never saw her actually in a classroom full of kids, or in the local pub with other teachers celebrating Friday afternoon. I only saw Emmett in the fix-it shop he supposedly ran once, and I never saw the inside of the county clerk’s office Howard supposedly occupied. As for Gomer Pyle and his cousin Goober, the scarcity of cars on the street was mirrored at the filling station they ran, so I’m not sure how they kept the doors open.

Andy did seem to get some sheriffing done, but only his deputy Barney Fife seemed to take his job seriously, and that was the big joke around town.

Another thing about Mayberry is that nobody seemed to be married. None of the above characters had a spouse. During the show’s run, Andy had a couple other girlfriends besides Helen, but never proposed to any of them. He apparently waited until he left Mayberry to tie the knot with somebody, and Barney did the same before he hitched up with Thelma Lou. Nobody even knew about their marriages until they came back in a movie special.

A cynic might argue that the absence of marriage is what made the town so happy, but, having had an excellent experience with matrimony, I would take issue with that.

The absence of married people no doubt accounted for the startlingly few kids around Mayberry. Aside from Opie, you rarely saw a young kid, and you never saw a teenager. This is especially puzzling, because the baby boom bubble was in full bloom in the ‘60s, overcrowding schools and filling the streets with drag-racing teens, like in “American Graffiti,” a movie set in the ’60s. One explanation might be that all the teens had died of boredom living in Mayberry or had run away from home and settled in California to become the teens we saw in that classic movie. This does raise the question of how Opie (Ron Howard) could be a grade school kid in Mayberry, and a graduating senior in California at the same time, but that’s Hollywood magic for you.

Well, I liked the Andy Griffith show. It was funny, and it was non-controversial, and if I still watched television, I would probably watch it if I had the chance. But at bottom, Mayberry is a fantasy, and while it might be a fun place to visit for half an hour, at bottom, it’s not the real America, and I don’t think it’s the place most people would like to call home. It’s just too darn dull.

Personally, I’ll take a place like Powell. It’s a little noisy sometimes, like when the football team gets home from winning the state championship in the middle of the night, and there’s a lot of argument over stuff like golf courses and swimming pools, and it’s even a bit dull on occasion, but at least it’s a real place.

More importantly, Powell, along with those of us who live here, won’t suddenly disappear when the star gets tired of it and the network cancels it.

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