On CBS Sunday morning this past weekend Ted Koppel did a wonderful profile of Mount Airy, NC which fancies itself as the real Mayberry. The reason why is real simple, Andy Griffith was born in Mount Airy and has stated that the fictional town of Mayberry, NC was based on his hometown.
As most of you know I am a 60-year-old southern boy through and through and I have probably watched every episode of the “The Andy Griffith Show” (black and white version only please) no less than 100 times each. Fair warning, you do not want to get in an Andy Griffith Show trivia battle with me. Knowing the most random, and useless details about the show is my superpower.
It appears the economic engine of Mount Airy is driven by the nostalgia of Andy Griffith and Mayberry. Old white people from across the nation journey there to see Wally’s Service Station, Floyd’s Barbershop, and take a ride in the black and white squad car. Koppel talks to several of these simple souls as they try to explain what Mayberry means to them. As you would expect they throw around words like morals, values, wholesome, and a simpler time to describe what the show represents to them.
But Koppel reminded them that this show and its lily-white cast did not represent what was going on in the world at that point in time. While the show was on the air the Cuban missile crisis occurred, the assassination of President Kennedy happened, the Vietnam War was beginning, and marches by Black Americans for the right to vote were splashed across television screens. You see, Mayberry did not represent every American then, and it doesn’t represent every American today.
I was very interested in one man’s comments in particular. He told Koppel, “I think the generations now long for that simplicity of the episodes of Andy being real with his son about stealing or doing the right thing, and as a godless society that we see today is longing for simple life. Back when neighbors were neighbors, and they provided for everybody else.” Isn’t it funny how it always gets back to God for us old white people?
Both of my parents were raised in a Mayberry type town in North Carolina. Yes, it was a simpler time they will tell you. Simple because neither of them had a pot to pee in. They grew-up poor and lived their young lives dirt poor until they both got the hell out as quick as they could. They remember good things growing up, mostly family things but they also remember the bad, the Klan killing black men, rape, incest, women beaten by their husbands, drunken, murderous feuds, and the rich and powerful families getting away with any and everything.
I have no problem with people enjoying The Andy Griffith Show. Hell, I have watched it damn near my entire life. Still do. But I have never confused the show with reality. Even as an eight-year-old I knew it was make believe. I even knew as a kid that it wasn’t filmed in North Carolina. There were trees and bushes around that old fishing pond that Andy and Opie are headed to that I had never seen in my neck of the woods.
There is no such thing as utopia. It simply doesn’t exist. Good and evil are on the same plane. You can’t have one without the other. If all we had was good, then why would we need religion? The theology of Christianity is based on having both good and evil, hell I would go so far as to say all religions require it. The church of Andy had plenty of evil, Otis the drunk, Ernest T. Bass throwing rocks through windows, and bullies picking fights with Barney. But I guess we can whitewash all that evil because Otis never killed anyone driving drunk, Ernest T. never raped one of the girls he stalked, and Barney never got his ass kicked because Andy always saved the day.
Enjoy watching old white people. Spend your money at Mount Airy and get yourself a bottle of pop at Wally’s Service Station. But get your head out of your MAGA ass. The world was complicated then just like it is complicated now. Maybe the ride felt slower for you in the 1960’s but the direction hasn’t changed one inch.