I visited Andy’s childhood house and left a postcard in the mailbox. I hiked along the river where he fished as a boy. I put a jar of dill pickles on Aunt Bea’s grave in Siler City.

Today, I watched the Andy Griffith Show all day long. I had the day off, so I visited Mayberry.

I started with the very first episode, when Andy welcomes Aunt Bea to Mayberry. I watched a handful of others until it was time for bed. The last episode I watched was the one where Barney joins the choir. A classic.

Over the last twelve hours, I’ve seen it all. I watched the Mayberry Bank almost get robbed—twice. I’ve seen Barney muff things up with Thelma Lou. I tasted Aunt Bea’s god-awful pickles.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Andy taught Opie to stand up to a bully.

During my childhood, the Andy Griffith Show came on the local station every weekday at five o’clock. Our TV only got three channels, and two of the stations came in fuzzy.

So I watched Andy Griffith each afternoon until I’d practically memorized the dialogue, the closing credits, and even the commercials between segments.

Commercials like the one with Coach Bear Bryant advertising for South Central Bell. “Have you called your mama today?” Bear would say. “I sure wish I could call mine.”

And the advertisements which all featured some unfortunate kid named Mikey, eating Life cereal at gunpoint.

And of course, there was the commercial with “Mean” Joe Greene, tossing his sweaty football jersey at an innocent child who offered him a Coca-Cola.

My childhood was not an easy one. After my father took his own life, I was a lonely boy who watched a lot of TV. I think I was trying to escape my own world by living inside a console television set. I enjoyed all the classic reruns.

Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, Batman, and I pledged my eternal love to Barbara Eden. The Beverly Hillbillies were okay in a pinch. Green Acres was okay. And the Partridge Family? Gag me with an electric harpsichord.

But Andy was everything. He was my hero.

My family was in shambles. I was a kid with a proverbial black mark on his forehead after my father’s dramatic departure, a kid who seemed to only invoke pity from people who knew his story. And I always seemed to feel embarrassed.

But at five in the afternoon, I lived in a black-and-white town where life was good. Where Barney was my uncle, and Aunt Bea made fried chicken for Sunday dinner. Where a sheriff took me fishing and made me feel like I belonged.

Last year, I visited Andy Griffith’s hometown in Mount Airy, North Carolina. I kicked around town for a week and had a famous time.

I visited Andy’s old barber shop, I sat in a ‘62 Ford Galaxy squad car and chewed the fat with a few local tour guides. I even interviewed people who knew Andy personally.

I interviewed one such elderly couple. They were busy doing yard work during our conversation. The old woman wore a straw hat and leather gloves.

“Yeah, I knew Andy,” said the woman. “A great fella, sort of an outsider when he was growing up, ‘cause his family was poor. Lived over by the water tower, on Haymore Street.”

I visited Andy’s childhood house and left a postcard in the mailbox. I hiked along the river where he fished as a boy. I put a jar of dill pickles on Aunt Bea’s grave in Siler City.

And that Friday, I visited the Andy Griffith Museum for an interview with Betty Lynn, the actress who played Thelma Lou. Her assistant rolled her wheelchair into the room. Betty was elderly, but her hair was still persimmon red.

I gave her a dozen pink roses.

“For me?” she said, smelling them. “Oh how marvelous.” And her voice sounded just like the same Thelma Lou I grew up with.

Then, the ninety-four-year-old actress kissed me on the cheek and called me “handsome.”

Handsome.

“Andy was wonderful,” she told me. “Whenever I did scenes with him, it never felt like acting ‘cause he was the same on and off camera. That’s rare in showbusiness.”

Later that day, I ate a pork chop sandwich at the Snappy Lunch, and I watched the sun go down over Mount Airy, sitting on my truck hood.

My heart has been in Mayberry since my early years. And it still is, I guess. I know it is only a make-believe town, but it is real to me. And to this day, I can’t enjoy modern television because nothing compares with it.

Reality TV is a joke. Cable news is not for me. I don’t care to watch primetime celebrities learn how to dance the Salsa for cash prizes. And whoever came up with the premise behind The Bachelor has the emotional depth of chicken salad.

But I get Andy. And though I never knew him, he seems to understand me. And when I see that familiar jailhouse, or hear Barney Fife’s tenor voice, I am no longer that lonely child who once sat before a television and wondered if anyone would ever love him. But I am the friend of the local sheriff. And I matter to someone.

I love you, Andy Griffith. And I always will.

51 comments

  1. Paul Morris - July 2, 2019 7:54 am

    Damn son , you touch my heart. I somehow managed to wedge in a AA degree in American literature on my way to a BA in crop science so I can recognize a natural talent. I’m from Missouri stock, moved to California in 1959. , was a fruit picker when i was just 7 yrs old. Your stuff hits my phone early-thirty and starts my day on a good note. I’m a old cynical veteran but you knock a lot of that offa me .THANX

    Reply
  2. Marie - July 2, 2019 8:34 am

    I have been reading your for a while now Sean and I often read your posts out loud to my husband. We both enjoy them very much. I loved the Andy Griffith Show when I was a child back in Canada (in the UK now) and I longed to live in Mayberry and have a dad like Andy and an Aunt Bea. In fact, Aunt Bea was who I wanted to be like when I grew up! I was able to buy the dvd’s and introduce my husband to the show and he loves it also. There is very little “nice” television anymore. Television that speaks to your heart and makes you homesick for a kinder gentler time. Perhaps if we are lucky, when we get to the other side, Heaven will be a lot like Mayberry! Love your writing style. It feels like a conversation with an old friend! Thanks for that!

    Reply
  3. Julie Patterson - July 2, 2019 9:57 am

    My dad was a deputy sheriff as a young man, and he and Andy had similar features as well as a love for singing. When he passed away from cancer in 2008, I sat for several days and watched an Andy Griffith marathon on cable tv. It was a comfort. Still is.

    Reply
  4. Amanda - July 2, 2019 10:46 am

    A wonderful review of Andy Griffith and Mayberry that captures the essence of the shows, the characters, AND the power of television! However, I think you gave WAY TOO MUCH CREDIT to the person with the premise for the Bachelor. Chicken salad has redeeming qualities regardless of the recipe.

    Reply
  5. Tony Ewers - July 2, 2019 10:57 am

    …And the Partridge Family? Gag me with an electric harpsichord.

    But Andy was everything. He was my hero…

    “My heart has been in Mayberry since my early years. And it still is, I guess.” {Sean, me too, Tony}

    Reply
  6. Cathi Russell - July 2, 2019 11:01 am

    My favorite episode? The exploding goat. I’ve seen it a million times yet I still laugh every time Barney says the word “blooey”. Some things just last and thank the Lord we have Andy.

    Reply
  7. Naomi - July 2, 2019 11:22 am

    Sean, I am still watching the Andy Griffith Show also. The first one was actually when Danny Thomas was driving through Mayberry and got pulled over by Andy for speeding. Danny Thomas liked Andy so much that he was the one who produced the TV program. I was about 9 years old when my parents were able to afford a TV but my aunt, who lived with my grandparents had bought one so we went to their house on Sunday night to watch the Ed Sullivan show. But, I loved westerns so I still watch them–Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian, High Chaparral. I am currently watching, for the 3rd time, “How The West Was Won”, with James Arness. When we were children, my brother and I went to the western serials at the Alabama Theater in Birmingham every Saturday. We got to meet The Lone Ranger and Tonto when they appeared in person. One year Fess Parker was being sponsored by on of the department stores. My brother and I put on our “coon-skin” caps and stood in line for over an hour to shake hands with Fess Parker; I kept looking up and up because I had never seen a man that tall before. My brother and I then got our pictures made in our “coon-skin” hats in a photo booth. I also got to meet The Cisco Kid and Poncho at the Alabama State Fair, although the Cisco Kid was “hitting” on one of the blond girls who was there with our Girl Scout Troop. My husband thinks it’s silly for a woman my age to still be watching westerns, but he watches Hee Haw (sp?) over and over and has for many years so he has no room to criticize me. I forgot that I also watched “Father Knows Best”, which is on TV again. I wanted a family like theirs, but it was not to by. My family was the example of “dysfunctional”.

    Reply
  8. Penn Wells - July 2, 2019 11:30 am

    You were not the only young boy in similar circumstances, Sean, and we all loved Andy for the same reasons.
    BTW, there is one episode I’ve only seen once: Andy is in the chair @ Floyd’s, getting a haircut, surrounded by all the other guys… Barney, Gomer, the Mayor, etal. A mysterious, stunning blonde gets off the bus and comes in asking for directions. The stammering and stuttering from the boys, except for Andy, of course, is hilarious. Still trying to remember who the blonde was. Barbara Eden, maybe?
    Oh well, thanks for the trip down memory lane.
    By the way, do you ever read these comments? 🤷‍♂️

    Reply
    • Emjay - July 2, 2019 1:54 pm

      I’ve wondered, too, if Sean reads the comments. I always do: some of the comments add more flavor to Sean’s entry that day. All of you help me start my day with good thoughts and a chuckle.

      Reply
  9. Elizabeth - July 2, 2019 11:31 am

    What a walk down memory lane! I too escaped into tv land with all the shows you did. Love that they are still on tv.

    Reply
  10. Camille - July 2, 2019 11:37 am

    Sean, I am as big of a fan as you are! I watch Andy every, single day and like you I know each one, word for word! Along with Andy, I watch Bonanza, The Waltons, Little House, High Chaparral, The Virginian and Gunsmoke! I haven’t seen cable news since the last election and reality TV is fake TV IMHO! I’m a 71 year old woman, I love westerns and the old family dramas but mostly, I love what life used to be in this country.

    Reply
  11. Terri - July 2, 2019 11:42 am

    Andy is my hero as well. I can just about recite the lines in the shows with them, that’s how many times I’ve watched. ❤️

    Reply
  12. Dianne - July 2, 2019 12:05 pm

    I, too, watched The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry, et al. Now one of my sons, who is a grandfather, watches it and can quote lines, etc. from the shows. Andy was a good Life teacher for so many children………sadly, a Life teacher that most children don’t have today. Still one of my favorites!!

    Reply
  13. Naomi - July 2, 2019 12:20 pm

    Gunsmoke jus came on TV and I just remembered that I had forgotten that I had forgotten to mention that Milburn Stone, who played Doc Adams on Gunsmoke. When I was a teenager, I went trick-or treating for UNICEF. All of the young people took the money they had collected to the Civic Center in downtown Birmingham. Milburn Stone was there to greet all of the children. He actually was in Birmingham to seek treatment for his heart trouble; I don’t know if he had already had a heart attack at that time or not, but I do know that he had one and was off of Gunsmoke while he was recovering. In the late 1950s and the 1960s, one of the hospitals in Birmingham had doctors who were in the forefront of developing procedures for people who had heart problems. It was too late for my father though; he died of a heart attack at a hospital in Birmingham, 2 weeks after his 6th birthday, on New Year’s Eve, 1968.

    Reply
  14. janefrostchandlergmailcom - July 2, 2019 12:31 pm

    loved Andy Griffin. Enjoy your writing very much.

    Reply
  15. mfontaine2017 - July 2, 2019 12:39 pm

    Good one, Sean.

    Reply
  16. Teresa Tindle - July 2, 2019 12:44 pm

    I love the Andy Griffith show myself. But there is one person back then I’ve never heard you make a remark about, and that is Gomer Pyle. My goodness I loved him too. Golley (I don’t know how to spell it) he was good and so kind. Jim Nabors. His name fits him. What do you think? I love you too, my handsome young man.

    Reply
  17. Gary - July 2, 2019 12:46 pm

    Yep, me too !

    Reply
  18. Cathy - July 2, 2019 12:49 pm

    Even though times were hard back then, things were must simpler. I also lost my Dad (cancer) when I was 12. Childhood was tough. Teen years even tougher.
    It seemed our favorite and regular tv shows including Andy made life sweeter.

    Today, having your “life stories” stirs the heart, takes us to places and times we’ve forgotten.

    You are one of my heroes.

    Reply
  19. Cassie - July 2, 2019 12:50 pm

    My immigrant husband (French Morocco) loved Andy Griffith. He worked from home and frequently had that show playing in the background. Andy resonates with a lot of different cultures. I was born and raised in CA, but thanks to a KY Mama who took me “back home” just about every year, I always had Mayberry in my soul. After retirement, I moved “back home” and never looked back.

    Reply
  20. Shelton A. - July 2, 2019 12:55 pm

    You should read “A Return to Mayberry”…it’s great. Who knew Andy was such a saint and biblical scholar.

    Reply
  21. Phillip Saunders.left over from a hog-killing - July 2, 2019 12:59 pm

    All I can say is, “Me, too, Sean – me, too.”

    Reply
  22. bibishan - July 2, 2019 1:00 pm

    I’m 3/4 of a century old. Every day, I tell my friends, “I want to move to Mayberry where Andy, Opie, Barney, Gomer, Goober live. I’ll be friends with Helen and Thelma Lou, and Aunt Bea will give me advice when I need it. There will be no bumper-to-bumper traffic and no murders. My husband will get his hair cut at Floyd’s and go fishing with the sheriff and Barney. We town folks will do our best to keep the Mayor in line. Our excitement for the day will be when the postman arrives with a package (a gift from and friend, NOT something ordered from Amazon). When friends visit, we’ll enjoy a meal and conversation. When we watch TV, we’ll marvel at Perry Mason’s brilliance, get excited when Matt Dillon and Chester catch the bad guys, and laugh ourselves silly at Lucy’s and Ethel’s antics. Life will be as it was meant to be!

    Reply
  23. Phil S, Montgomery, AL - July 2, 2019 1:06 pm

    You have inspired me to binge-watch Andy!
    BTW, my 14 year-old grandson likes the Andy show, too, so there IS hope in this old world.

    Reply
  24. Jack Darnell - July 2, 2019 1:14 pm

    I love trips back into the days of great TV. But that is the old man in me remembering watching TV as a family, once we got one! LOL

    Reply
  25. Jayne - July 2, 2019 1:31 pm

    I love the old shows and you too, but your columns are becoming redundant.

    Reply
  26. Brenda Carlisle - July 2, 2019 1:34 pm

    I loved Andy too! He always did the right thing! Never been to his hometown but maybe one day!

    Reply
  27. Teresa - July 2, 2019 1:47 pm

    Good memories. Thanks for bringing them back today❤️

    Reply
  28. Connie Havard Ryland - July 2, 2019 1:51 pm

    Great one today. I still love Andy and all his companions. I haven’t visited Mt. Airy yet but it’s on my bucket list. I’m an old lady and I will always remember wanting a dad like Andy, and someone like Aunt Bea to love me, and knowing it was all make believe, because people and places like that only existed somewhere in someone’s imagination. Anyway. Love your way with words. You are amazing.

    Reply
  29. Steve Clark - July 2, 2019 2:19 pm

    I’ve been to Mount Airy a couple of times. For some of the same reasons! I’m from a small Tennessee town that reminds me of Mayberry. I spent all my young life dreaming of leaving, and the rest trying to get back.

    Reply
  30. Jones - July 2, 2019 2:27 pm

    Another winner! (And your summation of current TV is spot on!). Thanks for sharing your writings w us—always enjoy reading. 😊

    Reply
  31. Linda Trammell - July 2, 2019 2:41 pm

    I grew up on Andy Griffith, Opie, Barney, and Aunt Bea! My son moved his family to NC, and one day I heard my five year old grandson say, “Mom drives a lot in her job. One day she drove all the way to Mt. Pilot!” I was thrilled! However, the moment I realized how proud my son has made me was the time I noticed that he related to his sons in instruction & discipline very much like Andy had communicated with Opie. All other accomplishments & degrees became secondary!

    Reply
  32. Gwen Dornbos - July 2, 2019 3:30 pm

    I share every sentiment you shared in this post except I had loving parents and grandparents into my adult life. I still love to watch Andy and Barney. I just wish I could be as kind to others as Andy always was to Barney and to always put them in the best light. I love your column Sean. Each day I look forward to that few minutes of reliving parts of my childhood when things were so much simpler. Keep up the great work.
    Gwen

    Reply
  33. Jimpa - July 2, 2019 3:41 pm

    Our local station used to show 2 AG shows after The Morning Show. Now they show Pickler and Ben. I will be forever mad!

    Reply
  34. Ken Dunn - July 2, 2019 3:48 pm

    For those of us who grew up with Andy we all wish for a kinder, gentler time BUT with our modern conveniences. This merry-go-round we are on is spinning out of control and we need to jump off but can’t. I remember as a 6 year old seeing my 1st television in Graceville, Fl. The picture was about as fuzzy as a polar bear in a snowstorm but I couldn’t figure out how you sent a picture through the air. In the 6th grade I saw my 1st color television in Troy, Ohio. That really blew my mind. THANKS for the trip down memory lane !

    Reply
  35. Debbie - July 2, 2019 3:51 pm

    It is still the best show to watch before going to bed.

    Reply
  36. Linda Moon - July 2, 2019 3:56 pm

    Mayberry is a good place to visit. I recently visited a town that reminded me of Mayberry, and best of all, you were there: Florence, Alabama. You met an icon, “Betty Lou”, and I met one, too – you! Pity for your story is not necessary. Empathy is. Many people have loved you since you sat before that black and white television. You matter, probably more than you know. I get you and (should I say it?) I love you.

    Reply
  37. Cathy Moss - July 2, 2019 4:19 pm

    Cwmoss1@att.net

    Reply
  38. Catherine - July 2, 2019 4:29 pm

    So many of us lived our childhoods vicariously through Andy and Mayberry, trying to escape the “sad” in our lives. What a gift that show was and still is~never any better than that one. Touches my core every time I watch the reruns, which NEVER get old…

    Reply
  39. George - July 2, 2019 4:57 pm

    Sean, you always bring back such good memories of a golden time. Born in 1946-an original baby-boomer, it was like that where I grew up in Georgia. When I went to Auburn, I would watch Andy every day in the Student Union between classes. Andy, Barney, Floyd, Opie, Aunt Bee and all the others were like family. Thanks for keeping the good ole days alive!

    Reply
  40. Linda Chipman - July 2, 2019 5:06 pm

    Your paragraph about reality TV is priceless! And I agree completely. Andy Griffith is one of my all time favorite people. Grew up watching the show and will watch it now if I run across it. So glad it is still on. Thanks for good memories.

    Reply
  41. Ala Red Clay Girl - July 2, 2019 6:47 pm

    This makes me want to purchase the shows on dvd and binge watch them. Andy was great and so are you, Sean!

    Reply
  42. Susan Kennedy - July 2, 2019 7:59 pm

    Love this so much!!

    Reply
  43. Laura - July 2, 2019 9:47 pm

    “Judy, Judy, Judy.”
    “Gomer says ‘hey.’ “Hey to Gomer.”
    Gets me every time….

    Reply
  44. Bill T - July 3, 2019 1:16 am

    Hate to bring it up, but I think the reason for all the harmony in Mayberry was nobody was married or had a spouse, except Otis and he was a drunk. (I grew up in a small cotton mill village that was similar to Mayberry)

    Reply
  45. Phyllis Stallings - July 3, 2019 3:41 am

    I’m with you! I can’t find Andy on any channel anymore. I have zero interest in reality TV and hate the news. All those people yelling at each other while trying to cut throats. There are now 3 hallmark channels I watch. In the mornings they run reruns of the Waltons. My childhood was pretty horrible. The Waltons make me feel like there are real loving families.

    Reply
  46. Judy Broussard - July 4, 2019 8:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing. It’s too bad that this country is running out of Mayberry’s.

    Reply
  47. Joy Feemster - July 6, 2019 2:48 am

    Sean, this is wonderful – such lovely writing! I don’t know if you know, but there’s a Facebook group called “Mayberry After Midnight” devoted to the Andy Griffith Show. It’s a group of really sweet people from all across the country who just love the show and enjoy keeping the memories alive. Please join us, seems like you’re “one of ours”.😊

    Reply
  48. Tawanah Bagwell - July 9, 2019 7:55 pm

    I miss tv shows where the father is the strong character and the children look up to him. Shows on tv now portray the father as a buffoon who the children can belittle and not obey. I just don’t get that. Why would we want our children to grow up with no respect for their elders? Thank you for this article. I loved Andy too.

    Reply
  49. Glenn Lautzenhiser - July 10, 2019 9:15 pm

    Great article. The series is timeless. It will never grow old. It crosses generational lines.There has never been anything like it on tv. Thanks for keeping the memory alive.

    Reply

Leave a Reply