He was born the same year Ty Cobb retired. The same era The Bambino was selling Old Gold cigarettes in the back pages of “The Saturday Evening Post.”

It was a period in American history when cowboy movies were silent, radios were loud, and Charles Lindebergh was still considered to be a little off.

The boy was born to Carl and Geneva, two average North Carolinians in an average house in an average town. They lived modest lives. They lived beneath the water tower, for crying out loud.

He was their only child. He got all their attention.

“I loved my father,” he once said. “He lived to be eighty. He smoked cigarettes every minute of his life.”

His father had a notoriously wet sense of humor. He was the kind of guy who tended to be popular in places like barbershops, feed stores and any place where old geezers play checkers.

Years later, when the boy started performing his one-man comic routine before Rotary Clubs, civic leagues, and Elks Lodges, the boy admitted that his brand of hayseed humor came from simply impersonating his old man.

His mother, Geneva, was known by her friends to be sugar sweet. She was born just over the North Carolina state line in Old Virginny.

To get to her hometown you’d have to hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway and head north from the Carolinas. After about an hour you’d arrive in the meadows of Patrick County.

If you veer onto County Highway 602 and follow it into the sticks, eventually you will find the remnants of a tiny mountain hamlet so remote they have to mail-order sunshine from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

It is here where an ancient general store/post office still stands. It has white clapboards and a rusty Gulf Oil sign out front. The structure was built in 1892, and still does business today.

You can still go inside and buy el-cheapo tourist crafts, or apple butter that was cooked on site. The boy’s maternal grandparents once bought their groceries here. For over a century, it’s been called the Mayberry Trading Post.

The trading post is only walking distance from Mayberry Creek, and the Mayberry Presbyterian Church. Long ago, the Mayberry Creek Community was sort of like a town. Today, it’s just a wide spot in the road.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 54 years since Mayberry went off the air. Since then, the show has become even more popular than it was in the 1960s. Each year, reruns bring in an estimated 36.9 billion minutes of viewing time from American and international audiences.

Simply put, this show still has lots of fans.

Take me. I am a lifelong fan. A few years ago, I visited the boy’s childhood home the way many slightly unstable fans do. It was a dinky house. My wife and I spent the night there.

To be honest, it was strange, knowing I was staying in the home where he grew up. His height chart was likely inscribed on one of these door jambs. These were the same kitchen linoleum floors where he used to ice skate in his stocking feet. This porch was where he cleaned his fish. This was the exact toilet where…

Well, never mind.

My wife and I slept in his bedroom. That night, I stared at the same ceiling he stared at. I imagined what he was like as a kid.

What kind of guitar did he play? Was it a Silvertone, purchased from the back of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, for $11.75?

How about the first time he got his heart broken? Did he sit in this kitchen with his father, who smoked 20 miles of Luckys while his son wept? Did his dad say, “There are plenty of fish in the sea, son” the way dads have been saying since Eve?

I grew up watching him on television just like everyone else. I had no father, so he stepped in and raised me, although he never knew it.

His show was on every day. Twice. Once at 5 p.m., and again at 5:30. I sat cross-legged before our RCA console and cranked the volume so loud that our tweed speaker distorted. I was there with him. I was in Mayberry. And he loved me. I knew he loved me. Because that’s just the kind of guy he was. And that’s the kind of man I aspire to be someday.

Happy 96th birthday, Andy Griffith.

32 comments

  1. NancyB. - June 2, 2022 6:40 am

    Love Mayberry, Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea, Opie and all the rest! Returns are good but miss knowing they are still with us. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANDY! 🎂

    Reply
  2. Judy Edmonds - June 2, 2022 9:53 am

    Thanks Sean. I have loved your columns for years. I’m 72 and have lived a half sad life and all blessed one all in spite of my choices and because of God’s Grace. I will be in Birmingham the morning of June 25 and it would be a privilege to have a cup of coffee with you. I live in PA but am visiting friends in GA.

    Reply
  3. Paul McCutchen - June 2, 2022 10:54 am

    I enjoy Mayberry ….Simpler times I guess

    Reply
  4. Marianne Bryan - June 2, 2022 10:56 am

    Still seen on tv in my home daily….♥️Happy birthday 🎂🎂🎂

    Reply
  5. Ronald Blankenship - June 2, 2022 11:16 am

    I love it when you print anything about mayberry. I how the show never goes off the air. No other show has ever had the following that TAGS still has after so many years. Keep up the good writing.

    Reply
  6. Lee Faucette - June 2, 2022 11:17 am

    Beautiful, true story. Thanks for the memories.
    Lee Faucette
    Lee’s Breeze

    Reply
  7. Dale Parsons - June 2, 2022 11:48 am

    Love it.

    Reply
  8. Katrina Butler - June 2, 2022 11:52 am

    Dear Sean, a friend of mine recently became a great grandmother. The child’s grandmother posts tons of pictures of that darling baby on Facebook and he IS one of the prettiest babies I have ever seen. In a recent conversation with his great grandma where I was bragging about this child cuteness I asked, “Do you know how they came to pick his name? Which I absolutely love, by the way.” She laughed. “Opie Miles! Sounds like a jazz artist, doesn’t it?” I said, “Well the Miles part does. But what about Opie?” Again she laughed. “Oh,, that was at his father’s insistence. He said, ‘I always wanted to be the daddy who could say, “Opie, what ya say we go fish in’, son?”” I think this young daddy in 2022 is going to raise his boy right. Like he was born in Mayberry in the mid last century.

    Reply
  9. Dennis Michael Perry - June 2, 2022 12:30 pm

    Andy had a summer place in Matteo, NC. My company serviced the local grocery store. I met him a couple of times and we exchanged a few pleasantries. He was the same man in person you saw on tv. Humble and respectful. It was one of the highlights of my life.

    Reply
    • Dennis Michael Perry - June 2, 2022 12:32 pm

      It was in Manteo, NC. Stupid spell check.

      Reply
  10. Pingback: Sean of the South: Andy | The Trussville Tribune

  11. bob - June 2, 2022 1:21 pm

    Andy’s “calm, kind and assured demeanor” was one of a kind. You are obviously one of “us” Mayberry citizens at heart. It great that you have given tribute to many of the shows main characters. I too was heartbroken when Thelma Lou left us earlier this year. I found it interesting that Andy fell in love with Roanoke Island and chose it as his final home in NC. MeTV plays 2-episodes every night here on the Gulf Coast. I almost never miss a show. Much like MASH, I “never” tire of watching!

    Reply
  12. J. B. Cleveland - June 2, 2022 2:46 pm

    I, too, had no father growing up, and I, too, was raised by Andy. What a stunning thing to wrap your hand around..

    Reply
  13. Lee Desmond - June 2, 2022 2:48 pm

    I turned on our Roku this morning and have been binge watching The Andy Griffith Show all morning, unaware that it is Andy’s birthday. Love this show so much, especially nowadays—with so much world news being depressing and hard to hear, Mayberry is a needed balm. I’m thankful for all these reruns.

    Reply
  14. Patricia Gibson - June 2, 2022 2:53 pm

    Still watch today❤️

    Reply
  15. Jannie Bryant - June 2, 2022 2:59 pm

    Loved the show. Wished we still had shows like Mayberry.

    Reply
  16. Kathie J Kerr - June 2, 2022 3:01 pm

    In real life, Andy Griffith had an adult son to die of complications from drug and alcohol abuse. They never had a chance to reconcile. Andy gave up on him because it’s hard to be a parent of an addict. But, I guess I expected more. No life is untouched by tragedy.

    Reply
  17. Carol Pilmer - June 2, 2022 3:02 pm

    Thanks for the memories!

    Reply
  18. Raye White - June 2, 2022 3:11 pm

    What a tribute to the man & the values he represented!

    Reply
  19. Lee Henderson - June 2, 2022 4:20 pm

    Brings me back to my home state of NC ..i watched as a young boy and scheduled classes a NCSU so we could watch in the afternoon. I am 69 now and will be introducing my grandson to reruns

    Reply
  20. David Trewolla - June 2, 2022 5:00 pm

    Thank you for providing the origin of the Mayberry name, something I had never heard as a lifelong fan. At the age of 72, I enjoy the reruns now more than ever as the genius of the writing and acting shine through. Barney Fife remains the greatest comedy character in the history of show business, and Andy was the glue that made it work for all of the splendid characters. TAGS perfectly captures small town life in the South and is down right holy.

    Reply
  21. Gini Longarzo - June 2, 2022 5:03 pm

    Bring on the tears!

    Reply
  22. Karen - June 2, 2022 7:46 pm

    We need more Andy and Mayberry values these days. Thank you for the tribute.

    Reply
  23. pattymack43 - June 2, 2022 7:49 pm

    I miss him, too. And all that he represented!! Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Linda Moon - June 2, 2022 8:53 pm

    …..what Sean said there in the last sentence…..!

    Reply
  25. Diana Mason - June 2, 2022 11:23 pm

    One of the best shows ever!

    Reply
  26. Barbara - June 3, 2022 1:52 am

    Life is good when one thinks of Mayberry, USA and it’s famous sheriff.

    Reply
  27. Alice - June 3, 2022 3:05 am

    Last week I was on my way to Virginia for a college reunion. Driving up the interstate I saw the Mt. Airy exit and thought, why not? I spent a delightful half day exploring the town and talking with some of the residents. Even had a burger at the Snappy Lunch! I grew up with Andy and all the Mayberry crowd too, and I felt renewed and so happy after spending just a few hours there.

    Reply
  28. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 3, 2022 4:47 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  29. Debbie g - June 3, 2022 8:36 am

    Sean do you realize that you are the kind of person that your readers want to grow up to be like
    Andy would be proud of you
    As are we Love you and to all

    Reply
  30. Duane Shelley - June 5, 2022 8:15 pm

    My Mother-in law lives with us and TAGS is one of he few things she will watch on tv. We have purchased the first five seasons and it plays almost continuously. The more I watch the more respect I have for the writers on the show. I keep finding littles things I didn’t catch the first 100 times I watched an episode.

    Reply
  31. Patricia - June 12, 2022 11:04 pm

    I have thought lately about young people who break the law today or get into things they shouldn’t. I told someone the other day that these unruly kids should be made to watch Andy Griffith re-runs as part of their punishment/treatment as Andy used common sense ways with Opie and other kids and also adults on the show. I love watching re-runs of it. It is like a balm in this seemingly out of control world we live in now.

    Reply

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