Early morning. I’m driving to North Carolina, to meet the oldest surviving cast member of the Andy Griffith Show, Miss Betty Lynn.
I’m so excited, my bladder is trembling.
As a boy, we lived in North Carolina, for a hot minute. The town was Mamers—if you can call it a town—and we lived with my aunt.
I don’t remember much about that period except that I watched so many Andy Griffith episodes I started seeing in black-and-white and using phrases from the show.
My favorite phrase: “You beat everything, Barney, you know that?”
Andy says this whenever he gets upset with Barn. This line is always followed by a mushroom cloud of laughter.
Once, my aunt and mother were sitting on the porch, counting cars, while I watched TV inside.
“Turn that television DOWN!” my aunt shouted.
So I hollered back, “Aw, you beat everything, you know that?”
My aunt has a statewide reputation for ripping the ear lobes off of boys who sass. When she swatted my hindparts she yelled, “I’ll show you who beats everything, mister!”
I have other North Carolina stories. Once, my mother announced that she would be taking me to Mount Airy—the hometown of Andy Griffith. I was white-hot with excitement. I became so giddy, I started ice skating on my aunt’s linoleum kitchen floor.
Just when I was about to attempt a triple Axel jump, my socks slipped on the floor, and I slid into a gas heater. I ripped my calf muscle on jagged rusty metal.
A mess ensued. I’m talking blood everywhere. Carnage. Gore. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Members of the clergy, fainting.
When I saw my own blood, I screamed loud enough to lift the roof. Twenty stitches later, I never saw Andy Griffith’s hometown.
That’s all about to change this week.
I am plowing through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and watching the sunrise. In a few days, I’ll be hugging the neck of ninety-one-year-old Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on the Andy Griffith Show. THEE Thelma Lou.
I’m every bit as excited as I was when I was a boy. And this is probably because—I know this is going to seem stupid—Andy Griffith raised me.
It’s true. Sort of.
After my father died, I was a lonely child. I was like most fatherless kids. I wanted someone to play baseball with me, to take me dove hunting, or fishing. Someone to be proud of me.
But life doesn’t work out the way little boys want. Not even if you do ice skate on kitchen floors. So I ended up watching reruns of Andy Griffith instead.
Every day at five, the local station played Andy and Barney. I sat dangerously close to the console television and said, “You beat everything, Barney, you know that?” right along with Andy.
Mayberry became my town. Andy was my Paw. Barney was my friend, Opie was my brother, Floyd was my barber.
I told you it was stupid.
When I got older, my fascination only got worse. I named my dogs after the characters, I bought every record Andy ever recorded, I even wrote him a few letters. And, on one occasion, I wrote Don Knotts’ name on a ballot in the voting booth.
So it might be ridiculous, but this is one of the proudest moments of my existence. When I meet Betty Lynn, I might lose my mind and start ice skating on her hallway floors.
The thing is, I’ve come a long way in my uninteresting life. Not many years ago, I was a middle-school dropout who thought the biggest thing he would ever do was hang drywall and drive an ugly truck.
Today, I am a writer. I still drive an ugly truck, only now I consider myself to be lucky. And grateful. Because in a few days, I will visit Floyd’s Barber Shop. I will eat at the Snappy Lunch Diner. I will sit behind Andy’s desk, recline on his bench outside the courthouse, and God willing, maybe even fish his fishing holes.
I wish my father could see me now.
Anyway, I forgot how I was going to end this story.
Wait. I remember. I have an important message for my aunt, who is reading this right now.
You beat everything, you know that?
Sandi in FL. - July 18, 2018 6:38 am
Sean, just last night I watched an old black and white segment of “The Andy Griffith Show” and in one scene Barney was dancing with a young Thelma Lou. As the music stopped, he told her he loved her, so everybody on the dance floor heard him! Immediately I thought avout you and your dog of the same name! Do introduce Betty Lynn/aka Thelma Lou to her namesake.
Penn Wells - July 18, 2018 6:41 am
Walt Disney – Sunday nights – was my Andy Griffith.
Anna Ehrhardt - July 18, 2018 8:49 am
We watch Andy Griffith all the time and even though we have seen it a thousand times we still laugh. Thank you.
Connie Havard Ryland - July 18, 2018 9:27 am
I still watch Andy Griffith reruns. It has always been a favorite of mine, and now I watch at the nursing home with my mom. She can’t hear much but she still gets a laugh out of Barney. Can’t wait to hear about your adventures in “Mayberry”.
Camille - July 18, 2018 9:37 am
Tell ’em Goober says hey~
Dusty Becker Allison - July 18, 2018 10:44 am
Oh, friend, I am so stinkin’ excited for you! Andy Griffith still is one of my favorite shows. Have a blast and give her a big ‘Howdy’ Crestview! Big hug, friend!
Thadia - July 18, 2018 10:50 am
Living near Mayberry, we once helped a young, stranded Japanese man whose car broke down in front of our church. He was studying at UNC and was out looking for Mayberry, he also loved Andy! Enjoy Mt. Airy!
Nancy - July 18, 2018 11:12 am
My daddy and I loved Andy Griffith, too. One summer we drove from Southwest Georgia to Mt. Airy and Daddy found out from somebody in town where Andy’s boyhood home was located. We found it! Daddy stood in front of the house and took a picture. It was the best summer trip ever!
dkbfox - July 18, 2018 11:44 am
Not to make you jealous, but I met Andy Griffith when I was young and a flight attendant. Want you to know, he was just like he was as Sheriff Taylor, kind, soft spoken and as North Carolina country as one can be. I was thrilled. Still haven’t been to Mt. Airy. Look forward to reading your impressions of the town.
Marcia Zuhlke - July 18, 2018 12:01 pm
I stayed over in Mt Airy last year on our way to Myrtle Beach. Could not believe this place existed! It is darling. Did you know you can stay in the actual house Andy Griffith was raised in?!?! (Hope your head did not explode over that bit of info)
P. J. Whitten - July 18, 2018 12:05 pm
I watched Mr. Darling ask Aunt Bee to be his bride last night and be the mother of his fine group of boys. Of Coirse; Andy was speechless at first but ended up saving the day as always. After it was all said and done Mr. Darling and his tribe were high tailing it out of there getting away from Aunt Bee and her quick smacks of the wooden spoon she whacked him with. I was tired from our trip back but watching Andy has given me a much needed second breath. Enjoy your time travel back to a world that we all once knew and loved. In my minds eye I can see that part of the world and smell those biscuits Aunt Bee just sat on the table and hear the whack of that wooden spoon as she popped Mr. Darling across his knuckles as he reached for one.
Terri Boykin - July 18, 2018 12:21 pm
Sean, you are preaching to the choir today! Watched those shows so many times I can just about say their lines right along with them. Have a wonderful time! Love you much, Terri
Naomi Storey - July 18, 2018 12:31 pm
I am a 74-year old lady and I still watch The Andy Griffith Show. It comes on a couple of times a day. I grew up in Birmingham, AL, and it was larger than Mayberry.
Joy - July 18, 2018 12:40 pm
Sean, you always bring a smile to my face, laughter in my thoughts and good memories! As you said: You beat everything, you know that? Thank you for the good writing….keep up the good works!
Alice cooper - July 18, 2018 12:50 pm
If you find the time and are close enough you need to stop by Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City to visit Aunt Bea’s grave. Two jars of pickles on either side of the stone.
Melanie - July 18, 2018 12:58 pm
Can’t wait to read about the visit. This could be a mini-series of new stories ? And Sean…never ever is anything about you or this “stupid”. ❤️ p.s. did I mention I’m eagerly waiting for the next story? ?
Edna B. - July 18, 2018 1:00 pm
This was one of our favorite shows too. We still watch the old re-runs whenever we can. Enjoy your visit with Thelma Lou (the lady). Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs. Edna B.
Diane - July 18, 2018 1:07 pm
For me Gilligan’s Island…I’m pushing 60 & planning to move to the beaches w/my handy Ace 250 metal detector…just sayin’. I get it Sean.
Hug her for all of us.
Shirley Brown - July 18, 2018 1:21 pm
My husband watched Andy Griffith faithfully. His hero was Barney Fife and I remember his laughter at Barney’s antics and his one bullet shenanigans. Thank you for the visions of my late husband’s enjoyment of a wonderful family TV show. They just don’t make them like that any more.
Pam Walker - July 18, 2018 1:30 pm
I totally get it and it doesn’t sound stupid at all. After all, I was raised with the Cleaver family. In fact, I used Ward and June Cleaver wisdom (and quotes) often as I raised my three kids as a single Mom on IRS-monickered “below poverty level” income. I liked Andy Griffith too–and loved it when Opie would screw up his tiny mouth and say, “Well, sure, Paw…” but raised in the suburbs, the Cleavers were just more relatable to me. People make fun of those shows now, but there’s an awful lot of wisdom–and comfort–to be found in those old shows. Thanks for helping me to reminisce a bit. All the best to you and yours, Sean.
Mike - July 18, 2018 1:35 pm
Your writing always makes me FEEL something. Thank you.
Carol - July 18, 2018 1:45 pm
Thoes were the days!!! And thanks to a couple of TV stations we can still go back to thoes good ole funny good days!!
I just pray this next generation can appreciate them and learn some good holesome values from them .
Cause from where I sit .
It’s a mess , just a plane ole mess!!!
Say hi to Thelma Lou ,(,both of them!!)
Bookbabe49 - July 18, 2018 1:48 pm
I can’t even begin to tell you the impact that the Andy Griffith show has had on me (and my husband). We both can recite dialog along with the reruns which we watch religiously. Gary Sinise once told a story about the making of Apollo 13 which Ron Howard directed. Andy and Don came to the set and Ron was pretty excited. I don’t think he fully understood the role these two consummate professionals, gifted actors both, played in Ron’s childhood. The WRITING on this show. So excellent. The gentle, yet pointed humor. The small town values and foibles of its characters. Keep going, Sean. YOU beat everything, you know that?
j - July 18, 2018 1:56 pm
Welcome to North Carolina. I would say stop by and see Sheila from Opp. but she has left the Triangle area and moved back closer to Opp. Sheila introduced me to you. But you can stop by Belmont for a free nights stay in our empty furnished house. Easy to reach from I-77 or I-85. Thelma lou can play in the house and back yard with us. We live outback in our motorhome. She can meet Heidi our next door bashful BEagle.
The house has a piano you can play. Gimme a call at BR549 or just e-mail me at the above. I know you will enjoy the visit and time with Betty Lynn.
P. J. - July 18, 2018 1:58 pm
When you go to Mt. Airy eat a pork chop sandwich and have some peach cobbler!
You beat everything, Sean, you know that. In the best possible way.
P. J. - July 18, 2018 1:59 pm
Meant to say peach sonker. Surry County does not do cobblers.
And buy your Thelma Lou a pork chop sandwich, too.
Pat - July 18, 2018 2:07 pm
Sean I had the same feeling “I’m so excited, my bladder is trembling”, about meeting you when you were at a very small church, in April, that was near me. I think the members must have gotten the good seats because I had to settle for general admission, which didn’t including meeting you. I thoroughly enjoyed the show but was soooo disappointed that I could not meet you. Maybe next time! Enjoy your trip!
Debi Breedlove - July 18, 2018 2:21 pm
I hope your trip to Mt Airy was as great as mine was! I too am an Andy fan to the point of knowing the lines. After I retired I watched TV Land every AM as they replayed three episodes back to back. At 65 I still can learn an important moral in every show! When we went to Mt Airy we began with a trip in a Squad Car with Squad Car Tours…our driver was even a retired police officer from the area who knew so much about the town, about Andy and about the show. It was one of the best hours I have ever spent. I don’t think we would have the problems in the world we have if more kids today were raised on Andy Griffith. Today unfortunately it doesn’t have the action, the loud music or the filthy language and sexual situations that the younger generation loves. So sad. We need more folks like Barney and Andy, more Aunt Bees, more innocence like Opie had and more people who loved each other like people in Mayberry! Thanks for your words about one of my favorites.
Jack Darnell - July 18, 2018 2:24 pm
This is a PS to the serious NC invite. Sherry just read about the Tomatoes. (She reads a day later) her comment: See Sean knows how to make a tomato sandwich HEAVY ON THE MAYONNAISE. I like it as a good thin coat on one side of the bread. We con’t have anymore tomato plants, I killed them all with too much fertilizer….. But we can get some! 😉
Keith - July 18, 2018 2:33 pm
Sean, are you doing any speaking events while in Mt. Airy?
Jon Dragonfly - July 18, 2018 2:49 pm
I got a haircut from Floyd at the City Barber Shop a couple of years ago. Rode in a “police car” and waved at Andy’s home. Fun trip.
Charlu Kent - July 18, 2018 2:51 pm
Pretty cool way to absorb good stuff as a life guide??❤️?
Jon Dragonfly - July 18, 2018 2:51 pm
I am told that there is a Sunday School program built around the Andy Griffith Show. The class watches an episode and discusses the life lessons. Fun and educational and enriching.
Summer - July 18, 2018 3:09 pm
We have a Sunday night Bible study at our big downtown Baptist church that starts with an episode of Andy Griffith. Lots of his wisdom in response to Mayberry goings on actually has deep roots in biblical teaching. Andy just makes it easier to understand and appreciate. Some of my favorite Andy-isms I’ve learned in Sunday night bible study at 1st Baptist Church. As for ice skating on linoleum, I have an almost identical story to yours about what can go wrong there, only I slid on freshly waxed hardwood right into the gas space heater in my grandma’s living room. I escaped with 2nd degree burns on my left arm instead of a nasty gash, and that’s when I learned, (at the impressionable age of 5) that Vick’s Mentholatum Rub is NOT burn ointment, no matter what Grandma says. Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful visit with Thelma Lou and that she’s properly impressed with her namesake. And as Andy would say “Well, just do a good day’s work and act like somebody.” God bless!
Phyllis V Bergenholtz - July 18, 2018 3:56 pm
I know exactly how you feel. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, it was my normal. My comfort.
Gary - July 18, 2018 4:04 pm
Not so stupid, I still watch the reruns ! I know you will enjoy the trip.
Linda Chipman - July 18, 2018 5:25 pm
I still watch the Andy Griffith show and I have watched for many years. I’m in my 70’s now and still feel the influence of Andy and company. Wish more young people would watch the reruns!
Shelton Armour - July 18, 2018 8:12 pm
I bet I saw each episode 4-5 times. The black and white with Don Knotts…the color episodes were dumb funny. Mayberry RFD was even wore-I couldn’t make it through 1 episode. I love Andy. There’s a very spiritual book which based it’s lessons on Andy Griffith Show story lines (just can’t remember the title and an old flame may have it. I read it three times and learned a lot about “love thy neighbor” and love God first then every thing else falls into place. Thanks….
cronkitesue - July 18, 2018 10:06 pm
You shure do beat everything! You know that?
Rebecca Souders - July 19, 2018 1:22 am
I’m pretty sure you didn’t intend to omit Ron Howard from surviving cast members, right?
Rebecca Souders - July 19, 2018 1:25 am
Oops…. I just re-read and saw your word “oldest”… my bad. I do enjoy your offerings, and being a mid-westerner at heart (Nebraska) and a westerner now (Oregon), having a peek into your Southern heart makes me smile.
Lydia - July 19, 2018 11:43 am
LOVE this one! Have a wonderful time! If you are going home by way of Madison,Ga. my brother and I would like to buy your supper!
Julie Poehlman - July 19, 2018 12:01 pm
There is just something special about black & white TV shows. I watched the show when I had a babysitting job. I fell in love with the Darlings from the mountains and bluegrass music. So glad your dream is happening. As Mr Darling says…”Got time to breathe, got time for music!” Please don’t chuck any rocks while you’re there. Ernest T. wouldn’t like it.
Terri Donovan - July 19, 2018 12:23 pm
Oh wow. I love that you wrote about Andy Griffith. My husband and I watch Andy Griffith routinely today—about four or five times a week. It is a welcome and peaceful respite from reality (especially today’s reality).
I named my dog Andy (black cocker spaniel to give you a visual). This, after thinking about all of the other names from people on the show and deciding that Floyd and Goober were just…naw….and since he was male, it couldn’t be Thelma Lou or Helen or Aunt Bea. We did seriously consider Barney but in the end we had to go with the kingpin name.
And, did you know there is a Sunday School curriculum based on the show? For adults. I brought it to my Episcopal church years ago when I was on the Adult Christian Ed committee. You watch clips and then discuss the theology. As you know, there is theology in every show.
Sigh. Love this post from you. And now my bucket list has a new trip to Mt. Airy on it.
Thanks as always.
Tayse - July 19, 2018 4:53 pm
Watching Andy this very moment. Barney just bought the motorsickle! What a series!
George Stovall - July 19, 2018 7:36 pm
Just realised today to watch the pilot for Andy Griffith on the Danny Thomas Show it was great to see the change in Andy pre Barney
Diana - July 19, 2018 9:07 pm
This is the BEST!! Andy raised us ALL! Absolutely the BEST T.V. EVER! So glad you are going there. What a great trip!
Susan Kennedy - July 19, 2018 9:11 pm
“Nip it! Nip it in the bud!!” ?
Dianne Rathje - July 19, 2018 9:12 pm
My favorite was when the goat ate dynamite — our grandkids still laugh when we ask if they remember that one! Andy really set the ‘good stuff’ for all of us in every single show!
Dexter - July 19, 2018 10:33 pm
One of the only times we were close enough to consider visiting Mt. Airy there was a gas shortage and we were in Deal’s Gap, North Carolina in our Miatas. As we started heading East and were getting closer and closer to Asheville we kept hearing that there was no gas east of Asheville. We worried that with us in 3 cars we could be stuck if there truly was no gas, so when we got to Cherokee we decided to turn north through the Smokies and start heading toward home. I was very disappointed since Mt. Airy has always been a “bucket list” destination for me but I know that we can try it again next time – assuming there IS a next time.
Andrea Murphy - July 20, 2018 2:10 am
Hi Sean, I am 61 & grew up watching Andy G . & watch it now on tv and U tube. Plus, Luckily, My father was just exactly like Andy. An awesome father. He actually looked a lot like him as they were only 3 yrs apart. So every time I watch Andy, I see my father. We all learned great life lessons from that show and others. My favorite is when Barney tells Aunt Bea, Andy is getting married. They decide to have a redecorating party for the supposed Andy & Helens bedroom . Sadly, there was not even an Engagement. At the end, it worked out and Aunt Bea got her dream bedroom with a canopy bed ! So fun. Thank you for the memories. Loved Barney so much too, esp in The Ghost & Mr Chicken.
Vivian Perez - July 20, 2018 6:24 am
For about almost a year now I’ve been watching Andy Griffith show on Netflix ,I gonna go to sleep with it playing I wake up to his show playing I get ready for work in the bathroom putting on my makeup ,brushing my so long hair ,watching My Andy Griffith show, so normally I go to work at 2pm or 3pm or 4pm till 10 pm .But as soon as I get home I put Andy and opie and barney on my phone, yes Netflix. My son says he hears the whistle song at every episode, I to grew up with this show, I wish I could have met them all, all their characters were well played, I adore the Andy Griffith show. Thank you ,I hope your meeting with Thelma Lou was awesome ,God bless
emyloom - March 5, 2020 6:26 pm
Andy was my imaginary, pretend, in my dreams, father. He was the best father a girl could imagine, pretend or wish to have.
Janet Woods - October 16, 2020 5:55 pm
I must admit l loved Mayberry but when Barney left l was sad. I was so glad that he came back for a few guest appearances! That’s when l realized how much l was missing the two being together. Andy and Barney l was lucky l had a dad with a great sense of humor.
Michael Ward - October 16, 2020 8:08 pm
Like you I watch Andy Griffith all the time. Love it.
David Clubb - January 5, 2021 10:33 am
I too grew up in NC watching Andy and Barn. It was a source of pride to watch a native NC boy who’d made it to the small screen. We even watched Matlock with his home town humor. Good Times!
DC Scivley - January 5, 2021 11:28 pm
When I was a young police officer, I had a friend who ran a small restaurant/store. About 10:30 every night, right before we got off duty, he’d have the TV on showing Andy Griffith reruns. Two or three of us would drop by, finish paperwork and watch “Barney”. God forbid any citizen walk in and interrupt! There would be an immediate chorus of “Shhhh!”. Someone would point to the TV and say, “Training films!”. Ahhhhhh good times!