It’s a memory. One I don’t ever want to forget. One that I had waited a lifetime for. I can still close my eyes and relive the whole thing.

There I am. I’ve just arrived in Mount Airy, North Carolina. The weather is crisp. It is nothing short of spectacular. Blue mountains in the distance. Rolling farmland. Picture-perfect downtown. The home of Andy Griffith is just like it always was. Small. Sweet.

I’m on a park bench, holding a bouquet of roses. I’m waiting for my one-on-one interview with the oldest living Andy Griffith Show cast member, Betty Lynn—better known as Barney’s girl, Thelma Lou.

An elderly woman is gardening beside me while I wait. Her hands are covered in soil. Her husband is with her. Shirley and Bob Perkins are in their eighties. They’ve lived here since the earth cooled.

I ask if they ever met Andy Griffith.

“Met him?” Shirley elbows her husband. “Why, Bob’s distant kin to Old Andy.”

I ask what “Old Andy” was like.

“Oh, he was exactly like on TV. Don’t listen to nobody who says otherwise.”

When our conversation ends, Shirley says, “Before you leave town, get a pork chop sandwich from Snappy Lunch, there’s always a long line, but it’s worth the wait.”

I’m escorted into the museum. Ninety-one-year-old Betty Lynn rolls into the room in a wheelchair. Her hair is red, she sports a yellow blouse and yellow pocketbook. My heart sings.

I hand her the bouquet. She kisses my cheek. Yes. My cheek. My very own cheek. She kisses this. With her lips. I’ve had a crush on Thelma Lou since boyhood. Now that I’m with her, it’s gotten worse.

“Tell me about Andy,” I ask.

“Andy?” she says. “Those were the best years of my life. I still watch the show and laugh.”

Her personal story is a good one. She tells it, using a trademarked cheerful voice that is unaffected by age.

“Who woulda ever thought?” she goes on. “Little old me, the new face of Mayberry. I guess all you gotta do is stay alive, huh?”

She lets me ask a million questions until our interview ends. She kisses me again. I become lightheaded, my cheeks get hot. We pose for a photograph.

And I am no longer a man, but a boy. I am the kid who had a pitiful and broken family. A kid who watched the Andy Griffith Show, sitting only twelve inches from a television screen.

A kid who once prayed that Heaven would let him wake up in a black-and-white colored small town named Mayberry. A place where fathers don’t die, and young mothers are never sad.

Before she wheels away, she adds, “Have you heard about the pork chop sandwich at Snappy Lunch? It’s worth the wait.”

I wander down Main Street. The sun is high. I’m on Cloud Nine, shaking hands with strangers, whistling a tune, touching my cheek.

The town is loaded with tourists. I meet an elderly couple from Oberlin, Ohio. A family of eight from Bel Air, Maryland. A young man and his girlfriend from Saint Joe, Missouri.

I see the Mayberry Courthouse. I prop my feet on Andy’s desk. I visit Wally’s Filling Station—where I play checkers with a six-year-old named Rachel, from Toledo. Rachel cheats.

I visit Floyd’s Barber Shop.

“My father was the REAL Floyd,” says white-haired proprietor, Bill Hiatt. “Daddy cut Old Andy’s hair.”

Old Bill is a lot like Old Andy, kindhearted and chatty. His barbering father was a good ole boy. When the show became world famous, Bill’s father became a permanent fixture in town.

“Daddy musta shaken hands with every tourist,” Bill goes on. “EVERY-body wanted to meet the real Floyd. We think he posed for over a million photos.”

His father died at age ninety-two. The funeral was televised on two stations, mentioned on the National news, the BBC, German television, Dutch television, and perhaps, but not definitively, the Vatican.

I pose for a picture with Bill. A woman from Okeechobee, Florida, takes our photo.

Bill bids me farewell by saying, “Don’t forget to try the pork chop sandwich next door, it’s worth the wait.”

So, by God, there I am. Waiting. I’m standing in a long line outside the Snappy Lunch. The single-file line winds past three storefronts, and it’s growing.

The couple ahead of me is from Arab, Alabama. The couple behind me is from Greensburg, Kansas. Other states are represented, too. Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Arkansas.

I find a free barstool in the diner. My waitress says, “Lemme guess, pork chop sandwich?”

A mind reader.

She brings my food. The fried pork is hot. The bun is soft. I eat it and remember a little boy who made a prayer a long time ago. A childish request, asking Heaven to remove him from a sad little life and drop him in Mayberry, USA. I’d given up on that boy. And I’d given up on that town. Until today.

“How was the sandwich?” my waitress asks.

“It was worth the wait,” I say. “And I will never forget it.”

Not for as long as I live.


  1. Lucretia - July 23, 2019 8:57 am

    My husband and I made the pilgrimage before the REAL Floyd “passed over”. Mayberry a memory and a feeling that fills our souls. Thank you, Sean.

  2. Floyd Williams - July 23, 2019 11:35 am

    Did you ever figure out how Ernest T got out of that jail cell? This “Floyd” wants to know ….. & so do You!

  3. Ken - July 23, 2019 12:20 pm

    And you transported us there with this story. It was a good trip. Thanks.

  4. Donna - July 23, 2019 12:21 pm

    ??? Thank you, again, Sean.

  5. Joe Patterson - July 23, 2019 12:51 pm

    One of the best shows ever

  6. Cindy Ellington - July 23, 2019 1:26 pm

    I was lucky enough to be there in 2014 and the original Floyd was in the barber shop! I had my picture made in the chair, went to Snappys and enjoyed a pork chop sandwich and lived the Mayberry life for a day! My childhood was Mayberry in north Florida and my daddy was Andy! I was one blessed girl and in my childhood innocence I thought everyone had the same.

  7. Dianne - July 23, 2019 2:17 pm

    My husband and I also loved The Andy Griffith Show / Mayberry. I loved the wonderful messages that were delivered in this show – good messages, and not just for adults, but also for children. I think we all secretly wished our lives could be as simple and easy as those who lived in Mayberry. In fact, one of my sons emailed me not long ago (he watches all of the reruns and can quote, quote, quote from the shows) that there were many days that he wished he could live in Mayberry. Don’t we all!!

  8. Meredith Williams - July 23, 2019 2:55 pm

    We still watch it every night!! No better entertainment, anywhere.

  9. Linda Moon - July 23, 2019 4:14 pm

    It’s often good to be no longer a man, to be a boy again. I sometimes would like to be a little girl again. Arab, Alabama was probably once a little like Mayberry……but just a little. I should know; I’m married to an Arabian. Mayberry doesn’t really exist as you and most of us would like it to be. But sometimes, By God, He…God…drops us
    into our Mayberry, far removed from our sad little lives. May we never forget that!

  10. Shelton A. - July 23, 2019 4:34 pm

    Mayberry was special. What book is your interview with Betty Lynn included? I’d love to read it. Mayberry was honest and even the gossip wasn’t mean. I love Mayberry and Ol’ Andy, too (not to forget Deputy Fife!).

  11. sholmes53 - July 23, 2019 4:46 pm

    I can visualize the entire day!!

  12. Cynthia Russell - July 23, 2019 4:59 pm

    I love your writing.. got your book on order… You always make me cry & my heart grow just a little.. Thank YOU!!

  13. Linda - July 23, 2019 8:07 pm

    Tears again!

  14. That's jack - July 23, 2019 10:40 pm

    I am from NC, and of course Andy is one of my chosen people. The Andy Griffith Show was one of the most down to earth shows I remember. nobody coulda made up old Opie either. I always thought I might be kin to the local Odis, since that was my brother’s name and he leaned to too much to drink at times also. LOL
    I enjoyed it, and I share your love for the cast. Also a good write. We have been there, but my wife said we have got to drive up and get the pork chop sandwich.
    Sherry and jack


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