So, by God, here 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.

Mount Airy, North Carolina—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 surviving 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.

“Old 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.”

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, here 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.

34 comments

  1. Van Mitchell - July 21, 2018 8:53 am

    Hi Sean
    Just love your “stuff”! So glad you made it to Mayberry.

    Another 30 miles north and you could be sittin on my porch with me on the bank of the New River.

    Watching it flow North. Not many like it.

    My purpose for writing to you is to offer you a subject for another story.

    Back in Alabama, there is a camp for special people. Camp ASCCA. It is a special place. I found out about you through my niece. Her name is Abbey. She is the head nurse for the camp.

    Abbey is pregnant.

    With Triplets! !

    And…….that is…….special!!!

    Keep up the good work!

    God bless. ….

    Reply
    • Gerald - September 16, 2018 4:03 am

      The New River–strangely named as it is the oldest river in the western hemisphere. it was running when the drainage that became the Mississippi was a shallow sea filled with sharks and strange sea life long extinct. I love it that it is named the New River.

      Reply
  2. Sandy Nally - July 21, 2018 10:08 am

    Thank you, Sean. It was worth the read.

    Reply
  3. Renate - July 21, 2018 11:11 am

    The is was my first read of your blog, after just subscribing, yesterday. I don’t know what took so long for me to discover you… but it was worth the wait!
    I’ll be reading!

    Renate Sanders
    Virginia

    Reply
  4. James E Godwin - July 21, 2018 11:43 am

    Your Mayberry story is one of your best. It’s like you visited my old home town and are telling me about my old friends there. Nice story!

    Reply
  5. MaryJane Breaux - July 21, 2018 11:51 am

    Nothing better than a dream realized! Elated that you met Miss Thelma Lou.

    Reply
    • Shirley Brown - July 21, 2018 12:30 pm

      Your daily blogs are worth with wait ’cause we all can’t get to Mayberry. Thanks for doing it for us. Your visit was worth it.

      Reply
  6. Alan - July 21, 2018 12:39 pm

    I look forward to every new post of yours. The Mayberry story, priceless! Your postings are a daily highlight for me.

    Reply
  7. Peggy Savage - July 21, 2018 12:49 pm

    Thank you for a fun Saturday morning boost. Starts my day off right..

    Reply
  8. Jack Darnell - July 21, 2018 1:11 pm

    Glad you and Thelma Lou got to meet. Okay I forgive you for not calling, but stop by on the way home. LOL Mayberry is the pride of NC. I skipped the pork chop and had to try a cabbage sandwich. Not super but not bad.

    Reply
  9. Terri Boykin - July 21, 2018 1:21 pm

    Makes me wanna go, maybe a trip in the fall when it’s cooler. Love you much Sean.
    Terri

    Reply
  10. Connie Havard Ryland - July 21, 2018 1:52 pm

    I love this so much. Glad you made it for your visit and thank you for taking us with you.

    Reply
  11. BG - July 21, 2018 2:27 pm

    Very Cool

    Reply
  12. Dianne Rathje - July 21, 2018 2:34 pm

    Sean, I’m a huge Andy, et al fan too. Wondering if you’ve see the movie about Fred Rogers (Won’t you be my neighbor) — It’s a dear one!

    Reply
  13. Debbie britt - July 21, 2018 2:40 pm

    Oh gosh….. this was worth the wait! My husband and I still watch the show everyday and laugh like we’ve never seen it before! Thank you!

    Reply
  14. Carol - July 21, 2018 2:41 pm

    God is Good!!

    Reply
  15. Karen Arrant - July 21, 2018 2:53 pm

    Watched the reruns of Andy Griffith a few years ago every night with my husband, as we were going through hard times with our adult son. They shared a peace with us each day that we needed to face the next day. Thankful to God and Mayberry for peaceful and blessed days with our now.
    Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  16. DARREL JORGENSEN - July 21, 2018 2:57 pm

    I hope ;you have time to stop in Black Mountain on our way home. You are welcome to worship with us at Christ Community Church in Montreat. 8:30 & 11 AM services.

    Reply
  17. Steve Welch - July 21, 2018 3:17 pm

    Great piece Sean. You speak for all of us who watched the show in black and white and longed to live in such a place. Now that I am older, I understand that there were 9and still are) Mayberry places all over the world. Places where people know their neighbors, can remember who someone’s cousins are. Places where it may be called the J&J Drive In, The Dixie, Corner Cafe or some other variation, it has been owned by the same family forever, and there is a dish “worth waiting in line for.”

    I am glad you are now able to “live the dream.” Thanks for letting us tag along for the ride.

    Reply
  18. Gretchen - July 21, 2018 3:54 pm

    Just love this!

    Reply
  19. Bo - July 21, 2018 4:15 pm

    Like the pork chop sandwich was worth the wait, your stories are always worth the read. Much more.

    Reply
  20. Edna B. - July 21, 2018 5:25 pm

    Sean, I’m so glad you finally got to meet Miss Thelma Lou. And thank you so much for taking me on your trip to Mayberry. You have an awesome day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  21. Kathy Daum - July 21, 2018 5:35 pm

    Steve Lathem would have loved this because he loved Andy Griffith.

    Reply
  22. Shelton Armour - July 21, 2018 7:12 pm

    Glad your interview with ‘Thelma Lou’ went so well. I dated a girl at Summer Camp from Mt. Airy what seems like a life-time ago. I loved (and still do love) the Andy Griffith Show. I always wanted to wake up and be Opie.

    p.s.-did you tell her you have a hound named Thelma Lou?

    Reply
  23. Phillip Saunders - July 21, 2018 8:50 pm

    Great one, Sean! I, too, hope to visit Mt. Airy some day. Why can’t all cities and towns be like Mayberry, and all inhabitants be like its? Never hurts to dream. BTW, we’re having pork chops for supper. I may make a sandwich.

    Reply
  24. Beki - July 21, 2018 10:53 pm

    I’ve been waiting all week for this post! Did you tell the Miss Thelma Lou about her name sake hound? Love your stories and how they bring joy and life to so many of us. They’re the best! Proud of you and for you
    Beki from way out in west Texas

    Reply
  25. Marcia Zuhlke - July 21, 2018 11:11 pm

    But Mayberry was not idyllic. Opies mother died when he was quite young. And Aunt Bea also raised Andy so apparently he was orphaned?😢
    AND ( sorry to be Debbie Downer cuz I did love the show) there was never a person of color living in Mayberry. Very unusual for ANY southern town.

    Reply
    • Kathy - July 22, 2018 1:59 pm

      Who cares about color?

      Reply
  26. Judy Ennis - July 22, 2018 1:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing your visit to Mayberry. A little Mayberry in all of our home towns would do us some good today!

    Reply
  27. Jody - July 23, 2018 12:29 am

    There are good people in most of our small southern towns. So glad you had the sweet kiss 😘 on the cheek from ThelmaLou. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  28. Linda Chipman - July 26, 2018 4:30 pm

    That show, that town, those people and especially Andy meant a lot to so many people including me. Even after all these years. Thanks for sharing your visit.

    Reply
  29. Sue Riddle Cronkite - August 8, 2018 2:08 pm

    Wish there was a show worth watching on TV now. Reruns of Mayberry and the Andy Griffith Show, and Matlock, were not just entertaining, but heartwarming. Shows about real people filled with hope.

    Reply
  30. Katie Beth Thompson - September 15, 2018 11:16 am

    I grew up watching the show with my Superman Daddy, whom I’m pretty sure has seen every episode at least 27 times. Hope to take him there one day! Another fun fact- my family and I live in Arab, AL! Come visit sometime!

    Reply
  31. Jan Blanco - September 15, 2018 2:13 pm

    Still watching Mayberry every day! I can’t eat a pickle without thinking of Andy and Barney. So glad you were able to visit the place that has meant so much to you.

    Reply

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