The little town of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show is alive and well in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Andy was born and raised here and the town has not forgotten their favorite Sheriff, Andy Taylor. Although officially called Mt. Airy, the town also seems to think of itself as the real Mayberry and a trip to the historic Main Street serves as a reminder.
Some of the stores and businesses are named after characters from the TV series like Opie’s Candy Shop, Aunt Bea’s BBQ, Floyd’s Barber Shop and Barney’s Cafe where we had lunch.
At Floyd’s Barber Shop, Andy Taylor’s regular hangout, you can still get a hair cut and next door is the Snappy Lunch which prides itself as being the only original business in town from Andy’s younger years that is mentioned on a few episodes. Here you can try their specialty, a large fried pork chop sandwich and the line can get long waiting for a seat in this tiny establishment. Around town you also see businesses using the word “Mayberry” such as Mayberry Market, Mayberry Antique Mall, Mayberry Motor Inn and Mayberry Mules and Wagon Rides.
As we wandered the Main Street, a period squad car passes by sounding the siren. A company offers tours in the car around town. I got a shot of the car next to the Earle Theater where we went to a radio show and a music jam, which I talked about in my previous blog. As a boy, Andy Griffith used to go to shows at this theater.
Mt. Airy seems to be a happy place, as tourists wander down the Main Street checking out the shops, eating snacks and ice cream and enjoying all the Mayberry memorabilia on the buildings and in the shop windows. Every year in September there is also a Mayberry Days Festival celebrating their most famous citizen.
Speaking of ice cream, here is something a little different – home made moonshine ice cream. The store front is fun looking and although I am not into hard liquor I thought I shouldn’t pass up trying some. I got a scoop with liquor soaked cherries and chocolate chunks but couldn’t detect much of an alcohol flavor. A few episodes of the show deal with moonshiners including one called, “Alcohol and Old Lace” that actually mentioned the town where we were staying – Fancy Gap, Virginia. Fancy Gap is about a 20 minute drive up the mountain from Mt. Airy. In this episode, Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife are trying to locate and shut down moonshine stills in the area. Barney suggests checking out Fancy Gap. Andy replies: “Yes, there are a lot of holes and hollers around there a fellow could hide something in.” In the end they found the stills they were looking for, although none in Fancy Gap.
The Andy Griffith Museum in Mt. Airy has the largest collection of Andy memorabilia, much of it collected by one of his lifelong friends. The museum is rather small but packed with facts and items from his life as a TV star, film star and musician. Both of his TV shows, Andy Griffith and Matlock were long running series. The Andy Griffith Show played for eight seasons, from 1960-1968. I have never watched a Matlock show and didn’t tune in faithfully to the Andy Griffith show, but I did enjoy watching some of the episodes in my much younger years. The museum has original clothing worn by many of the actors, like the suits (photo below) worn by Don Knotts who played Barney.
Here you can find the pants, shirt and hat worn by Goober, the likeable filling station mechanic. Actor George Lindsay had the original cap he wore bronzed and put on a plaque after the show. He thought it would look good on his wall but decided later that it would be better off at the museum. You can see it in the photo below.
The centerpiece of the museum is the replica courthouse and office. Some of the items in the office are originals from the series. Videos from his shows and films play in various parts of the museum to add to the experience. The museum is right next to the Andy Griffith Playhouse which hosts performances on a regular basis and was the building where Andy once attended Elementary School. For those that want to get more of the Andy experience, you can book a stay at his former childhood home, a two bedroom house now owned by Hampton Inns.
After our Mt. Airy visit, I decided to watch a few episodes of Andy Griffith including the “moonshine still” episode. Luckily, Amazon Prime was carrying the series so I could watch it on my Kindle. I had forgotten how delightful and heartwarming the show could be – a time when life was simple and Sheriff Andy Taylor took care of Mayberry with a gentle spirit and a dose of good humor. I am glad that Mt. Airy is keeping his spirit alive.
I will close with a photo I took on a hill looking down on our campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Fancy Gap. On the far right is the parkway road and although you can’t see our trailer, our site was on the far left in the photo.
In the next blog we move on to our next camping spot in North Carolina and closer to the most southern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.