With the recent death of actor Andy Griffith, many have mourned the passing of an American era as well. Griffith, who found his way into the heart of our nation’s television audience as Sheriff Andy Taylor, was a symbol of simpler days, when things moved just a bit slower and our worries were confined to the local level. And when that local level was the whimsical Mayberry, life seemed to be a Rockwell painting. While perhaps this way of life will never be relived again in our frantic, wired modern existence, the patriarch of small screen stalwarts The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock ( as well as numerous film ventures) and his wholesome, neighborly message will endure forever.
In North Carolina, the same state where Aunt Bee always had a pie waiting and Barney Fife was always ready to take a proverbial pie to the face, The Andy Griffith Museum is a permanent homage to a man and the era he served. In Mount Airy, the experience is a forever changing blast from the past. Nostalgic fans, memorabilia enthusiasts and those who long for a time machine are entrenched in a wealth of remembrance and historic artifacts. The collection is a stunning array of props and wardrobe and trinkets, endowed from Griffith and other cast members of The Andy Griffith Show.
Mount Airy, Andy’s birthplace and childhood home, also hosts “Mayberry Days” an annual celebration of the man and his impact on American television and culture. It is also largely assumed to be the inspiration for the fictional community of Mayberry. Numerous locations and names mentioned in the show mirror real places and people in or near Mount Airy, such as Mount Pilot (neighbor Pilot Mountain) and Snappy Lunch, a still operating diner. In an installment of The Andy Griffith Show, Andy can be seen up close thumbing the "Airy News" an obvious play to Mount Airy’s newspaper. The Andy Griffith Museum and Mount Airy are, in effect, Mayberry; perhaps they do not have a Floyd the barber, but they likely have a relative of Floyd’s inspiration. They might not have a charmingly debaucherous Otis, but certainly his spirit fills the local taverns. They do have Barney’s on screen flame Thelma Lou, however. Actress Betty Lynn calls Mount Airy home, and is an avid guest at The Andy Griffith Museum.
Andy might have moved on to the great unknown, but he and Mayberry’s citizens are eternal within the confines of four walls. There will always be an engine that Gomer needs to repair. His cousin Goober will always be there to hand him a wrench. Aunt Bee will always be around for good southern cooking and advice, and Opie will always have an abundance of youthful optimism as he skips down the dirt road with his makeshift fishing rod.
And as always, Andy will be the man to oversee it all. The voice of reason, the good neighbor, the fair sheriff and the endearing single father, he is forever our American hero. All we have to do is whistle that familiar tune and visit The Andy Griffith Museum.