One Author's Life


Longing for Mayberry

July 7, 2012

When Andy Griffith died this week, the news coverage brought many recollections of small-town life as envisioned on his much-loved show. I watched the show first-run as a child while living in South Carolina, and the characters did not seem at all far-fetched to me. We didn't live in a small town - we were on the outskirts of Columbia - but there were plenty of people in my daily life who were like Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea, and Barney Fife. Later, when my family moved north, I met people who made fun of that show, often mocking it. I remember thinking that anyone who couldn't see the charm and gentle humor in the goings-on in Mayberry had to be hard-hearted and cynical indeed. The northerners were right about one thing - it wasn't real. Well, yes, it was - if you were white and middle-class, and Methodist or Baptist or some other mainstream Protestant. It was real to those of us who fit in that category. But what we need to remember is that it was not real for everyone. The Klan was still roaming around in the Sixties, and they hated anyone who was Black, Jewish, Catholic, or homosexual. This is not to criticize The Andy Griffith Show, which never set out to change the world, after all. The fact that the show is a favorite among re-runs actually demonstrates its universality, despite its obvious flaws. It is human nature to long for a place to call home, where life (at least on the surface) seems simple. By that criteria, the show was brilliant.