Indulge me for a moment while I finish singing “My Hometown.” Mayberry may be a mythical town, but it is very much alive. It is alive in our hearts. It is a place where people are kind and help each other. A place of love and life. A place where you’re always welcomed home. THAT’S Mayberry. It’s everyone’s hometown.
September of 2018, as I watched the Mayberry Days parade being streamed live on Facebook, I promised myself that – if it were humanly possible – I would be watching the parade in person in 2019. I grew up watching The Andy Griffith Show, and have a deep love and respect for it and most other classics. I had already begun collecting autographs, but I really wanted to meet some of these people.
In September of 2019, I kept my promise to myself. My birthday gift to myself this year was a trip to Mount Airy, North Carolina, for the annual Mayberry Days festival. Let me just say… I think Mount Airy is my Disneyland.
For those of you who don’t know, Mount Airy is Andy Griffith’s hometown. And it is also the inspiration for the town of Mayberry. There are a few places of key interest in Mount Airy that were mentioned in the show… including Snappy Lunch, and the granite quarry.
I spent the first day walking around downtown Mount Airy. The charm and history of the place is captivating!
If you ever make a trip to Mayberry (AKA Mount Airy), trust me… no stop there is complete without a pork chop sandwich from Snappy Lunch and a Coke float from Walker’s. Just take my word for it and thank me later.
Snappy Lunch is world famous for their battered, fried pork chop sandwiches. Just take a seat and don’t bother looking at a menu. You can’t go to Snappy Lunch and not get a pork chop sandwich. It’s an unwritten law. Ok, I may have made that last part up, but it should be a law! Haha!
If you’ve never tried a Coke mixed the old fashioned way… OH, MY GOODNESS. You don’t know what you’re missing! Dave is the very friendly owner of Walker’s, and he goes the extra mile to give you that old fashioned soda fountain experience. Those Coke floats might be just a little too good… I could literally go in and get one every day! When you go in, be sure to ask Dave to share some of his stories with you!
Another Mount Airy tip – walk on down Main Street. You’ll think you’re leaving town, but trust me. Walk just a little further, and you’ll find yourself at the Mayberry Courthouse and Wally’s Filling Station. Of course, the show was filmed in California, so these are not the originals from the show. But it feels like stepping into the world of Mayberry. Be sure to take a squad car tour when you go to Wally’s – it’s a lot of fun and very informative!
You also have to stop in the courthouse beside Wally’s and have your picture taken in Otis’ cell. Just remember, it is definitely no fun when that iron door slams shut on you. No more carefree hours, no more doin’ what you want, whenever you want. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
But then again, the key is hanging on the peg outside the cell door, so you can just let yourself out as Otis always did. (Although just for clarity’s sake so no one worries about getting locked in by accident… the cell door doesn’t actually lock, so you’re safe to close the door all the way!)
If you were to ask me what my favorite part of Mayberry Days was, I would be torn. I loved every minute of it! But top of the list would have to be the sweet people that I met! Ronnie Schell was the first star I ever met, and is now one of my favorite people in the world! He played in 2 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, but he is most known for his role as Duke Slater in Gomer Pyle, USMC, which spun off The Andy Griffith Show. I also knew him from other roles. All that to say, when I got back to my hotel room from meeting Ronnie after his show at the Earle Theater, I was overwhelmed and nearly in tears because this was quite literally a dream come true for me. Little did I know then how much time I would get to spend with Ronnie!
If you want to meet an angel on earth, meet Betty Lynn! She played Barney’s girlfriend Thelma Lou in the show, and is the sweetest lady you could ever hope to meet! She will start crying when she sees how many people come to see her – overwhelmed by the amount of love she is shown. And then she will have you crying when she starts expressing her love for her fans. Although I didn’t have as much time with her as I would have liked, the time I did spend with her, I will never forget!
I met several more stars than I managed to get pictures with (including Margaret Kerry and LeRoy Mack McNees), but I did meet and get pictures with Dixie Griffith (Andy’s real-life adopted daughter), Joy Ellison, Dennis Rush, Keith Thibodeaux (also played in I Love Lucy as Little Ricky), and Maggie Peterson.
My time at the autograph session was cut short, but then more personal time with this group of amazing people was provided when God opened a door.
I entered the Mayberry Idle contest, and placed 2nd. This meant that I got to sing in Colonel Tim’s Talent Time at the Andy Griffith Playhouse that night.
Before the show, I sat backstage, wondering how this was really happening. As I waited to go on stage, Margaret Kerry and I chatted, and she gave me a little pixie dust for good luck. (If y’all don’t know, she was the original model for Tinkerbell.) After I sang, I stopped to speak to Margaret again. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me that Betty Lynn was looking for me. They informed me that she had come in asking who had been singing when I had sung, and told me to go speak to her. In shock, I knelt beside her wheelchair and confirmed which song she had been asking about, and told her I had been the one to sing it. When she found out it was me, she said “Oh, my goodness! You have a beautiful voice!” Like I said earlier… my time with Betty Lynn may not have been long, but I will never forget it!
After singing, I spent probably 2 hours hanging out backstage with Ronnie Schell, his son Greg, and Cort and Stark Howell. Honestly, I just didn’t want to leave. I soaked in every moment before I left.
My Mayberry story does not end here. But that’s for another time. In the meantime, God has continued to open doors and allow me to spend more time with this amazing Mayberry family. I’m excited to announce that I will soon be sharing an interview with Stark and Cort Howell and Greg Schell – to share about their upcoming project. (Which I am very excited about!! It’s gonna be good, y’all!)
Mayberry may look different for different people. I definitely do not expect everyone to have the same experience in Mount Airy that I did! As I write this, wearing my Barney Fife button on my Mayberry shirt, with my Mayberry jacket laid over a chair, you may think I’m a bit obsessed. But for me, Mayberry is a place where dreams have come true, talents have been encouraged, possibilities have seemed endless, and friendships have been forged. And that is why Mayberry is my hometown.
Love and prayers,