While Andy Griffith may have created the mythical town of Mayberry, North Carolina for his television show, it may not actually be 100% make-believe. The small, sleepy little town, full of extremely nice people and memorable characters is a legacy that North Carolina and its people will probably never forget. In fact, most North Carolinians embrace the show and the fact that it is most likely based on Mount Airy, NC. Andy Griffith is the state’s favorite son, and the town portrayed in the show is just as much a part of North Carolina as ACC Basketball, the Carolina Panthers, Grandfather Mountain, or the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Millions and millions of people have watched the Andy Griffith Show since its debut on October 3rd, 1960. As my Grandfather always used to say, “You’re never too old or too young to love Mayberry.” As long as there are rerun watchers clubs, websites, conventions, newsletters, and countless books and documentaries dedicated to the program, Sheriff Taylor and friends will forever remain in the hearts and minds of people who long for the simpler life to return.
Folks from all over the country flock to Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy to buy merchandise and get an idea of what Mayberry might actually be like. The only difference is Mount Airy is not Mayberry. Mount Airy is an actual place, while Mayberry enjoys a fictional, almost unbelievable existence. It seems the “Old North State” of North Carolina will always be associated with Mayberry and small town living.
If you’re a huge fan of The Andy Griffith Show like myself, it’s safe to say that you too have once fantasized of living in a quiet little town where the living is slow & easy. So, you think those types of places don’t exist? You think Mayberry is a fantasyland? Contrary to popular belief, there are dozens of beautiful little settlements in North Carolina that strongly resemble television’s favorite small town.
Let’s imagine life in Mayberry for a moment. Imagine going for a stroll down Main Street. We’ll start out at Floyd’s Barber Shop for a quick haircut and a chat with the boys, and then stop by the diner for a bite to eat. Next it’s over to Weaver’s Department Store for a bit of shopping, then next door to Walker’s Drug Store for a soda. After that let’s ride out to Wally’s Filling Station for a bottle of pop. On our way back through town we’ll go by the courthouse to see what desperate criminals ole Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife are hot after today.
Finally, at the end of a long day we can go home to the Taylor House on Maple Street where Aunt Bee has undoubtedly fixed us a nice big supper and we can relax on the porch with a cup of coffee after dinner.
To those of us that love Mayberry, The Andy Griffith Show is more than just a TV show. It has an unmistakable appeal that satisfies the hunger in all of us to re-live or return to a time in our lives when things were simpler, easier and less stressful. It generates a feeling of being back home where we belong. It is a town where there is little to no crime (outside of moon-shining), hardly any traffic problems, no drugs on the streets, and no guns in the schools. Mayberry was a place where people could feel completely safe and comfortable.
In small towns across North Carolina people greet one another on the street by name, or honk their car horns as they drive by. Occupied storefronts line the thriving downtown districts. Tree-lined sidewalks have people strolling along. On a sunny day residents sit chatting on their front porches. Many North Carolina small towns possess a good balance between industry, agriculture & suburbia; but the real draw to these places is lifestyle. Families are finding out that knowing your neighborhood, knowing the people you go to church with, and feeling comfortable with your children playing out in the front yard are extremely important qualifications in finding a place to live. Also, one can realize the American dream of owning your own business without having to move to a big city.
In fact, small towns continue to represent all that America was founded on. Family and traditional values, neighborly people, the importance of courtesy, strong community ties, and the feeling of “being home” are part of what makes small town living so important and attractive to people in today’s world. With all types of people from all walks of life searching for something better, they need look no farther than the peaceful little town just minutes away from the city limits of Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Asheville or any of the other larger cities.
How does The Andy Griffith Show manage to make us yearn for such things? Maybe it’s the friendliness of the characters, the way everybody is quick to share a handshake or a neighborly shout hello. It’s the constant search in all of us for something more wholesome and real. It’s something that clicks in our heads and brings us back to where we came from. Perhaps it’s the feeling of “being home” and at ease with the world around us. Still maybe it’s something much, much more than that. People these days seem to be in search of a better way of life, but don’t know where to look.
The complete and total appeal of Mayberry is something that is sure to confuse the person who has never seen the show and fallen in love with everything it stands for. In America today people tend to take the simpler things in life for granted. Technology has taken over and now the internet threatens even our smallest everyday tasks. Take going grocery shopping for instance. Did you know that you can now shop for groceries with your computer at home? This could cause irreparable damage to the small-town grocer, possibly even putting some of them out of business for good. Local merchants are a big part of what makes places like Mayberry so special. Some grocery stores are already offering internet shopping. Let’s face it, when we have become too lazy to even go to the store for food, something is wrong.
Americans need to get back to a simpler way of life where cell phones, computers, emails and MTV are a thing of the past.
A recent study reported that the average American spends a total of 15 years of their life watching television. Therein lies the problem. The TV shows of today compared to the ones shown from the late 50’s to mid 60’s are extreme polar opposites. The Andy Griffith Show is the perfect portrayal of how people should treat others. It teaches many valuable lessons from “honesty is the best policy” to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The show also teaches the love of family, friendship, neighbors and most of all, home. Today’s TV teaches us nothing of the sort and has even more to be desired. Sure, there are a few exceptions. However, in the 50’s and 60’s the FCC would never allow something like “The Osbournes,””Southpark,””Jerry Springer,” or “Beavis & Butthead.” At least, we’d like to think so.
We need to spend more time focusing on things like charity softball games, walks in the park and Sunday afternoon drives in the country. Thankfully, neighborhood & family gatherings with tons of fried chicken, corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes still take place in dozens of small towns right here in North Carolina. While the biggest social event of the year in Mayberry was the Founder’s Day Festival, today’s small towns provide state of the art recreational facilities, as well as a broad assortment of cultural activities and celebrations. These days small towns are equipped with expert medical care, higher educational opportunities and thriving neighborhood subdivisions. Also, while Mayberry only had its one underpass, all it takes is one exit off the interstate to find yourself right smack dab in the middle of a peaceful little community where the people treat you like family.
People all over this country are born and raised in “Mayberry” and it’s the only life they’ve ever known. These people love their small town life, but probably don’t even realize how lucky they really are! One must understand that a small town mentality can only be learned or appreciated by a certain type of person. While some city folk may find it silly, there are millions of people out there who are trapped in the “city life” while they yearn for the simpler, more grounded, slower lifestyle found in the small towns of yesteryear. Fortunately, yesteryear still exists today in the rural areas of North Carolina. When new people move into these towns, neighbors get to know them real quick.
Small towns are a crucial part of the changing and evolving economy in North Carolina. The small size and scattered nature of the textile industry helps account for most of the towns in this state. In the 19th century, mills were built along rivers and creeks that gave them their power. Villages and farms then grew up around these mills. So, when electricity came along and took away the need for waterpower, these villages grew into mill towns. Pretty soon, farmers facing hard times turned to the mills for work and the towns flourished.
This rural way of life stayed strong from generation to generation, and even as North Carolina became the state with the largest percentage of its work force in manufacturing, much of the population stayed in small towns instead of clustered in cities. However, there is no way we can preserve these small towns we all love without economic growth. One of the best ways to do that is to take lessons from The Andy Griffith Show. No town could match Mayberry in charm, warmth and benevolence.
So, whether you’re looking to relocate, go for a scenic drive, or searching for a great place to vacation and shop, these twelve towns are sure to deliver exactly what you’re looking for. Take some time to explore our great state and you will surely discover many hidden and many not so hidden treasures.
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