A Half Century of Memories
You may ask your self, what does Andy Griffith have to do with the history of Laurens County and East Central Georgia. Is there a relationship between the North Carolina born actor and our area? Unfortunately, there is no tie with the legendary television icon. By now, you may have realized that the Andy Griffith show premiered on television fifty years ago this past Sunday night. Whether you realize it or not, this show, which never garnered Griffith or the show itself a single Emmy award, has effected our lives in some way.
The lessons which Andy, his family and friends have taught us have been many, some obvious and others subliminal. Love of family and friends is right there at the top. Perhaps most important among the lessons which Andy learned as a parent was that parents were not always right and children were not always wrong. It was about love of one another, treating each other with respect, even the bad guys some times. It was about patience and enjoying the simple things in life. Most of the shows centered around some moral virtue, or the lack thereof. It was about life, our lives, when life was just a little slower, people a little kinder, and doing for others was well, what you did.
And now, for those of you who think you have seen and remember all 249 episodes, here are some things you might not know, don't remember, never saw or recognized. How many names did Barney Fife have? The answer is three: Bernard P. Fife, Bernard Oliver Fife and Bernard Milton Fife. Writers often gave different names to the same actor playing the same role. For instance, Hope Summers was first known as "Bertha Edwards." Bertha became Clara and then Clara became Clara Johnson. By the end of the show, Clara had gone back to being an Edwards. Opie's girl friend played by the same actress had five different names. Burt Mustin, Gus the Fireman on Leave it to Beaver, played nine different roles.
But, Barney and Miss Edwards weren't the only ones to undergo name changes. Bobby Fleet and His Band with a Beat was also known as Freddy Fleet and His Band with a Beat. Floyd Lawson, the town barber, is introduced first as Floyd Colby. Even Goober Pyle, the lovable oaf, was once addressed as Goober Beasley. First introduced as Millie Hutchins, Millie, the waitress at the diner, became Millie Swanson. Thelma Lou didn't change her last name. She had no last name, that is until she married, divorced and then remarried her old flame, Barney Fife.
And in case you are wondering, Andy Taylor was officially Andrew Jackson Taylor, named for the former president Andrew Jackson. Even Andy wasn't immune from name changes. When Andy and Helen celebrated the birth of their son, Andrew Samuel (Andy Griffith's real middle name) Taylor, Jr., Andy's name changed as well. Bet you don't remember that Opie had a little brother. In case you missed it, Opie's mother and Andy's first wife was Barbara Edwards Taylor, who was several years older than Andy. In reality, Barbara Edwards was Andy Griffith's first wife. Andy and Barbara Taylor named their son Opie. Actually the show's writer named him Opie after Opie Cates, a big band leader of the 1930s and a favorite of Andy Griffith.
Obviously, the show's scenes were not filmed in a North Carolina town, or any other town for that matter. They were filmed in Hollywood on the back lots. The filming of Andy Griffith took place on the same outdoor set as Gone With the Wind in 1939. Watch the street scenes closely. If you were to look to the right as you left the courthouse, you will see the Atlanta Post Office seen in the legendary movie. The set was used by other television programs. How many of you are original Star Trek fans? Look for the episode, "City on The Edge of Forever," one of the show's most highly heralded episodes. When Captain James T. Kirk and social activist Edith Keeler, played by Joan Collins, are walking down the street holding hands, look behind them and you will catch a glimpse of Floyd's Barber Shop. The courthouse, Walker's Drug Store and the hotel are plainly visible in another Trek episode, Miri. Well, I'll be dogged!
Quick, name the most famous actor other than the regular cast members to appear on the show. You might say Buddy Ebsen, who would later appear as Uncle Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies or Edgar Buchanan, who would later star as Uncle Joe Carson on a Hillbillies spinoff, Petticoat Junction, or Bob Denver, known to billions as "Gilligan," or Barbara Eden, the Jeannie of dreams. No, the most highly heralded actor to appear on the show was Jack Nicholson, who played a young defendant on trial. Aunt Bee sat on the jury and held out for his eventual acquittal.
There was another quite famous actress who appeared in several episodes. Barney's nitpicky landlord, Mrs. Mendlebright was played by Enid Markey. You ask, "Who is Enid Markey?" Enid Markey was famous in our grandparents' and great grandparents' generation as the first woman to play "Jane," wife of Tarzan the Ape Man, way back in the silent movies days of 1918.
The Andy Griffith Show was all about family. And, if you watch the early episodes you will remember that Andy and Barney were actually cousins, although the relationship was not mentioned beyond the first season. Ron Howard, who played Opie, had his family acting in the show with him. Howard's father Rance played a bus driver in an episode. His brother, Clint, who later went on the star in "Gentle Ben," played Leon, the little kid with a cowboy hat who was always offering his sandwich to people he met. Their mother Jean never appeared on the Griffith show, but did appear in other movies with her sons. And of course, you all know that Goober and Gomer, the Pyles, were cousins as well.
Speaking of Gomer, how many of you know that the actor who portrayed Gomer Pyle, Jim Nabors, actually lived in Augusta, Georgia for a short time, appearing on local television and singing in the church choir.
Questions: If Aunt Bee was supposed to be a spinster paternal aunt of Andy, why is she seen wearing a wedding band in the episode where Barney arrests most of the town folks on various charges? Wonder why the map in Andy's office was a state map of Nevada turned upside down? And, before that it was a map of the state of Idaho, yes and it was upside down too. Why did the Taylors live at three different addresses when their house was always the same?
So, what's your favorite episode? We all have them. Mine is Opie, the Bird Man. How did the shows affect your life? Despite all the delicate situations, problems, and difficult people Andy faced, in the end he always seemed to do the right thing. As you go through life and problem people confront you, think WWAD, What would Andy do?
P.S. There is no Mayberry, North Carolina. But, there is a Mayberry (Maberry), Georgia and it is right here in Laurens County. If you don't already know, Mayberry was a railroad stop on the Dublin & Southwestern Railroad. And, SW Laurens Elementary School sits in downtown Mayberry. Shazam!