I’m just going to speak off the cuff here and not go into any analytical piece about The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS for those in the know) in popular culture. You see, I love that show. I mean LOVE that show. My all-time favorite.
So, it is with some sadness that I write about the passing of Andy Griffith today. As a fellow North Carolinian, I have an appreciation for his humor and of the South that he represented. Yes, I know he had a much broader career than TAGS (starring in movies like Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, and having a second TV career with Matlock), but it’s my love of TAGS that I want to write about here.
I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and it was my evening ritual to watch reruns of the show at 5pm and again at 5:30pm. Later, when I got to college, I met other fans of the show, even attending an Andy Griffith party dressed as a waitress at the diner. My date came as Malcolm Meriweather (Mayberry’s British visitor) and rode in on his bicycle. My graduate school pal and lifelong friend Kelli Logan and I often traded lines back and forth from various episodes and when we see each other, we still do. At some point, both of us even joined one of the first online discussion boards for TAGSRWC (The Andy Griffith Rerun Watchers Club), a place where we found others doing the same thing–trading lines. It was a testament to the fine writing on the show, half of which was written by Griffith himself. It was also a testament to our insane love of all things Mayberry.
I’ve watched marathons of TAGS on TV Land and videotaped them (when that technology was around) and later traded them in for a much nicer DVD set. I purchased one of the earliest Andy Griffith trivia games, for which only my former neighbors–June Carraway and Gary Washburn–could ever really compete. We all took a trip to Mt. Airy for Mayberry Days one year where we joined thousands of others who shared our passion for the show. There, I got to see the original doors to the courthouse, ate at the Bluebird Diner, and sat for a brief moment in one of the chairs at Floyd’s Barbershop. The line to the Snappy Lunch for a pork chop sandwich was far too long. I also took a few photos with some of the folks who dress like characters from the show.
A couple of years ago, I went to Mt. Airy for a doll exhibit (don’t ask) at the Gertrude Smith House in Mt. Airy. I was there for about a half an hour when all of a sudden there was a commotion because Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou, had arrived. You would have thought she was royalty, and in Mt. Airy, she is. It was then that I learned that she had moved to the town and makes her home in an assisted living facility. Even if Hollywood has long since forgotten her, the fans of The Andy Griffith Show still hold her in high esteem. And I must admit, I was a little star struck.
Even more recently, I met a man who works in maintenance at UNC Charlotte who shares my passion for TAGS. After completing some work in my office he noticed two books on my shelf were about the show. He lit up when he found this out and to this day, he leaves TAGS trivia questions posted to my office door. And when he passes me on campus in one of those tiny maintenance vehicles he gives me some sort of TAGS shout out. He’s far better at the trivia than I am, but I appreciate that he keeps me on my toes.
[Above: A clip from one of my favorite episodes "Arrest of the Fun Girls." That would be Daphne and Skippy for those who might not know their names]
So, Andy Griffith, and particularly TAGS, has been with me through most of my life and his passing feels a little like seeing my own life pass before me. Thankfully, I can pull out those DVDs and watch the show again and again. I never tire of it. It makes me laugh no matter how many times I’ve seen any one episode. I can also engage in banter with others who share my passion. And that’s good for my southern soul.