Even though he solved his problems in 30-minute television episodes, he was an incredible role model who solved issues without using a single bullet. He used his brain instead.
I never met or saw Andy Griffith in person, but I’m sad to learn of his death this past week. However, I’m sure my late grandmother, Inice Green of Bowdon, who I called Maw Maw, is rejoicing in Heaven that Matlock has arrived. Maw Maw never missed an episode.
“American television without Andy Griffith would be like The Varsity without chili,” commented my college friend, David Hughes of Dawsonville, after learning of Andy’s death.
Each show was filled with great stories and it’s no wonder Sunday school classes throughout the country have used the show to teach lessons. It’s even been an effective parenting tool.
“I think it really teaches good morals to kids without them really knowing that they are learning from it,” said local “Andy Griffith Show” historian Johnny Tanner. “When I asked my 10-year-old daughter Molly what she learned from ‘The Spoiled Kid’ episode, she replied ‘kids shouldn’t always get what they want. If you have good parents, they will know what’s best for you and pitching tantrums shouldn’t work to change things.’”
Some of the greatest movies, novels, musicians and television shows have Southern roots. Elvis, Hank Williams, James Brown, William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, “Gone with the Wind” and, of course, “The Andy Griffith Show” — they’re all a part of us and we’re a part of them. Sure, we have to claim the hillbillies from James Dickey’s “Deliverance,” but Dickey was a brilliant poet and novelist who captured so much of life in the South.
In 2004 while I was attending a business conference in the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, it just so happened that the Mayberry Cast Reunion Show was being held in the hotel. I had the opportunity to sit in the same room with Barney, Goober, Earnest T., Thelma Lou, Charlene and the Darlings. Don Knotts reprised the scene from when he sang with the church choir, George “Goober” Lindsey told jokes, Charlene and the Darlings sang “Salty Dog” and Howard “Earnest T.” Morris threw fake rocks. It was almost as good as sitting on Andy’s front porch on a Sunday afternoon.
Last summer, I took a business associate who grew up and still lives and works in downtown Manhattan to lunch on the Carrollton square. As we moved through downtown, he raved about our square and shook his head in disbelief as I spoke and waved to friends on our walk.
“Carrollton is incredible,” he observed. “It’s like Mayberry and I mean that as a high compliment. I’m lucky if I ever know one person walking the streets of New York City.”
I smiled. Carrollton has its resemblance to Mayberry, but we’re real people and this is a real town. Our sheriff, Terry Langley, and his crew face bigger issues than jaywalking. He needs his deputies to carry more than one bullet in their pockets.
We’re all on this journey together experiencing all of the complexities of life that’s much larger than a television show, but Andy Griffith still taught us valuable lessons and is still doing so.
“I liked the show where Opie was saving money to buy his girlfriend a coat,” said 15-year old John Tanner about the episode in which Andy became agitated at Opie because he thought his son was being selfish and planned to use the money on himself.
“Andy didn’t know his son was doing something good for someone else. Sometimes your kids surprise you because they’re doing something right without you knowing it.”
Andy Griffith will always hold a place in the hearts of so many. He will be missed, but in some ways he will forever be with us.
All we have to do is just whistle his song.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at email@example.com