I have been doing a lot of thinking about Andy Griffith lately. Andy died on July 3 of this year. He was best known as Sheriff Andy Taylor of the small fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. The show ran from 1960 until 1968. Sheriff Taylor had deeply rooted family values and tons of common sense. With his Deputy, Barney Fife, at his side and with no gun strapped on, he kept law and order in their picturesque town. The Sheriff always managed to solve everyone's problems with his wit and wisdom.
Everyone seemed to know everyone else and their business. Everyone looked for each-other. Aunt Bee would bring lunch to the jailhouse and have dinner waiting on the table when the Sheriff and his son Opie got home at night. On Sundays, after church and a noon meal of fried chicken, everyone would sit out on the front porch with their fans (it's hot in North Carolina) and enjoy the quiet. Sometimes Andy would play his guitar and he and Barney would sing a song or two. Sounds great doesn't it? Simpler times, simper pleasures.
I loved watching this show, as I'm sure a lot of you did. Even now, I sometimes watch the reruns. I'm sure you have heard people talk of wishing things were simpler like they were back then. They wish we could go back to the 50's and 60's. They want to make their town into a "Mayberry Model."
What I never realized, until I got older, is that this "fictional" town of Mayberry was way out of whack. Think about it. North Carolina. Maybe if you lived in a small town in one of the northern states, you might not have seen or known any black people, but in North Carolina, you know that black people lived there. Or as they were called back then, the colored, (or worse by some, then and now).
Yet not a single black person was on The Andy Griffith Show. Of course, back then, not a single black person had a major role on television; they would only be seen in the roles of servants, chauffeurs or field hands, jobs they held in real life. Heck, I'm pretty sure a lot of black people couldn't afford a television, let alone spend time watching a bunch of white people on it.
Maybe that's what some people like about this era. Black people knew their "place."
My parents met in Fayetteville, N.C. in 1945. My dad was stationed at Fort Bragg. My mom was born and raised outside of Fayetteville. My grandparents raised cotton and tobacco along with their 10 children. My mom and dad married and moved to my dad's hometown Chili, Wis. in 1946.
When we visited North Carolina, when I was a child of 6 or 7, we were given the "tour." This tour, of course, included the famous Fort Bragg, but it also included the Market House in downtown Fayetteville. On the way to the Market House, from Fort Bragg, the streets were filled with mostly white people, a dot here and there of black, on the other side of the Market House the streets were a sea of black people, no white skin in sight. It was a dividing point.
That was 51 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. The upper floor of the Market House was utilized as a town hall, while below meat, produce and other goods were sold, including slaves. The Market House is a national landmark in Cumberland County, North Carolina, with important historical significance for blacks and white.
My mother grew up with and worked side by side with black people. She told me she saw the "whites only" signs. She said she didn't agree with how they were being treated, but back then you had to be very careful of what you said, and who you said it to.
I give my parents the upmost praise in how we were raised. We were raised in a small town, with small town values. The small town I grew up in was like Mayberry in a lot of ways. Everyone looked out for each other, everyone knew everyone else's business and on Sunday's, after church, you might as well have rolled up the streets.
We were like Mayberry in one other way, we also didn't have any black people in our town, but my parents taught us not to hate people for the color of their skin. We were taught right from wrong. We were taught to respect people. We were taught the small town way.
So I guess for some people, going back to that time when things were so much simpler, would be great, for others, probably not. It all depends on the color of your skin. I will miss Andy. I won't miss that dividing line that was at the Market House.
Judy M. Stock