Andy Griffith's hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina, has taken on the identity of Mayberry. With the news of Griffith's passing, WFAE's Tanner Latham drove to the town and walked along Main Street. Visitors by the carload and locals have gone there to pay tribute and pause to remember their favorite son.
This is Mayberry. Or, at least, Mount Airy wants you to think it's Mayberry. The Andy Griffith Show is an indelible part of the town. There is Aunt Bea's Restaurant, Opie's Candy Shop, and even Mayberry Heating and Air Conditioning. Right on Main Street, at Bear Creek Gifts, there's an old Andy Griffith album playing through a few small speakers.
As the locals and visitors learned of Mr. Griffith's death, the mood was somber. There was a quiet reverence inside Floyd's Barber Shop. Yes, named for that Floyd. Russell Hiatt is 88 years old, and he's been cutting hair here for 65 years. Five days a week. $8 a cut. It used to be City Barber Shop, but he changed the name to Floyd's to capitalize on the Mayberry mystique that draws tourists. The shop's walls are covered in snapshot photos of his customers as well as countless celebrities who have come to visit. Hiatt says he cut Andy Griffith's hair for a couple of years while the would-be actor still lived in Mt. Airy, before he became a star.
"Well, he was just a nice boy," says Hiatt. "A real nice guy. And he'll be missed. Because he's done so much for us. The people in this town."
Just outside the barber shop a family of four, the Mickles, stop to take pictures. They are visiting from Timberlake, North Carolina, and Joel Mickle says they are all big fans of the Andy Griffith Show. "We had planned our family vacation here Monday through probably Wednesday, and we just happened to hear about the passing of our dear buddy there," he says. "It's like losing a family member."
Mickle believes the show helped him set an example for his kids. "And I taught my children as they were growing up, every one of them knows the show by heart," he says. "And it's really, honestly, it's just a good show to live by. It's a good life."
The restaurant is famous for its fried pork chop sandwich. Just next door is the Snappy Lunch, a diner that's been here for over 80 years. It was mentioned a couple of times in the show, and it's a staple for any fan who comes to town. It's best known for its Fried Pork Sandwich.
"If I had a dollar for every pork chop I made, I'd be rich," laughs Dianne Doss. "Lord, have mercy. I could retire now." Doss has been cooking at the Snappy Lunch for 18 years. She's seen all kinds of celebrities come through - even Oprah. She says Mount Airy still exemplifies a lot of the feeling of Mayberry and that Griffith will be missed for a long time.
"Because he really was such an impact on the town, and people really appreciated what he done for the town," she says. Walking back down Main Street, again passing the Bear Creek Gift shop, a song is now playing through the speakers-the theme of the Andy Griffith Show. A lot of people here have that famous whistle stuck in their minds.