I about keeled over when I peeked through the large window on Main Street into Floyd’s City Barber Shop. There was Floyd! OK, not really, but it looked enough like him that I thought I’d channeled myself into a 1960s television set. Black and white, of course.
Really it was 85-year-old owner Russell Hiatt, who has been cutting hair at his Mount Airy barbershop for more than 60 years. Oprah has been here, so you know it’s special.
Since moving to North Carolina six years ago, Wessel and I several times have been close to Mount Airy, Andy Griffith’s hometown and the inspiration for Mayberry, but never ventured “downtown.” We did last weekend, and what a treat it was. Wessel being Dutch, I’ve had to give him a Tarheel and American primer on “The Andy Griffith Show” and all things Mayberry. Over the years, I’ve taught him “The Fishin’ Hole” whistle, and a little about Opie, Barney, Goober and Gomer. And, now, Floyd. Finally he got to see that I wasn’t the only one waxing nostalgic over such things.
Mayberry, er, Mount Airy, has done a good job of keeping the Andy mania fairly tasteful. Main Street has as many cool vintage and antique shops in old department-store storefronts as it does stores full of tourist schlock. But I loved the schlock too. I even forked over an outrageous $7 for an Andy fridge magnet.
There are more attractions than I have time to enumerate here. The most popular one is The Snappy Lunch, credited as the only existing local business mentioned on the television show, which aired from 1960 to 1968 and was filmed in … LA of course!
Another draw is The Squad Car Tour, where a carload of folks can ride in a restored 1962 Ford Galaxie squad car, the same as Andy’s and Barney’s. And I loved that Mount Airy’s “horse-drawn carriages” are instead powered by mules. Off in the distance, you can see the familiar knob of Pilot Mountain, called “Mount Pilot” on the show.
This year’s Mayberry Days is Sept. 24-27, when some 25,000 fans (and some of the show’s characters) descend on the town of 8,400 to celebrate the show, which first aired on Oct. 3, 1960.
One amusing ditty. Last fall, Griffith donned his Sheriff Andy Taylor persona and Ron Howard his Opie to endorse presidential candidate Barack Obama. That apparently did not sit well with the largely Republican county. It was all they could talk about at Floyd’s.