In September of 1997 my former husband and I visited Mt. Airy, North Carolina. I had such a wonderful time there and someday I would like to go back again. The people that I met were so friendly, the town so quaint and the memories I have of that trip are very special to me. It was the last vacation that my husband and I took and it was right before our daughter was born in October. We had a wonderful time during our visit and I’d like to take a few moments to tell you all about it. So pull up a chair and have a seat and I will tell you all about it.
We drove from our home in Pikeville and along the Ocoee River in southeastern Tennessee. We made our way through Asheville and from there it was a straight shot up to the northern border of North Carolina until we made our way to Mt. Airy. My Grandmother would say we took the scenic route and let me tell you, it was beautiful. At the time, we lived in the Sequatchie Valley near the Cumberland Plateau and I knew it was beautiful. I have seen the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee and knew they were beautiful as well. But the mountains of Western North Carolina are simply breathtaking. I was amazed at the sheer beauty of it all. The drive up there really made the trip more special for me because I enjoyed it so much.
My ex-husband is a big fan of the Andy Griffith show just like I am. It was his idea to go and I just sort of gave into the idea of going but afterwards I was really glad I decided to go. Mt. Airy is the town that Andy Griffith was born and raised in and The Andy Griffith show is based on his memories of growing up in Mt. Airy. In the show, they mention Mt. Pilot several times and there is a town there but it is called Pilot Mountain. Several of the characters on the show such as Aunt Bea and Otis Campbell are based on people in real life from this town. In fact, the late Francis Beaver (Aunt Bea) liked the area so well that she retired in Silver City even though she was not from the area.
When we first got there, we just could not wait to get to town and check things out. We drove up to the Jail and since it was late in the evening, it was closed so we decided to walk downtown. We were window-shopping when this gentleman stopped us on the street to talk to us. He figured we were visiting and just wanted to say hi and welcome us to town. Wasn’t that sweet of him? That is how many of the people who live there treated us, this is a friendly little town. I would like to say at this point that none of the Andy Griffith show was ever filmed here. The jail and the barbershop are different than they were on the set of the television show. So if you decide to make a trip here, try not to be disappointed by this fact.
Our first stop on Saturday morning was the jail in Mt. Airy. Parked on the street outside the jail sits a 1962 Ford Galaxy patrol car just like the one used in the television show. And although it is not the one used in the show, it is a good replica. We walked inside and you can sit behind Andy’s desk and even wear a hat like Barney’s. You can go inside the jail cells, they have a picture of Otis Campbell that you can put over your face. One of my favorite memories of the trip are the pictures we took in the jail.
Floyd’s Barbershop is still in business on Main Street and Russell Hiatt, owner of the shop for 45 years, boasts, "2 chairs, no waiting". Tony got his hair cut while we were there and he got his picture taken by Russell and added to the wall of fame. There are several celebrities on the wall and it was neat to get to see them. Russell sells t-shirts and coffee cups for souvenirs. On the way home, I brought my Dad a coffee cup from Floyd’s Barbershop which he uses everyday.
I could not recall ever hearing Andy mention the Snappy Café in the TV show before I went to Mt. Airy but I am told that he did. Since I’ve been there, I have heard him mention it to Barney in one of the shows. We walked into the café right at lunchtime, and it was very busy. We sat down at on of the few empty tables and order the Snappy special, a fried pork chop sandwich with chips and a drink. Charles Dowell, the owner who has run the Snappy Café for 50 years, served it to us. This was the most tender sandwich I had ever eaten and it was delicious. It was fun to sit in a diner that was built back in the 1920’s and it is obvious that it is a favorite with the locals as well.
There is an old house right on Main Street that houses the Andy Griffith Museum. It has three rooms filled with pictures of The Andy Griffith show, memorabilia from the show, and Andy Griffith’s life in Mt. Airy. We were able to watch a movie there and in it was an interview from Andy Griffith and he says about Mt. Airy that it was just a small town, like small towns go, they are all over the place and the people are very friendly there. He seemed to me to be a very humble person and was being honest about his hometown.
If you walk along the shops that line Main Street, you will probably be filled with nostalgia and drawn back to a time when small town shops were the lifelines of small town America. Many of these businesses are still thriving, some even where you live now. We enjoyed walking in and out of all the shops, tasting homemade fudge in one, buying souvenirs in one, just basically enjoying the people and ourselves.
Mayberry Days is held the last week of September every year. We were there the week before so we missed it but I would like to return to Mt. Airy again some day because I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there. If you are interested in a trip to Mt. Airy, let me suggest this web site to you: http://www.visitmayberry.com/. You will find plenty of information about it.
I have not mentioned everything that we saw on our trip, there is the Andy Griffith Theater and the church he attended as a child, the service station is still there. If you enjoyed the Andy Griffith show, I would highly recommend a trip to Mt. Airy. You can revel in the nostalgia that this town has to offer and be greeted by the warmth of the people who live there.
Written by: Belinda.