It all started in 1960. Once a week, that familiar whistling theme song echoed throughout the Billheimer household. Yes, believe it or not, it wasonly on once a week back then.
When I was growing up, having a TV was kind of a luxury. The first set that I barely have memories of (actually, I think I just remember it from old photos) was a teeny tiny little box with a round screen! Later on we got a more up-to-date model with an oval screen...a little larger though! No color set in our house...it hadn't even been invented yet I don't think. All of the old shows were in black and white anyway, so it didn't matter. There were very few shows to watch back then, compared to what we have today and we only had three networks, CBS, ABC and NBC. Back in the day, there were a few TV shows that I was basically raised with, one of them being a story about a sheriff of a small town in North Carolina (who knew I'd actually be living there one day?) and a cast of characters that we grew to love...we almost considered them part of the family.
Fast forward to Tuesday, July 3, 2012. This morning as I went through my usual ritual of reading the internet news pages, intermingled among all of the other bad news of the day was one story that stood out above all the others. I almost feel a sense of guilt that this sad story stood out. I mean, we are talking about terrible, out of control wildfires, horrific storms, record breaking heat with millions without power, etc., etc. And that is not counting all of the other negative stuff, including the awful stories of crime that has become the norm. But the one story that stirred my heart the most today was the story about the loss of one of the most admired men in television history - Andy Griffith. Now, this doesn't mean that my heart doesn't go out to everyone whose lives have been disrupted and torn apart due to these tragedies - it's just just that on top of all of the other "bad news", anyone that was a fan of Andy's ...well, I'm sure their hearts were broken as this news came to light as well. My brother, Jerry comes to mind. He loves Andy, Barney, Gomer and everything Mayberry. I think he has every season of the show on DVD.
There aren't many days that go by that I don't get to catch at least one episode of the Andy Griffith Show that plays repeatedly on TV Land and many local channels. On the days I am working, I get off at 5:00 and when I have the television to myself, which is about half of the time due to Jim's work schedule, one of the first things I do after I get home is turn the TV to our local Channel 2 and get set to watch "Andy" at 5:30...either before or during the time I am eating my dinner. I never seem to tire of watching those old shows. There was always an example to be set and a lesson to be learned....for the young and old alike. We even had a small group Bible Study at church called "Lessons Learned From Mayberry" that was based on right and wrong...something that too many people these days don't seem to relate to. It makes me sad that those types of shows aren't being made today - actually, they haven't been made in a very long time. Television shows reflect life. Is it any wonder why our airwaves are are crammed full of junk when we look at our world today? OK...I won't go any further with that one...but I could!
Anyway, back to Andy...and Mayberry. Out of all of the cast members of the show, there are only a few who are still living. Betty Lynn, who is the actress that played the part of Thelma Lou, Barney's girlfriend, is in her upper 80's and is living in Mt. Airy, NC, the town Mayberry was patterned after...also Andy's place of birth. Of course, most everyone knows it also as a well-known historical site for anyone who is an Andy junkie. Most of the others except for Opie and Gomer are gone now. Goober left us a few months ago and Barney and Aunt Bea have been gone for a good while now. Of course, Mayberry and everyone associated with it is fictional...we all know that. But what those wonderful actors portrayed was about life...life as we knew it back in a more simple and innocent time. I hope the Andy Griffith Show reruns will be played on TV for a long time to come.
Rest in peace, Andy. You and Barney are a team once again.