Published Friday, July 06, 2012
The death of Andy Griffith this week has touched many hearts. According to CNN, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue said the state has lost its “favorite son.”
He may have been just an actor in his role of Andy Taylor, sheriff of Mayberry, but he was so much more to many of us who grew up watching every single episode.
It wasn’t just the pure and simple lifestyle he helped to portray; it was the people and the moral lessons shared every time we gathered to watch the show. It was also characters like his son Opie or Aunt Bee, whose apple pies were known throughout Mayberry.
I was two years old when the first show debuted in 1960, but as soon as I was old enough I’d race to the living room, grab that big round dial on the TV set, and ca-chunk, ca-chunk, ca-chunk, turn the channel to the Andy Griffith Show.
We only had three channels to choose from back then and without the modern conveniences of remote controls, the kids in the house were the designated channel changers.
Television entertainment in the 1960s meant viewing shows like That Girl, The Bob Newhart Show, I Love Lucy, My Three Sons, Dick Van Dyke and more. Among those, my other favorites were Gilligan’s Island, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Ed Sullivan and of course, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.
Mom and dad stayed up late to watch Johnny Carson, but every single Sunday night after dinner we would turn on the set in time for it to warm up before The Lawrence Welk Show came on. Mom would swoon over the handsome baritone Tom Netherton while dad, his pipe clinched in his teeth, smiled as the Lennon Sisters harmonized.
By the late ‘60s my brother and I outgrew the music of Lawrence Welk and began retreating to our rooms when it came on. Mom and dad would continue watching the show as long as it aired.
My husband and I grew up just a few blocks from one another and television viewing in his family evolved the same way. He and I dismissed the Welk style of music in favor of the up and coming '70s but we continued to embrace all of the other shows from our 1960's childhoods.
I am so blessed to have grown up with such unpolluted entertainment. Even better, Andy remained just as wholesome a persona in real life.
With entertainment news clearly light years from what we have today, we were allowed to embrace the actor and the character as a solid role model. I don’t know if Andy’s lifestyle had any major flaws and I don’t really care to know, just as I don’t care to know the sexual habits of people like Anderson Cooper. It’s his own business and shouldn’t reflect whether he is qualified to be a news anchor or talk show host.
Were our heads stuck in 1960's sand? Probably. Were some of the television stars that we admired involved in not-so-wholesome activities? Most likely. But at least with the heads in sand approach we were able to believe for those thirty minutes in front of the television.
Today’s reality shows, talk shows and sitcoms remind me that the days of wholesome entertainment is no doubt far behind us, never to return again. It would be a hard sell for Hollywood studios to buy a script that focused on things like telling the truth, helping others, going fishing and waiting for an apple pie to cool.
But that’s the beauty of Andy Taylor and all he portrayed. Safe, clean and wholesome. I’ll have a slice of that any day.
Kathy Bohannon is a Georgia Press Association award winner and regular contributor to The Newnan Times-Herald.