Smith: Lessons of Mayberry more important now than ever

Published 9:13 pm Friday, March 14, 2014

By Dan Smith, TPRD director

Mayberry was a town in North Carolina – a fictional community – with only one traffic light, one long-distance telephone line, and a sheriff that was a teacher to America about morals and values more than he was an officer of the law.

The Andy Griffith Show began in 1960 before special effects and color television, and some 54 years later, remains a standard of classic entertainment.

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But more than the laughs and wholesome story lines, the Andy Griffith Show always had a lesson. Whether Andy was leading by example, or learning a lesson himself, there is no show that mirrors what is good about life and American values.

Consider these examples and lessons: We learned Andy was always an example of patience and reason, never losing his temper.

If there is a youth baseball coach in Troy that carries those standards today, it is Sam Kitchens. Coach Kitchens has been coaching the baseball youth of Troy for 40 years, and has never been thrown out of a game by an umpire.

Not once.

We learned Andy Griffith was a great coach.

No, he never stood on the sidelines or in the third base coach’s box on television, but as a single parent he was always teaching Opie the difference between right and wrong. In recreation sports coaches are challenged to teach the fundamentals of athletics to young people, but many teach more about respect, responsibilities and values to children.

Today, we may not carry the lineup card to an umpire before a game, but we are all coaches to all children about something in life – not always about athletics – but about fundamental values of integrity, rules and laws.

We learned by example that Mayberry was a strong community.

Like many towns in the South, Mayberry was a place where everyone knew everyone, there was great community pride, and they were willing to help their neighbors in times of need.

We learned a lesson that honesty is always the best policy.

Andy tried to sell an old cannon in Mayberry to an out of towner, saying the eyesore of a cannon helped lead the charge by Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill. This of course was not entirely accurate.

Later in the show Andy reprimanded Opie for selling some “Magic Beans” to another kid, and Opie keeps asking Andy, “Isn’t this the same thing as the story about the cannon?” Andy said it was different, but finally understands that his white lie about the cannon was the same as Opie’s story about the magic beans, and Andy apologized to Opie and the out of towner.

We learned that it is possible to accomplish something without hurting someone’s pride.

Barney was the worst singer in the community church choir, but by telling him to sing very, very, soft into a “special” microphone – while another man with a talented voice sang backstage unbeknownst to Barney – the choir sounded magnificent, while Barney was on top of the world.

We learned that we should be held accountable for our own actions. Opie enjoyed his slingshot, but he killed a bird, leaving behind a nest of young birds. With Andy’s guidance, Opie raised the small birds until they could go out on their own.

We learned lessons about respect and authority.

Andy never carried a gun. He believed his badge, the way he carried himself, the way he dealt with issues, and the way he talked to people, would gain respect more than wearing a gun.

With the advent of reruns and Netflix, we can watch every episode of Andy Griffith, and remind ourselves of while life may not be as simple as it once was, we are still able to raise our children on a path of every core family value that our country so desperately needs and is lacking.

A television series is not going to change American culture, but one by one, each person is accountable for their own actions. With proper teaching, they are examples for young people – and adults – to witness.

(Special thanks to former Troy City School Principal David Helms for this story suggestion. Mr. Helms would have easily been right at home living on Maple Street in Mayberry.)