Rotary Club quizzed on Andy Griffith Show

Published 8:30 am Saturday, September 16, 2023

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WEST POINT — The West Point Rotary Club had a fun program on Thursday. Program Chairman Larry Nix quizzed them on trivia from the Andy Griffith Show. Most members of the club were familiar with the TV show after watching it when they were young and seeing its reruns over the years. The popular sitcom ran for eight years in the 1960s.

The first episode aired on CBS on Oct. 3, 1960,, and the final one of April 1, 1968.

The first episode was entitled “The Housekeeper.” Andy’s Aunt Bea was coming to live with him and young son Opie. The housekeeper she was replacing was leaving to get married and Opie didn’t like her being replaced. Opie didn’t take to Aunt Bea at all and it reached the point where she was going to admit failure and tearfully leave. Opie intervened, saying “Don’t go, Aunt Bea, you need me! You can’t fish, play baseball or do anything. You need me to teach you!”

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Some Andy Griffith trivia questions included: “What kind of ammunition is Deputy Barney Fife equipped with?’” Answer: One bullet in his short pocket; “What’s the name of the town drunk who sometimes rides into town on a cow?” Answer: Otis Campbell; “What was the name of the waitress at the diner Barney would call on the phone? Answer: Juanita.

Of course, Thelma Lou was Barney’s best-known girlfriend.

Thelma Lou was played by the actress Betty Lynn. She lived to be 95 and was living in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s hometown, when she died in 2021. In her later years, she directed tours of the original Mayberry, taking them to the town diner, and recreated versions of a sheriff’s office, jail and Wally’s Filling Station.

Aunt Bea was played by Frances Bavier, who was an attractive showgirl when she appeared on stage in the New York City theater of the 1920s. She was living in Siler City, a town mentioned a lot on the Andy Griffith Show, when she died at age 87 in 1989. Aunt Bea was well known for the meals she could prepare but never mastered the art for making one food item, pickles.

Her best friend was next-door-neighbor Clara Edwards, who was a master at making them. She won the blue ribbon for making pickles 12 years in a row.

Clara was portrayed by Hope Summers (1902-1979). She was one of only five characters who played in all eight seasons of the show.

Andy was the sheriff of the fictional town of Mayberry and Barney was his trusted deputy. Andy had a number of girlfriends during the running of the show. The best known was Helen, a school teacher played by Aneta Corsaut. In one of her first roles, Corsaut co-starred with Steve McQueen in the 1958 science fiction classic “The Blob.” She died of cancer in 1995 at age 62.

One of Andy’s earlier girlfriends, Peggy, was played by Georgia native Joanna Moore. While she was in only four episodes of the show, she made a lasting impression for many.

Moore was born Dorothy Joanne Cook in Americus, Georgia. When she was a child, her parents and a younger sister were involved in a fatal car accident. Her mother and sister were killed and her father lingered for a year before he died. Joanna was adopted by a wealthy family in Americus. They supported her in an acting career that spanned the 20-year period from 1956 to 1976. She was in 17 feature films and in nearly 100 TV appearances. From 1963 to 1967, she was married to well-known actor Ryan O’Neal. They had two children, a son named Griffin and a daughter named Tatum.

When she was just 10 years old in 1973, Tatum O’Neal became the youngest actress to win an Academy Award for her role in “Paper Moon.”

One had to be well-versed in Mayberry trivia to answer some of the questions Nix posed. For example, “What did Newton Monroe sell Floyd the barber?”

Monroe, played by well-known comedian Don Rickles, sold Floyd a watch that worked well for one day before going completely haywire. Goober had similar luck with a transistor radio.

Monroe was a hard-luck salesman who went from town to town selling items out of the trunk of his car.

There were other hard-luck salesmen on the show. Another Georgia native, Sterling Holloway, played Bert Miller, a door-to-door salesman who had gotten awfully tired of ringing them doorbells.

Holloway grew up in Cedartown and is best remembered for being the original voice of Winnie the Pooh.

Wilber Finch was the traveling shoe salesman in a memorable episode of Andy Griffith. He’s not much of a salesman but sets a company record for single-day sales when the men of the town believe he’s a talent scout from New York City. They converge on his downtown hotel room to buy shoes while a family member displays their talent to him.

One member of the club said his favorite episode was the one where Barney and Floyd were being held at gunpoint by three escaped convicts, all of whom were women. They’d run out of gas on their way home from a fishing trip when captured by the women, who had been staying in a remote cabin. The woman were led by a heavy-set, overbearing woman named Maude (alias Ralph Henderson). While they were in the cabin cooking hamburgers, Andy and the cabin owner, a Mr. O’Malley, lured them outside and captured them one by one. Much to their surprise, Floyd seemed to enjoy the experience of being at the mercy of women.

“I loved the part at the end when all the women had been captured and Floyd came outside and said ‘If those hamburgers get burned I won’t be responsible!’” the club member said.

That episode first aired in 1962 and would be the last one actor Howard McNear was seen standing up. Shortly after the episode was filmed he had a debilitating stroke, which left part of his body paralyzed. He was away from the show for a year-and-a-half while recovering. Andy Griffith persuaded him to come back, and he would be a regular for several more seasons. He was always shown sitting down. He died of complications from the stroke in 1969.

Andy Griffith was the only actor in all 249 episodes in the show’s eight-year run. Deputy Fife (Don Knotts), Opie (Ron Howard), Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier) and Clara (Hope Summers) were the only actors who appeared in all man seasons.

A later TV series starring Andy Griffith actually lasted longer than the Mayberry sitcom. “Matlock” was on for nine years (1986-1995). In the show, Griffith portrayed Ben Matlock, a folksy, sometimes cantankerous defense attorney many believe was based on an actual Georgia attorney, Bobby Lee Cook.

Griffith died in 2012 at age 86 in his home on Roanoke Island, N.C. At his funeral, Ron Howard (Opie) praised him for his creativity and ability to hold things together.

“The spirit he created on The Andy Griffith Show was joyful and professional all at once,” he said. “It was an amazing environment. I think it was a reflection of the way he felt about having the opportunity to create something people could enjoy. He felt he was working in service of an audience he really respected and cared about. He was a great influence on me. His passing is sad, but he lived a great, rich life.”

After appearing as Opie, Howard later became well known as Richie Cunningham on the TV series “Happy Days.” He has had a very successful career not only as an actor but also as a director, producer and screenwriter. Over his career, he has received two Academy Awards, four Emmys, two Golden Globes and a Grammy. He was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2003 and inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2013.