If you know me at all, you probably know that I am a huge Andy Griffith fan; more precisely I am a fan of the Andy Griffith show. I grew up watching it, still follow the reruns and usually can identify the episode after only watching a few minutes. The stories of Mayberry, of simpler times, and southern grace just always made me smile, not to mention the memorable characters like Barney, Otis, Floyd, Earnest T, Briscoe Darling and so many more. Like countless others, I was saddened to learn of Andy’s passing this week.
Many folks think we live in a version of Mayberry here in Bryson City. We are a small town that will never get very big because of land constraints. We had a local barber that knew everyone and gave everyone the same haircut (whitewalls and all) no matter what style you requested. We have the local gas station where everyone likes to hang out (for many years including the mayor) sharing news and gossip. We even had a local businessman capture a bank robber on Main Street a few years back (“Citizens arrest; citizens arrest” as Gomer would say). So as not to offend anyone, I won’t comment on the possibility of a Barney Fife in the Police Department.
But it is comfortable in our little town, where most folks know each other and our simple pleasures include going to the ice cream shop, attending Little League games, and having town festivals with craft booths, local music, and lots of food (our Freedom Fest complete with fireworks was this past week). We like the slow pace, not much traffic, and peaceful setting.
I read an article by Ted Anthony entitled “Andy Griffith evoked, stylized small town America”. He quotes a 24 year women who said “It’s kind of like ‘Oh this is how it used to be’ and ‘Why isn’t it this way still?’ Things were so much simpler back then’. His article concludes sadly this way:
“Americans loved, and still love, the notion of the small town as a manageable, nonthreatening, friendly, finite community-an idea all but upended in the 21st century, where the truly isolated town is, for all practical purposes, no more. The black and white world that Andy Griffith shaped so masterfully is there for our perusal from a distance, but it is not coming back-either on television or anywhere else”.
I hope he is wrong. We are seeing trends of folks leaving the rural environment and moving back to urban settings where there are more jobs and opportunities. But I still believe there is a place for the small town and more importantly the small town feeling. For if we loose that feeling, we have really lost the essence of Americana.
For many years now, we have be discussing the future of Hemlock Inn debating how much change we need to make to be attractive to the newer younger traveler. It is a compelling discussion, because there are things that do need to change, but we never want to mess with the underlying character of the inn. This includes a quiet peaceful setting, simple pleasures such as hot coffee around a fireplace and homecooked family meals preceded by a blessing. We believe in family vacations, couple get aways, and a wholesome place where everyone feels comfortable and at ease. We want to embrace many of the values Andy Griffith evoked in mythical Mayberry. We still think that many folks are looking for such a place…maybe even you.
Rest in peace Andy and long live the spirit of Mayberry found in communities like Bryson City and at Hemlock Inn.