My heart fell this morning when I heard the news that the beloved actor, Andy Griffith, had passed. Through the cold Chicago winters, and hot summers as well, my sisters and I would park in front of the TV when the The Andy Griffith Show would come on. Decades later, I remember telling my daughter to turn off the TV to get to sleep for school as she begged for one more half hour because Andy was on. I usually gave her that half hour.
The Andy Griffith Show had a kind of timeless humor. For a brief time we are transported to that little town in North Carolina, where the characters welcome us to a simpler time. We can be guaranteed a few laughs and the world rights itself in a half hour. Is it any wonder we’re still drawn to it? The series incorporated many of Andy Griffith’s memories of his home town of Mount Airy, North Carolina. That’s where we find Andy living with his parents, Carl and Geneva Griffith in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. federal censuses.
Like his character, he came from humble roots. His father worked in a furniture factory, as a laborer in 1930 and band saw operator in 1940. His salary of $850 per year was enough that the family owned their home at 197 Haymore Street in Mount Airy.
By 1940, Andy’s six years in school had already eclipsed the education levels of both of his parents, and he would go on to finish high school in Mount Airy. Five days before his eighteenth birthday, on 2 June 1944, he registered for the World War II draft.
Having just graduated from high school at the time of the draft, he doesn’t have a job at the time, but soon he was off to college where he was active in music and drama. His yearbook shows he was president of the Men’s Glee Club in 1947 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
He was also a member of the musical fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha at UNC.
His education and talent in music, comedy and drama paid dividends that will benefit generations to come. Andy Griffith made us feel like he was our next door neighbor and we could sit down with him and forget about the troubles in the world. His legacy is the smile that comes to our lips we recall a more innocent time – a time when humor was less about shock value and more about uplifting our spirits.