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Andy Griffith Museum salutes actor’s career

By Gary McCullough
Correspondent

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    The Andy Griffith Museum, 218 Rockford St. in Mount Airy, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday (closed for holidays). Admission: $3. Details: 336-786-7998; www.andygriffithmuseum.com.



The Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy showcases all manner of memorabilia from the actor’s long stage, screen and TV career. Programs, posters, photographs, and props are plentiful. All are part of the private collection of Emmett Forrest, a childhood classmate and lifelong friend of his town’s most famous native son.

Distance

Mount Airy is 104 miles from Charlotte, about a 1 3/4-hour drive.

To see and do

Pieces of Forrest’s extensive collection have been displayed at various sites over the years, but it wasn’t until 2009 that a building specifically designed to house the Andy Griffith Museum was completed. The facility brims with the kinds of collectibles fans love to see – original movie posters and lobby cards, signed photographs and, of course, numerous items from the beloved “Andy Griffith Show.”

Among the many props are the keys to the Mayberry jail; Sheriff Taylor’s desk; the office chair used by Don Knotts (bronzed, and autographed by 72 members of the show’s cast and crew); the “Sheriff” and “Justice of the Peace” signs that hung on the Mayberry courthouse doors; Otis’ ragamuffin coat, hat and tie; and one of Sheriff Taylor’s shirts. Another artifact is sheet music for the show’s catchy theme song, signed by composer Earle Hagen. Not everything in the museum relates to Andy Griffith – there is memorabilia from the careers of several other cast members, in particular Betty Lynn (“Thelma Lou”), who now makes her home in Mount Airy, and the late Don Knotts.

Some of the interesting items have to do with Andy’s early life and fledgling career. Among these is the hand-crafted rocking chair Carl Griffith made for his wife, Geneva, in which to rock their newborn son, Andy. Others are programs from the outdoor drama “The Lost Colony”: It was while Griffith was honing his stage skills at Manteo’s Waterside Theatre that he met his first wife, fellow cast member Barbara Edwards, who played the role of Eleanor Dare. (He played Sir Walter Raleigh.) Also displayed is a weathered souvenir from a UNC football game Griffith attended in the early 1930s, the memories of which inspired his recording “What It Was, Was Football,” the rollicking comic classic still heard occasionally over the airwaves today, usually during football season. Among the items that have the most meaning for Forrest, whom Griffith affectionately referred to as “keeper of the flame,” are candid photographs taken of the actor during a rare visit to his childhood home a few years ago.

On that visit, Andy was able to spend some quiet time away from the crowds revisiting a few of the important places from his childhood. Not the least of these was the old Rockford Street Grammar School auditorium – now the Andy Griffith Playhouse – where, as a third-grader, Andy made his stage debut, performing a solo version of “Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet” at a student assembly program. Many years older on this return trim but no less inclined to please his audience, Griffith again took the stage, clasped his hands behind his back and, rocking gently side to side, reprised the song to the delight of his listeners.

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