I remember laying on my parent’s bed watching reruns of the “The Andy Griffith Show” on their nine-inch black and white television. Don Knotts’ antics as Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife made him my favorite character. It was because of this memory that I jumped at the chance to visit the newly renovated Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, just two hours from Charlotte.
Andy Griffith, who played the main character Sheriff Andy Taylor in the TV series, “The Andy Griffith Show,” grew up in Mount Airy, N.C. in the 1930s and 1940s. The town served as the model for the TV show, but it was never filmed in Mount Airy.
“The Andy Griffith Show” ran for eight years with unforgettable characters like Sheriff Andy Taylor, Opie, Otis, Aunt Bee and Floyd. Each episode featured a problem to be solved, usually with a moral lesson attached. Sometimes it was an outrageous dilemma, like when a goat ate a crate of dynamite in the episode, “The Loaded Goat,” and had to be guided out of town.
The museum’s collection contains many gifts given to Emmett Forrest, Griffith’s lifelong friend. These show artifacts, along with personal letters from Griffith, were used to open the museum.
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“Daddy always said his crown jewels were the two signs from the courthouse door,” said Terri Forrest Champney, Forrest’s daughter. “They are seen on every show.” According to Champney, the signs were given to her father in 2002 by Griffith, years after Forrest saw them hanging in Griffith’s workshop in Maneo, N.C.
The museum captures the show’s memories in a large one room interactive museum. Photos, video and memorabilia like the gavel from the courtroom desk, Barney’s suits and Sheriff Taylor’s jail keys are on display to see.
The museum features Griffith’s life – his time performing in Lost Colony in Maneo, N.C., his “Matlock” days and musical career. Listen to “What it was, was football,” Griffith’s comedy routine on a Raleigh radio station that catapulted his career.
“He [my father] was so proud,” said Champney of her father’s reaction to the museum. “The best part of watching him in the museum was he watching people enjoy the museum.”
The Andy Griffith Museum, 218 Rockford St., Mount Airy, N.C., 27030
Admission: $8, 13 and over; $6, 12 and under; Free, 2 and under
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday; Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
1. Take cash for Mount Airy shops; some don’t accept debit or credit cards.
2. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to drive short distances for the museum and jail, and the courtroom replica.
3. Try the “Famous Pork Chop Sandwich” at Snappy Lunch, where Andy Griffith ate as a kid.
4. Reserve space for one of the Squad Car Tours for a lively ride through all of Mount Airy’s sites. $35 for carload, up to five. I recommend Don “Nuts” Bunn for a driver if you want the “Nip it in the bud” experience.
5. Check out what’s playing at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, Historic Earl Theatre and Blackmon Amphitheatre.