Snorts & Giggles
Once Upon A Time in Mayberry . . . I Mean, Westminster, South Carolina!

(As told to me by Barbara Waters, the daughter of former Westminster, South Carolina police chief Virgil Hardy on July 27, 2006)
When one thinks of Sheriff Andy Taylor and his slightly dimwitted (but likable) deputy Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show, it's hard to dismiss how quiet, laid back and crime-free the fictional town of Mayberry appears to be. On rare occasion, Deputy Fife might be forced to retrieve a bullet from his shirt pocket to load his gun, but the subsequent chain of events upon doing so is usually not pleasant---for him, that is! Decades following the debut of the hugely popular sitcom, we are all still amused and entertained . . . even after seeing the same episodes many times over. It makes you wonder what is so alluring about the show, doesn't it?

Some viewers probably receive some stress relief as they watch the show's characters humorously get in and out of mischief. And others likely admire the sense of family and camaraderie shared by Mayberry's residents---something so few of us experience today. But, maybe, some fans of The Andy Griffith Show actually recall living in a Mayberry of their own, and the program conjures up images of real-life counterparts to folks like Aunt Bee (who is an excellent cook and can really make a piano smoulder once she's had a . . . hiccup, excuse me! . . . nip of Colonel Harvey's Indian Elixir); Floyd, the barber (who knows exactly what you're talking about when you ask for a shave and a haircut, but you don't want to look like you just got a haircut); Gomer (whose ability to make an old clunker purr like a kitten is only rivaled by his inimitable trademark by-word, "Shezam!"); Clara (the lovable, yet nosy neighbor whose homemade pickles are really deserving of the blue ribbon at the county fair . . . because they don't taste like kerosene!); and, Otis (the town drunk and frequent jail cell occupant who . . . well, okay . . . lives up to his reputation).

Having never resided in a Mayberry of my own, it's hard for me to fathom such a place or environment. I'm always fascinated when older folks talk about living in an era in which you slept with the doors unlocked, offered a passing stranger a good hot meal and never hesitated to give a hitchhiker a ride. Undoubtedly, crime existed, but rural areas and small southern towns had significantly less of it. No one expected anything major to happen because it never had before.

That's why I'll bet the adrenaline was really pumping when Virgil Hardy, police chief of Westminster, South Carolina, received a tip back in the early 1950s that a crime---a big one, at that!---was about to take place. Barbara Waters, his daughter, relates, "Daddy had gotten word somebody was coming to rob M. D. Cleveland's place." Marshall D. Cleveland operated a wholesale foods company that supplied grocery stores and, of all places, the business was located across the street from the police station. Laughing hysterically, Waters recalls her father "came home and got bullets for his gun." Literally! Of course, it wasn't funny at the time. "Mother and I were livid. We stayed up all night waiting on him," she says. Meanwhile, Waters indicates that her father and Officer Gary Brock "stayed all night inside that building," but no criminals ever showed up.

Sounds like a lost episode of The Andy Griffith Show to me, but it was just another day in Mayberry . . . dadgumit, I meant Westminster, South Carolina!

Author:  Greg Freeman.  Published July 27, 2006.

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