Mount Airy

by

Mount Airy


     My dad is a champion whistler. The family has encouraged him to compete in Louisburg's International Whistlers Competition, and we've no doubt he'd take it, but once he found out the complexities of the rules, he wasn't interested. I did not inherit the whistling gift from him. But like all good Southern lads, I could whistle at least two tunes - Sesame Street, and the intro to The Andy Griffith Show.

Photo credit: Ian Underwood

     It was a sad day this past July 3rd, when we North Carolinians, Southerners, Americans, and good people everywhere lost Andy Griffith.  I felt it my duty to head to Mt. Airy -- known to the outside world as Mayberry -- to pay my respects to a legend. For the uninitiated, Mt. Airy is located in the shade of Pilot Mountain, at the crossroads of US 52 and US 601, not far off of I-74. Main street is 4 blocks of eateries, antique shops, Mayberry gift shops, and Southern boutiques.  Classic cars lined the street and old men sat on benches watching (us) tourists stroll the sidewalks. There is the obligatory museum, ghost tours, kitsch shops, but if you are of the child-rearing kind, you may want to give special attention to the Mayberry Sheriff car tours available.

Photo credit: Ian Underwood

     My tour through the antique shops found a good representation of Coca-Cola bottles from the now-closed Mount Airy bottling plant, as well as memories of stock-car auto racing and down-home North Carolina at its best. [pic 2518] I chuckled when I found an old tobacco bunch mounted to hang on a wall, thinking "what city slicker would buy that?!" After bringing it close and breathing deep, I was transported instantly to my childhood autumns, when the air was filled with curing bright-leaf. I found out exactly what kind of city slicker buys dried tobacco bunches.


     Of the specialty shops on Main St, you'll want to check out the Old Toy Shop, which specializes in -- you guessed it. Lots of cool old school in here to spark the imaginations of the digital youth. Barney's Ice Cream parlor is another favorite, especially if you decide to head there on a hot summer day like I did. If you want to hit up the correct-to-TV Land Snappy's Diner, go early! The line is down the sidewalk at lunch time, with standing room only once you get inside.

Photo credit: Ian Underwood

   Other local attractions include the gravesite of the conjoined twins Eng and Chang Bunker, who made their home just outside of town, and who were the first twins to have coined the phrase "Siamese twins." There are miles of roads waiting to be ridden by bicycle and motorcycle alike, especially as we come to the fall once again. And if you happen to visit during Columbus Day Weekend this year (Oct 12-14), you will be a guest of The Autumn Leaves Festival held downtown, offering food, crafts, and music - highly recommended! And besides the Museum of Regional History (alluded to above), there is the more specific Andy Griffith Museum, which is worth a visit, and brings me back to the point of my trip.

Photo credit: Ian Underwood

     The Andy Griffith Museum is open every day, and admission is $3. Outside is a statue straight from the opening credits of the Andy Griffith Show, of Andy and Opie headed to the fishin' hole. Since I was there to pay my respects only a few days after his death, this part of town was very touching.  There were flowers, ribbons, and notes from people all across the area, a tribute to how this man had touched so many lives and marked a passing of innocence from a simpler time. I hear that there was similar tribute paid at the statue of Andy in Pullen Park in Raleigh. If you watched this show every day growing up, if Andy meant something to you as a mentor, as a great human being, and as a man to be remembered, keep it in your thoughts to come by this place and reflect on what you can do to make the world a little more like Mayberry.

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     For more information on things to do and see, places to visit and stay, and special events happening in the area, check out www.visitmayberry.com. Whether you're passing close or plan a trip just to come here, I'd encourage it. Grab a young person to enjoy the experience with you, and teach them the glory of American small-town Southern values, black and white television, a Coke and a burger, and how to whistle. [pic 2522]

 

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