Our World Tuesday: Not Mayberry

Last week I read a book that compared Topsail Island to Mayberry.

Mayberry is the fictional North Carolina town that is the setting of the Andy Griffith Show, which ran from 1960 to1968.  It is a bucolic, rural Neverland in which the wisdom born of compassion rights all wrongs, and everyone goes to the same church picnic.

The point of the author of the book I was reading was to prove that Topsail is a place outside of our time, where old-fashioned values, time for your neighbor, and civility rule the day.  The corollary to this must be, of course, that we are living in a dark time.

This is ridiculous not only because Mayberry is a fiction but also because it does a disservice to the genuine goodness people make manifest in real time.  Romanticizing the past throws a wet blanket on the present by suggesting a moral superiority of a bygone era.  This approach is pessimistic, at best.  To say life was morally, socially, culturally better in the past is to say that we are inexorably heading down the slippery slope to some depraved wasteland of indecency and meanness.

To attribute moral, social, and cultural superiority to the era that brought us the paranoia and intolerance of McCarthyism, the Cold War, violently enforced discrimination, and the Korean and Vietnam not-wars is to suffer from a twisted view of virtue and a messed up view of the past.  The generation who brought us that junk should not be bragging about their table manners.

If Topsail is like Mayberry, it is not because it has not changed since the 1960s but because civility, kindness, and a respect for a slow pace shape the way people go about their lives here now in a way similar to the way they have in the past.  Consider:

The countless people who stay up nights to abide with the turtle people who sit the nests when the turtle eggs are due to hatch.  While going to the beach and taking in the stars and the phosphorescent surf is no hardship, doing so on a nightly basis in the hope of helping some hatchlings make their way safely to the ocean requires a commitment and a drop of selflessness.  The people who show up care that the young turtles will have a fighting chance and that the cycle of life will continue for these endangered animals.  

People weep, hug, and jump for joy when it’s safe for them to again move their feet once the turtles make their way to the sea.  People make friends in the dark because they know they are connected by this deep and considerable caring.  We know each other by voice during the day, and we are old friends because of our time on the beach in the dark watching life go on despite the ghost crab, the revelers with the fireworks, and the helicopters overhead.

The neighbors who urge you to take and enjoy their tomatoes because they will not be around to enjoy them. 

The mechanic who comes to your home after work to put together your adult tricycles so you can ride your dogs to the beach but who does not laugh at you when he discovers you put the rear axle and the handlebars on backwards.
The turtle people (them again) who arise early to check the beach for new nests and who clear the beach of trash night and day so that any turtle’s homecoming will be one worthy of the trouble.

The lady at iHop (in Jacksonville, but it’s close enough to be a part of Mayberry; call it Mount Pilot for our purposes) who paid for the lunches of the ladies sitting next to us without their knowing.  They found out only when they were ready to go.  Everybody around the was happy for them—even the waiter, who made my daughter feel like a queen when he complimented her Claddagh ring and said he wanted the design tattooed on his ankle.

The two police officers who kept a vigil with a stranded loon before the bird rescue people got there.

The neighbor who worked so hard to get all the kids on the street together to go tubing, kayaking, swimming—to have fun and be kids.
The neighbor who organized an impromptu 4th of July picnic and worked so hard to convince your dad that his grandson was a good boy.  Because his grandson and your daughter just might get along.

The shoppers at Food Lion with their mountains of groceries who let me leap frog to the head of the line to buy hydrogen peroxide.  I needed the stuff to make my little dog Maeve throw up after she got into the heart worm medication and ate a four-month supply.  My wonderful veterinarian in Connecticut, advised me to do this when I called at 9:30 p.m.--and he picked up on the first ring.

Chivalry.  Kindness.  Courtesy.  Generosity.  Beauty.  People bring these things wherever they go.  And sometimes they are so content, they see no need to change the architecture.

In looking back in search of the virtues that once made America great we are consigning ourselves to the scrap heap of medicrity here and now.  We are quitting our goodness.  We are not living in the past but in the present, and it's a pretty good place.  Thanks for being here.


  1. Your concluding words are a benediction, hard earned, that makes me say AMEN!!!!

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

  2. I agree, every era had it's problems and good qualities!

  3. Yes, I agree, too! Every era does indeed have their share of the good and the bad! Great post for the day, Sandy!

  4. Wonderful and interesting.

  5. what a sweet community you have found.

  6. Anonymous12:10 AM

    So true. You live in a wonderful place!

  7. I agree that no era is better than any other. We just need to pay attention to the good that's going on right now, right where we are.

  8. My mom always said that the goodness/evilness of this world is like a pendulum. We are always going back and forth. We just have to choose what one we want to look at.

  9. Sandy, I think Topsail is a lovely place to live. The people are loving and kind. I do think there is good and evil in this world. I am hoping the good wins out in the end. Have a happy week!

  10. i can see the correlation....i have been to mayberry in NC...or the town it was modeled after...and i can see the same in topsail...the kindness of people is def what stands out for me....

  11. Mayberry was just another US myth like Disneyland is today. When you have an uneducated society, its easy to dispense these myths. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  12. I bet most everyone could say these nice things about their community.

  13. We are going through a change, it is difficult! Hope it will be for better.

  14. This was lovely and I thank you for the privilege of the reading and viewing

  15. What a lovely write Sandy. What a special experience for you to share your love of turtles with others who share it. I agree with you about not romanticizing the past. I really enjoyed reading this.

  16. I love your version of Mayberry, which I have long admired even if it is not real. And that has to be the cutest little dog I ever saw!

  17. Interesting article, Sandy. Very good text and images.

  18. Every day I read the paper, watch the news watch todays movies and listen to todays kids, it scares me.
    Mayberry sounds pretty good.
    I like the small town feel of it.

    I think small towns are good for kids too.
    People are not bad but what they learn today just from TV and news is enough to hurt many a soul including my own.

    It saddens me every day.

  19. I love this so much Sandy! Such wise words, such lovely thoughts. I want to live in Topsail (but not in Mayberry).

    We actually visited the "real" Mayberry in NC by accident (I forget the actual name of the town, but the series was based on it and it is where whats-his-name grew up). They have big festivals of fans every year, yada yada yada..... it was OK to visit and all that, but afterwards, we talked about how things weren't really perfect in the 50s...for the reasons that you perfectly elucidate here.....

    Thanks for the things to think about.

  20. Sounds like a wonderful experience to watch for the turtles.

  21. Great post. My grandmother told me several times that she had no use for the good old days.

    There are a lot of nice people out there. Thanks for calling out those you know about. I'm convinced most people want to do right and when they don't it is because they don't know any better.

  22. Great post. I hate nostalgia for a time that never was. Whenever people talk about the "good old days" it makes me cringe. I remember when my Dad who was an Episcopalian minister came close to losing his job because his parishioners didn't like his civil rights stand in the 1960s, etc. etc. etc. I like how positive this post is.

  23. Sandy: While all of your posts are excellent, this one is your best! It lends a perspective of sanity to our current culture, and I really enjoyed this message. Refreshing!

  24. as a save the world believer, I shall love to be there to help the baby turtle get to the sea.

  25. Yes, there has always been both good, decent behavior and bad, rotten behavior in every generation.

  26. In some ways I agree with you, in others, I can see the point of this author. But always and at all times, there are good people, who go through life spreading sunshine and hope, living an ethical life that inspires others to reach for a higher standard in their own.

    I remember being a young girl in the 60's when a handshake was as good as a person's word. When people left their doors open, even at night, even in our city...do those kinds of things stand the test of time? I don't think as much as they could. But goodness will always prevail, if we don't give up on it.


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