A few days ago I watched the wonderful movie “Return to Mayberry.” It has a
very special meaning to me. I grew up in a town much smaller than Mayberry,
yet it was similar in many ways. The people there watched out for one
another and cared about each other. Oh, it wasn’t perfect by any means, and
perhaps I have selective memories, but I do have a very special place for my
hometown of Dorchester, Wisconsin.
Like Opie I was rather young when I lost a parent. My father worked away
from home for many years and only came home on occasional weekends, so I did
not spend much time with him growing up. Then suddenly he died when I was
just thirteen. So I grew up without having a father teach me the many
things a young boy needs to learn. My father wasn’t there, like Andy was
for Opie, to teach me how to fish. How I would have given anything to have
been able to sit along the bank of a lake with my father and just fish and
talk. There were so many times when I had a problem but no one to share it
with. I wouldn’t even have cared if I didn’t catch a fish all day. Just to
be there alone, my dad and me – that would have been enough.
When I was twenty one years old I moved away from Dorchester to begin my
career in teaching. I would go back often over the years to visit my mother
and other family members. But slowly over the years the people who were
there when I was young were no longer there. It seemed like each time I
went home another store had closed down and another new family had moved
into a house where I once spent time.
I often thought that I would some day go back and live in Dorchester. But
it never came to be. And now that I am retired, health issues require me to
stay in our town of 60,000 because of the health care facilities. When I
see Andy drive into Mayberry in “Return to Mayberry, after being gone for so
many years I cannot help but envy him. He was able to return to his
hometown. Although many of his friends and family were no longer there,
many would welcome his return. Going home after so many years would never
be the same. Everything will have changed. But still, he was going home.
When I first saw “Return to Mayberry” I was very moved by the scene in which
Andy went to visit Aunt Bee at the cemetery. I was so moved by it that it
motivated me to do something. Shortly thereafter my wife Linda and I bought
our cemetery lots in Dorchester. Since then we have also added our
headstone. When we went “home” a few weeks ago I took a walk through the
cemetery. Very close to where out final resting place will be there are
many familiar names. Both my parents are just a short distance away as well
as are my grandparents, several aunts and uncles, a childhood neighbor, and
even a former teacher. Not far away I found the resting place of the man
who gave me my first job. Everywhere I went memories came flooding back to
my mind as I stopped and read the names of people who were part of my life
when I was a young boy.
Many may consider me to be overly emotional but I find comfort to know that
I will someday be going back home to a place that meant so much to me.
There is closeness and something special about growing up and living in a
small rural community. People who are born in large impersonal cities miss
so much. It is a hard thing to explain, but I am sure those of you have had
similar experiences can understand what I am saying.
That’s the wonderful thing about having a passion for Mayberry. One never
knows when it will enter our daily lives. I would never have guessed back
in 1960 when I saw the first episode of TAGS that it would have such an
impact on my life.
Kenneth Anderson is a regular contributor and is working on a book of Mayberry reflections. Details to be announced soon.
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The Mayberry Poem – A Tribute to Mayberry
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