Most of us remember the idyllic small town of Mayberry from watching The Andy Griffith Show and the spin off Mayberry R.F.D. in the 1960’s. Later generations have enjoyed decades of reruns of these iconic television shows. What is the attraction of this fictional North Carolina town of 5,360 residents that was run by a caring sheriff and his bumbling deputy?
The town had one traffic light, one long distance telephone line and the most criminal activity might be public intoxication or an attempt to rob the Mayberry Savings Bank, whose security guard was prone to falling asleep on the job.
The houses in Mayberry were modest, 1930’s styled, with big porches and within walking distance to town. The Courthouse is where Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife protected the citizens and gave weekly advice. The underused jail of 2 cells was located there, along with the Mayor’s office. I never remember hearing much from the Mayor.
Who could forget Floyd the barber, Walker’s drug store and soda shop, Weaver’s Department Store and Wally’s Filling Station? We cared about Andy’s son Opie, his Aunt Bee along with all the other characters as if they were our neighbors. We were attracted to the small-town charm of Mayberry.
Benicia has been described as Mayberryish. There are some similarities, but to be honest, I never thought the comparison was very complimentary. A recent visitor from New York City was told by his UBER driver that Benicia is like Mayberry in color.
The City of Benicia, through its Economic Development Office, established a tourism program and marketing plan for Benicia 10 years ago. The goal was to attract visitors to Benicia using the tag line “A Gre
at Day by the Bay.” Jack Wolf, of Wolf Communications, was hired to promote the waterfront town as a cool place to dine, shop, explore California history and discover the arts. In the last decade Jack Wolf put the town on the map, and in doing so he fell in love with Benicia.
Jack passed away this last December on Christmas Eve. My last conversation with him was filled with new ideas for marketing the charm of Benicia. At his memorial service held recently in Santa Rosa, the photos on the wall pictured Jack with his family and friends through the years. It also had a curious display of posters and sayings from The Andy Griffith Show and the town of Mayberry. His friends talked about his fondness for the show as a kid growing up and later as an adult. At last I figured out the connection between Benicia and Mayberry. Besides the quirky characters in both towns, there is an authenticity that is hard to come by in 2019.
In a song by Rascal Flatts entitled “Mayberry,” a line goes “Well I miss Mayberry sitting on the porch drinking ice cold Cherry Coke where everything is black and white.”
Jack Wolf will be honored in Benicia with a bench at the waterfront at the end of First Street, paid for by the membership of the Benicia Downtown Business Alliance. The plaque on the bench was donated by those of us who worked with Jack and shared his vision and love for Benicia…. Mayberry in color.