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Old photos from “The Andy Griffith Show” and a script from the “Return to Mayberry” movie sit on a table at Betty Lynn’s new home in Mount Airy, N.C. Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on the show, recently left her California home and moved to Mount Airy, Griffith’s boyhood hometown.
AP photo by Gerry Broome
Old photos from “The Andy Griffith Show” and a script from the “Return to Mayberry” movie sit on a table at Betty Lynn’s new home in Mount Airy, N.C. Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on the show, recently left her California home and moved to Mount Airy, Griffith’s boyhood hometown.

After L.A. break-ins, ‘Thelma Lou’ moves to Andy Griffith’s hometown in N.C.

By Allen G. Breed
AP National Writer

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — On the drive home from the Los Angeles airport, there was a particular billboard along La Cienega Boulevard that always gave Betty Lynn a chuckle. “This Ain’t Mayberry!” it declared.

As if she needed a reminder of that fact, the West Hollywood home where Lynn had lived since 1950 was broken into twice last year.

“That made it for me,” the 81-year-old actress says. “I just was too frightened to stay. So I thought, I’ve got to find some place I feel safe.”

When she reflected on what safe meant to her — and what “home” meant, for that matter — one place stood out.

And life imitated art.

The woman who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show” moved more than 2,100 miles to Mount Airy — Griffith’s hometown and one of the inspirations for the fictional Mayberry.

Lynn knows this ain’t Mayberry either. It never existed, really.

But she figures this picturesque town in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains is about as close to Mayberry as she’s going to get. In this life, anyway.

“There’s no place like it, unless it’s heaven,” she says over a lunch of hot coffee and a hamburger with onions at a local country club.

Despite a career that spanned more than a half century and saw her starring opposite such luminaries as Bette Davis and Natalie Wood, Lynn remains best known for her turn as Deputy Barney Fife’s steady girl.

Though she was in just 25 episodes and made her final appearance 41 years ago, Lynn continues to be adored by legions of Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club members and sought after by nostalgia seekers. Like other veterans of a show whose scripts have been used in college courses and Sunday school lessons, she has basked in Mayberry’s benign afterglow.

Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show,” pauses at a statue of Andy and Opie Taylor in Mount Airy, N.C. Lynn, 81, recently left her California home and moved to Mount Airy, Griffith’s boyhood hometown.
AP photo by Gerry Broome
Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show,” pauses at a statue of Andy and Opie Taylor in Mount Airy, N.C. Lynn, 81, recently left her California home and moved to Mount Airy, Griffith’s boyhood hometown.
Nowhere does that reflected light shine brighter than in Mount Airy.

Griffith has long insisted that Mayberry wasn’t based on his hometown, despite references to real Mount Airy people, businesses — like the Snappy Lunch, which still serves a mean pork-chop sandwich on Main Street — and local landmarks like Pilot Mountain. But don’t bother telling that to the chamber of commerce.

Check local phone listings and you’ll find no fewer than three dozen businesses with “Mayberry” in their names. There’s Mayberry on Main, the Mayberry Five & Dime, a Mayberry Kountry Kitchen — even a Mayberry Septic Pumping Service.

And if that don’t beat ever’thang, there’s Floyd’s City Barbershop, right next door to Opie’s Candy Store, Aunt Bea’s Garden (note the scrupulous avoidance of the proper spelling, “Aunt Bee”), Wally’s Service, Goober’s restaurant, Thelma Lou’s Puppy Parlor, not to mention the many “Andy’s” this-n-thats.

Griffith rarely makes an appearance here these days. But walk along the picture-perfect Main Street lined with late 19th- and early 20th-century brick storefronts, and loudspeakers playing vintage Griffith comedy sketches fill the air with his unmistakable homespun twang.

For Betty Ann Lynn, the road to Mayberry was a roundabout one.

The daughter of a trained singer, she began acting on radio and fine-tuning her lyric soprano voice in supper clubs at age 14 in her native Kansas City, Mo. At 18, Lynn signed up for the USO Camp Shows and entertained troops in the China-Burma-India theater in the final months of World War II.

Betty Lynn on Hollywood and life:

On how Bette Davis came to call her “Boo”:

“That was the character name in (1948’s) ‘June Bride’ that I had. Because both of us being Betty, they would call, `Betty on the set! Betty!’ So both of us would run in. So she finally said, ‘Would you mind terribly if we called you the character name.’ I said, ‘Nooo. You can call me anything you want, Miss Davis.’ ”

On the belated attempt to give Thelma Lou a last name:

“After I’d been on the (Andy Griffith) show about four years, Andy had to introduce me to a couple — in the show. And all of a sudden, he turned to the director and said, ‘What’s her last name? How can I introduce her to them? What’s her last name?’ And I said, ‘No. You’re not going to give me a last name now. I haven’t had it all this time ... I’m going to be Thelma Lou.’ And he said, `Oh. All right.’ ”

On why she never married:

“I had my family, and they were living with me. ... I nursed a lot actually. And most of the people I met were in the business. They were either married or, they were nice, and I enjoyed dating some of them and all. And some were gay. They weren’t out to get married, you know. Some of them wanted to, I guess, because they had asked me. And then find out later, they’d tell me years later that, ‘This may shock you, but I’m gay.’ And I wouldn’t be shocked really. I didn’t know whether they were or weren’t. But I’m glad I said, ‘No, thank you.’ ”

On why she couldn’t afford to retire to the French Riviera on “Griffith Show” royalties:

“People think I get paid every time it’s shown. ... Original residuals were for six reruns, and that was all. And it would go down to nothing at the end of the rerun. But that’s all I ever got.”

The Associated Press

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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