By: Paige Cline
When Barney Fife (a.k.a. Don Knotts) died a while back, many people were saddened and felt as though an old friend had passed.
My feelings were a little different. Barney was, indeed, a character we could all identify with. Don Knotts the actor was a native West Virginian. What I was reminded of was that I was born and raised in Mayberry. In fact, many of you were also raised in Mayberry. That mythical small town was much like the places that so many of us called home.
See if you didn’t have these characters in your town.
We didn’t have Floyd the barber, but we did have Walt Rose and Estil Morgan. Each was a unique character in their own right. Both were pillars of the community and wonderful husbands and fathers. my sister Audra went to school and graduated with Mildred Rose (later Mrs. U.J. Shannon) and Alvin Morgan. Alvin would go on to coach basketball at Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg and still later at the new Greenbrier East High School. Al developed many young basketball players at Greenbrier Military for the University of Virginia. Most famous of those is Buzzy Wilkinson, a Pineville boy whom Al had known before. But then, everyone knew everyone in town back then.
Out taxi driver was Lane Cook. To say that Lane was a character is an understatement. His sayings and some deeds are a column in themselves. I have written before about him and i just might again. A master of colorful sayings, one of my favorites was when Lane wanted you to believe what he was telling you, he would ” take a Jesse James dying oath.”
Deputy sheriffs? Yes, we had them. And some would make the bumbling Barney Fife look like a genius.
Now, you have to remember, we were not all little angels. We had been known to hide in the Court House shrubbery after dark and taunt a couple of the deputies as they walked to or from the jail which is next door. We knew those shrubs and everything else in town like the back of our hands and felt confident that we couldn’t be caught.
That is until one night when we were in the shrubs serenading the deputy with “Pistol Packin’ D “. The subject of our derision became irate and actually drew his gun and began waving it in the air. Well, we escaped, and we had a good laugh later, but we all had the bejeebers scared out of us and gave the deputy a wide berth after that.
That was the exception. Most deputies were tough as nails and we had all the respect in the world for them.
Our “Wally’s” was the Pine Ridge owned by Claude Smith. Over the years, a lot of Gomers worked there and pumped gas. Most sales were a dollar or less. About the only place we ever heard “Fill ‘er up” was in the movies. And back then we didn’t call them service stations, they were” filling stations.
We were blessed with two fine stores for groceries and other needs. The Martins at the Piggly Wiggly introduced the concept of delivering groceries to peoples’ homes, some pretty far away or up a hollow. during the war years there were few car or trucks so the home delivery was a blessing.
The Crews store sold groceries and everything else from stovepipe to horse collars. their candy counter was a place where we stood with our pennies for what must have been an eternity to the clerk, trying to make up our minds. Bridge mix, chocolate covered peanuts, jellybeans,peach seeds, licorice and other treats vied for our attention. There was nothing like the Crews candy counter except at G.C.Murphy’s in Mullens, Welch or Beckley.
Beckley, of course, was our Mt. Pilot. It was the place to go if you went out of county.
Yep, good old Mayberry. Except to us it was Pineville, or Oceana, or Mullens,or Baileysville. Maybe it wasn’t really better back then. But don’t tell that to the folks who lived back then. with Barney and Andy and Lane and Walt and Estil and all the rest of the real life characters of their home town.