We all remember Mayberry, the beloved fictitious setting of the Andy Griffith show that ran through most of the 1960s. If you didn’t happen to be alive when the show first aired, the reruns tend to work their way into late evening time slots on various cable channels on a constant basis.
There’s good reason for that. In a town filled with memorable, loyal and quirky characters, each episode brings laughter, a sense of endearment, and a longing for the simple life that once was.
For me, I had the chance to experience that real-life kind of town in person.
We moved from Mayfield to Nashville, TN when I was three years old, but Mayfield is where my earliest memories begin.
Holidays were spent with my cousins, sleeping on mattresses on the floor at my grandmother’s house. With barely enough room to walk around in her two-bedroom house, we looked forward to playing on the elementary school playground adjacent to her back yard and after-dinner walks down Highland Street to visit various relatives.
Most of our older generation found their spot here. Uncle Bubba and Aunt Margaret lived across the street. Uncle Nolan and Aunt Billye usually had their own gathering taking place a few houses down, in the home where my parents got married. Mimi, our great-grandmother, lived just around the corner. At some point, we’d crowd into her living room to listen to her play countless hymns on the piano, straight from memory.
I didn’t fully understand the relationships among the Hardeman clan at the time, but I knew that being a part of this family was quite a blessing. This was our street, and I loved that most of the welcoming, silver-haired women who lived here shared the same hairstyle. I assumed everyone had her hair done with weekly appointments at Vivian’s, just like my Granny did.
After Mimi’s house, we’d make our way over a block or two to the Highland Park Cemetary. My Daddy was buried there, along with a lot of other people we apparently knew. It was a safe area, with paved trails for walking and visiting, and seemed like the proper way to spend a holiday. ‘To pay our respects,’ as I heard the grown-ups say. Here, I learned how to spell the names of our people who were no longer with us; the ones from some of the older pictures.
I was never sure how to pay respects, but I couldn’t wait to visit the cemetery to tell Daddy about all the things he was missing. It was the highlight of every visit. I liked to count how many people came to see him and was certain he was the most popular person in the whole place.
Looking back, the grownups probably made this trip to the cemetery a priority for my sister and me. One of those eternal, thoughtful gestures that still matter to this day.
The summer after I turned four, my mother planned a family vacation to Florida. But I came down with the mumps and was given the chance to stay with my grandfather in Mayfield while everyone else traveled to the beach. I didn’t know much about the beach or Florida, but I did know Mayfield and couldn’t wait to spend a whole week there. Swollen cheeks, fever and all.
Grandaddy and I drank morning coffee together and made daily trips to the Dairy Queen, just off the town square. He told me not to mention this to Granny, but it was the first thing out of my mouth when she came through the door after her trip. I just couldn’t hold it in any longer, and kinda felt sorry for the rest of the family for having to go to the beach instead of staying with us.
As I grew older, I made a few trips to Mayfield to deliver news to my grandmother face-to-face, because some things are too important to say over the phone. It was at her dining room table I announced I was getting married, and many years later, that I’d had a little tumor removed that proved to be malignant. Big news, meant to be shared in person, and I needed her to see I was okay.
One of my favorite memories of Mayfield came the week before my grandmother’s 80th birthday in 1996. We gathered as many as possible in a nearby cabin at Land Between the Lakes to throw her a surprise party. It was fantastic, and we knew the best gift we could offer would be for all of us to go to church at 7th and College Church of Christ with her that following Sunday. She beamed with pride at the fact that we were there filling her pew. She spoke of this one moment for the rest of her precious life.
But on the way to church that morning, we ran into a little problem. My cousin, Jason, was following me for the thirty-minute ride from the cabin to the church. I missed the sign that lowered the speed limit to 35 mph just as you enter town, and we were pulled over by local police immediately. Neither of us had the required insurance cards on us, so we were issued speeding tickets and citations to appear in court the following month to show proof of insurance.
Since Jason and I lived hours away, this would be tough to accomplish.
This news put a damper on Granny’s day of beaming with pride, but she said she’d handle it.
She did just that, in her own ‘Granny’ way. For the following month, first thing in the morning, she reported to the office of the police chief, the county judge, the traffic violations office, and any other important community leaders she could find. She reminded whoever would listen that she remembered when they were born and how much she adored their mother. She offered to pay the traffic fine, but since the violation required a court appearance, no one could figure out which procedure to follow. Finally, after weeks of facing her music, the charges were dismissed, the tickets destroyed, and the reputation of two of her adult grandchildren remained mostly intact.
I worked for the police department in Nashville at the time and knew full well there were no protocols or written policies for dealing with an angry Granny.
Crisis averted, but doesn’t this sound exactly like an episode of The And Griffith Show?
Mayfield will always hold a special place in my heart. In her later years, my grandmother drove herself to the local fire hall to have her blood pressure or heart rate checked. Again, who needs protocols?
This past June, I made a point to stop by for the first time in years. Where did I go? The Highland Park Cemetery, of course. This has always been where I go to put life into perspective.
Since a devastating tornado tore through this past Saturday, the pictures of buildings lying in ruins are staggering. The people of this town are stunned and will be grieving for quite some time. The landscape is forever changed, and authorities are just beginning to develop plans on how to move forward to best serve the people.
See the picture below of the view from what was once the courthouse.
Mayfield currently has no post office or mail delivery, but their sheriff’s department was thrilled to accept four donated vehicles today from Boyle County, Ky. See that story here:
As with any natural disaster, there are already scammers trying to take advantage of the situation. Be cautious with any efforts to help, but there are well-vetted organizations already at work in the area.
Per the Graves County Sherriff’s Page:
If you are in the Mayfield area and would like to volunteer please call 270.216.0903 or email Mayfieldvolunteers@gmail.com.
Confirmed organizations already serving this area.
Bread of Life Ministries – A disaster relief effort of area Churches of Christ.
Billy Graham / Samaritan’s Purse – currently set up at First Presbyterian Church with showers, washers, dryers.
Please continue to pray for the city of Mayfield, and anyone blessed enough to call this wonderful town home.
There is truly no place like it.
Just watch. You’ll see.