The following editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
For people of a certain age, and with reruns, even for their children and grandchildren, Andy Griffith was like a second dad. Thus, Mr. Griffith's death Tuesday at 86 brought with it a sense of personal loss.
We were warmed by his sweet homespun style and sage advice. When Mr. Griffith, as Sheriff Andy Taylor of the make-believe Southern town of Mayberry, tilted his head and sat down for a "little talk" with his son Opie, we knew he was going to say something meaningful.
Andy had ethics and morals and good common sense. He reassured us that things were right with the world, using a gentle sense of humor and playing straight man to a cast of characters that included the lilting Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), the every-boy Opie (Ronnie Howard), the bungling Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife (Don Knotts) and the slow-witted gas station attendant Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors).
Sheriff Andy took care of his town and the people in it. He often used reverse psychology to get people to realize how they had erred. He lived by a simple set of rules that revolved around doing the right thing. Nothing was ambiguous in Andy's world. Most problems could be solved by visiting the fishin' hole, singing and playing guitar, going to an ice cream social or helping a neighbor.
It didn't take much for Andy, who started out in the series in 1960 as a curly-haired widower with a gap-toothed grin, to get Opie to behave.
In the episode "Opie and the Spoiled Kid," Opie yells at his dad when Andy refuses to go along with his request for an allowance of 75 cents a week that would be given to him without his having to do chores in return.
"Don't raise your voice to me," Andy tells Opie firmly. "Now you get on out of here. I've got things to do."
Although the time in which the show was set was not explicitly spelled out, Mr. Griffith said decades after it went off the air that it was supposed to be set in the 1960s but feel like it was the 1930s.
We frequently seem to imbue earlier times with innocence, but history tells us that times of innocence never really existed, except perhaps in Mayberry. There, Barney forever will have his bullet in his pocket and Andy and Opie always will be whistling their way to the fishin' hole.
Ideals endure, and so will Mayberry.