By Ken Anderson
Above, Ken stands in full regalia with his 1965 Ford Galaxie Mayberry replica squad car.
When most people take their car out for a leisurely drive, it is probably quite uneventful for the most part. Perhaps a few people will take a second look if the car is of particular interest to them, but otherwise most other drivers take little interest in what you are driving.
However, that is not the case with me. Ever since I bought a 1965 Ford Galaxie Mayberry replica squad car several years ago, my rides around West Central Wisconsin are anything but routine. Quite often cars will pull along side me, and they’ll take pictures and videos while I am trying to obey all the rules of the roads without any unnecessary distractions. When I stop at stop signs, quite often people will engage me in conversation about my unusual vehicle. And when I stop for gas it always takes me a bit longer than planned as I usually have to pose for a few pictures.
The story of my Mayberry Squad Car actually begins over ten years ago when some health issues forced me to take a much unexpected early retirement from my 36 year teaching career. I found myself a bit lost for a while and was unsure as to how I would spend all my sudden free time.
I have always been a very big fan of the classic TV program “The Andy Griffith Show.” I had followed the show since it first aired on October 3, 1960. I had a rather extensive collection of Mayberry memorabilia and I belonged to several national fan clubs. So I decided my first project would be to write a book about the show. So for about the next year I worked on my book, “Mayberry Reflections The Early Years,” which was published by Westview Publishing in Nashville, Tennessee in 2006.
Shortly after my book was released, I began to get a few requests to attend various group functions to talk about why I wrote my book. When requests for my presentations began to increase, I decided it would be fun if I could possibly dress up like Deputy Barney Fife when I talked to groups. Through a Mayberry friend, David Browning of Bristol, Virginia, I was able to acquire a replica Barney Fife shirt and pants uniform. For the next several months I spent many hours on my computer searching for just the right badges, hat, gun belt, and holsters that would match that worn by Deputy Barney Fife. In the end I was able to put together a very good replica of a complete Barney Fife uniform.
Little did I know at the time that my portrayal as “The Mayberry Guru” would keep me so busy. Since purchasing my squad car, my wife and I have participated in over 100 parades, car shows, and special events. People of all ages and backgrounds continue to show a lot of interest in that fictional quintessential small town of Mayberry, North Carolina.
People sometimes accuse me of trying to live in the past. However, I find that my connection to Mayberry helps me to remind people that many important values of the past are still very important in the fast paced gadget driven society that is evident today.
I was fourteen years old when “The Andy Griffith Show” first aired. I was living in the very small village of Dorchester in central Wisconsin. As I watched the people of Mayberry over the next eight years, I realized my little town had some similarities with Mayberry. We were a safe, friendly village where everyone knew each other by name. It was a safe place to grow up and our local constable didn’t carry a gun, wear a uniform, or even drive a police car.
The question I am perhaps most asked when participating in events around the state or when I give my power point presentation is “Why? Why does a retired teacher dress up like Barney Fife and drive an old replica police car?”
The answer is really quite simple. I am trying to take people back to a much simpler and slower time. When people remind me that Mayberry and its people were not real I have a simple reply. While Mayberry and the people of Mayberry were not real, the spirit of Mayberry and its people are very real. Mayberry represents a kind of place and life that many people wish they could have; especially now when lives are lived at such a hectic pace. There just doesn’t seem to be the time for the really important things in life. So it is not surprising to me that many people say to me, “I wish we could go back to those simpler times.”
I also have another purpose in what I do. I have many fond memories of my childhood in Dorchester. It is where many of my values were instilled. It is where I formed many lasting friendships and it is where I was taught the love of reading. Being an avid reader who reads more than 100 books a year, I decided I would like to give back something to my home town.
Three years ago I decided that I would donate 100% of all my proceeds from my book sales and my presentation fees to the Dorchester Public Library. Initially my donations were used in the building fund drive, but now that the new building is completed, the donations are used to purchase books for children to read.
My favorite activity to do with my squad car is to participate in small town parades. The crowds along the parade routes are so engaging and friendly. My wife, Linda, drives the car in the parade while I walk along in my Barney Fife uniform. Adding to the fun is when I write out tickets for various violations along the parade routes. I have even been able to issue citations to local law enforcement officers and politicians for illegally parking their vehicles. The tickets are always accepted with a smile and with the spirit in which they were intended.
I feel so fortunate to be able to share my love and passion with so many people. Perhaps my greatest joy came during a parade in Eleva, Wisconsin. A little girl was standing along the parade route and she was waving a small American flag. When she saw me walking behind my squad car, she ran out into the middle of the street and gave me a big hug and said, “I love America.”