Modern Day Mayberry?

Are there any towns today living in simpler times…besides the Amish, that is? Is there a town with a fax machine? Without PCs? Without cell phones? (That last one might be pushing it…) Just how close to “Mayberry” can we get?

Or, maybe I should just ask if any small towns today still enjoy the simple life?

  • Jinx

P.S. I know…I’m only fooling myself, but I can dream, can’t I?

Around here, lots of people don’t lock their doors. I regularly see keys left in cars. A business gave me $40 worth of material, but because it was after hours and the secretary was gone, they said I should call back in the morning to find out how much I owed them. I called town hall to ask about an electrical permit, and they said, “Just do a good job.” It’s kinda like living in the 60’s with modern conveniences.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee comes close, but it’s not quite boring enough, & sometimes quite corrupt in the local government shennanigans dept.

Mount Airy, NC, is Andy Griffith’s home town, and the 1950s version of it is what Mayberry is modeled on (obviously caricatured). The community is actually very proud of Andy and of being the real-life basis for Mayberry, and has several tourist attractions founded on that – you can, for example, visit Floyd’s Barber Shop, or go for a ride in the Mayberry police vehicles (which are cars of the right make and model, owned by a limo service and repainted to look like the ones from the show).

A lot of smaller “rural” towns are the sort of quiet, peaceful places of the Mayberry image, across the country. People may have modern electronic equipment in their homes, but don’t allow them to dominate their lives. Our next door neighbor, for example, owns a landscaping service which operates out of his home – but on a typical day he’s more apt to be cooking out on a barbecue on his porch, or riding one of his horses (pasture behind our home, on part of his land) or a four-wheeler.

I live in rural Colorado and feel very often that I am in Mayberry. Main Street is about two blocks long, There are a few fax machines in town but not many people use them since it is a heck of a lot easier to just hand carry whatever you want to send to the person down the block. Most people have PCs but that’s no big deal and as for cell phones well we are in one of those blank spots where cell phones don’t reach. It’s always a kick to watch outsiders walk around and try to find a place a signal works.

No traffic lights in town. Pretty much everybody in town leaves their houses unlocked. Two full-time police officers in town, the chief and a patrolman.

The chief of police was very Barny Fifeish. He used to leave a set of keys at my (newspaper) office so when he forgot his he could get in. Everybody in town has a police scanner just to see what he’s up to. It’s better than cable. Not long after 9-11 He heard that a fellow (an outsider who had only been in town five years or so - so clearly was of questionable reputation) in town was stockpiling guns. He with the help of neighboring police department surrounded a house and he kicked down the door - You guessed it, wrong house. We all heard it on the scanner.

But don’t try to become a part of the community. Like Mayberry, this is one of those communities that unless your grandparents met in elementary school here you will not be accepted. You will not be invited to the church socials, you will not have a chair to sit in out front of the hardware store and even if you did no one would talk in front of you.

Oliver, the owner of the local antique (read “junk”) shop tells me that he is considered an outsider, but he said he understands that, “After all, I have only been here 30 years.”

I was interviewing a woman about the local superintendent of schools and she said that he did not always put the school system first and then added, “Well, he isn’t from here.” The man has been superintendent of schools for 44 years. But he isn’t “from here.”

Monthly we have people move in because of the towns charm and sweetness. They stay about a year. They say that there is nothing to do, which is sort of correct, but there is plenty to keep the locals busy what with church, and socials, and choir, and the high school sports, and booster clubs, and things like 4-H and FFA. Everybody is expected to take part in all of those.

Even the Mennonites (like the Amish, only more accpeting of technology) use cell phones, fax machines, etc. In fact, most of the agricultural states in the Midwest and Great Plains do have some sort of “rural technologgy initative.”

AS TVTime says, there are a lot of simple, quiet small towns out there. Unfortunately, many of them are closed-minded and not very accepting of “outsiders.” Your best bet to being accepted – marry a local and announce loudly that you love the town so much you’re going to live there forever an have a dozen kids.

You’ll still be an outsider, but at least you’ll be an in-law.

What do you mean by simple? Seriously.

If getting to stores that have the things you need is a real hassle, then yes. If you mean a web of local politics and gossip that you must negotiate like a trapeze artist, then yes. If you mean a legal system that is not based on the ideas of equal protection, then yes. If you mean basing a lot of political power on knowing decades worth of nuanced personal histories, then yes. If you mean places where you have to pay $100 to get a $75 perscription because all you’ve got is a so-called mom & pop business, then yes.

AFAIK, they had phones in Mayberry, and if Mayberry were portrayed today, they would have internet access, yadda yadda. There are areas around here that do not have cable television/internet. There are places where a complete stranger buying stamps may be asked by the Postal Office clerk to take a $20 bill across the street and change it at the local pharmacy. (That last one happened to me personally.)

Where I was living for the last few years, the Clerk would come to your house to deliver your absentee ballot. Just two or three days ago I delivered some parcel cards & tax maps to a guy who was laid-up from a car wreck.

There are lots & lots of places that are genuinely small towns; but that may not be what people think it is. In M_____ there are people who have been living off welfare for generations and for most there is no hope of improving their lots in life. They have a McDonald’s and it is the best one I’ve ever seen. Why? Because it offers the best opportunities for those who would otherwise excel in other jobs elsewhere. It is a great place to go if you want to get stabbed in a run-down bar. There is a frighteningly significant portion of the population who believe things such as: if you have a venerial disease, the way to cure it is to have sex with a virgin. In the township where I work, which is not as rural as many places by a long-shot, the 2000 Census found that 100% of single mothers with children age 5 or under live below the poverty limit.

Frankly, one of the biggest problems facing small communities is the effort by city folk who re-locate and want to create a vision of Mayberry that simply does not (& cannot) match reality. Every young, single mother lives below the poverty limit?! Hell no we don’t want them to have access to convenient, affordable shopping or jobs for which they may qualify. So Meijers & Wal-Mart, fuck off!

With all that in mind, I have to say that Mayberry never existed anywhere in the world. Some may disagree, but I doubt they were on the target list of the local political machine. Local politics is just as nasty as in the big city without the advantage of having the economies of scale necessary to support the professional protectors of individual rights. Justin Volpe would have much better odds of not being caught in Mayberry than he would in New York, IMO.

I don’t know if that helps the OP, but that’s the only answer I can offer.

Come to Panama. (Though I guess Panamanian backcountry villages aren’t much like Mayberry.)

I live in a town of about 6,000 in the rural midwest. I never lock my car or house, unless I’m out of town. But we have about the same usage of the internet, cable, dish, cell phones, drivethrus etc.

I only wish someone would steal the junk that I might leave in the yard.

Um…I was just trying to make clear that the utopian vision of small town life is not reality, I didn’t mean to make it sound like hell on earth.


You certainly sound bitter, js_africanus. Sounds like you’d be happier someplace like Denver.

Back to the OP, it depends on how you define “simple.” We live in a town of 200 which is (as TV Time pointed out) very exclusionist. People drive their tractors on the highway, you have to go to the post office to pick up your mail, we don’t have a traffic light in the whole county, cell phones don’t work well (they don’t work at all on my property), and the general store, post office, and high school gym are the town meeting places. Our big high school fund raiser is the annual gun raffle, the cows and sheep outnumber the people, and going to town for dinner means eating in the bar because the restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch.

On the other hand, we have ADSL Internet access, fax machines, satellite TV, and the general store rents DVDs and Playstation games.

I own a business in the nearby county seat. Still a small town (population 2,500) with no traffic lights and no home mail delivery. People leave their houses unlocked and their keys in the car at the post office. Our biggest annual event is the rodeo. However, this town is very accepting of outsiders as long as you don’t come in and try to change it. In the four years we’ve been here, we’ve become a part of the community. We prize our healthy downtown, so we fight off the Wal-Mart stores to preserve our town (Sorry, js_africanus, but we’ve seen Wal-Marts destroy nearby downtowns. They say they’ll bring jobs to town, then they drive the downtown businesses out and hire 2 people for every 3 that lose their jobs–and pay $1.00 per hour less! The Wal-Mart lovers can drive an hour and kill someone else’s economy).

Again, we have all the modern technology, but we don’t let it rule our lives.

Not at all. I’m just reporting what I’ve seen in a manner that I hope will come across strongly enough to crack through the idyllic visions of rural life that seem to be so entrenched in our culture.

I want to undermine the notion that small-town life really is simple, because it is not simple at all.

We’ll save the Wal-Mart thing for another thread. :slight_smile: