Mayberry Magazine Articles

As mentioned in my last post, on February 1, I hinted about several big announcements for 2020, the 60th Anniversary of the debut of The Andy Griffith Show. I have already revealed The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program and my being scheduled to do one of my presentations for the first time as an official part of a Mayberry eventMayberry in the Midwest.

At the time, I also said, “I will be announcing certain magazines you should be sure to check out later in the year.” I am happy to report that I will be doing a series of articles for Mayberry  Magazine, the periodical published by the Mount Airy Times in Andy Griffith’s North Carolina hometown!

Readers may get a kick out of something I did not know about this news myself.

I originally pitched an idea for a  series of articles on the origin of The Andy Griffith Show. I had firm dates in mind for events that took place in 1960 (detailed below) but only knew an approximate date for an important event from 1959, Sheldon Leonard’s creation of the series concept that became The Andy Griffith Show. Still, I submitted the article and did not think about it much until the editor emailed asking for a headshot.

I sent the requested photo but never heard anything else so I assumed they had decided not to use the article for whatever reason. I contacted the editor again in mid-January about a proposed article about the 60th anniversary of the pilot episode. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned something along the line that they were looking forward to publishing another article by me. Another? I asked if he still planned to use the one I sent last year, and he responded, “We already used it! It was in the October issue.”

This was news to me. I regretfully had not subscribed to the magazine at that point though I did at the end of last year. They were nice enough to send me a copy which I just received today.

By the way, Mayberry Magazine has switched to a quarterly schedule, so if the original price tag was scaring anyone off, the price is now 10 dollars less. While there will only be four issues, each one will have a higher page count than the ones published previously.

So if you subscribe soon, you will be able to read articles by me on the 60th anniversary of the pilot episode, the beginning of filming, and the debut episode of the classic series, The Andy Griffith Show.

Mayberry in the Midwest Speaking Appearance

On February 1, I posted rather cryptically about several big announcements from Liberty Grove Press for 2020, the 60th Anniversary of the debut of The Andy Griffith Show. I have already revealed one of those planned events by announcing The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program which I introduced on February 15, the 60th Anniversary of the pilot episode.

At the time, I also promised, “I will announce some big news about one of my presentations on aspects of The Andy Griffith Show.” I am excited to officially announce that I will be doing one of my audio/visual presentations for the first time as an official part of Mayberry in the Midwest!

This annual festival is scheduled to be held in Danville, Indiana on the weekend of May 15-17. Friday night kicks off with a meet-and-greet dinner. Saturday includes a parade and the Squad Car Nationals. Live music and performances by the tribute artists run the entire weekend.

My presentation is a free event that will be held on Sunday, May 17 at 1:00 p.m. in the  Crawley Business  Center. As a nod to my new Ambassadors Programthe event is titled “Ambassador Turner’s History Lesson: An Audio-Visual Presentation on The Andy Griffith Show and the Lost 40 Acres Backlot Where the Exteriors Were Filmed.”

My plan is to give about a 40-minute presentation since the great LeRoy McNees will be performing just a block away on the main stage outside at 2:00. I will have books and t-shirts for sale at a table in the front of the room for sale right after the main talk. After done at the table, I will be happy to do a short Q&A with any who want to hang around a bit, but I would really urge those who attend not to miss any more of LeRoy’s performance than you need to!

“Mayberry” on the famed 40 Acres Backlot.

Of course, with the uncertainty of large gatherings during this time of the world dealing with the coronavirus disease COVID-19, it is always possible the festival will have to be rescheduled. In the event that happens, you can be assured that I will still be there whenever the event is ultimately held!

I really enjoy providing these presentations, which I have given at libraries, civic organizations like the Kiwanis Club, and retirement homes. I look forward to seeing a few Mayberry fans as my first appearance as an official part of this great festival!

Japanese Kit Kat Bars: Part III – Baked Custard Pudding..in a Toaster Oven!

Another Kit Kat type found only in Japan is Kit Kat Baked Custard Pudding.

The front of the package pictures the flavored white chocolate candy bar with an arrow leading to the same bar toasted with steam coming off it. Upon looking at it closer, I realized the drawing behind the pictures was meant to represent a toaster oven.

The back of the box confirmed that I would definitely have to investigate further. While in Japanese, it was clearly explaining how to bake the candy bars!

I first tried to use Google Translate which only led to some amusing attempts to convert the language to English. Somehow I don’t think the first line really translates to “the receiving day of the nose with a bun toaster.”

Luckily, the package contained three different wrapped small candy bars so I had the ability to try them in different ways. First, I had one as is. The candy definitely did have a custardy pudding flavor that was tasty.

After a bit of Googling, I decided to heat the remaining two bars differently. I first simply toasted one as if making toast. I heated the other bar under the broiler. I had better luck controlling the amount of heating with the second method, but both were really good and interesting.

I let it go just a bit too long in the toaster method but the dark crystallized sugar was still delicious.

Some of the sugar in the chocolate melted off and hardened along the bottom of the bars. This crystallized sugar tasted just like the top of creme brûlée. To me, the bar itself did not taste like a chocolate candy bar at all once heated. It almost had the consistency of a dense cake. It may be I don’t have a discerning enough palette, but I could not easily distinguish between the heated chocolate slightly caramelized on top and the wafer interior.

I had better luck with the broiler method.

I would never have thought of heating a candy bar at all and definitely would not think the result would taste so much like creme brûlée. Quite the treat!

Japanese Kit Kat Bars: Part II – Tokyo Banana

Last week, I described sampling Sake-flavored Kit Kat bars from Japan. Another flavor I received as a gift is Tokyo Banana Kit Kats.

Tokyo Banana gift box. The box is designed to hold 15 candy bars but my friends added four other flavors inside so I would have more types to try.

This flavor was just introduced in November 2017 and caused a sensation with people in Japan lining up in lines extending outside stores to buy this new flavor associated with Tokyo, the capital of Japan.

Tokyo Banana sponge cake.

This Kit Kat is a tribute to a sponge cake that sounds a lot like our Twinkies called simply “Tokyo Banana.” The original cake flavor’s full name is Tokyo Banana Miitsuketa, though it now comes in 14 different flavors. The original sponge cake was introduced in 1991 and is filled with a banana custard cream filling made with pureed bananas.

When I heard the name of the Kit Kat version, I originally envisioned a bar of yellow chocolate that would taste like banana. In fact, the banana-flavored wafer is covered with milk chocolate with the result tasting like a chocolate-covered banana, a really delicious combination.

All of these unusual Japanese Kit Kat bars are not full-sized. They are the equivalent of around a quarter of a Kit Kat found in the U.S. Most consist of two joined bars instead of the four bars we are accustomed to. The Tokyo Banana flavor is a bit different as the bottom is joined with a banana embossed in the chocolate.

Next Wednesday, I will be discussing baking Kit Kats in a toaster oven…

The Story of the Giant Hot Dog at Hillbilly Hot Dogs

I have posted about the culinary paradise known as Hillbilly Hot Dogs several times as it is the traditional stop I make on my way home from Mayberry Days.

I have shown a photo of a giant fiberglass hot dog on the hill beside the restaurant itself. If you look closely at the right side of the platform, you will note the instructions posted not to write on the hot dog. This is because Hillbilly Hot Dogs encourages graffiti pretty much anywhere else imaginable on their property. (And as an aside, the first time I visited there I wrote “Mayberry Lives!” on a photo frame.)

What I had not mentioned is that the hot dog is a relatively recent addition. I believe the first time I saw it was likely on the way back from Mayberry Days in September 2017. I assumed it was something the owners had commissioned.

However, my vigilant friend Dick Villard (known to many in the Mayberry community as “GooberFife”) recently learned the story behind the hot dog and alerted me to it.

The giant hot dog actually adorned a hot dog joint for years in Alliance, Ohio, more than 3 and 1/2 hours north of Hillbilly Hot Dog’s location in LeSage, West Virginia. The sculpture sat atop Waaadaa Hot Dog. I have not been able to verify exactly when it opened, but Dick used to eat there occasionally and said he thinks it was around 2001.

Photo from Alliance Memories, a website documenting the “Sights, Sounds, and Recollections from Alliance, Ohio.”

Dick said the restaurant owner was sued by the city over the hot dog on the claim it violated zoning restrictions. He won the suit but eventually went out of business in 2006. Dick even saw the hot dog being hauled away.

It turns out the hot dog was put into storage while the owner tried to find a buyer. Presumably, after a decade of storage, he dropped the price enough that he was finally successful. Hillbilly Hot Dogs bought it and in August 2016 it made the long trek to LeSage. And as I said, I think I saw it for the first time in 2017 but I did not take a picture of it, which is surprising to me if it had been new, so I can’t be sure. Still, it was definitely not already installed in 2016. I took a photo of other–er, structures in the same area and the hot dog was not there yet.

2016 photo with no giant hot dog in sight.

The date of an August 26, 2016 article said it had been moved “recently.” I am sure it had to be rehabbed a bit after that many years in storage. It had obviously been re-painted as the bun now says “Hillbilly Hot Dogs” on the side. Plus it had to be installed securely. So it would have been highly unlikely that it would have been there when I came through less than four weeks later.

I am glad Hillbilly Hot Dogs was able to return the roadside attraction to the public’s view.

One last comment on what I think is an interesting twist. Dick recalled that Waaadaa Hot Dog was opened by a man who had retired from operating a local car dealership. After he closed the restaurant in 2006, the Waaadaa building became a car dealership. And now? As of last fall, it is a restaurant again, though now it is a burger joint.

Japanese Kit Kat Bars: Part I – Sake

I have mentioned my buddy Rob in this blog more than once, as Rob has been my traveling companion to Mayberry Days for the past four years. Rob and his lovely wife, Julie, lived in Japan for over a year early in their marriage when their two boys were still young. They gifted the boys and their spouses with a return trip to Japan for Christmas. I was lucky enough to receive quite a collection of Japanese Kit Kat bars upon their return.

You may be wondering, “Kit Kat bars?” Actually, uniquely-flavored Kit Kats are quite the thing in Japan. As in more than 300 available flavors! Not all the flavors are all always available since many are limited editions, but my understanding is that 200 or so are permanent flavors. Rob and Julie brought me back quite an assortment.

Nestlé began introducing the new flavors in Japan beginning in 2000 with the idea initially being to appeal to young buyers. The bars are sometimes designated as connected to particular cities and are often bought as gifts to wish someone good luck. This custom arose because “Kit Kat” is similar to the Japanese phrase “Kitto Katsu” which means “surely win” as in “you shall surely win.”

Nestlé has also introduced five flavors in the U.K. in addition to the regular milk chocolate candy bar: Kit Kat Orange, Kit Kat Dark, Kit Kat Mint, Kit Kat White, and Kit Kat Cookies & Cream.

First, at least some of these are also available now in the United States. I have had Kit Kat Dark before, which is the same as the regular candy bar but covered in dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. I am also fairly sure I have seen Kit Kats covered in white chocolate as well. I have read that two other new flavors were introduced in just the last few weeks though I have yet to see them: Lemon Crisp and Raspberry Creme.

Kit Kat has recently introduced at least a couple of other new flavors here in the United States. Around Christmas, I bought a bag of Sweet Cinnamon Kit Kats. They were only available in miniature-size bars individually wrapped but were quite good.

Kit Kats are also available in full-size bars called Mint + Dark Chocolate (though I have only been able to find them in packs with two full bars per package).

Here, the mint créme favor is in the top layer as is obvious from looking at the candy. Again, these are also quite tasty. Think of it as a giant Andes chocolate with a wafer interior. My assumption is these are the same as the Kit Kat Mint sold in the U.K.

Since Rob and I are also both bourbon aficionados, it seems appropriate that the first Japanese flavor I will feature is Sake. The Japanese alcohol sake is made from the fermentation of rice. I have actually never had it but the candy bar unquestionably had a distinct alcohol taste.

Sake itself is not nearly as high in alcohol content as American whiskeys but I was surprised to learn that these Kit Kat bars actually have a slight alcohol content. Most foods or candies made with alcoholic beverages have zero alcohol in the finished product as the alcohol burns off. Here, the sake is blended with white chocolate, resulting in candy with 0.8% alcohol content. Granted, that is just one and a half proof, but the candy is actually not recommended for minors or for those with low alcohol tolerance.

Announcing The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program

I do not usually say this, but be sure to read all the way through to the end of this post!

Under my earlier Big Plans for 2020 post when I discussed plans to continue spreading the Mayberry spirit this year, I wrote “one of the projects…will involve a subscription to a hardcopy-newsletter filled with Mayberry fun. The newsletter will actually just be one aspect of this new venture which will have a separate name though it will be sponsored by Liberty Grove Press.”

The name of that project is The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program.

The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program logo.

Members will receive what I earlier described as a newsletter which will actually have more the appearance of a small format magazine similar to Nostalgia Digest though certainly shorter. Filled with Mayberry information and advance word on Liberty Grove Press publications, it will be published three times per year and is included for Ambassadors with their yearly dues. But as I said, that is just one aspect of this new program that I am starting in celebration of this being the 60th anniversary of the debut of The Andy Griffith Show.

The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program official seal.

If you just want to be an unofficial ambassador, simply “like” our new Facebook page here. This is a curated Facebook page where posts have to be approved by me, but I will provide periodic history posts there just as I have done on other Facebook groups and pages.

But for those willing to make the small investment of $10 (though I would still appreciate a “like” on our page), before the first magazine issue is delivered, Ambassadors will receive a beautiful certificate suitable for framing designating them as an ambassador of the show and the values it promotes. Liberty Grove Press will also gradually be rolling out exclusive merchandise that will only be available to ambassadors in good standing. And there will also be a surprise or two more along the way…

All of this is available for just $10 during 2020. But I have even better news.

The pilot episode for the series, “Danny Meets Andy Griffith,” first aired 60 years ago today (February 15, 1960). There were later 249 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show series filmed. That’s 250 episodes of Mayberry goodness. So the first 250 people who email me their name and physical mailing address (street or P.O. Box) will get all of the above for free for the first year!

I will review the emails as soon as possible and will be sure to accept them in the order sent. When I get to person #251 and afterward, I will email to let them know they did not make the cutoff though they can, of course, still join for just $10. (And for future reference, those instructions will always be available on the pinned post at the top of our The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program Facebook page.)

So what are you waiting for? Email me the needed information at turnersgrade@gmail.com so I can add you to the roll of official Ambassadors of The Andy Griffith Show!

Bourbon Gummy Bears!

I received a novel present from my youngest daughter’s in-laws for Christmas and certainly one I had never heard of: Gummy bears flavored with bourbon!

Initially, I got a chuckle out of the gift, but when I later actually read the label—well, I was horrified. The ingredients are the same as most any gummy bear, I am sure, other than the bourbon flavoring. I assumed some type of a bourbon-flavored extract had been used. And certainly, if actual bourbon was used, it would just say “bourbon.” While I am a proponent of using a higher-shelf bourbon even when mixing it to make a cocktail, when it comes to cooking, we always use the less expensive, lower shelf bourbons. After all, the alcohol itself cooks off and all you are really adding is a bourbon flavor that will be just one part of the final taste profile of a recipe.

But these gummy bears? They were flavored with Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon! This is one of my favorite bourbons. It is made at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Kentucky and is most definitely a high-end bourbon. It is aged between six to eight years in the only metal rickhouse (warehouse) that Buffalo Trace uses. In the United States, Blanton’s runs around $55-$65 a bottle and can sometimes be hard to find. Blanton’s was the first modern whiskey to be marketed as a single barrel bourbon, meaning the contents of each bottle came from a single barrel and were not married together with bourbon from other barrels (which is how most bourbons are made).

Even more surprising to me is that the Blanton’s was used when these gummy bears were made in Germany. There are actually other styles of Blanton’s that can only be sold outside the United States due to licensing agreements, but these bottles run in the hundreds of dollars price range. Even the Blanton’s sold in the United States would be far more expensive to purchase in Germany.

So you can see why I was shocked that such a fine quality bourbon was used –overseas no less–to flavor a candy where the alcohol is completely burned off anyway in the cooking process. That being said, these are not only a fun treat but quite a conversation piece.

Famous Soda Pops I Have Known, Vol. XI: Blenheim Ginger Ale

Blenheim is a brand strongly connected to the Carolinas that has been in operation for more than a century. The soda is made with mineral water that was inadvertently discovered in the 18th Century, or so the legend goes. In 1781, James Spears, a Whig, was being chased by a group of Torys. When fleeing, he lost a shoe when he ran through a water hole. After eluding his pursuers, Spears came back looking for his shoe. When he found it, he tasted the water and discovered it had strong mineral content. News spread of his discovery and people began coming to the area, believing the mineral water to have a beneficial health effect.

In the late 1800s, Dr. C.R. May was one of many physicians who advised patients with stomach issues to drink the mineral water. When they complained of the strong, iron-like taste, the doctor added Jamaican ginger flavoring to make it more pleasant.

In 1903, Dr. May and A.J. Matheson formed the Blenheim Bottling Company right next to the spring and began bottling what is now sometimes called Blenheim Original Extra Pale Ginger Ale, a soda that was also sweetened in addition to the ginger component. The bottling company is now owned by the family who also owns the South of the Border tourist complex in South Carolina just south of the border with North Carolina.

The original spring still exists in Blenheim, South Carolina if one wants to taste the water unflavored.

Over the decades, Blenheim had developed several ginger ales with varying degrees of spiciness. There are currently three that are available. The bottle cap colors are used to distinguish the spiciness.

The gold cap indicates the mildest of the company’s ginger ales. They call it their “#5 Not as Hot.” The #5 is what was originally (and still sometimes is) called their Original Extra Pale. It has quite a ginger bite compared to many other ginger ales sold commercially, enough that most would be more than satisfied with the level of spiciness.

The red cap (Old #3 Hot) is—well, hot! Way too much ginger for my taste, but if you want to clear your sinuses, this is the one for you. I can pretty much guarantee you could only slowly sip this blazing-hot soda. The #3 has become the best-selling style.

The white cap (#9 Diet) is their sugar-free version. Some people claim it to be the best diet drink on the market because the off-taste of artificial sweeteners is hidden by the predominant ginger flavor. 

The glass bottles are beautifully designed and showcase the color variations in the actual liquids in the different types of Blenheim Ginger Ale. The company only sells their ginger ale in these 12-ounce glass bottles. They never package them in plastic or cans.

Big Plans for 2020

I have neglected to post in this blog for longer than I had planned. I originally thought just to take some time off for the holidays, and here it is February, two months later!

This wasn’t just because of general neglect, though. I have been working hard on new projects, some of which are related to Liberty Grove Press while technically their own entities.

• A new venture will give a select few the opportunity to spend real quality time with a Mayberry cast member!

• I know that maintaining a blog is not the “in” thing right now. Young people will tell you that nobody does blogs anymore. Social media is all Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I will be releasing details soon, but one of the projects takes an even further step backward and will involve a subscription to a hardcopy-newsletter filled with Mayberry fun. The newsletter will actually be only one aspect of this new venture which will have a separate name though it will be sponsored by Liberty Grove Press.

• New publications are being worked on for this year but I am not the only author working on one of them…

• I will announce some big news about one of my presentations on aspects of The Andy Griffith Show.

• I will be announcing certain magazines you should be sure to check out later in the year.

How is that for being cryptic? I will be making announcements about two of these new opportunities for Mayberry fans relatively soon. If you are already on my email list for either my Facebook and blog history posts notices (sent from turnersgrade@gmail.com) or my email list for Liberty Grove Press (sent from randy@mayberrybooks.com), then you will be the first to receive word of the new projects, though I will later announce them on Facebook and the Liberty Grove website. If you are not on either email list, you can sign up by simply emailing me a message and asking to be added to the list.

While supplies last!

2020 marks the 60th anniversary of the debut of The Andy Griffith Show. I have been putting in overtime to make sure Liberty Grove Press does its part to spread the Mayberry spirit during this banner year!

Finally, a note that the 2020 Mayberry Day-by-Day desktop calendar is on sale while supplies last and that there are less than 10 first edition copies of Mayberry Firsts available. I will print a second edition later, but if you did not buy the book already and want a first edition, time is limited.

If you are into first editions, please know that I have less than 10 copies of my book left. I will reprint Mayberry Firsts as a second edition eventually, but the book will be unavailable for a while.