Gomer Says Hey!

There is a new book related to The  Andy Griffith Show now available. Gomer Says Hey!: Inside the Manic and Much-Loved Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. is the first book devoted to the Mayberry spin-off, Gomer Pyle-USMC.

Gomer Says Hey! was written by my buddy, Denny Reese. Denny started the Facebook group of the same name as his new book before he ever decided to write an overview of the classic series.

The book kicks off with a foreword by the irrepressible Ronnie Schell who played Gomer’s buddy, Duke Slater, in Gomer Pyle-USMC. After a  look at the spin-off’s origins, the text then alternates between overviews of the cast members and overviews of each of the five seasons.  The book is filled with lots of wonderful photos from the series.

I was honored to be asked by Denny to submit a  1000-word essay on one of my favorite  Mayberry episodes that featured Gomer before he enlisted.  I decided to write about “A Date for Gomer.” I do want to make two small corrections to the essay as it appears in Gomer Says Hey!

Literally the first words of the essay are: “Filling station mechanic Gomer Pyle…” Throughout the book, Denny chose to use the informal “fillin’ station” and that was applied to my essay as well.

Second, part of the text is missing in the book in the second paragraph which unfortunately makes it sound incomplete. Here is how the paragraph was submitted with the sentence fragment that is missing in the book in bold:

“By the time the episode ‘A Date for Gomer’ was filmed, the spinoff series was already planned. The episode was the tenth filmed during the fourth season of The Andy Griffith Show though it was the ninth aired. The pilot episode “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” was filmed just two weeks after “A Date for Gomer” was filmed but was not aired until the final episode of the season.”

If you are a fan of The  Andy Griffith Show, then you are probably a fan of Gomer Pyle-USMC. If so, this book is a must that belongs on your bookshelf!

Congratulations, Denny!

Mayberry Article in Nostalgia Digest

The newest issue of Mayberry Magazine which includes another article on the beginnings of The Andy Griffith Show.

On February 1, I posted about Upcoming Plans during 2020 for Liberty Grove Press.  One thing I stated was, “I will be announcing certain magazines you should be sure to check out later this year.”

Mayberry Magazine article.



I have already posted about articles I am writing for Mayberry Magazine published by the Mount Airy News, but careful readers may have noted I said “magazines,” as in more than one.

I am happy to announce that the plural was not referring to only the multi-issue series I am writing for Mayberry Magazine!

The just-released issue of Nostalgia Digest includes a  seven-page article I wrote in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the debut of The Andy Griffith Show. “What  It Was Was Mayberry: Looking Back at  60  Years of The Andy Griffith Show” is a thousand-word examination of how our favorite show came to be.  And to give you an idea of how these things work, I submitted my final draft and it was accepted for publication last September!

Nostalgia Digest article.

This was a special treat for me as I am a subscriber to this small-format magazine and look forward to each quarterly issue. And as members of  The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Program know, Nostalgia Digest served as an inspiration to me in the new magazine I recently launched, The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors Magazine.

Detail from back cover.

But you don’t have to be a subscriber to get a copy for yourself (and it includes lots of other informative and entertaining articles). The magazine can be found on newsstands at over 400 Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million stores in the United States.  You can also order an individual copy for only $5.50 from the publisher, Funny Valentine Press. [NOTE: The magazine sold out rather quickly from the publisher and is no longer available.]

I would really encourage you to support Nostalgia Digest and Mayberry Magazine. Without their audiences providing financial support, they cannot continue to provide the type of information we all enjoy so much.

Finally, in conjunction with my article, the radio show Those Were the Days which is hosted by Nostalgia Digest editor Steve Darnell will feature programs that include some of the stars of The Andy Griffith Show on the September 12 broadcast from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Those Were the Days can be heard in the  Chicago area on WDCB at  90.9  FM or worldwide on the web at www.wdcb.org.

Liberty Grove Press on The Big Show

Preparing The Andy Griffith Show Ambassadors  Magazine is just one of the many reasons I have neglected posting here, but I do have a fun story to share.

I wrote a (hopefully) funny story in the magazine about finding out at the beginning of  March that my name was mentioned on the nationally syndicated radio program The Bob and Tom Show. It turns out that just over a week or two later, the same thing happened on the Charlotte, North Carolina-based program The  Big Show.

One of the members of the Ambassadors Program told me (and for the life of me, I can’t remember who it was) around the middle of April that he had heard the show’s hosts John Boy and Billy mentioning my name a few weeks earlier. The show is widely syndicated but is not carried in my area so I told him I was sorry I had missed it. He then let me know that a  few months ago they began a podcast made up of their skits and comedy bits for each day so I went in search of it. And I finally found out after becoming indoctrinated with the show after quite a few episodes!

I had sent Mayberry Firsts (which is currently on backorder) and my most recent Mayberry Day-by-Day desk calendar after reading that the hosts are big fans of the show. And they clearly are, as it is a rare day that at least some reference is not made to The  Andy  Griffith Show. However, for the sake of accuracy, I do want to make sure readers know that the hosts were confused when discussing Don Knotts’ Emmy Awards. Somehow Billy (and John Boy agreed) thinks that  Don Knotts never won an Emmy Award while a series regular and won all of them for his guest shots during the color years. Since Don Knotts won five  Emmys for playing Barney Fife and there were only three color seasons, that would have been quite the feat!  Actually, two of the five were for guest shots and the rest were while he was a  series regular.

One other small explanation is needed before you listen. Billy and others on the show often tease John Boy for mispronouncing words. Before their shout out to me, they had been talking about a food coloring that had been changed because it was carcinogenic. After a couple of attempts by John Boy trying to say carcinogenic, Billy made a joke about the Kardashians as one of John Boys’ attempts sounded a lot like the reality star’s name.

COVID-19’s Second Liberty Grove Press Event Cancellation

I had previously announced that I would be doing one of my presentations about The Andy Griffith Show as part of an official Mayberry event for the first time, Mayberry in the Midwest. Unfortunately but wisely in light of the pandemic situation, the festival has been canceled.

I have already assured the organizers that I would be thrilled to provide a presentation at the 2021  festival, by which time we will surely have adequate testing and tracking in place and hopefully even a vaccine. Until then, while I know it was a difficult decision, I have no question it was the right one.

There are other ways for the Mayberry community to stay in touch. I have had quite a  number of people reach out to tell me how The  Andy  Griffith Show Ambassadors Program I started recently could not have come at a better time, as it makes them feel like the Mayberry family is still there and they enjoy getting a  certificate as a unique piece of Mayberry memorabilia. As I have said, a worldwide virus was definitely not part of the plan. I launched the new club on February 15 as that was the 60th Anniversary of the pilot episode first being seen. But I am certainly happy it is filling a need for so many.

As the adage says, this too shall pass. Be well, watch out for one another, and long live Mayberry!

COVID-19’s First Liberty Grove Press Event Cancellation

I  have known for a bit that my appearance at the Miami Township Branch of Clermont  County Library in Milford, Ohio would not go forward on the originally scheduled date of April 25 due to the current situation with  COVID-19. The libraries in Ohio are currently closed and at least that branch now knows they won’t reopen until September at the earliest.

Several of the major Mayberry events are still technically scheduled but I would think at least some will not go forward.

This current crisis which is negatively impacting Mayberry fans’ ability to gather together is especially unfortunate since this year marks the 60th  anniversary of The Andy Griffith  Show‘s debut. But as the adage states, “This, too, shall pass.”  In the grand scheme, it is not important that we may have to celebrate later than we originally planned.  The important thing is that we eventually have the opportunity to do so. And we will.

In the meantime, be well and keep spreading that Mayberry spirit even if only through social media. The world needs  Mayberry now more than ever!

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.