Boca, a Premier Cincinnati Dining Experience

The distinctive entryway.

As should be apparent if you follow this blog, I tend to enjoy the obscure, hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop style of restaurant. Still, every so often one has to try something different. Around our birthdays (my wife and I have birthdays only a couple of weeks apart), we annually go someplace far from my usual haunts. This year we made a return trip to Boca.

Overlooking the main floor dining room from the second floor.
The interior looks quite different than it did when it was The Maisonette.

I mentioned The Maisonette earlier which closed in 2005. The location now houses a superior fine-dining restaurant called Boca where we enjoyed an incredible meal recently. We went with my friend Rob, who I have mentioned several times as he always attends Mayberry Days with me, and his lovely wife, Julie.

We started with Pommes Soufflées. Like many dishes at this type of restaurant, I had no idea what this was until it arrived at the table. This 18th-century French dish was on the menu of the Maisonette and Boca brought it back a couple of years ago. The starter is a variation of a french fry. They begin with potato sliced to the thickness of a nickel. The slices are fried three times, first at a lower temperature then at a higher which causes the potatoes to puff and fill with air though they deflate as they cool. When ordered, they are flash-fried a third time which re-inflates them. The hollow tubes are then salted and brought to the table still hot and fully puffed. As one article I read noted, it is a lot of work for what is, in essence, an upscale bar snack. But I have to tell you, really tasty.

Pommes Soufflées

We split a couple of other small dishes next. I am not the biggest fan of brussel sprouts though I do like them roasted at high temperature. At Boca, this is a small dish they are known for and which we have had it at a previous visit. The brussel sprouts  are prepared with brown butter truffle vinaigrette and served in a salad mix with a large scallop in the center of the dish.

 

Haricot Vert before the egg yolk was broken.

We also all shared a taste of the Haricot Vert dish but this was far from the green beans I saw so often when visiting Kentucky as a child. The beans were mixed in a salad blend Boca amusingly calls “bling mix.” The dish also includes bacon lardon, traditional bacon’s even tastier cousin. Fried butternut squash is also in the salad which is dressed with a sherry vinaigrette and topped with a soft fried farm egg. The yolk was broken and mixed in with the salad. So good.

We then shared Tajarin con Tartufo based on the strong recommendation of our excellent server, Robert. While this pasta was the simplest of the pasta dishes on the menu, “simplest” is a relative term. The egg-heavy noodles are a long pasta dressed in brown butter, burgundy black truffle, and parigîano reggiano. Not too similar to the pasta  I was normally exposed to growing up, that being Kraft Mac-and-cheese.

We all had separate entrees after eating these four dishes family style. I had a dish I have certainly heard of but had never tasted, Beef Wellington. There is a dispute about whether the dish originated in England or New Zealand, but it is labor-intensive enough that few restaurants offer it. The core of Boca’s is a beef filet coated in a påté of wild mushroom duxelles, a preparation of mushrooms sautéed with onions, shallots, garlic, and parsley. The coated steak is then wrapped in prosciutto and baked in a puff pastry that I am pretty sure was not Pillsbury crescent dough. After the plated dish was put in front of me, a hot black truffle bordelaise sauce was spread around the edge of the food. I have had steak prepared many different ways, but this coupled with the sauce was incredibly good. Though as I sometimes say about such things, for that price, it ought to be.

Beef Wellington.

At that point, we had no business having dessert, but how often do you go to a spot like this? I had a dessert the server said Boca is becoming known for, the Buckeye Candy Bar. The base was a brownie made with a high-quality chocolate called valrhona that was covered with buttery feuilletine flakes blended with peanut butter and then completely dipped in a chocolate opera glaze. And since that wasn’t enough, it was served with peanut butter sauce and caramelized peanuts, as well as a rich peanut butter gelato topped with a chocolate disc.

Buckeye Candy Bar.
The sweet wine produced by “noble rot.”

After having had a cocktail at a bourbon bar before we even went to Boca and then a glass of a nice bottle of wine with the meal, I was done drinking for the night. But since I was driving, Rob also ordered a glass of a Hungarian dessert wine our server recommended called Royal Tokaji. Originally served in royal courts in Hungary, the wine is made from a type of grapes that are first allowed to ripen to the point of bursting. A beneficial grey fungus then covers the grapes. In drier conditions this causes the grapes to become partially raisined. This process is called “noble rot.” When the infested grapes are picked at the right point, they are collected into huge vats and trampled into a paste which is used to produce a particularly sweet wine. I did have a taste of the wine and it had a delicious flavor that was not as sweet as I would have assumed but was still definitely a dessert wine.

If you live in the Cincinnati area or have reason to visit, a restaurant like Boca really can deliver one of the best meals of your life. It was a flawless evening with both superior food and service in a beautiful setting.

The Evolution of the This Week in Mayberry History Title Card

When I first joined Allan Newsome’s Two Chairs, No Waiting podcast as a contributor, our Facebook Group called The Gomer and Goober Comic Book Literary Guild had switched from using photos from the show as a banner to showing a portion of our charter from The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.

The banner used for The Gomer and Goober Comic Book Literary Guild the first time I participated in the podcast in January 2017 was the charter which declared us an official chapter of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.
Our official chapter logo.

As I previously discussed, my old college roommate and talented graphic artist, Dick, designed a logo for our Facebook group and silk-screened t-shirts for us to wear at the 2016 Mayberry Days festival which featured his design. I asked if he would be willing to take the same logo and adapt it as a banner. Though we never used it, the first attempts at a new banner involved the original group logo between photos of our namesakes

Discarded banner idea we never used.

I then had the idea of reconfiguring the original, square logo to in essence stretch it out.  It would be entirely a piece of artwork without any photos just as in our standard logo Dick had designed. Based on just the general idea I had, Dick flipped his original art images of our two namesakes inward and created a beautiful banner that fit the pixel parameters of Facebook’s group banner perfectly.

Our Facebook group banner.

Jumping ahead, however, Facebook eventually changed the banner size in one of those annoying little tweaks they like to make that seem to serve no identifiable purpose. Luckily, the design still works, though one has to click on the banner itself to see the full scale of Dick’s beautiful design.

How the group banner currently appears after Facebook changed the pixel dimensions of the banner. This is all of the banner one sees with the current Facebook banner dimensions though the full banner can still be seen by clicking on the photo while visiting the group site.

When I did my first few reports for the Two Chairs podcast, I verbally introduced myself as the images Allan had pulled for each particular report were already playing. Inspired by the wonderful job Dick did with our group banner, I approached him again about designing a title card or logo for the podcast segment. My ever-generous friend said he would be glad to do so. Planning to surprise Allan with the title card, I was the one who was surprised when I learned Allan had designed a title card for me on his own.

Allan’s design.

I told Allan that Dick had already been working on one which we were fine-tuning. Once Dick’s design was finished, it was adopted as the “official” title card for my segments.

The “official” title card for my podcast segment.
The Two Chairs, No Waiting podcast title card.

Not to worry, as I did not allow Allan’s design to go to waste! Allan normally records the podcast every Monday evening then posts it to www.twochairsnowaiting.com, YouTube, and your favorite podcatcher on Tuesday. Afterward, I post a notice to our group members that a new episode is available. As a graphic for my weekly posts, I alternate between two versions of the title card Dick made (one with the www.imayberry.com URL as shown and another with the Two Chairs URL), the title card Allan designed, and Allan’s title card of the Two Chairs podcast itself.

Holtman’s Donuts

A town’s favorite spots for donuts is often debated among aficionados. The Cincinnati area has several contenders, but many would vote for Holtman’s as the best.

Holtman’s in Loveland.
Interior of the Loveland location.

Holtman’s has been around since 1960 but has become more broadly known thanks to recent expansions. Its original and for decades only location is in Loveland, a town in greater Cincinnati. My father-in-law lives in Loveland but Holtman’s is not in town. It is actually closer to another town, Milford, though it has a Loveland address. I had never heard of Holtman’s until their expansion.

I had never been to the original location and it is not in a convenient spot for me to visit, but it is easily my favorite location. The building is relatively small, has no indoor seating, and is definitely old-school. They have a good selection there and make the best apple fritters I have ever had.

Another angle of the Loveland store’s interior.

The first time I ever saw Holtman’s was when they opened up a small location in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (OTR). This is an area that is undergoing gentrification and is home to a good number of excellent restaurants. The Holtman’s OTR storefront has a limited selection of donuts and in essence no seating.

The original shop was started by Charles Holtman who passed away in 2007. It is now run by his daughter and her husband, In 2009, they also opened a location in Williamsburg, a town farther east of Cincinnati I have never visited.

The OTR location was opened in 2013 by one of the grandsons of the original owners. Last year, he opened up a much larger location near my home. And another location will be opening soon in another Cincinnati neighborhood, Oakley.

Holtman’s West Chester location.
The new location is more spacious with plentiful seating.

Holtman’s doesn’t make their donuts from purchased mixes. All of their donuts are made from scratch and it shows. They use the same recipes used by their founder. They are often named the best donuts in the city, most recently by Cincinnati’s CityBeat. They are also often referenced as one of the many reasons Cincinnati is a hipper city than most people realize.

Like most donut shops now, Holtman’s offers lots more than just glazed and cake donuts.

Gohisca, 1952 and the Generosity of a Friend, Part III

As detailed earlier, my Mayberry friend Jimmy Phillips gifted me with the 1952 high school yearbook from the last year Andy Griffith worked as a high school teacher. Jimmy has also been a vocal supporter of my Mayberry Day-by-Day Calendar. I hope my use of his generous gift to write these recent blog posts helps him know how much I appreciate his thoughtfulness.

In the past two blog posts, I discussed how Andy Griffith came to be a teacher at Goldsboro High School and the inside reference to his friend from the school that he used in “The Clubmen” episode. There is another, interesting connection with a man who may not have been connected to The Andy Griffith Show but was a widely respected newsman for decades before his death this past April.

Photo of Carl Kassel at the Peabody Awards from his Wikipedia entry.

Many people know Carl Kassel as the voice of National Public Radio’s news show Morning Edition from its first broadcast in 1979 until he retired 30 years later. Many more know him as the official judge and scorekeeper of the NPR comedy program Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me, a role he filled from the beginning of that program in 1998 and continued to do even after his retirement from news until he retired from that show in 2014. (Winners of one of the games on the show won Carl’s voice on their answering machine or voicemail system as a prize.) Still others know Carl as the announcer for many years for the Kennedy Center Honors on CBS.

The full page with Cliff Britton’s photo shown in the last post also included Carl Kassel in a photo of the Goldmasquers officers.

Carl’s illustrious news career actually had its roots many years earlier in Goldsboro, North Carolina where he attended the school where Andy Griffith taught. Andy’s last year to teach there was also Carl’s senior year. Carl was the president of the Goldmasquers, the dramatic arts group that was directed by Cliff Britton

Under Britton, the high school had complete radio broadcasting facilities which Carl used to train. He also participated in radio workshops staged by Britton and landed his first on-air radio job when only 16.

 

Carl was also the male student named “Most Likely to Succeed” by his high school class in 1952.

After high school, Carl went to Andy’s alma mater the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he and fellow classmate and future broadcaster Charles Kuralt helped launch the local campus radio station WUNC. He left college before graduation when he was drafted into the Army. After serving, he first worked on-air in Goldsboro then became the news director of a radio station in Virginia where he hired a young intern who also went on to a career in broadcasting, Katie Couric. Carl became a nationally-known newscaster in 1975.

While Cliff Britton was clearly a mentor to Carl, so was Andy Griffith, the music teacher who also worked with the Goldmasquers during three of Carl’s four years in high school. Carl won the lead role in numerous high school stage productions and Andy encouraged him to pursue a theater career. Carl said he told Andy, “No, I’m going to be a radio star,” though he did follow Andy’s advice briefly.

Carl acted professionally for one summer in The Lost Colony in 1952, the summer after he graduated and Andy resigned from Goldsboro High School. Carl played the Indian chief Wanchese in the production which starred Andy.

Carl Kassel in the lower right corner and Andy Griffith as Sir Walter Raleigh in The Lost Colony. Photo from the blog A View to Hugh.

In Carl’s first dress rehearsal, Andy told him he had been a bit heavy handed with the makeup.  Carl recalled that Andy then taught him how to appropriately apply the face paint, and added that Andy was “a big, big help” during the season.

Wanchese before Queen Elizabeth. Photo from the blog A View to Hugh.

What a treasure trove the Gohisca yearbook has been.

Gohisca, 1952 and the Generosity of a Friend, Part II

As detailed in my last post, my Mayberry friend Jimmy Phillips recently gifted me with what is now one of my prized possessions: the Goldsboro, North Carolina’s 1952 high school yearbook, Gohisca, from the last year Andy Griffith worked as a high school teacher. I also mentioned that Andy decided to accept that teaching job at the urging of a friend from the long-running outdoor drama, The Lost Colony. That friend’s name was Clifton “Cliff” Britton.

Currently preparing for its 82nd season in 2019, The Lost Colony is a play based on the 1587 English settlement on Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks that was found mysteriously deserted three years later. After his freshman year, Andy considered trying to join the cast of The Lost Colony which paid $25 per week but instead worked alongside his father in a Mount Airy chair factory earning $40 a week. As he became involved with a theater group at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill called the Carolina Playmakers, the following summer he took the cut in pay and joined the cast of The Lost Colony.

Andy made important connections there, none so important as meeting his future wife who was also in the cast. Another cast mate was Bob Armstrong, later billed as R.G. Armstrong, a great character actor familiar to Mayberry fans as the farmer Flint who was trying to run his farm with only the help his daughter, “Frankie.” Andy also got to know Clifton Britton.

Cliff had been involved with The Lost Colony since 1947 when he joined as a stage manager. At Goldsboro High School, he was the director of the Goldmasquers, a dramatic arts group that staged plays frequently. The school’s department was the largest high school drama department in the South. He was named an Honorary Member of the Carolina Playmakers and by 1951 was an Assistant Director of The Lost Colony.

From the Teachers’ Photos section of the yearbook.

Cliff was interested in doing more musicals at Goldsboro and convinced Andy to join the staff at the high school to strengthen the music department. As discussed in the last post, Andy accepted and taught at Goldsboro for three years before leaving in 1952 to pursue a full-time career as an entertainer.

If the name Cliff Britton sounds familiar, it is because Andy was fond of sometimes making references to real people and locations in The Andy Griffith Show. When Andy and Barney were being considered for membership to the exclusive Esquire Club. Andy’s friend, Roger Courtney, introduced them to other club members, including Cliff Britton, an insider’s nod to his old friend.

“Barney Fife, this is Cliff Britton.”

Gohisca, 1952 and the Generosity of a Friend, Part I

I have made many new friends through my involvement with the Mayberry community. Some I have had the pleasure of actually meeting face-to-face at festivals such as Mayberry Days but many I have only “met” over the internet. One of these friends this past week demonstrated the type of Mayberry spirit that is one of the reasons the Mayberry community is the best.

Jimmy Phillips is an administrator of a great fan group of The Andy Griffith Show called Mayberry, Our Favorite Hometown. Jimmy is also a member of the Facebook group I administer. When Jimmy first joined our group, I reached out to him when I saw he was originally from the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, the same state of my parents’ birth and where I still have many family and friends.

I recently received a Facebook Message from Jimmy completely out of the blue which read, “Hey, Randy! I have a piece of Andy Griffith memorabilia that I’m going to send you. I’m sure you will like it.” He asked for my mailing address and on Thursday a FedEx package arrived. I had no idea what was in the box but when I opened it, I was literally stunned. Jimmy sent me a copy of the 1952 Goldsboro High School yearbook.

Greensboro High School 1952 yearbook, Greensboro, NC.

After graduating from The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1949, Andy Griffith did not feel he was ready to make his living performing. He had been acting in the outdoor drama The Lost Colony during the summers after his sophomore and junior years. A friend of his from the production was a teacher at Goldsboro High School and convinced him to join the staff at the school in the music department. Andy agreed and he and his new wife, Barbara, moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina after appearing in The Lost Colony again that summer.

Even though his legal first name was “Andy,” Griffith sometimes went by “Andrew” before entering show business.

While he taught at Goldsboro, Andy and Barbara developed an act which they performed for groups such as civic clubs throughout the area. Andy would tell monologues while Barbara would sing. Andy also went to New York in 1950 and auditioned unsuccessfully for the famed Paper Mill Playhouse in nearby New Jersey. But by 1952, Griffith determined he was ready to commit to trying to make a living as a full-time entertainer and he gave his notice at Goldsboro.

To say I was surprised to open the box from my friend, Jimmy, and discover he had sent me the high school yearbook from Andy’s final year of teaching, does not begin to describe how I felt. I was moved and so grateful that he had thought to give me a gift that—and this is not hyperbole—I already treasure.

I called Jimmy and did my best to express my gratitude for his immense generosity. He told me he had owned the book for 15 years and knew that I would really enjoy it and so sent it to me. I know that this says something about the kind of man Jimmy is. He is clearly the epitome of kindness. I really can’t express how much his generous and kind gift means to me.

Obviously, Jimmy did not send it to me for any public recognition of his generous nature, but I think a recognition of his kindness is fitting.

Thank you, Jimmy.

Two Cincinnati Restaurant Stories

When I discussed The Maisonette in my last post, it made me recall a humorous story about another visit to this tony restaurant.

We have two lovely daughters who both attended an all-girl parochial school near Cincinnati. A highlight near the end of the school year was the annual Father-Daughter Dance. The school really did it right. The dance itself was always held at a nice hotel in downtown Cincinnati and featured a live cover band that was really talented—a far cry from Carl Benson and his Wildcats from The Andy Griffith Show. The dance itself was always really amusing to me, as it consisted of a ballroom of young girls with no qualms about dancing and doing so with abandon around an equal number of awkward fathers trying to keep up but really just shuffling side-to-side in a semi-rhythmic fashion.

The Maisonette.

Being quite the affair, the fathers traditionally wore tuxedos and took their daughters out to eat in a group at a particularly nice restaurant before the dance. During my oldest daughter’s time there, we once went to The Maisonette.

My daughter was certainly old enough to understand the restaurant’s formidable reputation and knew that it was quite expensive. I always stressed to my daughters that the Father-Daughter Dance was a once-a-year event. Personally, I was also ever mindful that this type of thing would sadly end once they went to college. So I always told them not to worry about the expense of the restaurant and order whatever they wanted.

As stated, we were there with a group of my daughter’s classmates and their fathers. When it came time to order, my daughter excitedly told me she and a good friend of hers had decided to split a meal. I told her there was no need to do that but she insisted. When the food was delivered, I learned what they had “split.” They had ordered the chateaubriand, the large steak cut from the thickest part of a beef filet that was listed on the menu as intended to be shared with a price tag to reflect that idea. It was actually worth every penny, though, as she still says it was the best steak she has ever eaten in her life.

Since I have told a humorous story about my oldest daughter, it is only fair I do so about my youngest daughter as well. When the kids were really young, we obviously tended to take them out to eat at places where it was not a problem if they were loud, such as a pizza joint or something similarly casual. Our youngest was three years younger than our other daughter, so we were ready to take them to a “nicer” restaurant perhaps just a bit earlier than we should have been.

In the 1990s, there was a chain of steakhouses called Mountain Jack’s. Their specialty was prime rib but they had a broad menu specializing in steak and seafood. The chain filed for bankruptcy in 2008 though a lone location still exists in Lafayette, Indiana. Mountain Jack’s was more prevalent in some areas. For example, Michigan had 21 locations. There was only one near us but we thought it would be a good introductory “nicer” restaurant for the girls to try.

Mountain Jack’s was decorated with what I think were actually artificial animal heads and fish that I think actually were carved from wood and painted all mounted to the wall. Many of the chandelier light fixtures appeared to be made of antlers, though again, I think they were not the real thing.

We stressed to the girls in advance that we were going to a nice restaurant and they would need to be on their best behavior. Perhaps we stressed that it was a “nice” restaurant too much. As we were taken to our table, I could see my youngest daughter eying the decor, which she continued to do after we were seated. After the server took our drink orders and left, we asked the girls what they thought. My youngest daughter said, “I thought you said this was a nice restaurant.” She then added with a dismissive tone, “Huh! Buncha’ dead animals on the wall!s!”

My Prosopagnosia-like Tendencies

I mentioned in a previous post that I have never been great at facial recognition when I recounted that I had once seen Clint Howard at breakfast at Mayberry Days and did not connect who he was until I saw him in the parade.

The most extreme form of this trait is called prosopagnosia or more commonly “face blindness.” People with this neurological disorder literally can’t recognize facial features even of those they have met many times. At its most extreme, they cannot even recognize their own reflection.

Clint Howard.

I certainly am not that bad. Had someone said, “Really look at that guy and tell me if you know who that is,” I would have realized it was Clint. But I don’t always pay enough attention. Maybe that is called just being a typical male instead of a mild case of prosopagnosia…

This was far from the first time I have done this. When we were first married in the 1980s, my wife worked in local television news in Cincinnati. As a thank you, the station gave her a certificate for both of us to go to dinner at the famed though now defunct Cincinnati restaurant called The Maisonette.

Painting of The Maisonette from their also defunct Facebook page.

The Maisonette closed in 2005 but at the time was the most highly rated restaurant in the country. The luxury French restaurant earned Mobil Travel Guide’s five-star-rating for 41 years in a row, the longest streak in history. The streak only ended when they closed. When we went there for dinner, we passed a booth of other diners whom we nodded to politely as we walked by. After we were seated, my wife informed me that one of the people we had seen was Boomer Esiason, the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals at the time and now an NFL color commentator. I, of course, was oblivious.

Fast forward to when we had children and went on a trip to DisneyWorld with another family of dear friends. While we were in Cinderella’s castle, my wife saw what looked like any other teenager to me. The next thing I knew, my daughters were getting the autograph of national and Olympic ice skating champion Tara Lipinski.

Fast forward to when both of my daughters were grown and living on both coasts. My oldest daughter lives in New York City. While visiting a few years ago, my wife and I were in Manhattan and we saw a balding man who did not seem particularly notable to me getting into a car. My wife then told me it was the well-known television journalist Harry Smith who I had seen on television hundreds of times. A few years later we were visiting my younger daughter who lived in San Francisco at the time. My wife and I were walking alongside the busy Ferry Building Marketplace on the waterfront and I nearly bumped into someone who did at least look kind of familiar to me but who I obviously didn’t really recognize. My wife then told to me it was Richard Kind, an actor whom I enjoy a lot.

A final example is from just last year. My oldest daughter was giving a recital in Manhattan and we decided to make it more of an extended trip and went through New England, spending most of the time in Maine before heading into the city. On the way to New York, we spent a night in Connecticut so my wife could visit a store she had wanted to see. That night, we ate at a popular pizza joint we had found on Yelp. The place was packed and the tables were all close, so much so that the guy sitting to my left was literally maybe a foot away from me. I had politely said “Hi” to him as I sat down and thought nothing else about it. My wife picked up her phone and began texting, something she normally doesn’t do during dinner. My phone then buzzed and I realized she was texting me. The message read, “Don’t look now, but you are sitting next to John McEnroe.” And indeed I was.

I later told the story to a friend of ours who lives in Maine. When he said that was cool, I said I guessed so, but it would have been a lot cooler if McEnroe had lost his temper with one of the servers and then jumped to his feet and thrown his silverware to the ground while screaming insults. But in fact, he was nothing but polite and seemed a gentleman the entire meal. 

How I Joined a Podcast Without Being a Podcaster

When I attended Mayberry Days in 2016, I gave Allan Newsome one of our chapter t-shirts. Allan is well-known in the Mayberry community as the tribute artist who acts as Floyd the barber at Mayberry events. Allan has often served as the Mayberry Deputy David Browning’s righthand man when David served as an emcee and has assumed many of David’s duties now that David is no longer attending Mayberry Days. Allan is also the podcaster who hosts the fan podcast called Two Chairs, No Waiting, the title of which is a reference to Floyd Lawson’s dream shop. He has been doing a weekly podcast since October 2008 and on October 16, 2018, posted his 5ooth episode. The gift of a shirt was just a small token of thanks to Allan for all he does to keep the Mayberry spirit alive.

Screenshot of Allan with a t-shirt from The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild displayed behind him.

I mentioned earlier that when I announced my project of trying to post daily throughout 2017, we had 86 members. Allan was in attendance when I made that announcement. He generously agreed to give my project a boost by talking about it on his podcast. I sent him the first few days of posts I planned to make so he would not be recommending something without knowing it’s quality. In early December, Allan gave our Facebook group a shout out and told others about my planned posts throughout the year. He also showed the audience the shirt I had given him and some of the photos I had posted on our Facebook group page.

Allan observed that we were all showing our better sides in this shot.

At the beginning of 2017 and unbeknownst to me, a member of my Facebook group reached out to Allan and suggested having me share some of the information I was posting on the podcast. When Allan asked if I would be interested and willing, I happily agreed to do so periodically. The first podcast of 2017 had already gone by, but beginning the second week, I started sending in an audio report which I called This Week in Mayberry History. I did one literally every week the rest of that year and continue to contribute the reports regularly.

I have to share two points about doing the podcast reports. First, by the next Mayberry Days in 2017, after posting daily in The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild Facebook group and preparing This Week in Mayberry History for the podcast, our group had gone from 86 members to around 3000.

Second, when I was first preparing to tape a report, I wasn’t sure how long a page of text translated to when reading aloud. I was in our bedroom just timing myself while reading what would later become my first report when my wife walked in, stopped in her tracks, and after a pause said, “Tell me you’re not starting a podcast.” I think she was happy to learn I was just doing a weekly segment of a few minutes on one!

 

Trips to Mount Airy, Part IX: Mayberry Days, 2016

Left to right, this is Steve, Rob, me, and Marty all showing our better sides.

Saturday morning Rob, Steve, Marty, and I, all wearing our new chapter t-shirts, went for breakfast at Snappy Lunch. We knew it would be the only opportunity to eat there that trip. When disappointment was expressed to our server that we would be missing out on the world-famous pork chop sandwich since it was breakfast, she told us the cook would still make them for us but that it would take a bit longer. Not a traditional breakfast, but all four of us had the tasty pork chop sandwich.

The ever lovely Betty Lynn.

The parade was a blast, as always. Afterward, even though I already had Betty Lynn’s autograph, I waited in line to meet her again and had her autograph a photo for another friend of mine who is a fan but couldn’t attend.

Professor Brower’s Lecture followed and was as entertaining as always in spite of the fact that Clint Howard, who was supposed to attend again, had to cancel at the last minute because of a film role. Instead, Clint arranged for Neal to interview Rance Howard, Clint and Ron’s father, by phone and Neal shared details of the conversation with the audience.

At the annual meeting of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, I gave a report for The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild for the first time. I shared that I had, on behalf of our group, been privileged to present Dorothy Best with her Duchess of Hazard certificate on Thursday.

Not great photo quality, I know, but it’s all I have. On the right is Jim Clark, the founder and Head Goober of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.

 

I also announced that I was going to attempt to post something on our Facebook group page literally every day of 2017 and not just random facts. That would have been too easy. No, I was going to post facts related to each specific day. (This project eventually led to our new Mayberry calendar.) I will admit, I had a rough outline of a great many of the days already so I believed I could pull it off but the posts were certainly not all written in advance. Still, I asked anyone interested to check it out and wish me luck. I checked that morning, and at that point, we had 86 people in our Facebook group.

My old buddy, Marty.

Seeing my old friend, Marty, again after so long and gaining a new friend in  Steve made the 2016 trip to Mayberry Days an especially wonderful trip.

It was great to have Steve (on the right) join us for Mayberry Days.
Always fine dining at Hillbilly Hot Dogs.
Even the artificial flowers in their beautiful vases are subject to graffiti.

On the way back home on Sunday, Rob and I naturally introduced Steve to Hillbilly Hot Dogs. I have previously mentioned they have hot dogs with enough toppings to weigh multiple pounds called the Homewrecker and the Widowmaker. While they are known for their hot dogs, they also have burgers. Their biggest burgers are named after trailer types, so they have a Single Wide, a Double Wide, and even a Triple Wide. The latter is a 30-pound beef burger that is cooked in an enormous skillet. It is not 30 pounds of individual beef patties piled on a giant bun but is literally a single 30-pound meat patty. It sells for $150. Then again, it feeds up to 50.

The hamburgers I have seen there do look good, but since I only go once a year, it is hard for me to rationalize not getting a couple of hot dogs. After all, it is called Hillbilly Hot Dogs.

They offer some really great deals there sometimes!