10 details you never noticed in The Andy Griffith Show episode ''Opie's Newspaper''
Learn how war stories, haunted houses and high school memories influenced this beloved tale.
"Opie's Newspaper" is a highlight in the fifth season of The Andy Griffith Show. It is one of the final episodes with Don Knotts as a regular cast member, and he shines as always, especially when relaying gossip from Floyd's barbershop. Gossip is the major theme of this episode, as Opie and his buddy Howie Pruitt print up a newspaper called the Mayberry Sun that quickly turns into a local tabloid.
This episode also gives us more names of Mayberry locals than just about any other tale. Karen Faulker, Widow Saunders, Fred Henry, Myra Lambert, Cindy Ames, Sally Toms, Betty Parker, Bobby Wilson, Hector Stiles… there are loads of names mentioned, and some colorful neighbors as supporting cast.
It all leads to an episode filled with fascinating details. Let's take a closer look.
1. "Pickups and Splashes" was once an actual newspaper column.
Screenwriter Harvey Bullock worked a lot of his own backstory into "Opie's Newspaper." The veteran television scribe — Bullock also wrote notable episodes of The Flintstones and Hogan's Heroes, and went on to create Monster Squad — was writing from an early age. In high school, Bullock had a column in the school paper called "Pickups and Splashed from Floor and Pool," as he revealed in Neal Brower's insightful book Mayberry 101. Barney Fife boasts about his teenage journalist days at Mayberry Union High School, mentioning his column of the same name. However, Barney's column only ran once.
2. "Myra Lambert is a raindrop" is based on a true story, too.
That was not the only autobiographical detail Bullock worked into the script. Early in the episode, Barney and Andy read through Opie's innocent first edition of the Mayberry Sun, which has updates and bulletins from his school. Myra Lambert landed a part in the school play. "She will be a raindrop," Barney reads. That's cute — that's darn cute. Well, this too comes from Bullock's experience, serving in the US Navy. He explained in Mayberry 101 (you can also hear the tale in the Two Chairs No Waiting podcast) that fellows in the Navy serving in the Pacific were missing news from back home. They asked a Red Cross field worker to bring back updates from the homefront. When the news came in, one sailor heard about his brother Clifford, landing a part in a play. "Clifford is a raindrop," the Red Cross reported. That amusing line stuck with Bullock for decades.
3. The writer later regretted making a reference to the A-bomb.
Later in the episode, Barney, Aunt Bee and Andy sit and chat in the Taylor kitchen. It's a hot day outside. "It must be the bomb," Barney declares. You might wonder what he is talking about. It was an oft-stated, offhand line used in the post-WWII era by people who would blame something inexplicable on the nuclear bomb. Mail late? It must be the bomb. Train not on time? It must be the bomb. It's dark humor, indeed — certainly for idyllic Mayberry. Bullock would later resent using the line. "When I see it now in the script, I wince," he told Neal Brower in Mayberry 101. "It was ill-advised because I labored to keep topical lines out of Mayberry… Any reference to the bomb was negative and unnecessary."
4. Opie got the name of his pal wrong.
Any astute viewer of The Andy Griffith Show knows that writers did not pay particular care to continuity. This episode in particular is rife with such inconsistencies. Let's start with "Troy Bowden." In the Mayberry Sun, we learn this boy forgot his lunch at school but got a pear from a classmate. We have seen young Bowden before. Trey Bowden was the title character in "Andy and Opie's Pal." Trey was his nickname, as his given name was Frederick Bowden III.
5. The Reverend had a different name, too.
You recognize Reverend Hobart M. Tucker (William Keene). After all, he married Andy and Helen in the series premiere of Mayberry R.F.D. He's a familiar face around Mayberry. Only, in "Opie's Newspaper" (as well as in "The Church Organ") he is for some reason called "Reverend Martin."
6. The Reverend lived in a haunted house.
Speaking of the Reverend, pay close attention to his house. It is a recycled home in Mayberry. Most notably, the same structure was the spooky Rimshaw House in "The Haunted House." The same place hosts a society party when it is Mrs. Wiley's home in "My Fair Ernest T. Bass." It's easy to spot with its distinctive porch railing and front door windows. Oh, it also happens to sit right next to the Taylor house on the production set.
7. The Grigsbys were not that far apart in age.
Barney and Aunt Bee gossip on the sidewalk at passers-by. They spot Harold and Sue Grigsby. Barney and Bee say, "He's old enough to be her father" and that Sue is a "bottle blonde." In real life, the actors, Kelly Thordsen and Vici Raaf, were only four years apart in age. Perhaps you recognize Thordsen as Monroe Jones, Barnaby's cousin in an episode of Barnaby Jones?
8. Burt Mustin was playing a different character.
Burt Mustin is a fascinating bit player on The Andy Griffith Show. He began his acting career at the age of 67. Outside of Mayberry, he is best known as Gus the Fireman on Leave It to Beaver. In Mayberry, he is mostly known as Jud Fletcher. However, he is also called "Jubal," "Mr. Crowley" and, here, "Sam Benson." Why all the different names for essentially the same character? Who knows!
9. Mrs. Foster was related to Beaver Cleaver — and not?
Aunt Bee disses the Chicken a la King of Mrs. Foster, describing it as "wallpaper paste." That bit of spilled tea gets printed in the Mayberry Sun, forcing Bee to try and snatch the paper from Mrs. Foster's doorstep before it can be read. Irene Tedrow plays the role. On The New Leave It to Beaver, she portrayed Aunt Martha Bronson, June's auntie. Which is weird, because on the original Leave It to Beaver, she was in the episode "The Visiting Aunts." However, in that story she was Mrs. Hathaway — a friend of Aunt Martha (Madge Kennedy)!
10. There was a cereal conflict.
Post was a major sponsor of The Andy Griffith Show, which is why you could see Sheriff Andy pitching the company's cereals Post Oat Flakes and Post Toasties during episodes when the sitcom originally aired. "They're go-o-o-o-o-d!" he'd declare. Look at the shelf behind the printing press in the Mayberry Sun's garage base. You will spot a box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and General Mill's Cheerios.