Meet the many different faces of Wally's Filling Station in Mayberry
Which Wally is your favorite?
"Howdy, Wally!" Sheriff Andy calls to a skinny gentleman with dark hair who is reading in a rocking chair on his front porch.
"Andy," Wally answers, putting down his newspaper to find out what the sheriff wants.
In "Man in a Hurry," we actually spend a decent amount of time with Wally, the owner of Wally's Filling Station, because a central part of the plot is that the "Man in a Hurry" is stuck in town because his car needs fixing.
On The Andy Griffith Show, Wally’s Filling Station was, perhaps aside from Floyd's Barber Shop, the most memorable Mayberry establishment, and for the role of Wally, the show cast several actors at different points, each with unique appearances and personalities.
In this episode, it's Norman Leavitt acting as Mayberry's main mechanic.
Leavitt appeared as Wally once before "Man in a Hurry," in the 1962 episode "Lawman Barney." It's possible his might be the face you associate with Wally's Filling Station in your mind, because those episodes are both fan favorites and Leavitt was the only person to play Wally more than once.
But three other men appeared as Wally during the Andy Griffith Show's run: Trevor Bardette (in "Gomer the House Guest"), Cliff Norton (in "Goober’s Replacement") and — though some fans dispute this role was intended to be the same Wally — Blackie Hunt (in "The Barbershop Quartet").
We figured now would be a good time to take a moment and get your Wallys straight.
Leavitt was the original Wally, a character actor who had featured in movies since the 1940s and transitioned into TV in the mid-1950s. In his career, he appeared on The Andy Griffith Show as several other characters, in addition to guest roles on shows like The Addams Family, Green Acres, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Bonanza, and many more.
He was the kind of string-bean comedian who was known behind the scenes as a bottomless pit when it came to snacking onset.
In 1952 on the set of a movie where he was specifically cast to play a skinny guy who eats everything in sight, it's reported he daily consumed "about a dozen candy bars, six to eight sandwiches, four pounds of assorted fruit and a jumbo size box of cookies."
The story goes that his wife would pack him a hearty lunch, which he would eat early, and then he'd eat a second "social lunch" in the commissary with the other actors.
According to The Napa Journal, his wife "screams hysterically if anyone asks her what he eats for dinner. As a nightcap, he likes salami (cut the long way) sandwiches."
Leavitt credits his busy life as a character actor to always looking for his next meal to appease his limitless appetite.
"My Broadway stage background taught me a lesson," Leavitt said. "Like most actors, I eat every meal as though it might be my last one."
Leavitt retired from acting in 1978, his final appearance on Quincy, M.E.
Trevor Bardette became the next Wally to walk into Mayberry when he appeared in the 1963 episode "Gomer the House Guest."
This was a totally different Wally, mustached and holding his face in a scowl as he watched Gomer goof around telling stories to a customer while another customer lost his patience waiting around for service.
Losing his cool, this version of Wally shouts at Gomer before storming into the filling station, after which Sheriff Andy calms observed, "Wally's a little sore, huh?"
"Oh, he don't mean nothing by it," Gomer says. "He's a wonderful human being!"
But the truth is Trevor Bardette was never cast to play "wonderful" human beings. He was always cast as a bad guy who "delights" in killing good guys on TV.
In 1959, The Daily News described Bardette as an "ornery cuss" and noted that most often he was the one snuffed out by episode’s end, sometimes by being shot, other times by being "stabbed, smothered, strangled, drowned, crushed by rocks, poisoned, trampled by horses or hung."
This angry version of Wally was played by an actor whose most notable onscreen skill was being able to believably be taken out by TV heroes.
"The big trick is to die casually," Bardette said. "Most actors who have never before been killed tend to overdo it when they first attempt it. You have to be extremely careful that the death scene doesn't wind up being humorous. I once saw a man hung. He kicked and kicked and kicked. It was horrible. Yet if you imitated the incident on TV, it might possibly look funny."
From the 1930s through the 1960s, he honed this skill as a prolific baddie. His wife Dorothy once joked, "I’m used to seeing Trevor being mean."
For Bardette, playing Wally was an extreme change of pace, but afterward, he also appeared on other TV comedies like My Favorite Martian and Gomer Pyle: USMC. He retired from acting in 1969 and passed away eight years later.
The next time we see Wally in Mayberry, it's the sixth season and he's played by Cliff Norton, who The St. Louis-Dispatch described in 1963 as "one of television’s supporting faces, a man seen on all the networks."
Norton's episode is called "Goober’s Replacement," and in it, we watched as Wally decides to fire Goober because his girlfriend Flora brings in more business on the day she fills in for Goob at the Filling Station.
By the end of the episode, Sheriff Andy and Wally lean up against a car at the station, with Wally admitting, "I have no luck with women," after Flora quits.
"Well, we're not supposed to understand women, Wally. Just appreciate 'em," Andy retorts.
Norton got his start as an actor later than the other Wallys, but that's because he came from radio.
As a radio performer, Norton voiced many characters, but he found transitioning to TV really limited his roles when he made the leap in 1950.
"In television, the face is there, and people won't believe you as a character of too many parts," Norton said.
That didn't stop him from appearing on TV for decades. In addition to playing the filling station owner, he played a wide range of characters, like a game warden on The Dick Van Dyke Show, a police chief on The Munsters, a professor on Bewitched, a waiter on The Beverly Hillbillies, and a tramp on Maude. His final role came on Murphy Brown in 1994.
Out of all the Wallys, though, Norton might have been the one with the most experience dealing with customers.
Growing up in Chicago, Norton took on a wide range of odd jobs, including shoe salesman and a woman's dress shop window dresser.
According to The Chicago Tribune in 1950, he would improvise jokes on the job.
Imagine going in a dress shop, asking to try on the dress in the window, only to have a grinning store employee say, "Sorry, madam, but we have a dressing room for that purpose."
Perhaps his most humble job was the most Mayberry-sounding one. He flipped hamburgers at his uncle's burger joint. If it weren't for discovering acting, Norton likely would've spent his whole life goofing off in these odd jobs.
"I've never taken myself or anything else too seriously with one exception — show business," Norton told the Tribune.
Fans of The Andy Griffith Show dispute whether Norton’s appearance in "Goober's Replacement" was the actual final appearance of Wally, or if that actually happened the next season during an episode called "The Barbershop Quartet."
For "The Barbershop Quartet," Andy enters a contest with his Barbershop quartet, which includes the character actors Burt Mustin and Blackie Hunt, as well as Jack Dodson, playing Howard Sprague, who ends up missing the contest. This results in Andy having to find a replacement at the last minute.
"Wally, come here," Andy shouts to Blackie Hunt's character about two and a half minutes into the episode.
Because Mayberry has a very well-known character named Wally who is frequently played by different character actors, some fans see Blackie Hunt’s character as Wally, the owner of the filling station.
Others see him as some other Wally. It's never made clear this is the owner of the filling station.
To play this musical version of Wally in Mayberry, it makes sense that the Andy Griffith Show cast Hunt, though.
Hunt was a vaudeville performer who could play many instruments, and he was so good, he frequently played them while hanging upside down.
The Andy Griffith Show was the only time Hunt ever appeared on a TV show, but in Las Vegas, Hunt was an absolute legend.
And out of all the Wallys, he did the most Mayberry thing when he decided to "retire" from performing.
He opened up a family business, a Las Vegas restaurant called Bootlegger Bistro. He ran the place with his wife, who lovingly included her mother's recipes on their menu.
Both of them were performers, and though retired elsewhere, they continued performing in their restaurant, her singing and Hunt doing what he did best: wildly playing instruments, sometimes while standing on his head.
Their restaurant became a place where Vegas performers liked to hang, the same way Mayberry folks used to hang out at places like Floyd's Barber Shop and Wally's Filling Station.