This is quietly one of the biggest names in Mayberry
Do you know the Mendelbrights as well as the Darlings?
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Every Mayberry fan on earth remembers the Darlings, the family of country bumpkins who every once in a while pulled Sheriff Andy into their band. But the Darlings themselves aren't from Mayberry.
They memorably rolled into town in the third season, and one of the first shots of Denver Pyle as Briscoe Darling finds the patriarch dipping his hat into the Mayberry horse trough to fill up the truck's radiator. If you look closely above the water spout during this scene, you’ll see the name David Mendelbright next to the quote "Let no horse go thirsty here" and the dates 1870 and 1933.
The official name of this Mayberry landmark is the David Mendelbright Memorial Horse Water Trough. Located near the center of town, no Mayberry map would leave it off, but other than the trough, we don't know much about this David Mendelbright character.
Some fans have a theory that David Mendelbright was one of Mayberry's founders.
Consulting Mayberry history books, the town is estimated to be founded in 1862. It tragically burned down and was rebuilt in 1870.
If the memorial trough dates signify the dates the trough was built (1870) and the date of David Mendelbright’s death (1933), this theory might work, and we could consider he was a founder who helped bring back the town.
And it seems that's exactly what the writers were thinking when they wrote it.
One Andy Griffith Show superfan Randy Turner tracked down the original script and verified the notes describing the trough to set designers. It described the monument as "a permanent concrete watering trough donated by one of the town's founders many years ago."
The family has clearly been in Mayberry for generations, and if you pay attention, you’ll hear the name Mendelbright recur throughout the show. Take the Mendelbright sisters, for example, famous for tying up Mayberry's one phone line with their chatter.
Perhaps the most recognizable Mendelbright is Mrs. Mendelbright, the landlady with many rules who rents a room to Barney Fife. Before we see Mrs. Mendelbright, she's mentioned a bunch. Finally, in season four, we finally met her face to face in the episode "Up in Barney's Room."
"Up in Barney’s Room" is a fan-favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show because for the first time ever, we got to see where Barney lives. The episode opens with Barney sneaking in a mysterious sack in front of a sign that says Mendelbright Park Apartments. Under that, it says, "No children, no pets, no cooking, no vacancies."
It's the "no cooking" rule that Barney can't abide, and he has an "illegal" hot plate in his room to cook his stews. And everything's going fine until Andy drops by and is so busy taking in the way his deputy decorates his room (as was everyone in the audience) that they don’t notice the stew burning. Mrs. Mendelbright notices, though, and she kicks Barney out.
Mrs. Mendelbright was played by Enid Markey, a sensational silent film star who played the role of the beauty Jane in the 1918 movie Tarzan of the Apes. She was always being cast a sweet young thing, and on The Andy Griffith Show, they played into this stereotype by having her character Mrs. Mendelbright be nearly swindled by the tenant who comes to replace Barney (a scammer named Oscar Fields, played by the delightful J. Pat O'Malley).
You can tell this casting was important and that writers were trying to create this very significant moment introducing Mrs. Mendelbright because the name of the episode is a reference to the first stage play that Markey was ever cast in. The play was called "Up in Mabel’s Room."
Together, Andy and Barney team up to save Mrs. Mendelbright from the con man, and not only does this protect the fortune of one of the town's most long-respected families, but it also gives us one of the sweetest looks at Andy and Barney's special friendship.