Baby Boomers

Floyd the Barber Haircut in Andy’s Mayberry?

I purposely haven’t had a haircut in a while because I wanted to fulfill a boyhood dream of getting it trimmed at Floyd’s Barbershop in Mayberry.

If Sheriff and Opie Taylor, Deputy Fife, Gomer and Goober liked it there, it was good enough for me.

On “The Andy Griffith Show,” Mayberry’s Floyd the barber was played by actor Howard McNear, a popular supporting role in television history.

McNear had been in radio since the 1930s and was most notable as the voice of Doc Adams in Gunsmoke. His first appear as a barber on TV was as “Andy” in an episode of Leave it to Beaver.

Legend has it that Andy Griffith himself would sometimes have his hair cut by Russell Hiatt, a barber on Main Street in his hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina. The city is now proclaimed as the inspiration for and “real” Mayberry.

Main Street Mt. Airy July 2, 2020

Hiatt trimmed hair for 68 years until declining health prevented him from continuing at age 90. Two years later,  in 2016, he died, but memories of his kindly disposition and sense of humor live on at the barber shop.

Thanks to his son Bill Hiatt, 74, the shop remains open for tourists who stop by to snap photos and relive memories of the beloved program.

“My father never claimed to be Floyd the barber,” Hiatt told me. “But visitors from all over the world loved the show so much that when they came in and saw the kind gentleman he was, well, he became their Floyd.”

The shop was once called City Barber Shop and was founded in 1929. Hiatt began cutting hair there in 1946 and added the reference to Floyd in the shop’s name around 1989.

There are 20,000 photos of visitors sitting in the now famous barber chair all over the walls. Some who’ve had their hair trimmed there include George Lindsey (Goober), John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard) and Oprah Winfrey.

“Everything resembled the barbershop in the show,” Hiatt said. His father “didn’t like to be in the limelight. This was his niche being right here in this place.”

“Some of his customers who were aging couldn’t get out anymore. He would go on over to their house and cut their hair and never take a dime,” the barber’s son remembered. “He would go to hospitals, funeral homes, wherever he was needed to help. Some would come in who couldn’t talk plain, but everyone was equal in his eyes.”

“I do have a couple of part time barbers for hair cuts, but with this COVID thing, we haven’t been doing that for a while,” the friendly Hiatt explained. “I just can’t bare to close this down, and I’m retired. It means so much to people that they come here and feel like they are going back in time to the ’60s, when folks were friendly and more simple.”

Bill Hiatt keeps his father’s legacy open. It was a joy to sit on that famous chair.

Needless to say, thanks to the pandemic, many of our wants aren’t happening. No haircut for me. So what would Andy Taylor do? I suspect he’d do what I did–just thank the barber’s son for his hospitality, wink and walk out whistling.

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