News item: Chicago Magazine names Forest Park’s Madison Street “the Mayberryest downtown” among all of Chicago’s suburbs.
To be plain, the magazine did not name Oak Park “the Mayberryest,” nor did it name Forest Park “Oak Park-lite.” So those local folks who really would like to be living in the Andy Griffith era of the 1960s, who fear “an invasion” of Oak Parkers are all safe.
While the magazine’s judges rightly admired Brown Cow and recommended a curbside spring afternoon outside a Madison Street tavern, we suspect they did not follow those subsections of 2019 Forest Park life where the disgruntled and acerbic gather to run down the town they all profess to love. That would be Facebook and its lovely neighbor groups.
Now, we can’t just sugarcoat Mayberry. A small North Carolina town doesn’t rocket to the top of the TV ratings and stay there for years with no tension, angst, back-biting or bad spelling and punctuation.
Why, we remember the way Aunt Bea and Clara got into it over, what — the best apple pie or was it the holiday pageant? No, the underlying fight was over which of them had lived the longest in Mayberry. Clara, having arrived on a Greyhound at age 3, was exposed as an unworthy interloper.
Now Barney and Howard Sprague always seemed like a knife fight ready to erupt. Couldn’t explain it until we saw that “lost episode” of Andy where Howard was running for re-election as county clerk and Barney threw his considerable influence behind the candidacy of Goober Pyle. Man, talk about holding a grudge.
Careful viewers will recall there was always a subtext on The Andy Griffith Show about the economic viability of Mayberry. The constant insecure jabs about Mount Pilot draining jobs from Mayberry. And Mayberry was left trying to pay its sheriff and deputy off the proceeds of Emmett’s Fix-It Shop and Floyd the Barber. Hell, there isn’t even sales tax revenue off repairing toasters and cutting hair.
The episode where Mayberry introduced a 24-hour bingo parlor to close a budget shortfall became a cult classic. Helen Crump cajoling Otis to bet his Social Security disability check so Andy could get a new squad car still brings tears.
We’re writing pre-election. By the time this Review hits mailboxes, Forest Park will have a new mayor and village council. Forest Park isn’t Mayberry despite the nostalgia for the old days. Forest Park isn’t Oak Park despite the odd fears of a few in town. Forest Park is Forest Park. And that’s plenty good.
But it is time for a better Forest Park. More confident. More loving. Truer to its history of kindness and connection. Optimistic about its future as a welcoming and diverse village. A destination for people eager to find a blend of old and new.
Congratulations to the new mayor. Please focus on lifting our village up and moving us forward.