Glenn Baeske/Huntsville Times
|Allan Newsome, also known as "Floyd the Barber," is the host of an internet version of Mayberry.|
By BILL DAVIS
For The Huntsville Times
In a large room surrounded by Barney and Andy figurines, fake Barney Fife Wheaties boxes and a can of Andy Griffith Navy beans, "Floyd the Barber'' finishes another update of the "Mayberry Digest'' on his computer. A parrot named Andy squawks approval, and bookcases against the wall in his southeast Huntsville home showcase other Andy Griffith show mementos, including mugs with pictures of each cast member, trivia books and a Mayberry deputy cap autographed by Don Knotts.
"Floyd," otherwise known as Allan Newsome, is the host of an Internet version of Mayberry. Named "Who's Been Messin Up The Bulletin Board (WBMUTBB),'' it is an online chapter of "The Andy Griffith Show'' Rerun Watchers Club (TAGSRWC) and gets its name from one of Barney Fife's oft-said grievances. The chapter began in 1990 when a small group of people started talking about "The Andy Griffith Show'' on Prodigy, an Internet provider service.
"When we got up to about 50 of us, we decided to start an online chapter,'' said Newsome. In 1994, Newsome started a web page on America OnLine for WBMUTBB and the chapter has continued to expand: It's gone from 650 members at the beginning of 1998 to a current strength of 1,178 members. "It started out with one page and from there it has grown,'' Newsome said. "Last year we had 75,000 visitors, and so far this year we've had almost 24,000 visitors. It is really picking up. I am pretty amazed by it.''
TAGSRWC was started by Jim Clark at Vanderbilt University. According to Newsome, the club began at Clark's fraternity where "M.A.S.H.'' fans and Andy Griffith fans had to compete for the one television set. Clark and his friends would take turns staking out the TV early to watch Andy Griffith. That was 20 years ago, and the club has grown to almost 20,000 members worldwide.
Newsome joined the fan club while stuyding to be an electrical engineer at Auburn University. When he graduated and moved to Huntsville, the Mother Figure chapter to which he belonged moved with him. The online chapter was a natural offshoot of his interest in computers and the growing popularity of the Internet. "At one point, we had some stories written when we first started this that Mayberry on the Internet is just totally against what Mayberry is about,'' Newsome said. "Mayberry is supposed to be slow paced. I think that we have done really well over time to keep it where you kind of feel like it is a little community.''
Clark said as far as Mayberry is concerned, "The Internet has been tremendous. Al (Allan) does a fantastic job.'' Members actually refer to the Internet chapter as "our little corner of Mayberry.'' It is not an anonymous, nameless message board. Everyone who joins is asked to tell his or her name and a little bit about themselves. It's a tightly knit community: Bob Braveti, the first person to correspond electronically with Newsome about "The Andy Griffith Show,'' lives in Reno, Nev., and is still a chapter member.
The online chapter currently has fans (mostly Americans) living in Saudi Arabia, England, and Japan. When you join, you are given the opportunity to sign up for the prayer and praises list. The members who join this group receive regular updates on prayer requests and the good things that happen to their fellow members.
Floyd and Barney
Encouraged by his wife, Jan, Newsome has developed a portrayal of Floyd Lawson, Mayberry's befuddled barber, into a second identity. He began impersonating Floyd in 1994 at the urging of David Browning, a Barney Fife impersonator. Since then, he has performed skits with cast members from the show and performed with Don Knotts in Birmingham.
"I feel like the Lord has blessed me. It is not in my personality, necessarily, to do stuff like that,'' Newsome said. "This has just fallen in my lap.''
Last year Newsome moved the WBMUTBB web pages from his AOL page to iMayberry.com, a much larger site maintained out of Birmingham. Originally intended for just the online chapter, last year "The Andy Griffith Show'' pages were combined with the national TAGSRWC Web site. Six days a week, Newsome spends 45 minutes to an hour answering questions from chapter members and compiling comments and facts e-mailed to him for inclusion in the "Mayberry Digest,'' an electronic newsletter sent to all WBMUTBB members.
In addition to maintaining the national site, Newsome has taken over other related sites, such as Mayberry Interactive, and maintains the club's Weaver's Store site where members can buy souvenirs and mementos.
Learn about Mayberry
Do you wonder why Andy kept getting his pants caught in his boot? Answer: It just naturally happened and was kept in the show.
How many times did Andy Taylor fire his gun? Answer: Three.
Who was the announcer who opened each show? Answer: Colin Male, a former
These and other frequently asked questions can be found at iMayberry.com, which also contains Sarah's Diehard Chatroom, Miss Crump's Blackboard, Mayberry Postcards and Mayberry Classifieds. The web site also contains links to related sites, trivia, photos and even audio interviews with cast members. Harvey Bullock, an original writer for "The Andy Griffith Show,'' is a chapter member and periodically does an "Ask the Writer'' segment where he answers questions about particular shows or characters. Everett Greenbaum, another of the show's writers, also frequently contributes some of his own insights and experiences.
"Keeping it positive,'' Newsome said, "that's the main rule really.''