Photos by Bart Boatwright. All rights reserved. Copyright 1997
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Elinor Donahue, James Best and Mary Grace Canfield, actors who played three of Mayberry's most memorable characters appeared at the Fifth Annual Mayberry Squad Car Rendezvous, which was held at the full-scale re-creation of Wally's Service Station in Bradford, Ohio, on Saturday, July 12, 1997.
Elinor Donahue portrayed Mayberry pharmacist Ellie Walker (Sheriff Andy Taylor's girlfriend) during the first season of the show, James Best (also known to millions as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on "The Dukes of Hazzard") was guitar player Jim Lindsey in two episodes and Mary Grace Canfield (best known as handywoman Ralph, one of the Monroe Brothers on "Green Acres) was Thelma Lou's cousin, Mary Grace Gossage, who was Gomer Pyle's blind date in one episode.
"We were really pleased to be able to bring these three TV legends to our area," says Bob Scheib, coordinator of the event and owner of the re-created Wally's Service Station (where Mayberry's Gomer and Goober worked). "All three made their first appearance at the Mayberry Squad Car Rendezvous, and Mary Grace Canfield made her first appearance ever at a Mayberry event."
Saturday's main event was preceded by an informal "Dinner with the Stars" banquet at 7 p.m. Friday, July 11, 1997. The cast members were given gifts befiting their roles on The Andy Griffith Show.
In addition to the three stars from the show, replicas of Mayberry squad cars were able to make it to the rendezvous for the daytime celebration at Wally's from places such as Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio. Several hundred Mayberry fans from 15 or 20 states and Canada made the trip.
The gates at Wally's opened at 8 a.m., on Saturday, July 12, and Squad Car Rendezvous festivities continued until around 5 p.m. The proceeds from the Mayberry Squad Car Rendezvous are donated to the Miami County Chapter of the American Cancer Society and the local chapter of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
All three stars appeared at Wally's during the day. Among the other activities at Wally's throughout the day were hay rides, "Darlin's" music, checkers, Mayberry memorabilia on display, picnicking and several fun contests -- including ones for Mayberry look-alikes and/or sound-alikes, Mayberry theme-song whistling, best T-shirt designs by chapters of the national Mayberry fan club, and trivia. Another highlight was popular impersonator of Floyd the Barber, Allan Newsome.
In addition to her work in Mayberry, Elinor Donahue is known to millions of TV watchers as Betty (Princess) Anderson on the TV classic of the 1950s, "Father Knows Best." She also appeared in numerous movies as a child actor in the 1940s. And she guest starred in countless TV shows of the '50s and '60s, ranging from "Have Gun, Will Travel" to "Star Trek."
Elinor had a recurring role as Miriam Welby (Felix Unger's girlfriend) on TV's "The Odd Couple" in the early 1970s, and she was a regular on Fox-TV's critically acclaimed "Get a Life" series in the early 1990s. More recently, Elinor has had a recurring role as Rebecca, Dr. Quinn's sister, on "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman." She also supplies the voice of Mom in the "Eek the Cat" cartoon series, and can be spotted in the blockbuster movie Pretty Woman and recent reruns of "Coach" and "Friends." Earlier in 1997, Elinor performed to sold-out shows during a 10-week production of Never Too Late at the New Theater in Kansas City, Mo.
James Best appeared in two episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" during the show's first season, 1960-61. (His last episode "The Guitar Player Returns" also marked Elinor Donahue's last appearance in Mayberry.) Fans worldwide know James for his portrayal of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on "The Dukes of Hazzard" from 1979-85. He reprised the role in Reunion in Hazzard, a made-for-TV movie on CBS in April of 1997.
Other TV shows James Best has worked on (he has appeared in more than 600 shows) include "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "In the Heat of the Night." On the big screen James has appeared in a wide variety films, including many of Hollywood's classic Westerns. Among his seven dozen films are Winchester '73, The Caine Mutiny, Shenandoah, The Left-Handed Gun, The Cimarron Kid, Hooper, Ode to Billy Joe, Sounder, Three on a Couch, The Naked and the Dead, and even a couple of Ma & Pa Kettle films and work with Francis the Talking Mule.
James and his wife, Dorothy, now have their own production company, Best Friend Films, and James, while continuing to act, is increasingly involved with writing, directing and other production aspects of films. He also is a painter, and auctioned one of his paintings at the Mayberry Squad Car Rendezvous to help raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Mary Grace Canfield is loved by Mayberry fans for her portrayal of Mary Grace Gossage, Gomer's special date in "A Date for Gomer," but she is likely best known for her work from 1965-71 on "Green Acres" for which she deadpanned the hilarious role of handywoman Ralph, one of the Monroe Brothers (along with Alf, played by Sid Melton). She also played Amanda Allison on "The Hathaways" TV series of the early 1960s and the role of Mrs. Hanley on "Family" during the mid-'70s, among many other roles.
Mary Grace Canfield's acting career started in the theater. She appeared in six Broadway productions and several off-Broadway shows. Though she had worked in numerous live TV productions in the 1950s, Mary Grace's first film was 1960's Pollyanna (with Hayley Mills and Jane Wyman), which paved the way for her career in Hollywood.
Mary Grace now lives in semi-retirement from acting in Maine. She writes fiction, and occasionally acts -- most recently in the films South of Reno and Young Goodman Brown, and in an episode of "The Tom Arnold Show."
Previous celebrity guests of the Mayberry Squad Car Rendezvous have been George Lindsey (Goober Pyle) in 1993; Betty Lynn (Barney Fife's girlfriend, Thelma Lou), Jean Carson (Mt. Pilot "fun girl" Daphne) and Howard Morris (rock-throwing Ernest T. Bass) in 1994; Keith Thibodeaux (Opie's pal Johnny Paul Jason and also Little Ricky on "I Love Lucy"), Maggie Peterson (Charlene Darling), Hoke Howell (Charlene's husband, Dud Wash) and Richard O. Linke (associate producer of the "Griffith" show and Andy Griffith's longtime personal manager) in 1995; and Don Knotts (Barney Fife), Ronnie Schell (Duke Slater on "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.") and Arlene Golonka (bakery shop worker Millie) in 1996.
Bob Scheib's re-creation of Wally's Service Station is located at 10870 Circle Hill Road near the communities of Pleasant Hill and Bradford, Ohio -- a short drive from Troy in western Ohio.
Sponsors for this year's Mayberry Squad Car Rendezvous (benefiting the American Cancer Society) include the Greenville Inn in Greenville, Ohio; LithoTech; Andy's Garden and Lauber's Market, both in Troy; Triple A of South Central Ohio; The Mayberry Times; and "The Andy Griffith Show" Rerun Watchers Club, both as a national group and through several of its local chapters and individual members.