Growing up in Dorchester, Wisconsin, Ken Anderson remembers watching “The Andy Griffith Show” during its first season in 1960.
“I was a freshman in high school. I started watching it a little bit and then my dad died in 1961,” Anderson said, “I got really interested in it because Andy Griffith was such a father figure on that show.”
Anderson’s favorite character was the deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts.
“I identified with Barney Fife myself because he was kind of a bumbler,” Anderson said.
Anderson now lives in Eau Claire after finishing a 36 year teaching career. In retirement, he wrote a book titled “Mayberry Reflections: The Early Years,” about his favorite TV show. He received numerous requests to do presentations about the book. That’s when he had an idea that changed his post-retirement life.
“I thought I’d just add a little bit to the presentations to kind of dress up like Barney Fife,” Anderson said.
He then caught wind of a 1965 Ford Galaxy replica Mayberry squad car for sale on the internet. Anderson couldn’t resist.
“I decided I was going to buy it,” Anderson said, “From there it just really took off.”
Anderson named his Barney Fife persona “the Mayberry Guru.” He expanded beyond presentations and started participating in car shows and parades. It was a hit.
“When I’m at car shows and parades people know I’m officially on duty,” Anderson quips.
When Anderson’s on duty, parade goers and car show patrons need to be on their best behavior. He walks the grounds in full uniform, playfully handing out citations to anyone breaking Mayberry’s laws.
“I arrest them. I put them in handcuffs,” Anderson said, “They want their pictures taken. The people really enjoy it.”
There’s one thing Anderson won’t do.
“I don’t try to imitate Don Knotts,” Anderson said, “That’s not my purpose.”
Anderson’s purpose is to raise money for charity. He doesn’t make any money off the Mayberry Guru character. Any money raised is donated to his hometown library in Dorchester.
“I’ve given them just about $5,000 since I started doing this a few years ago,” Anderson said.
Anderson attends nearly 80 events each summer across Wisconsin. It’s a lot of effort maintaining such a busy schedule, but Anderson has no plans to, as Barney Fife famously said, nip it in the bud.
“It’s just so much fun. I drive through little towns and people holler ‘There’s Barney!’ and so they wave and they enjoy it,” Anderson said, “I enjoy it much more than they do.”
The Mayberry Guru’s Memorabilia Collection
In addition to owning a replica of Barney Fife’s car and costume, Ken Anderson has collected the Andy Griffith Show trading cards, clothing and much more over the years. He can recall all the scenes from the show on the trading cards, which he stores in a binder in his home.