The real-life Floyd the Barber cut hair until he was 90 years old
Andy Griffith himself might have been the only person who was not a fan of this Mount Airy institution.
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Image: AP Photo / Allen Breed
Mount Airy is the ultimate pilgrimage for the fan of The Andy Griffith Show. The North Carolina town was the model for Mayberry. It was the birthplace and hometown of Andy Griffith himself.
The actor's memories of home helped him shape many of the personalities, places and plotlines that were seen in the Mayberry. Some real-world locations made their way into the fictional town. In the episode "Andy the Matchmaker," early in season one, Sheriff Andy declares that the Snappy Lunch is one of his favorite local dining spots.
Yes, the Snappy Lunch exists in the real world, to this day. Andy Griffith Show fanatics trek there for a taste of their renowned pork chop sandwich. In his high school days, young Griffith would hang out there and chow, too.
Right next door to the Snappy Lunch on Main Street sits Floyd's City Barber Shop. For seven decades, barber Russell Hiatt snipped hair in that quaint barbershop. Years ago, he even cut Griffith's hair from time to time. More than 20,000 pictures covered the walls of his shop. If you look closely, one of them shows the sitcom star sitting in the chair back in the day.
On the television series, Howard McNear portrayed fan-favorite Floyd Lawson for seven seasons, sticking with the show following a stroke until health issues forced him to retire. (Walter Baldwin first played the character for a single episode, "Stranger in Town," before McNear took over the role.)
Hiatt outlived both McNear and Baldwin.
However, in 1998, Griffith himself stirred up controversy and emotions when he somewhat dismissed his roots in an interview with the Archive of American Television.
"[Folks back home] think that I based the show on Mount Airy," Griffith said. "I've argued about this too long. I don't care. Let them think what they want." (To make matters worse, he declared he only ate hot dogs at the Snappy Lunch, not pork chop sandwiches.)
The actor became more pointedly blunt when speaking about Hiatt. "There's a barber up there who says he cut my hair when I was a child. Hell, he'd have to be 115 years old."
Well, at the time, Hiatt was 74.
Jump to the year 2014. Hiatt was celebrating a milestone.
"This is just my life. I love it, and you don’t do anything unless you love it," Hiatt told The Mount Airy News on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
He retired shortly thereafter. Two years later, in May 2016, Hiatt passed away. "He had more friends than anybody I know," Jim Clark, president of the Andy Griffith Show Re-run Watchers Club, told The Mount Airy News at the time.
Regardless of what Andy Griffith said in interviews, Hiatt's former shop remains a tourist attraction.