Aunt Bee and her Studebaker

Fullscreen capture 5302018 113450 AM.bmpWe all know Aunt Bee (Beatrice) Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show.  She was a pivotal character, one that the show could not have survived without.  In fact, the show’s first episode is titled The New Housekeeper,” referring to Aunt Bee’s arrival at the Taylor home.  That episode set the stage for the show’s eight-year run, and we saw Aunt Bee in many episodes of the spinoff Mayberry RFD (1968-1971) and once on Gomer Pyle, USMC as well.  Oh, and the house used in “Mayberry RFD“?  Well, it was the same studio set used in “The Waltons,” but I’m digressing here.

012I will proudly admit that I am a huge fan of the show.  The black & white episodes are my favorites, most of which include Don Knotts as Barney Fife, MD (Mayberry Deputy).  I’ve also had the priviledge of meeting Hal Smith (Otis Campbell), George Lindsey (Goober Pyle), Doug Dillard (One of the Darling clan), and Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass) through the years.

And the telephone Aunt Bee is using there?  As a token of my affection for the show and all the years of happiness it has brought so many people, the dial-less phone now sits on an end table in my home with a small authenticification note from Ken Swartz, the show’s Set Decorator of several seasons.

Auntbeastude 1Francis Bavier played Aunt Bee, and was known to drive a Studebaker to work every day.  After all, she had been a fan of Studebakers since the 1930s.  But the focus of this post is her last car, a 1966 Studebaker Daytona Sport Sedan (Though some have said it is a 1964 model and was built in South Bend), the same year and similar to the last Studebaker to ever be built.  Both 1966 models would have been made in the Studebaker plant in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

There are reports that this car is seen on camera in Mayberry RFD, but other than the actual episode footage, no publicity photos of her and her car on that show are known.

Ms. Bavier moved to Siler City, North Carolina, in 1972 and brought her car with her.  That town had been mentioned many times on the show, and after visiting the area, Ms. Bavier fell in love with the town, its people, and the surroundings.  She moved into a large home and drove the car as long as she could–even to the age of 83.  After she quit driving, she hired a chauffeur but kept the Studebaker, despite the driver’s requests for her to buy a newer car.

AuntBee stude 2She passed on December 6, 1989 at 86, and her car was forgotten for about a year.  A group of felines moved into its interior and ruined it, but when the car was sold at auction, the buyers kept the car exactly as they found it–they thought that if the car was restored, it would not be “Aunt Bee’s Studebaker” any more.  And I’m not certain, but I don’t think the cats went with the car to its new owners.

Her marker reads, To live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die.”  Aunt Bee lives with us every day, and makes The Andy Griffith Show special by having graced us with her presence there.  It’s good to see that her beloved car is still with us as well and at last notice, resides in Denton, North Carolina.

And by the way, if you ever wondered where they filmed all of the openings to The Andy Griffith Show, here is The Fishing Hole, aka Myers Lake, aka The Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir.  There is also a very nice interview with Ms. Bavier here.  But her pickle recipe… well, it got lost somehow.

-Chuck Lynch

Image Credits:  Our glamour shot of Aunt Bee came from Wikipedia.  The image of Aunt Bee is from the ebay ad where I found the telephone.  The front view of the Studebaker is from Studebaker-info.org; the rear view of the Daytona Sport Sedan was found at BlogSpot.com.

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