Mayberry in Flames-The Post

Shazam… The backlot’s ablaze…

Gone with the Wind…

It was here one day, then gone the next. One hazy afternoon after school in 1976, I ventured over to Desilu with my camera to capture Mayberry in pictures. My pal Jimmy was alongside, and we merrily climbed into the backlot from the La Ballona creek. Jibber-jabbering with not a care in the world, we walked alongside the Hogan’s Heroes bridge and headed toward the Mayberry Main Street.

We are at a cross angle along the dirt road that leads to town, the area to our left had the old rail depot built for Gone With the Wind. Foundations are all that remain of that set. Straight ahead is the farm house from Mayberry R.F.D., where I have a fort. As we hit pavement, that means you’ve arrived in Mayberry. A theater is the first set you see and walking down the sidewalk we abruptly stop underneath the marquee.

Not only is the street a complete mess, the overwhelming smell of burnt wood lingers powerfully. The most substantial set on this backlot is barely standing. From all the way down at the opposite end, it’s clear devastation has taken place since our last trespass. Hesitantly and now silently, we proceed forward. Each step becomes more somber, the extent of the damage is becoming… all too clear.

Mayberry as we know it has gone up in flames. I probably know who did this since there has been a rash of backlot fires the last two years. But this one absolutely ruined 40 acres. This church structure was by far the biggest set here on the lot and the centerpiece of the Andy Griffith Series. It existed long before Barney, Andy and Opie, but was not part of G.W.T.W.’s original street design.

This elaborate set made this town complete when it was constructed. Going forward-this was Mayberry’s Town church. It is located right across from the Mayberry Courthouse. We practically slow to a crawl with the smiles wiped off our faces. Jimmy stomachs this horrific scene better than I can, I refuse to take pictures of this carnage, I’m in denial. Something I didn’t realize a 16 year old was capable of.

Walking where the inside once stood, nothing remains but a badly burned front entrance and a steeple that can no longer be climbed. My fun childhood memories inside here race through my head. Across from the church-more bad news…

Andy Griffith’s house is severely damaged. I had a fort inside his house, upstairs. We even put a church pew up the stairs where Opie’s room overlooked this quaint setting. Each set and what remains could easily fall down. The ground is black and scorched-unfixable. The gallant gimble horse that was sheltered inside is no more. No trace of the horse dating back to Thomas Ince’s westerns. Metal items survived, laying in a graveyard of wood ash. It’s hard to make out what these items once were-only the metal survived.

There will be no replacing this-the end is near for this entire backlot. One last show wanted a street that looks like this and Vigilante Force, starring Kris Kristofferson and Jan Michael Vincent completed the backlot history of film production in chaotic fashion.

Hollywood’s Lost Backlot -as Steven Bingen coins it in his fantastic book of the same name, disappears in the wild fashion it lived…

Forever, this set as we know it…is lost!

An account of this event story will appear in my second book, coming soon. The Uninvited Visitor.

Written and lived by…Donnie Norden.

This was my reaction too as I filtered through the charred remains on that fateful day…

The charred remains of Aunt Pittypat’s House from Gone With the Wind which later became part of Mayberry.

Aunt Pittypat’s House can be seen here in an episode of Andy Griffith.

Behind those upstairs drapes and windows lies a fort, complete with a pew from our town church.

This yellow house burned down…It was a real home with all the rooms any house would have. But, no utilities existed indicating this home was moved from elsewhere, probably relocated from Culver City residential. This is where the cement street ends and turns back to dirt roads.

Dirt roads indicate another show covered the paved street. This happens often, under the dirt covered top in cement.

The fire jumped this street and continued as the firefighters tried their best to salvage Mayberry.

The view from Andy Griffith’s porch. A movie company arrives in Mayberry on a scout. The porch and upstairs windows look out toward that “real” yellow house, the church-where the picket fence stands, and the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. The Stairs, as it is called now, will take you above the backlot like a balcony at a theater. You could watch this show filmed from there without ever having to trespass into Desilu.

The flagpole survived…

Lucky for Briscoe, a horse water trough can help out with his- overheating.

1938-Gone With the Wind. This street was born out of a revolution and eventually succumbed to one.

1961-My Three Sons visited the backlot. Arthur Hunnicutt stars in that episode. Maybe best know as Hyder Simpson from The Twilight Zone episode titled-The Hunt. Andy Griffith’s house is just out of frames-left side of car.

The fire was at the opposite end of town, this is the post apocalyptic vandalism. It looks as if it was hit by an 8.0 Earthquake.

Surprisingly, this was left in this condition for months afterwards, liability danger to say the least. It was dangerous around here prior to the fire.

Reminds me of me! ” My mom would give me a swift Elbow me in the ribs if I started dozing.”

Double exposure-twice the carnage.

This picture is from Jefferson Blvd. The burnt and heavily damaged steeple can never be climbed up inside again. The Mayberry Hotel, the tall building left in frame escaped fire damage. But, it was the most unstable and unsafe building on the lot prior to and after this fire. Stairways leading to the roof ended up collapsing, severely injuring a friend and- fellow trespasserTony G.

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