Which Mayberry Do You Miss Most - Oak Park Or Evanston?

Actually there probably are no 20th C Mayberry’s left in our 21st C. But at one time, inhabited by good and gentle folks like Andy Griffith, there were thousands. I know because I lived in one. Lately I’ve discovered on Facebook literally thousands of wistful adults who grew up in similar Mayberry’s.

But something ugly has happened right before our mistful eyes. Wannabe Andy’s — like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Tea Partiers — have kidnapped our lovely green town, and are holding its gentle folks hostage. Yep, hostage to their mis-informed take on the town.

Seems like they’re using the soft rhythms of that older America to tout something they’re calling the “real America.” As I hear them using that name, I hear them mocking communities like today’s Oak Park and Evanston who’ve been busy saving not just touting Mayberry. Not by deep-freezing it in their angry speeches, but by keeping its soul alive by adding to its population….!

Stroll their streets and stores today and I promise you this. You’ll find some of the very same verdant lawns and gardens and Victorians of old. And populated with some of the very same kids selling lemonade, dads trimming bushes, moms making dinner, neighbors sharing over backyard fences, and walk-to stores and churches. Just like I remember.


Only Oak Park and Evanston have thoughtfully added to their Wonder Bread populations. Populations of all kinds, colors, and faiths. Honestly, when I look back to my Mayberry, its glory still shines. Only looking around Oak Park and Evanston’s population, now I know what was missing.

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  • Jack, as you said:

    "Stroll their streets and stores today and I promise you this. You'll find some of the very same verdant lawns and gardens and Victorians of old. And populated with some of the very same kids selling lemonade, dads trimming bushes, moms making dinner, neighbors sharing over backyard fences, and walk-to stores and churches. Just like I remember."

    There are more than two such Mayberries to be found among Chicago's suburbs, even if the stereotypes don't permit it. There are suburb after suburb that fit your description, including my own town, Northbrook. I think, too, that you will find growing diversification in many of these suburbs, at least more than the popular stereotype demands.

    I'm not sure what the Tea Party has to do with it.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Dennis~ I applaud your point of view and I'd like to think diversification IS becoming more common. I know Northbrook well and I agree with you. Not so much here in my own Park Ridge, As for my old Mayberry [the west side neighborhood of Austin] it went from heaven to hell in just a few decades. We didn't try hard enough! Everyone is aware of the problems involved, but with the nation's White population becoming a minority by 2050, I think you'll agree we better find wiser ways to manage our changing culture..

    As for the Tea Partiers, my issue with them includes their Palinesque delusions about the so-called "real America." Keep on writing...

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    Jack, I don't think the property taxes in Mayberry were anything like they are in Evanston. And I understand that Oak Park's taxes are even higher. Actually, overall, property taxes in Illinois are extremely high.

    I know I sound like one of those Tea Partier's, but I'm actually a moderate. Having moved here from Pennsylvania eight years ago, my story is a simple one. Buy a house here for 40% more than the one we sold there - on Philadelphia's "Main Line". Taxes were 100% higher to begin with and have only gone up since then.

    I read recently that the average American family works 12 days to pay their property taxes. In my neighborhood in Evanston, I calculated that a family earning $100,000 living in a typical home works more like 20 days to pay their property taxes. What's wrong with that picture?

  • In reply to Craig McClure:

    Craig ~ About taxes, you're right. I suppose I was not thinking money as much as mood. The mood of yesterday;s Mayberrys were generally kinda easy and nice. I miss that. Don't know if we'll ever get it back..

  • Couldn't disagree with you more so far as Evanston and Oak Park being indicative of Mayberry. But before I go further I would like to compliment you on your vision of the Real America; i.e. diversity and inclusion. Two qualities sorely needed in our divided nation. I also agree with your views on the Tea Party so long as we are talking about the movement that was highjacked by the extreme Conservative Right.

    But back to Evanston and Oak Park: Evanston has had gang-banger issues as far back as I can remember especially on its borders. Oak Park, meanwhile, has similar problems with the criminal element that likes to come in from the Austin Area. So I really wouldn't call those locales Mayberry.

    Mayberry, at least in my mind, is a place where you can still leave your doors unlocked and not have to fear being mugged. Unfortunately there aren't many places left like that. Although there are still many small towns in Central and Western Illinois that could qualify.

    However, if your sole criteria for Mayberry is based on the ideals of inclusiveness and acceptance in our society then I suppose your two locales would merit consideration.

    Either way - thanks for a thoughtful post. Enjoyed it.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Michael ~ I appreciate your comments. Unfortunately I grant you that neither of these town is crime free...but having seen what happened to my old Austin, these two are certainly an example of how to better face population changes. I guess only time will tell....

  • Fortunate here ... we live in an evolving version of 'Mayberry' ... the door is unlocked ... and the Mayor has walked in announcing that he came for coffee ... Taxes here are $1800/year on 3200 sq ft with dbl garage & carport on oversize property ... [8 days of household income] ... we are amongst the fortunate in the 'lottery of life' ... crime is negligible … things may change … though we are ever the optimists … and we ‘plan & support actions’ that try to keep our social setting in balance ..

  • In reply to Geezer:

    Is there a nice house there for sale...?? You gotta start sharing OZ!!!

  • The nice ones have all been 'snapped up' Jack - Sorry! We have "Fixer-Uppers" but they require major work in most instances ... I would not mind living in many a Chicago suburb ... though only if America spent more on infrastructure of the 'Human Kind' ...I.E. Universal Medicare, "Public" Utilities, etc etc etc ... and saw value in their "Teachers, Nurses, Police & Firemen" - and others [mostly underpaid] who have in effect "Carried the Load" for building western society .... for now Canada as we experience it is the place you end up in if you have "Won the Lottery of Life" ...

  • In reply to Geezer:

    I LOVE CANADA...I LOVE YOU...I LOVE LISA [well I better amend that last one a bit]. Now if only we voters think not just feel our way through this election.

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    Hey 'Platonic' love counts big i this family Jack ... I dearly love many ... Chuckle! --- I am optimistic that there are enough of your countrymen with the heart and mind to resolve the real problems ... like some have said "The road is long" - but it has an end ... we hope for the best for all Americans ... especially the downtrodden and the "Forgotten Man/Woman" of these times ...

  • In reply to Geezer:

    I wish I shared your optimism....but I am never bereft of at least hope...we have 4 month to find out if a great nation still has any greatness left in it

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