By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012
Issue: August, 1983
The tree was probably no bigger than a sapling when Thomas Jefferson lived. It grew straight and tall in a mountain hollow while the nation around it battled over the right of men to own other men. It endured severe mountain winters and burst forth in bloom each spring, dropping the petals of its pastel blossoms to the peaceful forest floor. The environment in which it grew was blessed with a serenity only interrupted by the changing of the nature’s seasons.
Then came the sawyer with an order to fill. The tree was felled and cut into wide, thick boards. The time was the early 1890’s. The place was Mayberry. Mayberry was a thriving little community located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The old store needed replacing and the tree was called upon to do its part.
Soon the new structure rose into a two story center of mountain commerce. The first floor housed a general store and a post office and the upstairs served a multitude of purposes. Piles of chestnuts, gathered in the fall by mountain families were stored upstairs awaiting shipment. Dances and social gatherings were held upstairs, mostly in the winter months. Once when eight reels of square dancers got a little heavy footed, a hole was made in the ceiling of the store below. (You can still see that hole today.)
The tulip poplar sapling had grown into a towering tree when it was chosen to provide the boards for the countertop at the new Mayberry store. For the better part of a century, they have held the commerce of a community. Confederate pension checks have slid across them to be cashed. Weary farmers and hands wrinkled with time have propped against them for a moment’s rest. Wide-eyed youngsters, standing on tiptoe have clutched them as they marveled at the “store bought candy” sitting on them in jars.
This tree, that grew with a nation, has served its community well. The boards are now worn smooth and have mellowed to a rich, honey-gold color. They have a luster that only time and touching can give to a wood. The boards of the floor now rise and dip like the mountain landscape. The doors lean like a hillside tree that grew facing the mountain wind, and time has made the new store old.
The sawyer who felled the tree is gone and the carpenter who chose these boards for the counter has passed on. There are no longer chestnuts to be stored upstairs nor dances to ring with laughter on cold winter nights. But here, beside the Blue Ridge Parkway, still stands the Mayberry store. Nowadays, it’s called the Mayberry Trading Post but whatever its name, it’s the longest surviving business in Mayberry.
In The Mountain Laurel, we often talk about traditions and people that carry on those traditions. But no one in this area is carrying on a tradition any more than Miss Addie Wood at the Mayberry Trading Post. Miss Addie was born November 21, 1901. She still operates the Mayberry Trading Post today.
The mountain music great, Bill Monroe and his brother Charlie once played in the little building beside the Trading Post.
It is said that Andy Griffith got the name Mayberry for the setting of his national known television show from this little community.
The Mayberry Post Office was discontinued on October 4, 1922. The store has been in operation continually since 1892 with the exception of less than a year before Miss Addie Wood took it over in 1969.
John Hassell Yeatts has written about Mayberry as he knew it as a boy growing up. His book, “Remembering Old Mayberry” is a classic among mountain books. It tells a story as seen through a boy’s eyes of what Mayberry was like in the 1920’s, when a boom of sorts was going on there.
Simon Scott, the tanner, had a shop set up across the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Trading Post. He made shoes and tanned leather. There is an exhibit at Mabry Mill of some of his work and tools. There was also a barber shop in this little community.
Miss Addie Wood is carrying on a tradition, keeping Mayberry alive almost single handedly. It’s the only existing part of Old Mayberry that is as it was. The Trading Post now stands alone and she’s the only business person left in Mayberry.
Miss Addie has farmed most of her life and at one time was milking 12 cows by hand and tending to 1,400 chickens from which she sold eggs. She’s never been married. A few years ago, someone with matchmaking in mind, asked Miss Addie if she was particular about the kind of husband she was looking for. She recalls she got a little ruffled and said, “He ought to know I’m particular if I’m still looking.” When her brother died, she took his daughter and two sons to raise and now, her niece Dale Yeatts, and her husband, Coy Lee live with Miss Addie.
If one word could be used to describe Miss Addie, it would be “spunk.” She won’t back down an inch from saying what’s on her mind. She’s an honest straightforward person and in today’s world, that is a quality that is fading fast and should be appreciated when it is found.
Miss Addie still makes bonnets and dried apple dolls and sells them, along with crafts other people in the area make, at the Trading Post. She makes apple butter and molasses in the fall the old time way as taught to her by her mother and father.
There’s a group of regulars that come by the Trading Post about every day. Good people, people like Miss Addie who knew Mayberry years ago and still love it.
Miss Addie Wood is a special human being. Not only is she a wonderful person, but if not for her, Mayberry would be no more. It would only be a memory to those who saw it. Many of us would never have had the experience of walking through the old doors and over the old wooden floors or leaning against the worn poplar boards of the countertop, boards that were put there in 1892. We couldn’t walk back and see the hole in the ceiling that eight reels of square dancers put there one night or we wouldn’t know about Bill and Charlie Monroe. We wouldn’t have the opportunity to see the old Post Office bins where the mail for Mayberry used to be sorted.
It’s not a fancy store and it’s not pretentious and sadly enough, it’s showing it’s age rather poorly. One thing is for sure, Miss Addie is doing her part to not only preserve a tradition but to share the tradition of the mountains with the people who came through her Trading Post door. She’s an easy talker and folks from California to Maine, Canada to England, have stopped and browsed and chatted with Miss Addie. Those who have, got a chance to see a little bit of the mountains unspoiled, and to experience a part of the past. Miss Addie is saving, preserving and telling the way the mountains were. The stories she could tell would fill volumes. The information she has given me has made her an invaluable source of material for the Mountain Laurel.
We love Miss Addie Wood and commend her for carrying on such a wonderful tradition. We are lucky there are people like Miss Addie in the world because if not for them, so much would be lost.
If you are ever in this neighborhood, traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway between milepost 180 and 181, US 58, Highway 52, US Route 8, Interstate 77 or 81, it’s not that far. Take time to drive the few extra miles to get to know a one of a kind lady. Walk through the doors of the Mayberry Trading Post and imagine, if you will, the business that took place in this small building. Chestnuts by the bushels were stored upstairs. People got their mail here. This store was once the center of commerce and social life for this community. It served the community well. It has seen and weathered the storms of time and if it were not for Miss Addie, it wouldn’t be here for you to see today.
Take a moment, if you will, and travel to a time when life was simpler. Take a trip to Mayberry.