The Liberty Gazette
December 11, 2018Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Season 8, Episode 23. And…action!
After a bowling game, Andy Griffith and friends gathered in the living room reminiscing their best shots, when Opie interrupted. He wanted to know how to spell “renaissance.” Helen, his teacher, who it seems was sweet on Andy, recited the word and spelled it like a contender in a spelling contest. After all, she had won the Kansas state spelling bee in eighth grade.
This started a buzz of bragging that turned into a wasp nest—at least for Aunt Bee. Goober claimed his fame was winning the county fair’s pancake eating contest. He gobbled fifty-seven of them. Andy’s big moments were scoring a winning touchdown in high school and being elected sheriff. Howard was proud of his courage when he moved to the Caribbean for a time. As they shared their stories of adventure and accomplishment, poor Aunt Bee felt left out.
Later that night while washing dishes, she lamented to Andy she’d never done anything important. She longed to say she had done something not many other people had. Opie jokingly offered a magazine ad for learning to fly.
The next morning, Aunt Bee shocked everyone when she announced she was going to visit the flight school in that ad. Andy objected, saying she might not like it, but Aunt Bee fought back, because maybe she wouldn’t, but she’d never find out standing there.
She took a demonstration flight and was so excited she decided to start flying lessons right away. She would finally make her own big moment in life. Despite Andy’s discouragement, she let him know in no uncertain terms that it didn’t matter whether she succeeded or failed at her goal to solo an airplane. It was the challenge she was accepting.
Lesson one introduced Aunt Bee to the pre-flight walk-around and gauges on the instrument panel, which seemed overwhelming at first. Soon, back home in Mayberry, the guys heard a plane overhead. Camera cut to inside the cockpit to learn that Aunt Bee didn’t purposely wag her wings at them. She was just trying to control the airplane.
Back on the ground, her apron on and serving Andy coffee, she fretted about all there was to learn when the only instrument she recognized was the clock.
Her first landings were a bit rough, but improved with practice. She studied her sweet heart out, “chair flying,” and even read Aviation Journal while under the beauty salon hair dryer.
On the day of her solo flight, Aunt Bee carefully made the circuit and a decent landing, to the cheers of everyone watching. Afterward, Howard reflected on his “big moment,” arguing there’s nothing like the beauty of the deep blue sea. But Aunt Bee’s line trumped them all. “Well yes, the ocean is beautiful, but if you ask me, the sky is the prettiest. Especially when you’re up there all by yourself, like a bird, with the whole world at your feet.”
Cue the whistling theme song.