“Mayberry Days games speak to a simpler time” Saturday, September 27, 2014 - article about “The Chester Jones Checkers Competition” at the 25th Annual Mayberry Days - September 25-28, 2014 Mount Airy, North Carolina   Newspaper Link -

Mayberry Days games speak to a simpler time

Last updated: September 27. 2014 5:43PM

Mayberry Days contests, such as checkers and apple peeling, draw on American culture before computers and cell phones. Dennis Beal, Mayberry Rerun Watchers Club of Knoxville, Tennessee, will tell it straight, there’s a lot of checkers in The Andy Griffith Show.

He said “The Chester Jones Checkers Competition” was inspired by an episode where two residents exchanged heated words during checkers, which ended in Deputy Barney Fife arresting almost the entire town. Beal pointed out the two characters in the episode had played checkers on the front porch for 20 years before their argument and incarceration.

Beal said checkers was regularly played by many of the show’s characters with boards set up in the courthouse, the fix it shop, the barber shop and service station. Beal said in addition to being fun, checkers is the real deal.

“There’s an active state tournament and a state championship,” said Beal. “Video games are so appealing now. I’m afraid children miss out when they don’t get to do something simple. Interactive back then didn’t need a screen or an electric cord. Checkers takes an average of 20 minutes and often ends in a draw with both getting to play again.”

He said the tourney attracts serious players as well. One of those is J.R. Smith, a member of the North Carolina Checkers Association. Smith said the association has been in existence for 100 years (since 1918) with evidence the game was being played in 1885.

“We have a good group that plays at a McDonalds where I’m at,” said Smith. “I’m trying to get interest up around here to start a group.” Smith said the association also is looking at taking the game into more schools and stirring up interest in the sport.

Gregory McMillian topped the field in “Mr. Tucker’s Apple Peel-off” with a peel measuring 93.5 inches. The victory marked eight years of practice for the Harlan County, Kentucky, resident. He said he is a regular at Mayberry Days and was inspired to try the sport when he saw the competition at the festival.

McMillian appeared modest at the win, and pointed out previous peel-off winners had rinds measuring 102 inches. He said it is something he likes doing because blocking out the world and concentrating on the task is relaxing. In second place was fellow Harlan resident Pat Duncan with a rind stretching 48.5 inches.

“I have to come down here and do this every year, win or loose,” said McMillian. “I love it. I was second in pie eating this year, too.” McMillian said the Mayberry Days peel-off requires participants to use a regular peeler and not custom knives favored by some in the competition.

He said he is encouraging officials to sharpen the peelers for next year because they’ve gotten a little dull during the eight years they have been used.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.

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