Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Mayberry, Wisconsin, or not November 6, 2014

Necedah, downtown and patrol car


IF BUT FOR A FEW MOMENTS, I feel like I’ve walked onto the Main Street of Mayberry, North Carolina, circa 1960s.


Necedah, close-up patrol car


You know, fictional home of Andy Griffith, local level-headed sheriff who dispensed justice and wisdom once a week alongside his inept sidekick, Deputy Barney Fife.


Necedah, funeral home


I’d like to believe Mayberry existed, still exists, in places outside my black-and-white television sitcom memories of some 50 years ago.


Boys going fishing in Wisconsin


That could be Andy’s son, Opie, and friend ambling across the highway with fishing poles and bucket in hand. The scene seems more flashback than reality.

But all of these images are reality—in Necedah, a community of some 930 residents located about half way between LaCrosse and Oshkosh on Wisconsin State Highway 21. The town rests near two lakes and the Wisconsin and Yellow rivers. Fishing opportunities abound.


Necedah, shrine


And so does the opportunity to explore the Queen of the Holy Rosary Mediatrix of Peace Shrine. It is here that the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to Mary Ann Van Hoof, farm wife and mother of eight, on November 12, 1949. Over 34 years, the Mother of God supposedly told Mary Ann to “bring the truth to all people” with a focus on youth.

You can choose to believe this or not. The intention of this shrine seems wholesome enough and I expect many have been blessed simply by visiting this reverent site.

But when I read a sign requesting that women wearing shorts or slacks stop at the office for a wrap-around skirt, I thought surely I must be in Mayberry, North Carolina, circa 1960s.

Shortly thereafter, I left.

(These photos were shot in May 2014 and August 2011.)

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


13 Responses to “Mayberry, Wisconsin, or not”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    LOVE!!!!! I watch “Wisconsin Life” on WPT and often wonder why MN Public TV can’t seem to do such wonderful programs highlighting small towns and their ppl/recreation/businesses, etc. I just marvel at the magical “time warp” that is entered with these types of visits! Doesn’t MN have such towns/settlements??????? I often wonder…………… Awesome post!!!! (as always……….hugs…………)

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    I like the True Value hardware store which seeming has a dwindling existence these days. That is quite the police car. It is good to see kids with fishing poles in hand instead of texting or sitting on their rumps playing video games.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    I can imagine you felt like you walked back in time. 🙂 You would get a kick out of Mayberry aka Mount Airy, NC. It really does have a bit of the feel along with a bit of commercialism. 🙂

  4. You certainly set the scene with your captures – love 🙂 Thanks for sharing – Happy Day – yearning for the simple life again today over here!

  5. hotlyspiced Says:

    That car surely screams of an era of a time long ago. I do love that era and quietly wish our world could return to that time of innocence. I don’t think there’s any word in the Bible that requires a woman to swap her shorts for a skirt xx

  6. John Says:

    The Queen of the Rosary Shrine at Necedah has at best a checkered past. If you want to learn more there is lots of information on google. To paraphrase the group has been excommunicated by the Catholic Church and the “visions” declared false. Catholics (and others) have been encouraged to stay away. It now is associated with an “old order of catholicism” which has also been excommunicated. Much of her message is a strange mixture of paranoid anti communism and anti modernization of the church. Part of her message involves true believers being taken away in a space ship at some time in the future. It is really nutty stuff and gives legitimate religion a bad name.

    Some say the Church’s response to the Necedah Shrine is the Shrine to Our Lady of Gaudalupe just southeast of LaCrosse via US hwy 14. Another beautiful place in LaCrosse is the Chapel of St. Rose in the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration which welcomes visitors daily. Charles Karault of CBS news called St. Rose Chapel in the Franciscan Convent, the most beautiful chapel in the US.

    • Oh, my. Well, we did not stay long at the Necedah shrine.

      I have seen the signs for the shrine near LaCrosse and friends have visited the chapel you reference. Sounds like we need to take time to visit both. Thanks for the info.

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