Answer Man

Mayberry’s mystery man has a name — and a famous brother

Bit-player Tom Jacobs was often seen on the streets and in various other parts of Mayberry in TV’s “Andy Griffith Show.”
Bit-player Tom Jacobs was often seen on the streets and in various other parts of Mayberry in TV’s “Andy Griffith Show.”

Q: Your recent explanation of the Opie name reminded me of a question that has been bothering me for years! Who is the recurring nameless-voiceless character who always walks by in the beginning of all the Andy Griffith Show episodes and has other small parts, usually as a bystander? An older guy with a light mustache, he was wearing a white jacket as one of the bulldozer operators about to demo Mr. Frisby’s house. He also stopped to look at Barney taking off women’s clothes on the sidewalk and Barney asks “Haven’t you ever seen a man in women’s clothes before?” By any chance is he the real Frank E. Myers, the show’s production manager? I hope you know!

M.F., of Belleville

A: Thank goodness you asked the easy question! There’s a similar conundrum that’s been vexing Andy Griffith watchers for decades, and it even led to a classic April Fools’ joke back in 2012. But more on that in a sec.

As for your mystery man, it is none other than a man born Thomas Yakhoob, one of eight siblings of the much better known Muzyad Yakhoob. No, I’m not trying to be satirical. The Yakhoobs’ parents were Lebanese immigrants who eventually adopted the Anglicized name Jacobs and changed Muzyad’s name to Amos. But up-and-coming entertainer Amos Jacobs did not want his family and friends knowing that he was working in Chicago nightclubs, so in about 1940 he took the stage name Danny Thomas.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Danny would find cameo roles for his brother (credited as Tom Jacobs) on his “Make Room for Daddy” show, its spinoff, “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Joey Bishop Show,” which Thomas also produced. As you note, Jacobs is generally in the background, although you may find him speaking a few words in a few of the two dozens episodes in which he’s more prominent, according to the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.

Often seen wearing a white fedora, Jacobs may be best remembered for his look of disbelief in “The Bank Job” after encountering Fife in women’s clothes. See a picture from the episode on the Tom Jacobs Wikipedia page. He died at age 72 on March 3, 1976, 15 years before his famous brother.

Now how about another lesson on why everyone should always double-check everything you find on the Internet before becoming all atwitter and posting it on Facebook or emailing it to a friend? At first, I thought you were asking about another Andy Griffith Show character who also popped up briefly in dozens of episodes and continues to light up the Internet with fans wondering who he is.

He was a somewhat portly middle-aged man with a slumped demeanor, dark hair that may have been a toupee and perhaps dentures. Although he, too, appeared in dozens of episodes, he had no spoken lines despite being occasionally greeted by Andy or Barney. The late Everett Greenbaum, who frequently wrote scripts, said the character was written as “Mr. Schwamp” but show devotees say it sounded more like “Schwump” when he was greeted on the street. Sharp-eyed fans also spotted him a couple of times on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”

With so many appearances under his belt, I thought surely someone has solved this riddle in the half-century since the show went off the air. Sure enough, I quickly struck gold. If you google Mr. Schwamp, you’ll soon come to a page from The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club boldly announcing that it had solved Mayberry’s greatest mystery.

“We’re pleased to announce that the actor who played Mr. Schwamp was a man named Patch S. Wimmers. Through U.S. Census records from 1950 and 1960 (found on Ancestry.com), we found that Patch S. Wimmers lived in North Hollywood, just blocks from the Desilu-Cahuenga Studios, where ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was filmed.”

Further probing found that ol’ Patch lived in and was perhaps born in Camp Threw, Miss. A 1920 census found he was 16 years old and living with his parents (his father was in the Army Air Corps) and two siblings in Mississippi. At some point the young Wimmers moved to California.

Wow, I thought, that was easy. Too easy, as it turned out. Those who don’t scroll down to the bottom of the page and click a link for more information won’t learn that it was all a prank staged on April Fools’ Day 2012. (Note, for example that “Patch S. Wimmers” and “Camp Threw, Miss.” are anagrams.) Yes, the gold was only fool’s gold, but at the time those who did follow the link received free shipping on any merchandise they ordered from Weaver’s Department Store.

Yet even today you can read tales of people still being hornswoggled by this ruse. As for Schwamp’s true identity, it appears to be an inside joke. Show fans say everyone from Griffith to the show’s producer has been asked but none has ever revealed the name. So the best you can do is enjoy the picture on Mr. Schwamp’s Mayberry Wiki page.

Today’s trivia

Which major Australian city did the Japanese bomb in February 1942, just two months after Pearl Harbor?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: According to legend, the Pascagoula Indian tribe was facing an imminent attack by the more powerful Biloxis. Rather than be enslaved, the Pascagoulas joined hands and started chanting a song of death as they walked into the Pascagoula River in Mississippi. Today, the river is still known as Singing River for the odd sounds it sometimes makes during summer and fall evenings.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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