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Ron Howard: Andy Griffith’s Ronnie is all boy (1965)

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Young Ron Howard - Ronnie Howard 1960s

Young Ron Howard - Ronnie Howard 1960s

Andy Griffith’s Ronnie is all boy

By Vernon Scott, Hollywood

Ronnie Howard, the red-haired moppet of “The Andy Griffith Show,” is that rare child actor without guile and a Hollywood head.

He’s a well-adjusted 11-year-old who would rather play baseball with the kids on the block than go on a personal appearance tour.

He’s wealthy but he doesn’t know it, principally because his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rance Howard, keep him on a paltry allowance and send him to public school when he’s not working on the show.

Ronnie, his parents and younger brother, Clint. 6, live in an unpretentious three-bedroom house in the San Fernando Valley. He describes it as “just a plain old house.”

Mrs. Howard has furnished the home in the currently-chic distressed mode. Ronnie puts it differently.

“This furniture is beat-up-looking when it’s new,” he says. “I think Mom likes the idea of distressed stuff, because when Clint gets through jumping around the house, it gets pretty battered. The more beat up it gets, the better it looks.”

Still, Ronnie’s mother recently spent three days revarnishing the damaged pieces.

Baseball fan

Ronnie is possibly the only television star without a room to call his own. He and Clint share a bedroom, although Ronnie also has use of the family den where he likes to “fool around.”

Both Howard lads are baseball fans and collect cards bearing likenesses of their heroes. Naturally, they root for the Dodgers, and Sandy Koufax is Ronnie’s particular idol. Little Clint has 280 cards in his collection, and Ronnie’s hoard tops 300.

In the neighborhood, Ronnie is indistinguishable from the other kids. He runs around in blue jeans, open shirt and tennis shoes. He has one good suit for church and parties.

When the show is before the cameras, Ronnie is tutored by the same teacher he has studied with for the past five years.

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The video season ends, however, two months before summer vacation. At that time, Ronnie enrolls in public school.

“School’s a lot more fun than studying by myself at the studio (Desilu Cahuenga),” he says, “but I love to act, so I really don’t mind the kind of life I lead.

“When I get home from the studio, I change my clothes and play baseball with my team in the Hap Minor League. It’s for kids from 9 to 12 years old. I play the outfield and sometimes shortstop.”

Actors Clint Howard and Ron Howard in the mid-1960s
Actors Clint Howard and Ron Howard in the mid-1960s

On weekends, Ronnie begs his parents to take him to the beach, where he enjoys body surfing on a small plastic surfboard.

Like most kids, he is crazy about fried chicken and corn on the cob. He also wolfs down hamburgers, but spinach turns him green. Ronnie digs pop music, but no girls.

Because he has a limited amount of time to himself, Ronnie doesn’t have a dog. But he is the proud owner of a cat named Mitts — Mitts because he has six toes on his front paws, reminding Ronnie of a catcher’s mitt.

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On working days, Papa Howard drives Ronnie to work.

On the set, Ronnie is great pals with the series co-stars, Andy Griffith and comedian Don Knotts. Frequently he eats lunch in the studio commissary — as close to his actor friends as possible.

“They’re real nice fellas,” he says.

Ronnie is home no later than 6 pm — often much earlier — in time for neighborhood games. At night, he hits the books and studies his script.

The future?

“I think I’m going to keep on acting,” he says. “I really like it, and someday I’d like to become a director, too. Also, I want to go to college, but I don’t know where it will be yet.”

Ronnie was in a hurry. His baseball team was waiting.

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