1 9 5 7 – 1 9 6 3 (USA)
236 x 30 minute episodes
Ward (Hugh Beaumont) and June (Barbara Billingsley) Cleaver lived at 211 Pine Street, Mayfield, with their children, Wally (Tony Dow) and Theodore (Jerry Mathers).
When Theodore was just a baby in his crib, older brother Wally, a mere toddler in those days, couldn’t get his little mouth around the name Theodore. The best he could do was “Tweeter,” which Ward and June morphed into “Beaver”, and thus a legendary title was born.
Leave It to Beaver, which creators and former Amos ‘n’ Andy radio writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher conceived of as a show related through the eyes of children (a new idea when it launched back in October 1957), was a solidly put-together series.
Though self-proclaimed cynics took it to task for its baseball-mom-and-apple-pie tone just a few years after it went off the air in 1963, its innocent humour holds up today.
The show was good, clean fun through and through. Whereas a child star interviewed today simply oozes industry savvy, young Master Mathers came off as the same aw-shucks kid as he did when playing the Beav. Matter of fact, that’s what got him the part.
“We picked Jerry Mathers as The Beaver from over 100 applicants,” Mosher said in 1958. “Most of the kids came in with typical actor haircuts . . . their mothers pushing ’em on. “
“But this one kid showed up in a Cub Scout uniform and kept fidgeting uneasily until I asked him what was wrong. He said gee, he wanted to get to his scout meeting. That ended the audition right there as far as we were concerned. He got to his meeting and he also got the job.”
Mosher and Connelly based many of their storylines on the real-life antics of their own kids They had eight between them.
When one of their kids took a pair of scissors to his own locks, the Leave It To Beaver episode ‘The Haircut’ was born.
Mosher’s kids clipped out a coupon for a baby alligator and received one from Florida. Bingo! – so did the Beaver kids.
Even Beaver’s way of speaking was written into the script: “It’s just a matter of dropping the first syllable of a word,” Mosher explained, using the night he asked his son where his books were as an example. “I ‘most got ’em,” his son replied, leaving Mosher and his wife baffled until the child explained that he said he almost forgot them.
Ward enjoyed fishing and reading the Mayfield Press. He grew up on Shannon Avenue (in the Shaker Heights section of town) and was a member of the 4H Club.
He was on the shot put team in high school and studied engineering in college. He was also an engineer with the Seabees during World War II but his current profession (other than being a businessman) was not revealed.
He and June were strict but not stern parents. They never spanked their sons but when it came to punishing or disciplining them, a “go to your room” or sermon by Ward was given.
June, maiden name Bronson, was educated in a boarding school (where she received a letter in basketball).
Oldest brother Wallace, nicknamed Wally, was in the eighth grade at the Grant Avenue School when the series began. He later attended Mayfield High School then State College. In high school, Wally became a three-letter man. He was captain of the varsity football team and had a girlfriend – Julie Foster (Cheryl Holdridge).
Theodore (‘Beaver’) was named after June’s Aunt Martha’s brother. Beaver, also called ‘the Beave’, attended the Grant Avenue School and then Mayfield High. He wore a green baseball cap, hated “mushy stuff” and liked “to mess around with junk”.
He would “rather smell a skunk than see a girl” and Miller’s Pond was his favourite fishing hole.
Mary Margaret Matthews (Lori Martin) was the first girl Beaver found attractive (she called him Teddy).
Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) was Wally’s wisecracking friend who was extremely polite to adults but mean to everyone else, especially Beaver (who he called “Squirt”). Eddie attended the same schools as Wally and lived at 175 Grant Avenue.
Clarence Rutherford (Frank Bank), the overweight friend of Wally and Eddie, was nicknamed ‘Lumpy’. He took tuba lessons and drove “a sickly green car” and his father, Fred (Richard Deacon), was Ward’s boss.
Beaver’s friends were Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens), Gilbert Bates (Stephen Talbot) and Hubert ‘Whitey’ Whitney (Stanley Fafara). Judy Hensler (Jeri Weil) was the obnoxious girl who kissed up to teachers and annoyed Beaver and his friends with her smug attitude.
The original cast reunited in 1983 (with the exception of the late Hugh Beaumont) for the TV movie Still The Beaver, and a new series – The New Leave It To Beaver – which ran for seven years and featured a grown-up and divorced Beaver living with his mother and his two sons, Oliver and Kip.
Barbara Billingsley supplied the voice of the maternal Nanny on the TV cartoon series The Muppet Babies for eight years beginning in 1984. She also had a memorable cameo as a jive-talking passenger in the 1980 disaster movie spoof Airplane!
Tony Dow was diagnosed with liver cancer in May 2022. He died on 27 July, aged 77.
Wallace ‘Wally’ Cleaver
Theodore ‘Beaver’ Cleaver
Edward ‘Eddie’ Haskell
Clarence ‘Lumpy’ Rutherford
Mrs Margaret Mondello
Hubert ‘Whitey’ Whitney
Andy The Barber