Classic Television: Leave It To Beaver

My first recollection of watching Leave It To Beaver was watching the show at my grandfather’s farm in Allendale, Missouri. Our local station in Alexandria, Louisiana was an NBC station so we had never seen the show because it was on ABC.

It was first shown in September of 1957 when Jerry Mathers who played the Beaver was nine years old. Tony Dow who played Beaver’s older brother Wally was twelve when the show was first shown. Wally’s friend if you want to call him a friend Eddie Haskell was portrayed by Ken Osmond who was already fourteen when the show debuted.

Dow was 64 earlier this month. He continued to act but also was a producer and a director of many television shows.

One of my sons saw Mathers at a Portland Beavers minor league baseball game where he was making a personal appearance. He was fortunate to obtain his autograph.

Mathers had appeared in movies and in some theater productions for television like Matinee Theater and General Electric Theater before taking the role as Beaver.

He also appeared on many television shows after leaving Leave It To Beaver. Mathers will be 61 in June. He is recognized even in Japan where the show is called Happy Boy and fans say “Happy Boy” when they see him.

Hugh Beaumont who played the father Ward Cleaver was 48 and his wife June Cleaver played by Barbara Billingsley was 41.

The Disney Channel revived the show from 1986-1988 with 101 episodes of a updated show named Still The Beaver. Most of the original cast returned except for Beaumont who had died four years earlier.

The two brilliant writers of the show were Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher who had teamed up to write scripts for both the radio and the television versions of Amos and Andy.

It was amazing the predicaments Beaver could get into but by the end of thirty minutes his father and mother had helped him solve whatever the problem was by the end of the show.

Beaumont was very effective as the father and was a no nonsense father who taught Beaver a life lesson in most shows. Beaumont was a licensed Methodist preacher. He was in many movies from 1940-1965 but was best known for appearing as the detective Michael Shayne in five movies. He died in 1982 at the age of 73 in Munich, Germany.

Billingsley was a great mom for the show balancing being a loving mother with being a strict mom when needed. She is 93 years old now.

Eddie was one of my favorite characters who would find a way to diss the Beaver whenever possible. His feigned politeness to Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver always amused me. They saw through that politeness though and knew he was not what he seemed and that was a teenager bent on getting Wally in trouble  or it seemed that way. Osmond went to become a Los Angeles policeman and will be 66 in June.

Some of my favorite episodes were when Burt Mustin appeared as Gus the fireman. He was 73 when he made his first appearance and went on to appear in fifteen epiosodes as Gus. Mustin died in 1977 at the age of 92.

The show was last seen forty six years ago on network television but is still being show in rerun on television today.

The following photos show more recent photos of  the actors on the show:

Jerry Mathers
Jerry Mathers
Tony Dow
Tony Dow
Jerry Mathers shown with Barbara Billingsley
Jerry Mathers shown with Barbara Billingsley
Ken Osmond
Ken Osmond

Some shows come and go during our lifetime but others are remembered many years after they leave network television and Leave It To Beaver was one of those shows. Kids today can still learn from how Beaver and Wally encountered problems and how their parents helped them solve their problems. A lot of kids today probably wish they had a dad like Ward Cleaver and a mom like June Cleaver.

With so many parents both working today the kids today don’t have a mom like June to be there when they come home from school. With the stress in the world today it is nice to be able to go back to a simpler time.


Classic Television: Dragnet

Jack Webb as Joe Friday and Ben Alexander as Frank Smith portrayed detectives on the popular television series Dragnet in the 50s.
Jack Webb as Joe Friday and Ben Alexander as Frank Smith portrayed detectives on the popular television series Dragnet in the 50's. Looks like Frank Smith is taking a snooze in the middle of the scene.

Dragnet was my favorite detective show from the 1950’s as I will never forget the dum da dum dum…dum da dum dum…dum that opened each show. It was also part of  a famous knock knock joke:

Knock knock…who’s there?


Dum who

Dum da dum da dum dum…dum

Jack Webb had first done the show on radio and about 360 or so of those shows still exist. One radio show about a boy killing his friend accidentally was one of the saddest old time radio shows ever heard.

The best version of  Dragnet to me was the Webb and Ben Alexander combo doing the show in the 50’s. This show was perfect for black and white televison.

The announcer would start the program with this statement: “Ladies and gentlemen the story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

I never could get used to the later version with Harry Porter teaming up with Webb as Officer Gannon. It just didn’t come across as well to me in color.

Even though it was a crime show Friday and Smith would joke about whatever was happening in their lives at the time but they still took care of business and by the end of thirty minutes the crime had been solved.

Then we would be told by the announcer that the trial was held for the offense committed on that night’s show and that in a minute we would hear the results of that trial.

After the commercial break the announcer would tell what sentence had been meted out by the judge in the case for that night.

This was television at its best. Nothing too complicated to figure out like with some of the crime shows today who spend so much time dealing with forensics.

Back then it was a case of  Friday and Webb digging for facts and Friday was famous for saying “Just the facts mam” and then the two detectives would follow each lead until the case had been solved. It was later discovered that Joe Friday had never uttered the line about the facts but that comedian Stan Freberg had made a parody of the show using that line.

Jack Webb died December 23, 1982 at the age of 62. Ben Alexander died July 5, 1969 at the age of 58 ten years after last Dragnet black and white show had been televised.

Drive In Movies Still Operating Today

A typical drive in theater of the past in a simpler time before computers occupy so much of our time.
A typical drive in theater of the past in a simpler time before computers, video games and MP3 players occupy so much our time today.

The drive in theater may be a dying breed today but there are still drive in theaters in operation in many states today. There are no longer any drive in theaters in the state of Louisiana where I spent most of my youth and adult years. Louisiana is one of three states without an operating drive in moviet theater as of  December 1, 2008. The other two states without a drive movie theater are Alaska and Delaware.

Sacramento, California has one of the 18 remaining drive in movie theaters in California. It is called the Sacramento 6. I am not sure if the 6 refers to six screens.

I can still remember the wait for darkness so the movie could begin playing on the giant screen. There are still memories of the concession stands and the popcorn, candy and cold drinks that were for sale inside.

Who can forget the speakers that allowed us to hear the sound emanating from the movie?  It is sad that drive ins have lost their popularity over the years as other interests took the place of a night outside at the drive in movie.

We went on a vacation to see the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and on the way we saw a drive in movie in Mt. Airy, N.C. and it was like going back in time even if the speakers of the past were gone and the sound came from a certain frequency on the car radio.  My grandsons thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it was good that they experienced what it was like to see a movie under the stars.

Too often we forget the past and the great memories like drive in movies. It has been 76 years since Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive in movie in Camden, New Jersey on June 6, 1933.  It cost 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person for the first movie.

This is a list of operating drive in movie theaters still operating as of  December 1, 2008:

From The Past: Burma Shave Signs

I can remember on our family vacations that we would see from time to time signs with funny sayings alongside the highway. Those signs were placed there by the Burma- Shave company. The company had been struggling before they used the signs to advertise Burma- Shave shaving cream.

These signs helped pass the time on long trips across the country and kept the passengers amused by the funny sayings on the signs. breaks down the signs into different time periods:

Old Time Radio: Night Watch

Night Watch was a radio version of COPS except you don’t see the cops in action but you do hear everything that happens when a criminal is being questioned by the cops.

These are true stories recorded as they happen by a police reporter who rides in the patrol car with the officers. This to me is the most realistic old time radio program since there are no actors and what you hear are the actual words of the cops, criminals, witnesses and parents when juveniles are involved.

One of the stories is about a mother that leaves her two kids in the car on a cold night so she can go in a bar. The police are alerted and check on the kids and question the mother.

Another story is about a man stealing bedding from a nearby motel to take back to his trailer.

This show is not mentioned much in old time radio circles but if there was ever a reality radio show Night Watch would be the one most remembered.

This is a very good description of the shows:

Smokey Joe’s Cafe: Jailhouse Rock

Matt Bogart singing Jailhouse Rock with dancing help from some of the others in the ensemble.

Our Second Car: 1949 Packard

This isnt exactly like our 1949 Packard but the color is similar to that of the one we owned. We went on a trip from Louisiana to Maine in this vehicle. We had some minor brake problems around the Wheeling, West Virginia area.
This isn't exactly like our 1949 Packard but the style is similar to that of the one we owned. We went on a trip from Louisiana to Maine in 1957 in a 1949 Packard.