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.

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

8 thoughts on “Classic Television: Leave It To Beaver”

  1. I wouldn’t exactly call “Leave It to Beaver” a classic unless you define classic as old. It was a show reminiscent of the old “Amos ‘n’ Andy” radio program. Not much substance. Still, I enjoyed watching it.

  2. It started 52 years ago so that should qualify as a classic. Of course it could never rise to the greatness of Amos and Andy but it made a great effort to close the gap.

  3. I watched Beaver and his family as a kid and had many a laugh at the situations they got themselves into. Can you imagine how Eddie Haskell would be portrayed today? As bad as Eddie was, he seemed to lean his lesson in the end.

  4. Eddie probably would be portrayed more like Fonzie these days. I got a kick out of the way Eddie talked to Wally’s parents. Beaver is one of the few shows you can let kids watch today. The shows today have so much sexual innunendo that we have no idea what they will say next.

    1. I think every kid back then and now wishes they had a mom like June Cleaver if they didn’t already have a mom like her. Her passing is another reminder of how much enjoyment the show brought to viewers and it is great that it can still be seen 53 years later.

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