I was sad when I read an announcement this morning that Tony Dow, the actor who played Beavers’ older brother Wally on Leave It To Beaver, had died. On October 2nd, 2021 I was wondering what to do with the three extra hours that I had on a rainy Saturday. Our house cleaners were going to be doing some deep cleaning and I did not want to be in their way. I set sail for Caper Girardeau, Missouri to meet Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers…Wally and The Beaver. They were at Comic Con at the Ramada Inn near the airport. Leave It To Beaver was an iconic television program to me. I watched the show on Prime Time in Sauk Village which is a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. I remember distinctly how much I identified with the happy suburban lifestyle that the Cleaver family enjoyed. The street that they lived on…looked like my street. The friends that Wally and the ‘Beave’ had reminded me of my friends. My mom wore dresses and pearls around the house on many occasions. Happiness seemed a birthright to me…because I did not know any different. All of that changed when I became five years old and my mother and father began having marital troubles that ended in our moving to Eldorado in Southern Illinois and then their subsequent divorce and mom and me standing in commodity lines for a five-pound block of Commodity Cheese and Potted Meat and Dry Milk. So…I looked back at the Prime Time TV run of Leave It To Beaver and the idyllic days in Sauk Village…with nothing but fond memories.
There was quite a crowd at the Ramada Inn Convention Center and I had trouble finding a parking spot. When I entered I did not see Wally and ‘The Beave’ anywhere…but a kind gentleman directed me to where they were signing autographs and having photos taken with them. Jerry Mather’s wife explained the pricing of the photos and autographs and I chose what she recommended. I was struck by how much older Wally and Beaver looked..but then again it had been over 60 years. When I approached Jerry Mathers I told him that I had grown up watching him in Leave It To Beaver and that my early childhood had been reminiscent of the show. He responded that you must have had a wonderful childhood.’ When it was time to have my photo taken with the two of them I ruminated as to whether I wanted to have the photo taken with my hat on or off. Jerry said that was a tough decision.
Tony Dow was quiet and friendly. I had read that he had recently been in the hospital for Covid. His wife seemed very loving and protective of him. As I stood between the two actors and heroes of my youth…I thought of how time had passed so quickly. I had caught snippets of Jerry Mather’s career after Leave It To Beaver and watched a remake of the show and noticed that he had lost a bit of weight. I read that Tony had been a producer and was an active artist. After I met Wally and ‘The Beave’ I watched some videos of Tony and his wife that they had made during the height of our Pandemic and I noticed the genuineness of him and his authentic comments about their life.