When I was growing up, Leave It To Beaver was one of my favorite TV shows. Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver was about my age—eight years old when the series premiered in 1957—and I identified with him. So did a few million other boomer boys.
The show went off the air after six seasons. Beaver had grown from a cuddly little child into an awkward junior-high dork. Yet the memory of the series remained fresh and green. During the 1980s, most of the cast was reunited in a twenty-years-later series titled Still The Beaver.
Still, a couple of burning questions remained unanswered.
Ward Cleaver was Beaver’s father. He worked in an office, but his business was never spelled out. Some TV reference books have stated that Ward sold insurance. They’re confusing him with Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best. For all we know, Ward’s company could have been manufacturing buggy whips or napalm.
The other question was about Beaver’s hometown. The script called it Mayfield—but then, 1950s sitcoms often substituted a generic name for a real place. One episode said that Beaver lived about twenty miles from the ocean. Other than that, the true identity of Mayfield remained a mystery.
Then, a couple of years ago, I received “Leave It To Beaver—The Complete Series on 36 Discs” as a gift. There, on Disc Two of Season Three, the location of Mayfield is revealed.
The Episode is “Beaver’s Fortune,” first aired on December 5, 1959—three days before my birthday, as it happened. Beaver and his buddy Larry Mondello are walking along in Mayfield’s business district. At 04:51 of the episode, there’s an establishing shot. It lasts only about five seconds, but the location is unmistakable.
Mayfield is Skokie.
We are looking north on Lincoln Avenue from Oakton. Up the block, where Niles Center Road splits off from Lincoln, there’s St. Peter’s Church. And if you freeze frame like I did, on the right is the First National Bank of Skokie.
What about Beaver living twenty miles from the ocean? That’s a bit of literary license the script writers took. They probably meant he lives twenty miles from the Shedd Aquarium.
Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.