Was Beaver Cleaver’s hometown a Chicago suburb?

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.

The mighty Cleaver family

The mighty Cleaver family

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.

Beaver and Larry

Beaver and Larry

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.

Mayfield on "Leave It To Beaver"

Mayfield on “Leave It To Beaver”

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.

—30—

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10 Responses to “Was Beaver Cleaver’s hometown a Chicago suburb?”


  1. 1 benson September 29, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Imdb disagrees with you, John.

    “There are two indications that the Cleavers lived in Wisconsin. In one scene, Wally mentions the high school band is going to Madison to play for the governor. In another episode, the Cleavers are going to a pro football game and repeatedly refer to the Packers.”

    But the general consensus is the show was set in the Midwest. There were no palm trees, characters didn’t have accents and to an 8 yr old, Lake Michigan could be an ocean.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt September 29, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Benson–
      High school bands occasionally play in other states. As for the Packers, this was the Lombardi era, and maybe the Cleavers were impressed by him. In any case, I’ve seen lots of questionable things posted on the imdb. I stand by my analysis!
      –JRS

    • 3 goat fondler April 1, 2015 at 11:51 pm

      there are chicago suburbs in wisconsin

  2. 4 Garry September 29, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Several TV shows of that era had references to being in the Midwest or even being near Chicago.
    That said, whenever a TV show had actual baseball players on, plying themselves, every single one of them was an Los Angeles Dodger.
    Just look up the credits for Drysdale on IMDb where he’s listed under “SELF”.
    He was on both Beaver & Donna Reed’s show.
    The modern equivalent is “The Simpsons” & just what state is Springfield in.

    • 5 J.R. Schmidt September 29, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Garry–
      And when Beaver is talking about great pro football players, he mentions Jon Arnett of the L.A. Rams. I guess Skokie kids didn’t feel any loyalty to Chicago teams.
      –JRS

  3. 6 Garry September 29, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I forgot to add: Did you see the actual Beaver & Larry walking down that block of Skokie or were they doubles seen from the rear in a second unit shot?

  4. 8 Alzo September 29, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    You’ve given me the opportunity to propagate these two favorites:

  5. 9 Ralph October 2, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Did you know?
    The house on Universal’s backlot that was used for the exterior shots of the Cleavers’ second home (in Season 3, after the move to ABC) was later used for the exterior shots of Marcus Welby’s house. in Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969).

    Leave It To Beaver is on everyday on ME TV in the mornings.

  6. 10 therealguyfaux October 18, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    It well may be that the shot is of Skokie, but the real-life actual honest-to- gosh Mayfield is a suburb of Cleveland near Lake Erie (20 miles from “the ocean”). The reason that it makes sense that the real-life Mayfield would also be the site of the fictional Mayfield would be that Ward Cleaver is referred to as being a native of Shaker Heights. That ain’t no generic town name, is it?

    A similar strategy was used on the ABC soap operas All My Children and One Life To Live– both were set in suburban Philadelphia, but rather than identify just which Pennsylvania towns Llanview and Pine Valley were supposed to be (probably in the Villanova area) the town of New Canaan CT (closer to the NYC studios than Philly, which was twice the distance) substituted for the exterior shots.


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