‘Leave It to Beaver’: How Jerry Mathers Remembered the Very First Episode

by Jennifer Shea
Rich Fury/Getty Images

On Leave It To Beaver, Wally (Tony Dow) and Beaver (Jerry Mathers) were always getting into mischief. And that dynamic started from the very beginning of the show.

In the 1957 episode “Captain Jack,” Wally and Beaver send away for an alligator based on an ad in a comic book. They reason that they can keep the alligator in their bathtub, and their parents will be none the wiser.

But the alligator that shows up is not quite what they were expecting, and they realize they need to consult Captain Jack, who owns a local alligator farm, for guidance. As time wears on, the signs of Wally’s and Beaver’s efforts to care for the alligator grow too conspicuous for their parents to ignore, and matters eventually come to a head, per IMDb.

In a 2017 interview with 106.7 Lite FM, Mathers reflected on the episode that launched six years of hijinks, which would go on to become classic television. He said that episode illustrated the perennial tug-of-war between parents and kids over whether to introduce an animal into the household.

“That’s what started it all,” Mathers recalled. “Wally and Beaver want an animal, and their parents say, No, you can’t have a dog or a cat because you’ll never take care of it. But we do win, I think at a carnival, an alligator. So we sneak it home and say, ‘They’ll never find it.’ So, you know how that kind of thing goes. They do.”   

Watch the duo talk about the show’s early years (at 5:00) here:

Leave It to Beaver Stars Never Knew If Show Was Coming Back for Another Season

These days, Leave It to Beaver stands as an iconic show, familiar to generations of TV viewers. It stayed on the air in reruns for decades after its final episode aired. So Leave It to Beaver may seem like a permanent fixture in the television landscape now.

But in a 2017 interview on the “Today” show, Mathers reminisced about how fragile the show often seemed to them at the time they were filming it. He said they never knew if the season they’d just wrapped would be the last one. So the cast and crew got used to saying their goodbyes only to return again for another season.

“Every season, we would think that we might not come back,” Mathers recounted. “Every season, it was, well, we may not be back, y’all say goodbye.”

“The Variety reporter said, ‘If this show lasts over two weeks, I’ll eat my hat,’” Dow added. “Well, we sent him a hat. Of course.”

Even nowadays, Mathers and Dow are still doing shows and signing autographs for fans, which they said is “a lot of fun.” And they are proud of the show’s longevity as a pop culture lodestar for generations of families.

Watch Mathers and Dow on “Today” here: