‘Leave It to Beaver’: Who were the Real-Life Wally and Beaver Cleaver?

by Joe Rutland
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Television shows come out of inspiration. For “Leave It to Beaver,” show creators Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher found inspiration in real life.

If you look at the words and mannerisms of Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) and Wally Cleaver (Tony Dow), then those come from Connelly’s boys.

Both Connelly and Mosher were fathers, so they would listen to what their kids were saying then use it in the show. That’s according to an article from Cheatsheet.com.

Jay Connelly, a then-14-year-old boy, served as the model for Wally. Ricky Connelly, who was 8 years old when the series started in 1957, was the model for “Beaver.”

‘Leave It to Beaver’ Nickname Comes From Creator’s Friend

Even the young Cleaver’s nickname comes out of the plane of inspiration.

Connelly had a shipmate in the Marines whose nickname was “Beaver.” He remembered it and brought that into the situation comedy.

In a 2003 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Brian Levant, executive producer of “The New Leave It to Beaver,” said Connelly used pen and paper to forge ideas.

“Joe used to be one of those guys who’d walk around with a pad of paper in his pocket and whenever a kid would say something funny, he’d write it down,” Levant said.

Connelly Boys Serve As Basis For Haskell, Mondello Parts

Obviously, if Connelly’s boys could become well-springs of creative imagination, then what about their friends? Gotcha covered. A couple of them served as the basis for Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) and Larry Mondello (Robert “Rusty” Stevens).

It got so bad for Connelly that reportedly at dinner one night, one kid gets up from the table and tells his father to stop using him for show material.

So this show, which ran on network TV from 1957-63, is pretty much based on the life of Connelly’s and Mosher’s families.

The next time you sit down and watch “Leave It to Beaver,” then watch how Wally and “Beaver” act. That’ll give you a bird’s-eye view into the real-life world of the show’s two creators.

Jerry Mathers Starts Rock Band After Show Ends Its Run

But life for Mathers, Dow, and the others on “Leave It to Beaver” went on after the show ended in 1963. In fact, Jerry Mathers formed his own rock-n-roll band.

When the show ended on ABC, Mathers was 15 years old and didn’t want to leave a career in entertainment behind so soon.

Once he made the leap to form his band, he combined “Leave It To Beaver” with his new musical profession. While some may assume he wanted to separate himself from the show, Mathers and a bandmember gave their group a very familiar name.

“We started a band called Beaver and the Trappers,” he said. “But the funny part is in high school, I was known as the Beaver and I didn’t mind that people called me that.”

Outsider.com