50th Anniversary of Sputnik and Beaver
Thursday, October 4, 2007
50th Anniversary -- Sputnik and the Beaver
The fourth of October 1957 is remembered for two events that changed world history – the launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union and the launching of "Leave It to Beaver” by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
Although the successful launch of Sputnik 1 did launch the "Space Race,” Sputnik is just a memory today. But "Leave It to Beaver” is still going strong as the longest-running scripted show in television. It ran a year on CBS, five more years on ABC, and then immediately to re-runs (currently on TV Land). It’s been heard in almost fifty languages and has been seen in 108 countries around the globe.
The star of the show, of course, is Gerald P. "Jerry” Mathers, Delta Delta ’73. He was seven years old when the program began, but already an established actor, having previously played Shirley MacLaine's son in Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, Dan Duryea's son in This is My Love, and Bob Hope's son in The Seven Little Foy s. He has resumed his show business career, appearing in numerous movies in the last few years. He appeared on Broadway this summer as Wilbur in Hairspray.
After graduating from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California in 1967, he attended the University of California at Berkeley where he joined Chi Psi and earned a BA degree is in philosophy.
Mathers says that the Leave It to Beaver phenomenon is worldwide. "I can go anywhere in the world, and people know me," he said. "In Japan the show’s called 'The Happy Boy and His Family.' So I’ll be walking through the airport in Japan, and people will come up and say, 'Hi, Happy Boy!'
(A feature story is scheduled for the fall 2007 P&G.)