REMEMBERING EDDIE HASKELL
When I was a child growing up in the 1950s, I watched a lot of TV. Too much, in fact, but my parents let me watch TV every night so long as I finished my homework first.
There were two types of programs I particularly enjoyed. The first were cowboy shows, such as Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and Have Gun Will Travel. When I watched these shows, I would dress up like a little cowboy wearing my hat, spurs, boots and a holster. I would sometimes try to help Sheriff Matt Dillon by pointing my greenie stick'em cap pop gun at the TV screen and shooting at a bad guy.
My other favorite TV shows were about middle class families like my own. These included Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude's Childrens Research Hospital, Father Knows Best, starring future TV Dr. Marcus Welby, and Ozzie & Harriett, parents of Ricky Nelson, the Anti-Elvis.
But my favorite TV show was then and remains now Leave It To Beaver, the adventures of Beaver Cleaver, his brother Wally, and his parents Ward and June.
When I watched Leave It To Beaver, I did not have to dress up like I did when I watched cowboy shows. I looked and dressed like Beaver Cleaver every day.
The Cleavers were very much like my own family, but with two exceptions. First, June Cleaver wore a beautiful dress and pearls every day, Ward wore his business suit even when he came home at night for dinner.
My mother would dress for church on Sunday and put on a nice but not elegant dress when she left the house to go to the grocery store, but when she was at home she wore a house coat and seldom donned pearls.
My father wore his preacher's suit to church on Sunday and often on weekdays as well, but he took his coat and tie off when he came home at night and wore a sweater like Ozzie Nelson.
But other than their parental dress and demeanor, the Cleavers of Mayfield were very much like the Haltoms of
Leave It To Beaver featured wonderful dialog such as the following:
WALLY: Gee, Beav.
BEAVER: Golly, Wally.
And in almost every episode, June would utter that memorable line, "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver."
I had many favorite characters on Leave It To Beaver in addition to the Beav, Wally, Ward and June. Beaver's buddy Larry Mondello and the appropriately-named Lumpy Rutherford were very entertaining, as was the Beaver's beautiful teacher, Miss Landers as in, "Yes, Miss Landers!"
But my favorite character on Leave It To Beaver was Eddie Haskell. Eddie was too-faced. Whenever he was in the presence of Ward and June, he would be effusively polite and courteous. "That's a beautiful set of pearls you are wearing, Mrs. Cleaver," he would say to June. But as soon as Ward and June were out of sight, Eddie would turn on the Beaver saying, "Beat it, you little creep!"
Since I related to the Beaver, I should have hated Eddie Haskell, but I didn't. He wasn't a bully. He was rude, but not mean-spirited, and he was harmless. In the shows, he was always portrayed exactly for what he was, a very insecure teenage boy.
Yesterday I read the news that Ken Osmond, the actor who played Eddie Haskell, had died at the age of 76. I could not believe Eddie was 76 years old. For me he was and always will be a 10th grader at Mayfield High School.
When I read the news of Eddie Haskell's death, my first reaction was to say, "Beat it, Eddie! Scram! Get outta here!"
But then I remembered that he was Wally's best friend, and the Beaver was never really hurt by his comments. The Beaver likely regarded Eddie as just a creepy high school kid. Eddie was in fact a reverse role model for the Beaver, demonstrating to the Beaver what he should not be like when he became a teenager.
So instead, I will say to Ken Osmond, "Good-bye, Eddie, and rest in peace. And that's a very nice sweater you were wearing on the show."