Beaver Goes Shopping


Figure 1.--Beaver and his friends never wore short pants and knee socks. The only exception was when Aunt Martha took care of the boys and insusted on buying him a new suit.

Here is a synopsis from a Leve it to Beaver episiode that many HBC readers remember from the 1950s. The series is one that has extensively been shown in sindication, although I am not sure about the international distribution.

The Series

Many Americans will remember this classic television episode of Leave It to Beaver. Most Americans will be familiar with this series. It was a ground breaker in American television in thatbit was the first "sitcom" set around two unknown kids rather than one made for a an adult star well known to the public. It dealt with the ordinary travails of growing up in America during the 1950s. Ajericans who watched the show as children will remember it as the standard to whch we measured our families. The clothes worn by Beaver and Wally are a good reflection of American boys clothes. Wally never wore short pants--except for Scout camp. Beaver never wore shorts either--except in one episode when Aunt Martha came to take care of the boys.

Book/TV differences

Interestingly the book is different than the TV episode. As in the book, the TV episode has his aunt buying him a short pants suit. Beaver actually has to go to school with his short pants, knee socks and little matching hat, all appear to be black. When his father helps him change later on in the film it reveals that he is also wearing suspenders. In the book Beaver is sent to Sunday school in his short pants suit by Aunt Martha. A reader writes, "I just seen the episode about Bwaver's short pants. In the TV episode, Beaver did not get into that confrontation in sunday school,it was in his Mayfield grammer school were this all took place. The teacher that broke the fight up was actor william shalertt, the guy that played in the patty duke show as well as other movies. I also noticed in that "Leave it to Beaver" short pants episode that Beaver had suspenders with that outfit, the clip on type. When his dad came to his rescue to put the Beaver in his regular jeans in the garage, he put the jeans on over the short pants but he still had the suspenders on. His dad put a jacket on over the suspenders."

Reader Comments

I remember watching this episode of Beaver on television as a boy. vaguely remember several scenes to this day. It was fun to see them pictured on HBC. The water fountain scene and the broom closet still, the one in which Beaver sought refuge for the entire school day while dressed in his new suit, are excellent additions. Another scene I recall from that episode is when Beav first appears in his suit, and the "shock effect" is enhanced when he faces a three-sided mirror!


Figure 2.--The story text here involves Beaver going to Sunday school in his new short pants suit. In the actual TV episode, Aunt Martha sent him to school in his new suit. Here he is hiding in the broom closet to get away from the other kids.

Beaver's Short Pants Suit

American boys Beaver's age were wearing "T" shirts and jeans and for school might wear a flannel shirt. Some boys in the mid-1950s, however, might still be dressed up in a short pants suit for formal occasions or for church on Sunday. The numbers were declining but there were still some. The most common short pants suit was black worn with black socks. Generally speaking it was boys from affluent families that were most likely to wear them. This was especially in the northeastern states did wear them. Boys in some privatee schools wore them, but certainly not boys in public schools.

Impact on Contemporary Boys

Leave it to Beaver was widely viewed at the time this episode. HBC wonders to what extent in affected boys' thinking about short pants suits. It was in the mid-1950s at the time this episode aired that the number of boys and the ages of those boys wearing short pants suits dropped precipitously. Some HBC readers have provided their reactions as boys.

The Book Episode

Here is an excerpt from a book we found about Beaver. The story is written differently than the actual television episode. I'm not sure why this was.

It all appened suddenly. One afternoon Beaver and Wally came home from school to find their mother packing her suitcase.

Hey, Mom, you going someplace?" asked Wally."

"Yes Wally," answered Mrs. Cleaver. "Your Aunt Peggy just had her baby and I promised her I'd come up for a few days to help out."

"0h boy!" exclaimed Wally. "We'll have a lot of fun. We can eat burnt food and everything."

Is that what happened to my broiler the last time I went away?" asked Mrs. Cleaver.

"I get sort of tired of Dad's cooking," said Beaver, "and besides. Mom, I was hoping maybe you would take me shopping so I could get that leather jacket with the eagle on that I wanted. You-said I needed a new jacket."

"Beaver," Mrs. Cleaver sounded impatient. " I know you need a new jacket but I have told you repeatedly and your father has told you that you may not have a leather jacket with an eagle on the back. We do not want our son looking like a roughneck."

"Yeah, Beave," said Wally. "You aren't old enough to have a motorcycle to go with the jacket."

"Well, anyway, I do get tired of Dad's cooking," said Beaver.

"Now don't worry, boys." Mrs. Cleaver folded a dress- with tissue paper in the creases and laid it carefully in her suitcase. "Aunt Martha is coming to stay with you while I am gone. Your father will be here in a few minutes to take me to the" airport and your Aunt Martha will arrive later this evening."

"I thought Aunt Martha was your aunt," Wally told his mother.

"She is," answered Mrs. Cleaver. "She is really your great-aunt."

"Why can't Aunt Martha go take care of the baby and you stay home?" Beaver asked.

Mrs. Cleaver smiled. "Aunt Martha never married, and I am afraid she doesn't know much about babies."

"Does she know about boys?" Beaver asked skeptically.

Mrs. Cleaver dosed her suitcase. "She was devoted to you when you were little, and one reason she is coming to stay with you is that it has been a long time since she has seen you." Mrs. Cleaver looked at her two sons. "Boys, don't look so glum. Your Aunt Martha loves you."

Wally did not look convinced. "Isn't she the aunt who sends us soap for Christmas?"

No-she's the aunt who sent you Winnie-the-Poo, said Mrs. Cleaver, "and I want you to remember to thank her for it."

"But Mom," said Beaver, "you had already read it to us years ago when we were little kids."

Mrs. Cleaver brushed Beaver's hair back from his forehead. I know, Beaver, .but you tell her you enjoyed it anyway. You don't have to say when you enjoyed it. Old ladies are invlined to forget how children grow up."

"I remember her now," said Wally. "She's the aunt with birds on her hat."

The front door opened--and Mr. Cleaver called up the stairs, "Ready,honey?"

"I'll be down in a minute," Mrs. Cleaver called back. "Wally, you take my suitcase down." She took a last-minute look in the mirror and snatched her coar and hat from the closet.

Downstairs, as Mrs. Cleaver slipped into her coat, she said to her sons, "Now remember that Aunt Martha's ideas may at times seem old-fashioned and trying but she is very sensitive I want you to obey her and be polite and stay on your best behavior."

"Now June, relax," said Mr. Cleaver. "We all have problem relatives and you know I wouldn't stand for the boys being rude to her. I promise we'll do everything to make it pleasant for her. If you want me to, I'll even have the boys meet her carrying Winnie-the-Pooh."

Mrs. Cleaver laughed. "No, I don't think that will be necessary. Now boys, don't forget your baths. And Beaver, I put four pairs of socks in your top drawer. I don't want to find them" there when I get back. And it will make me very happy if you do everything your Aunt Martha tells you."

"Even if she gives us milk toast for breakfast again?" Wally asked.

"Boys, sometimes older people have different ideas. They forget what it was like when they were young," said Mrs. Cleaver. "But just remember while I am gone-if you make Aunt Martha happy, you'll make me happy."

"Okay, Mom," said Beaver. "I'll make Aunt Martha happy and I'll make you happy and change my socks every day."

When their parents had departed. Beaver and Wally exchanged a gloomy look. "It doesn't sound so good, does it, Wally?" asked Beaver.

"Aw, don't worry, Beave," said easy-going Wally. I Things will work out." But somehow. Beaver was not so sure.

Later that evening, after a meal of too-well-done hamburgers prepared by the boys' friend Gus the fireman. Mr. Cleaver turned up with Aunt Martha who, Beaver noticed from his post at an upstairs window, still wore birds on her hat. She was also much older than Beaver had pictured her. She was as old as his friend Gus, the fireman and like Gus, in spite of her age, she held herself erect and walked with a brisk step.

Aunt Martha's voice came up the stairwell. "Well, I must say. Ward--you have a very nice place here. Very nice indeed. You must be doing rather well now.

Beaver heard his father chuckle. "Oh, we manage somehow to keep one jump ahead of the sheriff."

Beaver did not hear Aunt Martha laugh at his father's joke. "And where are the boys?" she asked. "Beaver! Wally!" called Mr. Cleaver. "Your Aunt Martha is here."

The two boys exchanged a here-we-go look and clattered down the stairs

"Wallace!" exclaimed Aunt Martha. "I'd know you anywhere. You certainly look like a Bronson. Just like a Bronson."

Wally wiped his hand on his pants and shook hands with Aunt Martha. "Yeah," he said uncertainly.

"And this is Beaver," said Mr. Cleaver.

"'Beaver'?" Aunt Martha did not sound approving. "I thought your name was Theodore."

"I don't use it much," said Beaver, "I think Beaver Cleaver sounds better."

"Theodore is a fine old name," said Aunt Martha crisply. "It has been in the family for generations."

"Oh," said Beaver.

"Boys," said Mr. Cleaver. "Don't you have something to say to Aunt Martha? You know-Christmas?"

"Oh sure," said Wally. "Thanks for Winnie-the-Pooh." "It was a good book," said Beaver truthfully.

"Aunt Martha, would you care for some coffee?" asked Mr. Cleaver. "I have some waiting."

"Thank you. Ward," said Aunt Martha. "That would be very pleasant. Now sit down, boys, and let me look at you."

The boys sat while Aunt Martha studied them. Beaver felt puzzled. Aunt Martha really had a very kind face and yet, somehow, the way she sat up so straight and looked at him so sharply made him feel as if he had done something-something not exactly wrong, but not exactly right, either.

Beaver suddenly wished he was not wearing the jeans his mother kept putting in the Goodwill box ad he kept taking out. Maybe they did have holes in the knees but to him they felt broken in just right. Jeans were not really comfortable until they had been around awhile, but maybe Aunt Martha was too old to understand that. He crossed one leg over the other so the biggest hole did not show.

Mr. Claeaver came out of the kitchen carrying a-tray with the coffee. "Well, Aunt Martha, have you noticed, a, big change in the boys?"

Oh yes, they've really grown." Aunt Martha accepted a cup of coffee. "It won't be long until Wallace is ready for college. Ward, I do hope you -send him to an eastern college. It does give a boy a polish he won't get any place else."

Beaver looked at Wally and tried-to picture what he woud look like polished.

"You certainly live an informal life don't you?" observed Aunt Martha.

Mr.Cleaver smiled but did not say anything

"I suppose the older boy has to wear those- 'blue jeans,' I believe they are called," Aunt Martha went on while Beaver put his hand over the hole in the other knee of his jeans, "but I must say . . . little Theodore .:. ." Aunt Martha seemed to have an inspiration. "Ward, I lwould just love to take Theodore shopping. After all he is a Bronson, too."

"Now, Aunt Martha--" began Mr. Cleaver.

Aunt Martha interrupted. "Now, Ward, you" aren't going to deny an old lady a little pleasure, are you?" she asked.

"Well-no. Aunt Martha," said Mr. Cleaver. "

Then it is all settled," she said almost gaily. "Tomorrow Theodore and I shall go shopping."

When the boys had been excused, Beaver whispered to Wally on the way up to their room. "Say, what's a Bronson?"

"The name of some relatives in the East," said Wally.

"Oh. I thought it was some kind of dinosaar and I thought it was kind of funny Aunt Martha" -kept saying we were one," said Beaver.

Wally laughed. "You're thinking of a brontosarus."

"Anyway," said Beaver, "now I can get the jacket I want when Aunt Martha takes me shopping. The leather one with the eagle on the back. It was sure nice of her to offer to take me I guess she is -a pretty nice old lady after all." Beaver realized his mother could not say anything about the jacket if Aunt Martha bought it because she had told him that making Aunt Martha happy would make her happy and if it made Aunt, Martha .happy to buy him the jacket, he couldn't help that.could he?

Later that evening Beaver telephoned Larry Mondello the good news about the jacket. Larry said golly, he wished he had an Aunt Martha. His mother said his old jacket had a lot of wear in it and would do for another winter. Beaver felt sorry far Larry having to go through another Winter in his old jacket with no eagle or anything on the back.

And so the next afternoon Beaver, in happy anticipation, accompanied his Aunt Martha downtown to the most expensive children's shop in. town, A SMALL Shop that was bound to have the very finest leather jackets with the fiercest eagles on the back. . He could hardly wait to show off his new jacket at school. However, once inside the shop Beaver did not see any leather jackets at all. He saw a lot of girls' ruffled dresses and toward f the back in the boys' department, a few neat flannel suits, the kind Beaver always thought of as Sunday-school suits. Beaver was disappointed, bat he did not lose hope. Probably Aunt Martha would-look around and then take him to another store.

Aunt Martha, it seemed, had very definite ideas of her own as to what a boy should wear, and it did not take Beaver long to understand that this was not the day he was to acquire a leather jacket. Aunt Martha felt fabrics between her thumb and forefinger. She read labels. She examined buttonholes. She asked questions. Beaver stood on one foot and then the other and thought wistfully of the way his mother usually just brought home jeans and sport shirts without even taking him to the store.

When Aunt Martha finally selected his clothes, he had lost interest in what he was to wear. He just wanted her to buy whatever it was she was going to get so he could go home. That was why, when the salesman took him to the fitting room to try on the new clothes, he was so shocked.

Beaver stared at himself--three different views of himself in a triple mirror and thought. No, it can't be me. But it was Beaver, all three versions. He was wearing a gray flannel suit with a little cap that matched, and a white shirt. The suit had short pants and Beaver was wearing half socks. Nobody, absolutely nobody, in the whole town wore short pants and half socks.

"We don't have much call for these smart little suits" said the salesman.

I'll say you don't, thought Beaver as he looked miserably at his Aunt Martha, who had come in and was quite plainly delighted with her choice. He remembered his mother's words about making her happy and finally said uncertainly, "Uh . . . Aunt Martha, my knees are cold."

"When my brothers were your age they wore trousers like that winter and summer," said Aunt Martha and turned to the salesman. "Theodore will wear the clothes. You may dispose of-those things he took off."

Beaver watched his old clothes being carried away by the salesman. "I feel funny, almost like I got no clothes on at all."

"Theodore, don't be indelicate," said Aunt Martha, but she looked at him with love and pride shining on her old face. Beaver felt terrible. Because they had spent such a long time shopping and it was time for Aunt Martha to prepare supper, they took a taxicab home. And a good thing, thought Beaver, who did not care to be seen in public in short pants. When they reached the Cleavers' house Aunt Martha hurried into the kitchen.

With heavy feet Beaver climbed the stairs and walked into his room where Wally was working at his desk. "Hi, Wally," he said in a dull voice.

Wally looked up from his work. "Beaver, you're kidding" he exclaimed.

"No, I'm not." Beaver sat down on the edge of the bed. "Aunt Martha bought it for me. And what I wanted was a leather jacket."

"Oh, brother," said Wally. "Get a load of those knees! You look like a chicken with its feathers off."

Beaver tugged at the pants, but he could not make them cover his knees. When he heard his-father coming up the stairs, he went out in the halt to meet him. Maybe his father could help him out.

Mr. Cleaver stopped in his tracks and stared at his son. Beaver could tell he was trying not to laugh and that made him feel worse. A fellow didn't want his own father trying not to laugh at him.

"I see-oh-you and Aunt Martha have gone shopping," said Mr. Cleaver, continuing on up the stairs. .

"Dad," whispered Beaver urgently, "I've got to talk to you. Do I have to wear these things?"

Mr. Cleaver put his hand on Beaver's shoulder. "Son, remember what your mother said. It isn't asking much to make a kind old lady happy, is it?"

Beaver thought it was asking a lot to make an old lady happy but he knew better than to say 'so to bis father.

"Be a good sport," said Mr. Cleaver. "It is only lor a few days."

"Yeah," said Beaver gloomily. Anyway, tomorrow was Sunday. The kids couldn't make too much fun of him- in Sunday school-at least not out loud.

The remainder of the story is available in Part two.







HBC





Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site
[Go to Part Two: Beaver Goes Shopping Story]
[Return to Main "Leave It to Beaver" page]
[Main 1950s page] [Short pants suits] [Knee socks]
[Main Style Page] [Main Chronolgy Page]
[Boys'Clothing Home]


Created: May 2, 1998
Last updated: 4:22 PM 12/17/2004