‘Leave It to Beaver’: The Unlikely People Jerry Mathers Said Opened and Answered His and Tony Dow’s Fan Mail

When the classic television series Leave It to Beaver began airing in 1957, it made instant stars out of its child actors, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow.

According to Mathers, an immediate result of their fame were bags and bags of fan mail.

And these were the unexpected personnel handling all those messages from fans.

(L to R): Jerry Mathers as Beaver Cleaver and Tony Dow as Wally Cleaver are dressed in robes and sitting forlornly in a scene from 'Leave It to Beaver'
Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives

Mathers and Dow are as close as real-life brothers

Although several of the show’s cast members have died in the years since the beloved family comedy went off the air, Mathers and Dow haven’t allowed the years to distance them. The friends keep in touch and appeared on Today in 2017 to mark the show’s 60th anniversary.

As Mathers said, “We’re good friends. Anything goes on in our families, we know about it.” To which Dow interjected, “He’s still a squirt, though.”

‘Leave It to Beaver’ actors Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers on ‘Today’ in 2017

Mathers’ mother was responsible for his successful career

Jerry Mathers’ mom supported him throughout his acting career, which began at the age of 2, when she was approached by a clothing catalog company representative while shopping with her son. The rep felt Mathers would be a perfect model for her company. His mother was at first reluctant to sign her son up. However, as Mathers told the Television Academy Foundation in 2006, she was ultimately wooed, as any mother of a growing child would be, by the prospect of free clothes.

The cast of 'Leave It to Beaver' sit together as the Cleaver boys assemble a model airplane: (L to R): Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, and Jerry Mathers
The cast of ‘Leave It to Beaver’: (L to R): Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives

RELATED: ‘Leave It to Beaver’: Jerry Mathers’ Family and Fans Thought He Had Been Killed in Action – ‘They Showed Me An Obituary’

“A lady came up to her and said, ‘Your little boy looks just like the family in our catalog. Would it be possible for him to be a model for our catalog?’” he recalled. “‘We could pay him and he could keep all the clothes that he would wear.’ My mom said, ‘You know, he could probably do that.’ So that’s actually how I started,” Mathers said, laughing.

Here’s who handled the stars’ fan mail

Tony Dow as Wally Cleaver and Jerry Mathers as Beaver Cleaver dressed in swimming trunks on 'Leave It to Beaver,' 1955
Tony Dow as Wally Cleaver and Jerry Mathers as Beaver Cleaver dressed in swimming trunks on ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ 1955 | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As mentioned, the boys began receiving fan mail almost as quickly as the show aired. Their “PR firm” on the show handling their correspondence? Their moms, of course.

“When I was working as an actor, because I was a juvenile, I had to have her pretty much come with me full time to the studio,” Mathers said. “She didn’t work [outside the home], but it really was a lot of work.”

The actor described how his mother threw himself into his career so much so that, along with co-star Tony Dow’s mother, the two women handled the huge amount of fan mail their sons received regularly.

“Her and Mrs. Dow both, when we were doing Leave It to Beaver spent most of their days answering fan mail,” the actor shared. “We would get those big mail bags, we would get sometimes four or five mail bags a week between Tony and myself of fan mail.

“People don’t realize what a big project fan mail is. Especially at that time, without computers, if [the fans] wanted something, you had to write them back. So, it was quite a project especially with that kind of volume of mail. So her and Mrs. Dow, that was not a full-time job, but they spent a lot of time doing that.”