True, by today’s standards, June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) is about as bland as Wonder Bread. But just like the sandwiches she lovingly fed Wally (Tony Dow) and the Beaver (Jerry Mathers), her proto-mom provided a base–a clean slice for others to slap the peanut butter and jelly onto as they built upon or mocked her role in future sitcoms.
She was the embodiment of nice. So much so that the saying “Ward, I’m a little worried about the Beaver” has become irony-tinged code for motherly concern (not to mention fodder for countless lame gags in dodgy movies).
June was a five-day station-wagon ride away from today’s strong, independent, career-minded role model–she deferred to Ward (Hugh Beaumont) on everything from dinner (pork chops or meatloaf) to Beaver’s behavioral correction (watchin’ her boy have to sit still till he ate his brussel sprouts).
But she was the Martha Stewart of her day, showing lots of women with puffy hair, state-of-the-art kitchens and powerful vacuum cleaners a blueprint for living. And most important of all: She loved those kids no matter what.