Jerry Mathers had no trouble adjusting to normal teen life after Leave It to Beaver

After his run on the hit family friendly series, Mathers played football, joined the service, went to college and even dabbled in real estate.

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Jerry Mathers will always be best known for his timeless role of Theodore Beaver Cleaver. After six years on Leave It to Beaver, Mathers was 14 years old and ready to start high school. 

He was a child actor and, because of the show's popularity throughout its run on television, he was a celebrity. There have always been stories about successful child actors who struggle transitioning to a more "normal" life after a series or movie wraps. That wasn't the case for Mathers. 

He did several things to keep busy and keep a good head on his shoulders. In 1963, when Leave It to Beaver finished, Mathers went to high school and did all the things other kids did at that age. 

According to a 1982 Daily Herald-Tribune newspaper article, Mathers joined his high school football team. He went out for it like everyone else, and made the team like everyone else.

The article states Mathers played center and linebacker, even though he wasn't the biggest kid on the team. He had a solid group of friends, which was a big part of his transition from the TV world. 

"I thought of trying to keep up with football," Mathers said. "Until my senior year, when a big freshman really knocked me around on the practice field one day. So I realized I'd better find something else."

According to the article, that "big freshman" turned out to be John Vella, who would go on to play a couple years as an offensive lineman in the National Football League, specifically for the Oakland Raiders. 

When football didn't pan out, Mathers enlisted in the Air Force, keeping his uniform on for six years. Still, something was missing. 

"I had always wanted to go to college," he said. "I had been a good student so, after I left the service, I went to the University of California at Berkeley, and I majored in philosophy." 

During his time in school, Mathers started "playing around with investments" at a Berkeley bank. So much so, the personnel at the bank got to know him and even offered him a job, one he took. Dealing with big amounts of money for three years, Mathers learned some of the biggest transactions involved real estate. 

He then dabbled in real estate and "even owned a pawnshop," according to a 2002 Orlando Sentinel article

Acting eventually came calling again for Mathers, as he appeared in an episode of The Love Boat along with the reboot The New Leave It to Beaver, beginning in 1983. 

Despite being one of the most recognizable child stars television has ever seen, Jerry Mathers grew up like so many other kids his age, and led a life that made him "very happy."

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Adanor 17 months ago
Jerry Mather's seamless transition into adulthood probably was due to the hard work of his parents and the show's producers who made sure that he was allowed to be a child when he was not on camera. Yes, this is a very odd concept. Why shouldn't a child actor be allowed to be a child when off camera? Actually, many are not and they are the ones that end up in all sorts of trouble as adults. It was good to hear that Jerry Mathers was able to have a good life.
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tboner58 17 months ago
Nice. Has anyone noticed that in a few episodes of LITB there are 3 horseshoes on the wall in the boys room? There was also a note pinned to the wall above the top horseshoe. Just wondering what that was for…..
Bapa1 tboner58 17 months ago
The note said: "Stay on your marks and don't forget your lines!"
tootsieg 17 months ago
Nice to read about a child actor from the Golden Age of TV leading a normal, every day life.
tootsieg 17 months ago
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CoreyC 17 months ago
Only Ron Howard and Jodie Foster had successful careers after being child actors. Then there was tragic cases Rusty Hamer and Anissa Jones aka Buffy of Family Affair. The Coogan Law protected their finances and Paul Petersen For Your Consideration protected their mental health after their careers ended.
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Bapa1 wallyandbagfan 17 months ago
Instead of Spanky, are you thinking of Mickey? (Robert Blake).
CoreyC 17 months ago
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Nala92129 Bapa1 17 months ago
He had a right!
Nala92129 CoreyC 17 months ago
"A MINOR Consideration."
Bapa1 17 months ago
Cool article, seems like a good guy. I remember him doing a cameo in Batman, and he did a My Three Sons. He was hilarious in an episode of Married With Children playing himself, and he played a surfing judge in the movie 'Back to the Beach'.
Bapa1 17 months ago
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Andybandit 17 months ago
That was great. At least Jerry didn't get into trouble or do drugs, and drink alcohol. Like a lot of child actors and actresses do.
MadMadMadWorld Andybandit 17 months ago
Probably the same for Ron Howard, and some others. But there was more than alcohol or drugs to bedevil ex-child actors. Violence (assault, murder), or mental health issues over lack of future work (Jay North, as "Dennis The Menace") who almost committed suicide, as Rusty Hamer ("Make Room For Daddy") did on Jan. 18, 1990, at only 42. Rusty's shocking suicide prompted Paul Peterson ("Jeff Stone" on "The Donna Reed Show") to start his "A Minor Consideration" program to help ex-child actors cope as adults.
Paul Petersen (sp fix) is now 77 (Sep. 23, 1945), and Jay North (Aug. 3, 1951) is 71.
MadMadMadWorld 17 months ago
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MadMadMadWorld 17 months ago
Jerry was 15, not 14 (error caught!), when the series ended on the last airdate: June 20, 1963. He was born on June 2, 1948. Now 74.
LoveMETV22 MadMadMadWorld 17 months ago
Air dates don't necessarily coincide with the date it was filmed. The production codes for the last season vary greatly. There is a possibility that the episode was filmed well in advance of Mather's 15 birthday. Not disputing what you read for the air date (As that schedule is readily available). What is not so easy to find, (if it is available anywhere, or at all?), would be the filming schedule.
So it may be an error, but then again it may not be.
JERRY6 17 months ago
Good to read a positive story about a child actor from the past .
Pacificsun 17 months ago
He had a couple of things going for him. One was, they weren't allowed to want to the Series itself, so as not to become self-conscious. He already had the experience before LITB. And the right roles were chosen for him. His father was a high school principal and later a school administrator in L.A. And siblings (in show business) maybe helped them identify with one another. And it's been written that he shared responsibilities at home like any family. His background assumes his natural curiosity and capability. Given a knack for (and confidence) trying new things. He's said that he was never treated differently in high school for playing that role.

IMO, such talented youthful actors are intuitive enough to make use of the right kind of influence in their lives (like Ronny Howard). Smart and ambitious enough to put advantages and opportunity to good use.

But it's nice to read and hear in interviews, his appreciation for fans. And the long-standing perception of his humility.

Very nice article MeTV Staff writers. Always wonderful to read something so inspiring! Thank you.
FrankensteinLover 17 months ago
Have always been a Fan of Jerry aka Beaver, Ron Howard aka Opie, and Butch Patrick aka Eddie. Just Wonder if they ever crossed Paths
Richard Keith (Keith Thibodoux his stage name),, played "Little Ricky" on "I Love Lucy". He appeared with Ron Howard on 13 "TAGS" episodes (1962-66), 12 times as 'Johnny Paul'. First time in 1962 in "One Punch Opie" episode. There are two of the most famous child actors, one appearing the other's tv series! Richard Keith (Dec. 1, 1950) is now 72, and Ron is now 68 (Mar. 1, 1954)
Yes, and for the record, Jerry NEVER played Little Ricky! There was a dream sequence where a boy who looked like him played the character!
CoreyC FrankensteinLover 17 months ago
Butch Patrick aka Eddie had crossed paths with Billy Mumy on The Munsters and Barry Livingston aka Ernie Douglas on My Three Sons.
FrankensteinLover 17 months ago
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