Beaver Goes Shopping

It all happened 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." i

"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.

Sunday morning when Beaver came down to breakfast he tried walking with his knees bent to make his pants look longer.

"It won't do any good, Beav," Wally assured him. "You can still tell they are short pants."

"Stand up, Theodore," said Aunt Martha. "I don't like to see a boy with good posture.. Francis .Bronson, Junior, who is just your age, has the best posture of any boy I know." ^ "Don't worry. Beaver," whispered Wally. "The kids will laugh themselves sick in the first couple of hours."

"Sunday school only lasts an hour," said Beaver and thought. Just because I am the youngest I have to go and get stuck to make Aunt Martha happy. Wally could joke. He was safe because he was too old to wear short pants. Even the fourteen- year-old Bronsons back East wore long pants.

Beaver was careful to be late for Sunday school that chilly autumn day. Gooseflesh did not improve the appearance of his knees. He slipped into the last pew while the other boys and girls were singing the opening hymn. He stayed there until the brief service was over and the others had filed down to the church basement for their Sunday school lesson. Then in desperation Beaver picked up a hymn book and held it down at his side in an attempt to hide the gap between the top of his socks and the bottom of his pants. He slipped down the stairs and edged sideways to his own group where he sat on the closest chair and quickly opened the book across his bare legs.

It did not work. Not that anyone said anything right out loud, not in Sunday school. They just nudged one another, pointed at Beaver, grinned and snickered. The lesson that day was about Joseph and his coat of many colors. Beaver felt Joseph was pretty lucky to have a father who gave him such a beautiful coat that his brothers envied him. It was a cinch Wally did not envy him his short pants and neither did anybody else.

As soon as the lesson ended. Beaver slid out of his chair and made a beeline for the door. The rest of the class was not far behind.

"Hey, Beaver," yelled Judy when they were out on the sidewalk, "what happened to the bottoms of your pants?"

Beaver turned and faced his friends, or maybe by now they were ex-friends. "Nothing, he said.

"Where'd you get the girl's stockings?" asked 'Larry.

Is that a new kind of underwear?" Whitey wanted to know.

"It's a suit," said Beaver, "and it's supposed to be like this."

"Hey, Beaver," said Larry, "I thought you said you were going to get a leather jacket!"

Beaver did not have an answer to that.

"You know something. Beaver?" asked Judy, "You've got dimples on your knees!"

"I have not! "yelled Beaver.

Someone snatched Beaver's cap and started a game of catch with it.

"You know what?" said Larry. "You're a sissy!"

"You take that back," yelled Beaver.

"I will not!" shouted Larry. "You're a sissy!"

That was too much for Beaver. He hit.Larry. Larry hit back. All of a sudden it seemed to Beaver that everyone was hitting every one else. He yanked at Judy's pigtail as it flew past his face. He struck out at whatever boy was nearest him. He felt himself pushed backwards. He felt himself pushed forward. He tripped and fell, skinning his knee on the sidewalk. He heard the minister's voice calling, "Boys! Boys!!"

And then Beaver felt Wally's hand on his arm. "Cut it out, Beaver," he ordered. "Lay off, you fellows!''

The truth of the matter was that Beaver was glad to be rescued. There were too many against him and besides, Judy scratched. He looked up and saw the minister standing in front of him.

"Theodore, did you start this?" asked the minister.

Beaver wiped his face on his sleeve before he answered. "No, sir . . . my pants did."

The minister looked as if he were trying not to smile. "You had better go on home with WaBy," he said to Beaver. "It looks as if you need some Iprotection."

The boys walked, home in silence. Beaver thought gloomily that now he would never get his leather jacket. Now that he had been in. a fight his mother and father would be more afraid than ever that he might look like a roughneck. Mr. Cleaver's face was serious when he saw Beaver's rumpled. clothes and bloody knee. Aunt Martha told Beaver to change to his old clothes while she repaired the damage to his new suit-so that it would be ready for him to wear to school the next day. She said she did hope the Cleavers weren't going to allow Theodore to grow up to be a ruffian--really, the casual ways of people out here did seem very strange. The little Bronsons in the East didn't get into fights. Perhaps what Theodore needed was to attend a really good private school.

When Beaver had changed to his jeans, his good old comfortable jeans, and Aunt Martha was in the laundry removing spots from his new clothes, IBeaver joined his father and Wally in the living room. He expected his father to give him a talking to about the fight but instead Mr. Cleaver said, "Kind of lonesome around here without your mother, isn't it? I put in a long distance call to her."

"Uh…Dad?" said Beaver.

"Yes, Beaver?"

"That fight wasn't really my fault," said Beaver. Oh? Whose fault was it Mr. Cleaver wanted to know.

"Aunt Martha's. She made me wear those short pants," explained Beaver.

Mr. Cleaver looked so concerned that for a minute Beaver thought his father was going to help him out of his difficulties. Then the telephone rang.

"Hello . . . yes, I did," said Mr. Cleaver when he had picked up the receiver. "This is Mr. Cleaver . . . Oh, hello, June.

Beaver and Wally settled back to listen. Beaver hoped his father would explain about the short pants and his mother would say that it would make her happy to have him wear jeans instead of short pants.

"Everything's just fine here, just fine, Mr. Cleaver said into the telephone. -"Yes, Aunt Martha's a tremendous help. She's whipping up a wonderful dinner-eggplant and everything."

Eggplant! Beaver and Wally exchanged a look of distaste. There was a long silence. Apparently their mother had a lot to say to their father. "Oh, no, of course not. We wouldn't dream of such a thing," said Mr. Cleaver to his wife. "As a matter of fact, we're all getting along like four peas in a pod. We'll call you again tomorrow night. Goodbye, dear."

Not a word about short pants. Beaver slumped lower in his chair, remembered that Aunt Martha might come in and tell him about the splendid posture of Francis Bronson, Junior, and sat up.

"What did she say. Dad?" asked Wally.

"She sent you both her love," said Mr. Cleaver and lowered his voice. "And she said she knew Aunt Martha could be a trial at times but when your mother was a little girl. Aunt Martha was practically the only mother she ever had. She loves her very dearly and . . ."

Wally interrupted. "Well, I guess that takes care of Beaver's pants."

"I guess so," admitted Mr. Cleaver. "Too bad, Beaver, but it's just a couple more days."

Just a couple more days, thought Beaver glumly, and all because he was the youngest. His father didn't have to go around in short pants, did he? And Wally didn't have to go around in short pants. No. They were too big for Aunt Martha to pick on. Well, if he had to he guessed he could go on fighting the fellows at school, but that Judy--her fingernails were pretty sharp.

The next morning Beaver, dressed in the short pants and half socks, joined Wally at breakfast. "Where's Dad?" he asked as he bit into one of Aunt Martha's baking powder biscuits. That was one nice thing about Aunt Martha. She liked to bake biscuits.

"I don't know, Beav," answered Wally.

"Why, your father left for work," said Aunt Martha.

"Already?" Beaver was surprised. His father never left for work this early.

"Well I've got to get going," said Wally. I've got an early class. Goodbye, Aunt Martha."

"Be a good boy, Wally," she answered as he went out the door.

"Feeling that he had been deserted by the men in his family. Beaver ate a second biscuit and even managed to eat some oatmeal. He had a feeling that if he did not eat it, his aunt would tell him that Francis Bronson, Junior, always ate his oatmeal--and probably asked for a second helping. "Are you sure Dad left for work?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Aunt Martha. "He left before Wally came down."

For some reason it depressed Beaver to know that his father had hurried off to work without even bothering to say goodbye. It was bad enough that he was going to have to fight his way through the day with his fists without his father running out on him before breakfast.

Beaver finished his breakfast and stood patiently while his aunt straightened the collar on his Jacket. She looked so kind and so affectionate that he felt worse than ever. His feet were heavy as he walked out the back door. When he reached the driveway he stopped to look at his clenched fists, which he wished were bigger and harder. He wished he had the biggest, hardest fists in the whole world, because he was going to need them.


The sound startled Beaver. He looked around to see where it had come from.

"Psst." It was Beaver's father beckoning from inside the garage. "Come here," he whispered.

Beaver slipped inside the garage where he found his father holding up a pair of blue jeans and a sport shirt. "Hurry up," his father ordered. Change into these."

"Gee, Dad," said Beaver as he pulled off his jacket. "I sure thought you had ditched me."

"Wally and I talked it over last night and he said you couldn't go to school in these pants no matter how Aunt Martha felt and I had to agree. After all, my mother made me wear long white stockings to school when I was a kid. And I know how it is."

"You do?" asked Beaver as he pulled on his jeans.

"Sure I do," said Mr. Cleaver. "Now look, we can't hurt Aunt Martha's feelings, can we?"

"Well, no, but-"

"Now here's what you do," Mr. Cleaver spoke hurriedly. "You slip out the hack way so your Aunt doesn't see you and when you come home from school, you come in here and change back to your short pants before you go in the house."

"Sure, Dad." Beaver felt suddenly light again. Both Wally and his Dad were on his side and that made a lot of difference. It wasn't going to be so bad wearing short pants around home after school, not when he knew the men in his family cared.

"Gee, thanks. Dad-you're almost like one of the fellows."

Mr. Cleaver, who had started to leave, turned and looked back at his son. "Beaver, that's just about the nicest thing you ever said to me."

"That's okay. Dad," said Beaver as he changed his pants. When his father had gone, he slipped out of the garage, around through the back yard and over the fence. At school some of the fellows gathered around Beaver to demand, "What happened to your short pants, Beav?"

"What short pants?" asked Beaver.

"You know what short pants," someone said. "The ones you wore to Sunday school."

"Oh, those," said Beaver scornfully. "I got tired of wearing them."

"Whatever happened to that leather jacket you were going to get?" asked Larry.

"Don't worry." Beaver tried to sound mysterious, because he could not think of an answer.

After school Beaver returned home to the garage by way of the back fence, changed back into his white shirt, jacket, short pants and half socks and went into the house to say hello to Aunt Martha. He was safe from his friends as long as he could keep out of sight from the neck down.

"Why, Beaver, how nice and clean you kept your clothes today." Aunt Martha's old face beamed with pleasure.

"Uh . . . yes. Aunt Martha." For some reason Beaver felt guilty because Aunt Martha looked so happy that he had taken care of his clothes. Probably she thought he had stayed as clean as Francis Bronson, Junior.

"Theodore, I just got to thinking this afternoon that you might like some cookies when you came home from school," said Aunt Martha, "and so I made up a batch of your Cousin Mary Bronson's hermits-she was your mother's second cousin on her father's side. Her recipe is a family favorite, and the cookies are so full of nuts and raisins that they are very nutritious." Aunt Martha set a plate of cookies on the kitchen table and poured Beaver a glass of milk.

Beaver, who was not used to such service for an after school snack, sat down and began to eat the cookies. They were good even if they were nutritious. "Thanks a lot. Aunt Martha," he said and felt worse than ever. Such a nice old lady baking him cookies and he couldn't stand the thought of wearing the short pants she had given him to school.

While Beaver was eating his cookies he heard Larry Mondello scuffing his feet up the driveway. Quickly he went to the kitchen window where he was visible only from the neck up and called out, "I can't come out and play today, Larry. I promised Mom I would clean out my closet before she comes home."

"Okay, Beav," Larry called and went back down the driveway.

"Wouldn't you like to invite your little friend in for some cookies and milk?" asked Aunt Martha.

"No, thank you. Aunt Martha," said Beaver. "Larry Mondello, he's sort of fat and he's not supposed to eat things like cookies. His mother gives him an apple after school."

"The poor boy," said Aunt Martha.

Beaver felt worse than ever. He felt so bad he went upstairs and really did clean out his closet. He had to do something to keep busy while he stayed in the house to keep his short pants out of sight.

"You feeling all right?" Wally asked when he came home and saw what Beaver had done.

"I feel okay," said Beaver briefly. "You know--except for the way she feels about short pants, Aunt Martha is kind of nice."

"She's all right, I guess," said Wally, "except she likes eggplant."

"That's better than liking short pants," said Beaver.

And that was the way Beaver's days went. Each morning he went out to the garage and changed into his jeans. Each afternoon he changed back to his short pants and enjoyed a snack prepared and served by Aunt Martha. Each day he felt a little worse than he had the day before.

Then one evening Mrs. Cleaver came back from Aunt Peggy's, and the next day it was time to take Aunt Martha to her plane. Mr. Cleaver stopped in the boys' room as he was taking the old lady's bag downstairs and whispered, "Come down and say goodbye to your Aunt Martha. You won't have to come to the airport with us." He glanced significantly at Beaver's short pants.

The boys followed their father down the stairs. "Goodbye, Aunt Martha," said Wally. "Thanks for taking care of us." "Goodbye, Aunt Martha," said Beaver. Aunt Martha looked as if her feelings were hurt. "Why-aren't you boys coming to the airport to see me off? It will be such a long time before I see you again."

The Cleaver family stood in embarrassed silence. It was a bad moment for Beaver. He didn't want to hurt Aunt Martha's feelings. Except for the way she felt about short pants he liked her almost as much as Gus the fireman. But going to the airport in those short pants. and exposed his knees to the chilly breezes and the view of everyone. He hoped that by not look- ing directly at anyone he would somehow become invisible, but it didn't work. He could feel peo- ple staring at him and he overheard remarks.

"Hey, look at the kid in short pants."

"Oh, look at the sweet little boy wearing a proper suit."

"Half-socks, I didn't know they made them any more."

Beaver's only consolation was that with so many grownups around he didn't have to fight anybody, although he thought he might feel better if he did have an excuse to punch someone.

Beaver was mighty glad when Aunt Martha's plane was announced and he could say goodby once more. He stood waving while Aunt Martha boarded the plane, but he was mighty glad to see the door closed and the steps rolled away.

"Beaver, that was a mighty nice thing you did to please your Aunt Martha," said Mr. Cleaver as the plane started down the runway. "And do you know something? The stores are open tonight and we are going to stop on the way home and buy you that leather jacket with the eagle on the back."

"Oh Ward," protested Mrs. Cleaver. "Do you want people to think Beaver is a roughneck?"

"Any boy who will deliberately and of his own free will wear a pair of short pants in public just to make an old lady happy isn't a roughneck and never will be," said Mr. Cleaver. "Beaver gets the leather jacket tonight and that's final."

"Gee, thanks. Dad!" Beaver grinned at his father. He guessed he would show Larry and Judy and all the rest of them. They were going to be sorry when they saw his new leather jacket! "But Dad, is it all right if I ... uh ... go home and change my pants first?"

Mom and My Short Pants Suit

Note: This account is based on experience of one 9 year old American boy in 1952 who no longer wanted to wear a short pants suit and his mother who thought he looked nice in shorts.

I was born in 1943. I grew up in New Jersey, and have lived there all my life. We weren't what you call affluent, but we were comfortable. Although my casual clothes were normal for the time, any formal dress up occasion found me in short pants, and sometimes knee socks, well into my 9th year.

I was always small for my age, which made it easy for mom to find short pants suits that fit me, but by age nine, the shopping well ran dry, so to speak. I was well into my 9th year when my last short pants suit was purchased, and it had to be specially made. I remember going to a store named "Saks Fifth Avenue." The stores then weren't mall types where you picked clothes off the rack. It was simple for mom to find a color and style she liked, but it had long pants. Tailoring was a simple matter of me trying on the pants, and having them measured and altered into short pants. They were done while we waited, and I got to try on the full outfit before we left. To make sure the complete outfit matched, I walked into the shoe department wearing the short pants suit, and got outfitted with new knee socks and shoes. At age nine, I was beginning to feel a little self concious about still wearing short pants suits, so I wanted no part of this shopping trip, but I was a compliant kid, so I did as I was told.

From my earliest age, I just naturally went along with what my parents said. I don't remember mom giving any particular reason for prefering to dress me in short pants....she just did it, and I complied. Until the ending incident that changed things, I never questioned what I was told to dress in.

I don't remember being particularly self concious about having to wear short pants until I was about age seven or so, when I began to be the only boy at church or social event with bare knees. From that age till I graduated to longs, there were a few occasions when other kids made kidding or feeling hurting remarks about how I was dressed. Although play shorts were no problem, it began to get to be more and more of a chore for my mother to be able to get me to wear short pants suits, etc for dress up.

I don't really remember comments from anyone, but at those ages, I would sometimes hear other kids question why I was still dressed in shorts. These questions were usually from boys, and it was easy to answer by telling them it wasn't my choice, but my moms. Kids at that age understood that what parents said, meant law (at least then). I don't remember comments from girls. Most comments I remember were from women, who seemed to think positively about short pants for boys. I remember more than one comment about how adorable I looked. I think hearing myself thought of as adorable bothered me more than wearing the shorts. Boys want to be thought of as handsome, not adorable, so if there were remarks about looking handsome, wearing short pants wouldn't have bothered me.

When I was dressed up to go out, like to Church, or formal visiting, it was always knee socks, usually black or dark colored, but sometimes tan. I prefered dark, as did my mom, but I remember one Christmas outfit that had me (at about age five) in white short, red bow tie, red suspender short pants, red knee socks, and white shoes. Casual play clothes, either long or short pants, I wore shorter ankle socks, usually white. The only other time I wore knee socks was with my Boy Scout uniform.

Finally, a short time after turning nine, the chore became too much for a mother dealing with an assertive 9-year-old. There was a battle of wills of sorts between mom and I, one fine day when it was time to get dressed to go out. I steadfastly refused to wear short pants, but crossed the line doing it. I won the war, but not the battle. Mom agreed to let me choose, but for a while still tried to suggest shorts, knowing that I never again would. By loosing the battle that day, though, I mean that instead of a discussion, I used bad behavior to make my point, and got a pretty good spanking for my efforts. I had to wear short pants that day, but the war was won by my being able to dress in longs in the future.

My dad's thoughts were generally, "do what your mother wants." He was content to let mom decide what I would wear. The only thing he had to say was getting involved when I rebelled at wearing a short pants suit at age nine. That was the time I finally tried to make my point to get out of wearing shorts. Instead of a calm discussioin before hand, I really acted up while we were getting ready to go out, and behaved very badly. My dad ended the discussion that day by coming into my room, giving me a spanking (about four or five whacks on the backside) and making sure I got dressed quickly. Short pants were worn that day, but I think he and mom discussed the issue, because short pants were phased out after that.

I can recall some of the other clothes I wore. I was dressed in shortalls, or one piece shorts with suspenders. Eton suits were popular then, so that meant a white shirt with little bow tie, short jacket with no collar, really short pants, and knee socks. I also had a white First Communion suit with white shorts and white knee socks. I only remember wearing that, however, for First Communion. Even as I got older, mom prefered shorts that tended to be short, usually at least mid-thigh. I had long pants, but they weren't long pants suits. The long pants were bought seperately.

I seem to remember that my short pants were kept in a seperate drawer. Jackets were hung to keep them neat, but shorts must have been easier kept in a drawer with shirts, undies, socks, etc.

Most of us kids wore play shorts during the summer. Shorts were warm weather wear. Except for dressing up, I never wore shorts during the winter. My parents were practical, letting me wear long pants for play if I wanted. I wore play shorts all my childhood during the summer, some bought as shorts, but a lot were blue jeans cut off about mid-thigh.

Believe it or not, I never wore shorts to school. You weren't allowed to wear even casual shorts in the warm weather, or jeans either.

Spin and Marty

Those of us who grew up in America during the 1950s will remember The Mickey Mouse Club. The showhad several standard routeins then broke away for cartoons or special features. One of those features were serial presentations of various stories. One of those serials was Spin and Mary. It was set on a boys' western theme summer camp. The two main characters were of course Spin and Marty. I get the two confused, but I think Spin was the all American boy. Him and his chums are of course all togged out in western blue jeans. The boys seemed to be in the 10-14 year range. Then a new boy arrived. They were all waiting for him when this big long cheaufer-driven limosine pulls up. Then out steps Marty in a tailored black short pants suit, of course complete with knee socks. He was, if I recall correctky, about 13 years old. This was typical mid-1950s television. All red-blooded American boys dressed in jeans and wouldn't be caught dead in short pants--especially a short pants suit with knee socks. Only spoiled-little rich boys dressed like Marty. The rest of the show dealt with how the other boys sort Marty out so he could become a "regular guy". One of the first steps of course was to get him out of his fancy pants suit and into jeans like the other "fellows".

Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
1920s] [ 1930s] [ 1940s] [ 1950s] [ 1960s] [ 1970s]