Jerry Mathers and His Hero Dog Ron Ton Ton
As told by Jerry Mathers, the actor who played the Beaver in “Leave it to Beaver.” You can follow him on his blog at JerryMathers.com
“What many people may not realize is that I have been a professional actor since I was 2 years old. And I didn’t get the part on Leave it to Beaver, the show that I’m most well-known for, until I was 7. When I first started my career, I was a child model and did large fashion shows at department stores. I did many live television commercials and even worked in several feature films before “Leave it to Beaver.”
Jerry with his sister Susie and his dog Ron Ton Ton
“When I was 6, after living in several rental homes, my father was able to buy our first home and he told me that I could finally have the one thing that I really wanted – a dog. At the time I was watching the 1950’s television show Rin Tin Tin and I was absolutely enamored with the German Shepard star of the show. My dad said that we could go to the city dog pound to get a dog but I only wanted one just like Rin Tin Tin. He explained that a dog like that would be very expensive but if I got a job over the next few weeks I could use the money I earned to buy it. Much to my delight I got a call to do a small part on a live television show that next day. My dad started to help me look through the classified ads in the Los Angeles Times under German Shepard dog breeds.
One day I saw an ad which stated that a litter from the original Rin Tin Tin bloodline (a dog rescued from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier, Lee Duncan, and trained to star in 27 Hollywood films gaining worldwide fame) was for sale. He said that we could at least go and look at the puppies.
When we got to the home there were about six puppies in the litter and the owner said that I could go over and see which one I liked. While my father was talking with the man about the pricing, one of the dogs immediately ran over to me and when I picked him up he started licking my face and was so frisky and fun. When the two came to an agreement for a price for a puppy they walked over and the man said that I could choose any one I want. I told him that I wanted the one I was holding. The man choked a little bit and my father said, “Do we have a deal?” The man hesitated and then turned to me and said, “Yes, Ron Ton Ton is your new puppy!”
As we were leaving he turned to my father, and said “I really shouldn’t have sold you that puppy for that price because he is the alpha male pick of the litter and he was going to be trained to be a prize winning show dog. But, I would rather see him go to a loving family than to be exhibited.” And I happily took Ron Ton Ton home.
A few years later my parents, sister and brother had all gone to bed and in the middle of the night suddenly Ron Ton Ton came in to my parent’s bedroom and started barking at my father and licking his face. My dad kept telling him to go away, but he continued to bark and nuzzle with his cold wet nose. My father finally opened his eyes and he smelled smoke.
He jumped out of bed, got my mother and went to my room and my brother and sister’s rooms, and they grabbed us and ran down the hall to the front door through flames from our forced air gas heater that had exploded. Ron Ton Ton followed my dad and we all escaped without injury. My dad then put us in his car while the neighbors called the fire department.
After the fire was out the fireman said that we were very lucky that the dog had awakened us because in another few minutes we would have probably all perished of smoke inhalation. Ron Ton Ton always slept by the front door so he had to go through the flames twice to run down the hall to get my father and then back again through the fire with our family. His fur was singed but after a time it grew back and he was back to his old self.
Ron Ton Ton was a devoted companion and lifelong friend and he was sorely missed when he passed several years later. Without him, I and my family wouldn’t be here to tell this story.”
About Jerry Mathers: He has been acting since the age of 2. In 1957 with the debut of the series “Leave it to Beaver” he entered the hearts and homes of America and the world. An immediate success, the show ran for six seasons, totaling 234 episodes and has been in continuous re-runs internationally ever since. Jerry is an often requested speaker at national conventions and trade shows talking about his career in show business and taking control of his diabetes.