Ward Cleaver was my great inspiration
By Bill Maxwell, Times Columnist
Published February 14, 2008
What was the most important image in your life when you were growing up?" a student asked me last year when I addressed a high school honors ****in St. Petersburg.
"It was Ward Cleaver's den in Leave It to Beaver," I said.
Ward's den/office always caught my attention. Here, Ward disciplined his totally normal sons, Beaver and Wally, made telephone calls and balanced the family checkbook.
I vividly recall the episode when Ward shared with his sons the joy of reading Mark Twain and the lessons he learned about life from Twain's books and short stories. In another episode, with Beaver and Wally at his side, Ward read from Huckleberry Finn aloud. I imagined myself one day doing the same with my children, which I did.
I learned a few years ago that Ward and June, the perfect wife, rarely read anything other than newspapers and magazines. As a child, I missed this fact. The image of that wall of books and Ward's frequent allusions to the moral lessons he learned from books left me with the impression that the Cleavers read voraciously away from the cameras, a kind of enveloping reality.
Since then, my living space always has been a library/den. The wonderful thing about having books around is they entice you to read them. As far as I am concerned, a home is not a home if it does not have books and, by the way, a globe.