There is a wealth of information available online if you are interested in the history of Father’s Day, which was celebrated yesterday. Although I consider it one of the greeting card holidays, it has been around in some form or fashion for more than a century.
There is a funny definition of Father’s Day, that it’s ‘like Mother’s Day, but for fathers.” In other words, there is probably much more hype around Mother’s Day and since it’s only about six weeks later, we can just follow the Mother’s Day model, while perhaps toning it down some.
That is fine with me. I am humbled and honored to be a father, and I get choked up just thinking about my life as a dad and granddad. But I don’t need a lot of attention on Father’s Day.
Since we’re thinking about dads this time of year, however, I’m happy to offer a few thoughts. And who better to discuss than some of the TV dads I grew up with?
I have previously written about Sheriff Andy Taylor, who set an extraordinarily high bar. A single dad of an only child, Andy routinely offered guidance and dispensed wisdom to young Opie, while also being a loved and respected leader in the community.
Ron Howard, who played Opie, grew up to be a famous movie director. It would be interesting to see how he might cast Opie in a revival show, some 60-ish years later. Would he have grown up to be an outstanding father himself, having had Andy as a role model?
Howard later portrayed Richie Cunningham in “Happy Days,” whose father, Howard Cunningham (played by Ted Bosley), owned a hardware store. Howard might have been a tad more bumbling than Andy Taylor, but he was also a good dad.
I remember an episode in which Richie had his first experience with beer. When he comes home late and minutes later ends up sick in the bathroom, he says it must have been something he ate. Howard asks if he might have had too much to drink.
Richie tells him that’s silly, that all he had was some beer, “in teeny-weeny glasses.” He then immediately confesses there were 72 of those glasses.
Howard offers some sound, fatherly advice without lowering the boom too much. While Richie’s mother, Marian, tries to get involved, Howard gently takes charge.
In a poignant television moment (which I was able to find on YouTube), Howard Cunningham demonstrates poise and confidence, knowing just how much to say and not say.
Those of you in my age group will also remember Steve Douglas from “My Three Sons.” A single dad like Andy Taylor, Steve (played by Fred McMurray) was, as the title suggests, raising three boys.
Roles changed in the long-running series. The original oldest son was eventually written out, and Steve adopted an orphaned neighborhood boy, Ernie. If you want a good cry, go find clips from the episode in which Ernie’s adoption was finalized.
Later in the series, Steve married a widow, who brought a daughter into the marriage. After years of raising boys, his fatherhood borders were expanded.
Like Andy Taylor and Howard Cunningham, Steve Douglas was possessed of an even temperament, with a gift for knowing what to say, when to step in and when to back off. He excelled at being equal parts father and friend, but always erred on the father side.
Last but certainly not least would be one Ward Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver.” Hugh Beaumont’s character was husband to June and father to Wally and Beaver. Ward went to work in the morning wearing a suit, changed into a cardigan when he got home and retained the tie for dinner with the family. Saturday mornings found him doing household chores but occasionally meeting friends for a round of golf.
Although Wally and Beaver might have referred to Ward yelling, there was never anything of the sort in an episode of “Leave it to Beaver.” Like the others named here, Ward Cleaver took his job as father seriously, and with a son like Beaver who was always getting into awkward situations, his wisdom came in handy. (Anyone remember when Beaver fell into the billboard coffee cup?)
Were these dads perfect? Heck, no. They weren’t even real. But perhaps they represented all dads who knew their imperfections but were trying their best, and it’s that trait that endeared them to us.
Don’t judge me should I confess I might have taken some cues from them when I became a dad.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].