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Roses to Honor Select Sixties Sitcom Moms


Roses to Honor Select Sixties Sitcom MomsUnder the mushroom cloud of the Cold War, ever contemplating the threat of nuclear warfare with the drop of Khrushchev’s shoe, by the mid 1960s there ensued fallout with  America’s nuclear family. Along with this shift in cultural winds to affect social climate, the values and ideals that once held us in their grip like a mother’s embrace, became relegated to the past. Bequeathing roses to honor select Sixties sitcom moms which include: Harriet Nelson, June Cleaver, Donna Stone, Laura Petrie, and Samantha Stevens.


The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966) – This long running family series largely based on the actors involved, focused on the Nelson family’s run-of-the-mill problems.  Striving for realism, the set was recreated to look like their actual home at 1822 Camino Palmero St. in Los Angeles.  Though the show is still considered the longest running live-action American sitcom in TV history, its ideals eventually rounded the bends to form a square. Never mind that during all those years none of us ever knew what the genial, bumbling Ozzie did for a living as he was never seen at work, going to work, or coming home from work.  Harriet, exemplifying the wise homemaker and the voice of reason, often rescued Ozzie and her sons, David and Rick, from the consequences of impulsive behavior. Ever clad in elegant dresses and fancy aprons, it struck me odd that I never once saw Mrs. Nelson treat a scraped knee with Mercurochrome.  


Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963) –A wholesome “All-American Family” sitcom centered on the Cleavers, in particular Theodore (the Beaver), who got off the hook, running unscathed from dilemmas and jams, fueled by moralistic, parental advice.  Lady of the house, June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley), always elegantly formal, never exposed cleavage or let her hair down. She steals nearly every scene wearing pearls—including gardening!  This mom’s hair is always coiffed and her makeup is tastefully applied.  Cool as a cucumber, whether doing housework or relaxing in her immaculate home, her wardrobe runs the gamut of tailored dresses, suits, and skirts paired with blouses or sweaters.  Even her housedresses were paired with high heel pumps!  Quite content to be a stay-at-home mom, she occupies her leisure time with needlepoint, cake decorating, arranging tea roses, and reading women’s magazines. Whether or not Mrs. Cleaver struck us as a mom from Venus, she knew the score. “Eddie has that look about him that makes you think something's always about to happen.” 


The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966) – The Stone family consisted of homemaker Donna, her pediatrician husband Alex, and their two kids, Mary and Jeff.  The family Stone exemplified quintessential Middle America, while leading wholesome lives in a Chicago suburb. Donna Stone (Donna Reed) struck me as a mom who is approachable, flexible, witty, wise, and kind.  She certainly exercised patience and understanding while raising her boy-crazy, teenage daughter Mary through her trials by setting a good example.  I definitely could envision Mrs. Stone rolling up her sleeves and pitching in to help strangers without a moment’s hesitation.  In response to son Jeff’s compliment that she is the best and prettiest cook in the world—“I may not be the prettiest, but with all this buttering up, I am the slipperiest.” (The Football Uniform, 1958). 


Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) – The show centered on the misadventures of Rob Petrie, head writer of a comedy variety show filmed in Manhattan, as well as home life with his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), and their son Richie in suburban New Rochelle.   The series was considered a trailblazer for its realistic portrayal of relationships—although Rob and Laura slept in separate twin beds where they resided at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road. Laura wore Capri slacks in an era when most sitcom moms wore dresses and skirts.  Mrs. Petrie’s pretty face, tight body, and perfect teeth, no doubt endowed her with potential to inspire teenage boy crushes or infatuation. Exuberant, full of energy, pert, perky, and sexy, I never equated this mom with much warmth or depth.  “Oh, Rob!”  See what I mean?  


Bewitched (1964-1972) – Unique to the Sixties, the show portrayed a “strange” couple—stuffy, clueless, easily bamboozled, businessman Darrin Stevens and his saucy sorceress of a wife, Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) who easily charmed the pants off of him. Samantha walks the fine line of trying to comply with her husband’s wishes for normalcy and sparingly using her magical powers.  Not a mean and ugly witch like her mother, Samantha Stevens is one of the hottest sitcom moms you’d turn a dial to.  Pragmatically down to earth, she judiciously twitches her nose to fly, stop time, or change people into animals.  When children Tabitha and Adam arrive in the world, Mrs. Stevens strives to instill in each a sense of self-worth and fair play. As much as she’d like to downplay her magic powers and assume the role of “normal” housewife, there’s no denying she has the world at her fingertips or the edge of her nose.  “I am a witch.  A real house-haunting, broom-riding, cauldron-stirring witch.” 


Mama mia! On the mom-o-meter, Sixties sitcom moms got a little hotter under the collar. They evolved from stuffy, stiff, serene, stereotypical imposters to self-confident, spontaneous, sentimental, and seductive flesh and bones. I’ve got plenty of roses to spare for real moms of the Sixties who didn’t wear pearls or heels while they strived to keep their homes immaculate, prepared meals, and raised their voice an octave or two in their futile attempts to quell sibling rivalry. I’m lucky my mom didn’t have magical powers to twitch her nose to make my sister and I disappear.



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