Starting in 1952 and going on for four seasons totaling 130 episodes, “Our Miss Brooks” graced our old black and white television sets. Stars we would come to know long after the series ended would stay in our memories for a lifetime. Adapted from the actual radio series with just a few minor cast changes, it became hit winning awards for putting a human face on American teachers and setting the pace for independent working females which at that time in history was unusual.
“Our Miss Brooks” was about a high school English teacher named Connie Brooks. She taught at a school known as Madison High and lived in a boarding house run by Mrs. Davis whose absent-mindedness was also a cause for a few laughs. The gist of the show was the pre-“Welcome Back Kotter” kind of scenario with smart kids and the not-so-smart group. Miss Brooks’ favorite student was Walter Denton played by Crenna who wore a letter sweater and had a friend named Stretch who was the typical dumb athlete. Back then he had a squeaky-nasally voice and he drove Miss Brooks to school in his old jalopy. The principal was Mr. Conklin played by Gale Gordon. He had a voice that I remember one of the nuns had in my high school with both upward and downward inflections according to the mood of the scene. The love of Connie Brook’s life was Mr. Boynton, the biology teacher who was shy and clueless to her attraction. I remember watching every week and hoping that she would be asked on a date by him, even though he had to be totally ignorant not to have noticed her strong affection for him.
Remembering the Cast
Eve Arden had wonderful comedic timing and appeared in many entertainment genres. She started in radio as “Our Miss Brooks” and when it was adapted to television. She appeared in several television programs including “I Love Lucy” where she played herself in the episode where the Ricardo’s and Mertz’s were in Hollywood at the Brown Derby. Younger people will remember her as the principal in “Grease” and “Grease 2.” Eve Arden lived to be 82 years of age and died of advanced colorectal cancer and heart disease in November of 1990.
Richard Crenna who played Walter Denton went on to play Luke in the “Real McCoys” that also starred Walter Brennan as the patriarch of the family of mountain folk who relocate to California. It was in our living rooms from 1957-1963. Crenna was seen in numerous movies and series for television and won an Emmy for his portrayal in 1985 as a policeman who had no compassion for rape victims until he himself became a victim of two perpetrators he was chasing in the critically acclaimed “The Rape of Richard Beck”. Crenna passed away of pancreatic cancer/heart failure in 2003 while he portrayed a recurring character on “Judging Amy.”
Gale Gordon was the cantankerous principal on “Our Miss Brooks” and cantankerous must have been his middle name. For every character he played in numerous television productions from 1942 until 1991, we admired him for his short-fused boss or high-strung person in charge. Most will remember him for playing Theodore J. Mooney, Lucy’s boss in “The Lucy Show” from 1963 to 1968. Sadly he died of lung cancer in 1995, one month after his wife of 60 years passed away.