Gildersleeve's nephew is the model for pre-teenage trouble-makers, from Dennis the Menace to Bart Simpson!
The first lesson that is learned from Situation Comedy is that ten to twelve year old kids are always smarter than the adults in their lives. And Throckmorton Gildersleeve's nephew Leroy Forrester proves it over and over again..
In the first episode, while waiting for Gildersleeve to arrive in Summerfield, Leroy is glad that there will be a "He-Man" living in the house. He misunderstands Gildersleeve's position as head of the Gildersleeve Girdle Works, thinking he runs a steel foundry, the "Gildersleeve Girder Works." Leroy learns that Gildy works more in foundations, and shocks everyone by wanting to see the ‘instillation" of the foundation girdles. As the years go by Leroy constantly frustrates his uncle by bringing home every stray animal he runs across, outgrowing his shoes on an almost weekly basis, stomping up and down the stairs and slamming every door he comes through, and by generally being a boy. In one hip pocket of his overalls is probably a slingshot, in the other a rolled up comic book (see "Rolled Up in Leroy's Pocket")
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Leroy Forrester pulls off another trick that is envied by many long-running sit-com children. While the years went, (The Great Gildersleeve radio program ran from 1941 through 1957,) Leroy never grew up. In fact he hardly aged.
The actor who portrayed 12 year old Leroy, Walter Tetley, was 27 years old when the show began. Tetley was born with a rare hormonal disorder (possibly Kallman's Syndrome) that prevented his body from experiencing the changes that normally occur at the onset of puberty. (There is a rumor that Tetley's mother, reluctant to lose the income generated by Walter's career as a child actor "…had him fixed [castrated]."[REF]
Tetley attempted to get into the movies, but his strange appearance limited him to bit parts, often as an unaccredited Bellhop. When RKO Studio's made the Gildersleeve movies, Tetley was denied the role of Leroy that he had created on the radio, and was cast again as a bellhop.
But on the radio he came into his own. He began in the 1930 (while actually still a child) on The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air. The characters he would play during the 40's, usually played with a mixture of smart-aleck kid-speak and adult cynicism, created the stereo-type of the bath-hating, slingshot carrying, cow-lick topped kid that is still with us today. Tetley was featured regularly on the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show as the obnoxious delivery boy Julius.
Tetley also found work in animation voice work. He is well remembered as the voice of Sherman in the Peabody's Improbable History cartoon, part of Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
Because of his condition, Tetley found it difficult to make friends. Most people, including his family, were unable to see the grown man past the appearance and voice of a young boy. He was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and confined to a wheelchair. It is reported that he was forced to sell his house and for some time lived alone in a trailer in Encino, CA. In 1975 Tetley succumbed to gastric carcinoma and complications from the motorcycle accident.
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