|Season 4 was one of the critical moments in the series history. It opened with the introduction of seven year old Jon Provost as a waiflike runaway named Timmy. The Millers took a liking to Timmy and took him into their home for the summer. |
Midway through the season George Cleveland died. His death was written into the episode called "Transition". This episode saw Ellen and Jeff selling the farm after Gramps' death and moving to Capitol City. A young couple, Paul and Ruth Martin bought the farm and adopted Timmy. Jeff gave Lassie to Timmy just before leaving for Capitol City. Timmy now had a last name - Martin - and Lassie would spend her days for the only period in the show's history with a traditional father/mother/child family.
The remainder of the season focused on the new family's adjustment period and Timmy's adventures with Lassie. George Chandler entered the show as Petrie Martin, Paul's uncle. Petrie became a regular on the show for a few seasons and filled the "grandfather" role once occupied by Cleveland. In his debut episode Petrie would fashion a "friendship ring" for Timmy. The ring became a premium offered by the show's sponsor Campbell's Soup and thousands were distributed through the mail. The ring and its paper flyer are now valued collectibles. The season also saw the debut of producers Jack Wrather and Bonita Granville Wrather's daughter Linda Wrather as Willy Brewster, Timmy's neighbor and classmate. Linda would appear as a semi-regular.
Cloris Leachman appeared in the fourth season as Ruth Martin and, unhappy with the role, refused to sign a contract for the fifth season. She left the show; Jon Shepodd who played her husband Paul Martin was released. June Lockhart and Hugh Reilly would appear as Ruth and Paul Martin from season 5 onward.
Screencap: Jeff says good-bye to Lassie before leaving the farm permanently for a new life in Capitol City.