Did you grow up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” either yourself or with your children?
I loved that show as a child. Fred Rogers was the kindest and most endearing man in the world. You felt safe watching his show. He had such a tender way of presenting things to children. He never talked down to you or made you feel like just a child.
It makes me sad to think so many children have never heard of Mister Rogers or might think the show is silly or boring compared to the modern shows of today.
Rogers was born on March 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He played the piano from an early age, and went on to earn a degree in Music Composition from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.
As a senior in college, he fell in love with his parents’ new television set and felt that was a field he wanted to pursue. He got a job in Pittsburgh at a community television station and began working in programming. The very next year he was co-producing a children’s show called “The Children’s Corner.” Rogers loved puppets as a child and began introducing some on the show.
While his television career was getting off to a good start, Rogers even found time to attend divinity school and became a Presbyterian minister in 1962. He launched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” from the Pittsburgh station in 1968 and just two years later, the show was airing on PBS stations all over the country.
As a child, I loved it when he walked through the door, singing his signature song (which he wrote), “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and took off his coat and donned one of those infamous cardigan sweaters and sneakers.
Did you know his mother made all of those sweaters? In 1984 the Smithsonian Institute displayed one of his iconic sweaters, signifying the profound influence he had on the culture.
I loved the way Rogers looked right into the camera and spoke directly to his audience.
Besides fun topics, Rogers also addressed topics nobody else was touching at the time — things like anger, death and divorce. He often took his viewers on “field trips,” visiting places in the neighborhood and beyond. I remember, all of those years ago, watching a trip to a crayon plant — how interesting for children to see how crayons were made. Especially if you were an avid coloring person like I was. It was always interesting to learn about various neighbors and their jobs.
Of course, my favorite part of the show was when the trolley headed to the neighborhood of make believe where King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday lived, along with a lot of other beloved characters. I loved the puppets and their adventures. It makes me sad that puppets weren’t really a “thing” when our children were growing up.
Speaking of puppets, as a child my favorite scene in the 1965 blockbuster movie, “The Sound of Music,” was that scene when Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp children put on the puppet show. I watched that scene mesmerized and enchanted. Our four children also loved that scene and I have such fond memories of all of us singing along during that puppet show.
“Mister Rogers Neighborhood” won four daytime Emmy’s, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and many other honors along the way until the show’s last episode in 2001. Fred Rogers was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999, and he passed away on Feb. 27, 2003.
I am happy to report that Rogers will be getting his own postage stamp next month. It depicts him and his popular puppet King Friday, which I am sure would make him smile. Rogers once said, “Those of us in broadcasting have a special calling to give whatever we feel is the most nourishing that we can for our audience. We are servants of those who watch and listen.”
I wish the producers, writers and actors of so many current children’s shows felt that way.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.