Mr. Rogers - Fred McFeely
Rogers, a slender, gentle-looking Presbyterian minister from
Pittsburgh hosted the popular Public Television children series
MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD that originally debuted on WQED in
Toronto, Canada in 1963 as a 15-minute daily program called
MISTEROGERS. Set in a cozy little house at 4802 Fifth Avenue in
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood – the gateway to the Neighborhood of
Make Believe – Mr. Rogers entered his TV home singing "It's a
beautiful day in the neighborhood..." and followed-up with the
invitation "won't you be my neighbor?"
After changing from his
street clothes into more casual sweater and slippers, the
soft-spoken Mister Rogers explored the wonders of the world while
interacting with such lovable characters as Lady Aberlin, Handyman
Negri, Chef Brockett, Mr. McFeely "the Speedy Delivery Man," Robert
Troll, and Police Officer Clemmons.
Puppet characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe included King
Friday the XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, Prince Tuesday, Lady Elaine
Fairchilde (who ran the Museum-Go-Round), Henriette Pussycat, the
shy Daniel S. Stripped Tiger (who lived in a clock), X the Owl,
Donky Hodie, Cornflake "Corny" S. Pecially (who owned a rocking
chair factory), Henri de Tigre (Grandpere), William Duckbill Bagpipe
Platypus the IV, Dr. Tadpole Frog, Harriet Elizabeth Cow and a
ventriloquist dummy, Hischer Booptrunk (Rogers' childhood toy).
Mr. Rogers' philosophy towards his child viewers was always
comforting. He constantly reminded them "There is only one person in
the whole world exactly like you, and people can like you just the
way you are."
He often made a point of talking about emotions like anger, fear,
sadness in daily life and such common activities as starting school,
getting a hair cut, being admitted for a hospital stay, sleeping in
the dark, the death of pets and loved ones.
During the Gulf War Crisis, Fred Rogers made special appearances on
PBS to reassure those children whose parents were fighting in Desert
Storm. He advised parents to:
1) Let your children know that they are not in danger.
2) Don't expose babies and toddlers to war news on TV.
3) Limit your own TV viewing.
4) Talk to your children about war-and peace.
5) Be a good listener.
6) Monitor your children's war play.
7) Help your children learn to handle anger constructively.
Mr. Rogers' friendly demeanor inspired NBC's SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE to
create two parodies "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Rogers" and "Mr. Robinson."
Comedian Eddie Murphy appeared in the Mr. Robinson skits playing a
soft spoken black man who lived in a tenement slum apartment and
sang his own version of the Mr. Rogers theme song that goes: "It's a
hell of day in the neighborhood...I hope I get to move into your
neighborhood. But the problem is, when I move in, you all move
When not visiting the Neighborhood of Make Believe (via the
magic trolley) children watched Mr. Rogers talk with artists, astronauts,
musicians and sports figures; play with materials and make paper
airplanes or finger-paint; visit the corner Bakery to see how bread
was made; drop into a crayon factory to see how they were
manufactured; or take a trip to the local library and listen to a
storytelling hour. Mr Rogers also wrote most of the music and songs
on the program. One memorable tune about taking a bath reassured
kids "You can never go down the drain."
At the end of each program, Mr. Rogers said goodbye by singing "I'll
be back when the day is new, and I'll have more ideas for you. And
you'll have things you'll want to talk about. I will too."
Over his 40 year career Fred Rogers wrote such books as "Mister
Rogers Talks With Parents," "Going To The Hospital", "Wearing A Cast,"
"When Your Family Moves," and "Talking With Families About Divorce."
1980, Fred Rogers received an Emmy Award for his outstanding work in
Children's television and throughout his career has received such
honorary degrees as the George Foster Peabody Award, the Saturday
Review Television Award and an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement
Fred's career in television began in April 1954 when Fred Rogers and
friend Josie Carey created THE CHILDREN'S CORNER for the educational
station WQED-TV in Pittsburgh. He later moved to Toronto, Canada in
1963 where he started a program called MISTEROGERS which with the
financial support of Eastern Educational Network, National
Educational Television (NET) and the Sears-Roebuck Foundation became
the most popular and longest running children's program on Public
Television. The final episode of the series was taped at
Pittsburgh's WQED in December 2000.
Although the show is no longer being produced, there are 900
episodes in the can that PBS plans on airing to stations nationwide.
Fans of the show who miss the Fred Rogers can find solace in riding
a larger-than-life Trolley that resides in the Mr. Rogers' inspired
Neighborhood of Make-Believe section of the Idlewild Amusement Park
in Ligonier, Pennsylvania southeast of Pittsburgh.
TRIVIA NOTE: Fred Rogers was born in
Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 1928. His favorite color is
yellow though he is colorblind. His middle name "McFeely" was the
last name of his grandfather whom he loved dearly. Fred called his
grandfather "Ding Dong" because McFeely taught Fred the nursery
rhyme "Ding Dong Dell, Pussy's in the Well..."
Fred Rogers was
married to Joanna Byrd on July 9, 1952. He studied at the Pittsburgh
Theological Seminary and became a minister of the United
Presbyterian Church in 1963.
Child psychologist, Dr. Margaret B. MacFarland helped Rogers produce
MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD/PBS/1967-75/1979-2000 over the years.
The PBS network honored Fred Rogers in March 1990 with a prime-time
retrospective called "Our Neighbor, Fred Rogers." Rogers was also
inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and received the
Presidential Medal of Freedom and a star on the Hollywood Walk of
Fred Rogers, who projected a powerful aura of gentleness, died of
stomach cancer on February 27, 2003 in his home in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. He was 74.
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