Mister Rogers told the kids to play
He's been going in and out of style
But he's guaranteed to raise a smile
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first national airing of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on PBS. All of us who write for this blog grew up with Mister Rogers. His show was great, and harkens back to simpler times. There were no fancy graphics or animation. Just Fred Rogers telling stories, feeding his fish, accepting visitors, taking field trips, and teaching lessons to the young viewers. Mister Rogers passed away from stomach cancer in 2003, not too long after his retirement. He was a genuinely kind man, and his show really reflected his personality. His show ran for a PBS record 998 episodes. Here are some interesting facts about Fred Rogers and his long-running show (culled from wikipedia):
- The sweaters he wore on his show were hand-knitted by his mother. He wore a total of 24 different cardigans throughout the show's run.
- In 2000, Rogers had been driving the same car for years - an old second-hand Impala. Then it was stolen from its parking spot near the WQED studio (in Pittsburgh). Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by local news outlets, and general shock swept across town. Within 48 hours, the car was back in the spot where he left it, along with a note saying, "If we'd known it was yours, we never would have taken it!"
- Mister Rogers supported taping of his shows, when it was an issue in a copyright case. Who knew that Fred was a Deadhead at heart.
- Despite the rumors, Fred was not a Navy Seal who served in Vietnam, he did not have tatoos all over his arms (making long sleeved cardigans a necessity), he was not a child molester, and did not flip the bird to his audience on his last day on the air. He was just a good dude.
- Fred recieved 40 honorary degrees from various institutions.
- There is an asteroid named for him - called 26858 Misterrogers.
- Fred wrote 200 songs during his career.
- His goody-goody persona spawned many parodies. My favorites: Mister Robinson's Neighborhood on SNL (with Eddie Murphy), and Mister Roberts on the National Lampoon album "That's Not Funny, That's Sick" ("can you say deja vu?").
Forty years ago today, Fred Rogers entered the lives of many children across the country, and we're all better off for it. Here's to you, Fred. The next time you take a trip to the neighborhood of make-believe, think of Mister Rogers. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..."