To this day I can still sing the opening song to Mister Rogers’ Neighbohood.
Along with Sesame Street and Electric Company, Mister Rogers was a childhood favorite. A new movie is coming out later this year (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) so I wanted to freshen my Mister Rogers memories and learn a little more about him before the movie debuts. I visited the official Mister Rogers Neighborhood website and I watched the documentary Mister Rogers and Me.
A Few Things I Didn’t Know
First a few interesting biographical tidbits about Mr Fred McFeely Rogers…
- Fred Rogers considered himself to be a musician first and foremost. In college he studied musical composition and he wrote the melodies and lyrics for more than 200 songs.
- The music for the show was played live in the studio.
- Fred Rogers was teased and bullied in elementary school for being shy and fat.
- Fred Rogers received a degree in divinity and also studied graduate level child development.
- All of the original sweaters worn on the program were hand knit by Nancy McFeely Rogers, Fred’s mother.
- Fred began wearing sneakers in the studio so he could run behind the set from the organ to the puppet area without being heard.
Mister Rogers focused on positive messages of love and acceptance. He was known to say things like, “There is only one person in the whole world like you, and people can like you just because you’re you” and “I like you just the way you are.” He helped us learn to identify and process feelings and he helped us learn to be better friends and neighbors to those around us.
As I mentioned above, Fred Rogers was bullied as a child. It was at that moment that his future path was set. What a blessing for the world that he was able to turn his bad experiences into such an amazing legacy of caring, love and support for children (and adults too!).
“If there’s anything that bothers me, it’s one person demeaning another. That really makes me mad.”
Fred Rogers first realized that television was an excellent medium for spreading positive messages when he was home on a break from college. He left school and became an assistant and floor manager for music programs on NBC. Commercial television wasn’t a good fit so he returned home to Pittsburgh to work at WQED, a local public television station. He was content working in the background as a co-producer, puppeteer, and organist on The Children’s Corner program for 8 years. During this time he attended Seminary classes on his lunch breaks and was ordained with a special charge to serve children and families through television.
In 1963, Fred moved to Canada and worked at the CBC. It was during his time there that he decided to move in front of the camera as Mister Rogers. He returned to WQED and Mister Rogers aired nationally for the first time in 1968.
After several years in television, things finally came together for Fred Rogers. He said, “I’ll never forget the sense of wholeness I felt when I finally realized, after a lot of help from a lot of people, what, in fact, I really wasn’t. I was not just a songwriter or a language buff or a student of human development or a telecommunicator, but someone who could use every talent that had ever been given to me in the service of children and their families.”
Use Your Talents
The message that I got from watching the Mister Rogers and Me documentary and researching more about this inspiring man was how important it is to use your gifts and talents. Can you imagine how many children would not have heard his messages of love and acceptance if he hadn’t realized and embraced his gifts so completely? While he was certainly unique in his abilities to make people both young and old feel calm and loved, valued and accepted, Fred Rogers is also a beacon of hope to all of us. We simply have to be ourselves and love our neighbors and we, too, can make the world a little better.
“He was completely present. Absolutely authentic. He made even the most difficult subjects seem safe and manageable.”
Mister Rogers taught us that we are all worthy of love and attention. That it is important to talk and to listen to one another, to learn from each other. He makes us feel relaxed and important.
Here’s the trailer for another Mr Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, that came out just last summer. I wanted to see it at the theater but that never seems to happen. One day I’ll get to watch it though!
Visit the Set
I didn’t realize it before today, but the set from Mister Rogers is on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Guess what just got added to my future travel list!!
If you’d like a sneak peek of the set at the museum, click here for a video.
While not as exciting as seeing the entire set, I was able to see one of his famous cardigans on display at the National Museum of American History last spring.
A funny story…
While at the museum with my kids I was looking at some of the toys on display and talking about how I had some of them too when I was a kid. My kids asked if that makes me feel old to see my childhood on display in a history museum. Grr!
“I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex… Spread the message!”
Just for fun…
Check out this cool stop-motion video made from paper highlighting different symbols and memories from Mister Rogers and his show.
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Hi, neighbor! We learned from the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” documentary that Mister Roger would say to his friends, “1-4-3,” which stood for the number of letters in the words “I love you.” 🥰(Apparently he also weighed 143 pounds for over 30 years!) The Mister Rogers movie with Tom Hanks comes out today, and we can’t wait to see it! Huge props to our former paper wizard @julie_jwalker for hand-making the pieces for our ✨fan art✨ animation. 💕 Swipe for some detail shots from the animation shoot and a final still frame. #stopmotion #stopmotionanimation #paperlettering #tactilelettering
Have you seen the newest movie yet?
Here’s the trailer for the latest movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks. It’s finally out in the theaters but I haven’t seen it yet. It’s on the list though!
Sharing is Caring
Pin it and help spread the word about this kind and wonderful man who was an example we all should be following.
Want to come along with me in an attempt to make the world a little bit better? Click the photo below to sign up for the email-guided kindness journey. Every time someone joins, I play along too. Let’s get out there and spread kindness together! I’m sure Mister Rogers would’ve loved it!