When I was a child, I remember watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I truly loved the show and sang the theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” From watching Mister Rogers, I learned to be compassionate, caring and strong. Of all the lessons that I learned from viewing the program, being well-mannered was one of the most important lessons. Mister Rogers was always courteous and acted like the perfect neighbor. I modeled his polite disposition like many other youngsters through the years. In today’s society, politeness is truly lacking. This is a shame because children often see adults as role models. There should have been more people like Mister Rogers, but at least we were all lucky to have known one.
Running from 1968 to 2001, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a successful program. Even though the show had a simple set, it still beat it’s competitors. It did not need any special effects. Mister Rogers was the star of the show, and he was a simple character who had a big heart. In front of his audience, he changed into his sneakers and sported his cardigan sweater. The majority of cardigan sweaters that Mister Rogers wore were knitted by his mother.
Despite the fact that the program was created for children, the show still addressed themes of the real world such as divorce and death. This show also helped youngsters overcome their fears such as going to school for the very first time and being a patient in the hospital. Like a psychologist, Mr. Rogers gently soothed children’s anxieties away.
Even though Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make Believe was composed of puppets and the famous trolley train, it still focused on topics of real life. This neighborhood of imaginary characters helped enhance children’s creativity and problem solving skills.
Born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1928, Fred McFeely Rogers would develop a natural ability to work with youngsters. James and Nancy Rogers were his parents. Elaine was Rogers’ sister. As a child, Rogers had the gift of music that he would later use in his show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. During his spare time, he bonded with Fred McFeely who was his maternal grandfather. His maternal grandfather, who loved music, helped cultivate Rogers’ musical ability. As his mom played the piano, Rogers would sing. At the tender age of five, Rogers already knew how to play the piano. Rogers early musical gift would help his career in the future. He composed many of the songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood including the theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
In 1946, Rogers graduated from Latrobe High School. Not only was he a skilled musician, he also got his pilot’s license while he was still in high school. Since he had talent as a musician, he graduated from Rollins College, located in Winter Park,in 1951 with a BA in Music Composition. At Rollins College, he met Joanne Byrd who would become his future wife. They both tied the knot on June 9, 1952. They have two sons. Their oldest son James was born in 1959. John, their youngest son, was born in 1961.
As a result of having a strong vocation to help others, he graduated from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963. Rogers became an ordained reverend in the United Presbyterian Church in the USA. Rogers could have served his parishioners in the church, but he decided to make a difference in the world of television instead. He saw that real values and morals were deficient in television programs.
In 1954, he began his career working at WQED, a Pittsburgh public television station as a puppeteer. As a master puppeteer, he worked on the local children’s show, The Children’s Corner. Already, he was helped youngsters by teaching them real values.
In 1963, he moved to Toronto to work with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in the children’s program, Misterogers. The show lasted just three seasons in Canada, but it was destined to become a hit in the United States. When Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired in 1968, it ran for a total of 895 episodes. In 1985, 8 percent of US households watched the family show that was ideal for kids.
For being such a good neighbor and helping children, Mister Rogers received many awards. He acquired the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Daytime Emmys. President George W. Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. Rogers also obtained many other honors for his unique style of entertainment, which was not an easy feat. He had the genius to delve deep into the mind of a child, and very few entertainers have that natural gift.
Mister Rogers passed away on February 27, 2003 at the age of 74, but he will never be forgotten since he touched countless generations of children. Of all the distinctions that Mister Rogers has ever received, the one that fits him the best is the Mister Rogers Forever stamp that was issued on March 23, 2018. Derry Noyers, who is an Art Director from Washington DC, created the stamp. When we send a card to a loved one or a friend, we are being a good neighbor just like Mister Rogers was to us.