As I was reading the news earlier this week, I stumbled onto an article that said Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood started airing 45 years ago this week. In total, it aired for 998 episodes. I’m not sure that, as a child, I saw all 998, but I’m pretty sure I saw a majority of them.
There are a few reasons that I am drawn to Fred Rogers and to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The first is that I grew up in Pittsburgh and, since he was a Pittsburgh guy and filmed the show in town, there was always a sense of loyalty to another Pittsburgher. Second is that my uncle had appeared on the show a few times, playing the part of a magician. My uncle is/was not a magician in “real life.” He may be a father, minister, radio host, DJ, etc, but was never actually a magician except for those few half hour shows.
In the 90’s, my aunt, uncle and cousins bought a house and moved in next door to Mr. Rogers’ mother. On those many visits over there as a kid, I had always hoped that Mr. Rogers would be next door visiting his mother and I would have the opportunity to meet him, but the timing just never worked out.
From everything I have ever heard and read about the man, his on-screen personality was not an act. He was as genuine in person as he was on the screen. I believe that was evident to anyone who sat down and watched the show. His goal each and every day was to make the world a better place, and I believe he accomplished that goal tenfold.
I can remember as a child, sitting in front of the TV all morning and watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on a continuous loop from 6:00 AM until noon. It would be the same episodes all morning, but something about it always kept my interest.
As I read these articles this week, I thought to myself that I’d like to revisit the show and see if the same things ring true today as they did then. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any episodes of the show “On Demand.” I wish I had the ability to turn my children onto this series and see if they were able to glean from it some of the same values that I was able to over the years.
Mr. Roger’s testified about the private recording of shows back in the VHS days. However, it is still relevant in our DVR world. At the time, there were hearings about whether it was legal to tape-record a TV show to watch at a later time:
“Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the “Neighborhood” at hours when some children cannot use it … I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the “Neighborhood” off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the “Neighborhood” because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been “You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.” Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.”
It is my hope that in the near future Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood will be available “On Demand” and that I will not have to just stumble upon it flipping through the channels at various days and times.
More importantly, it is also my hope that there continue to be influences like Fred Rogers in my children’s lives and that I am able to instill in them the values that I have learned from family, friends and even Mr. Rogers.