If you were a child at some point between 1968 and 2001 and have a heart, then there’s a place in it for Mister Rogers. Yes, he was really on TV for that long! 895 episodes! His show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood helped kids learn about all kinds of stuff, from friendship to handling anger to finding out what goes down in a bakery. It raised questions like, “Mister Rogers, if you are so chill, why is your name so formal?” Also, it was the most calming show ever. If I watched an episode right now, I’d probably have the most restful sleep I’ve had since I was five. What I remember most about Mister Rogers, and I’m sure a lot of you will agree, are simple things like how he always changed his sweater and shoes and how he always fed his fish at a certain time. Today would have been Mister Rogers 85th birthday and to honor him here’s six facts you should know about this legend of serenity.
His Mom Made His Sweaters
Mister Rogers once stated in an interview that all of his sweaters were knitted by his mother and that she always gifted them to his family at Christmas. I’m pretty sure they are a real life Weasley family. One of these mom-made sweaters is in the Smithsonian. Also related, he began wearing his signature sneakers when he first started working in television production because sneakers were quieter (sneakier) than his work shoes. It’s all about being peaceful with this guy. (As a side note, wouldn’t it be so terrifying to see Mr. Rogers angry? “Damn sweater won’t zip!! Arghhh!!!”)
The Fish Were Named Fennel and Frieda
Well, the original fish were. I don’t know how many fish Mister Rogers went through over 33 years, but fish don’t live that long, so I’m guessing a lot. In fact, in one episode Mister Rogers finds a dead fish in his tank and buries it in his yard while teaching children that they should express their feelings when confronted with loss. Mister Rogers is bad ass and this proves it. Other people avoid subjects like this with children and talk to them in stupid whiny voices, but he speaks the truth. He’s quoted as saying “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self. I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away.” Back to the fish, Fennel and Frieda are great names and if you plan on getting two fish of your own (or two dogs or two cats or two anything), I suggest you use these.
In 1979, VCRs were a new fangled device that allowed “time-shifting.” Yeah, what we just call “recording” was ominously referred to as “time-shifting” because you could choose to watch a TV show at a different time. A case against VCR production was taken to the Supreme Court and Mister Rogers’ gave a testimony. His was special because he was part of the television side of things but supported VCRs since they allowed children who could not watch Neighborhood when it aired, to watch it at a later time. Always looking out for the kids. (The kids also look out for him. In the GIF above, a kid is teaching him how to breakdance so he can fit in on the urban streets of 1987.)
Named Characters After His Loved Ones
Mister Rogers named some of the shows characters after his own family. Mr. McFeely, the mailman, is named for Mister Rogers’ grandfather, Fred McFeely. Although, Mister Rogers’ full name is Fred McFeely Rogers, so… I mean, the mailman was kind of named after himself too. Queen Sara, a puppet in the Land of Make-Believe is named after Mister Rogers’ wife, Sara Joanna Byrd. They were married until his death, 51 years! I’m not sure but I think Queen Sara and King Friday might have them beat.
Was an Ordained Minister
Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister and I’m sure his work in theology helped keep him so positive. Swimming every morning, never drinking or smoking, and being vegetarian probably kept him feeling pretty good too. He also had a degree in Music Composition. So how did he end up hosted a children’s TV show for 33 years? Out of pure, unadulterated hatred! For TV. Not children. Mister Rogers is quoted as saying, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.”
Fredosaurus Rex Friday XIII
There is a dinosaur statue in honor of Mister Rogers outside of the studio where he used to work in Pittsburgh. It’s named Fredosaurus Rex Friday XIII. It is dressed like him and is holding puppets. I couldn’t not mention this.