For all time, Fred Rogers will be remembered as a symbol of goodwill. A pioneer in children’s television, his down-to-earth approach and genuine gentleness taught a generation of kids the importance of kindness.
Here are 15 fun facts about the beloved “neighbour” who was born on this date in 1928 and you probably didn’t know.
1: A Bully Tormented Him as a Child.
The 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me by Benjamin Wagner, who was Rogers’ neighbour on Nantucket, claims that Rogers was bullied by his peers as a child for being overweight and introverted.
“When I was alone, I used to cry to myself,” Rogers remarked. “And I cried through my fingers and made up tunes on the piano,” she says. ” Rogers was inspired by this event to seek for the “essential unseen” in everyone he encountered.
2: He was Ordained as a Minister.
As an ordained clergyman, Rogers preached tolerance wherever he went and was a man of great faith. 6-year-old Christian viewer Amy Melder wrote Rogers a letter with a sketch she did for him, promising that “he was going to heaven.” Rogers responded with the following response.
Jesus is your saviour, and you told me so.” That really means a lot to me. In addition, thank you for including the scriptural passage that you gave. Let me tell you that Jesus is very important to me as well as an ordained Presbyterian preacher. My prayer is that my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would bring God’s love and peace to others.
3: He Responded to Every Piece of Fan Mail that He Received.
Every day, Rogers began with a prayer at 5 a.m. and continued with a regular schedule that included studying, writing, phone calls, swimming, and replying to every letter he received from fans.
Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005 that “he respected the kids who sent [the letters].” “He never threw away a drawing or a letter,” says the author. They were revered.”
This was not a bunch of little girls and boys merely fawning over their hero, according to Arnet’s account of the fan mail he got. Children would open up to Rogers about difficult topics like the death of a pet or a loved one. “Mr. Rogers never sent a form letter to any youngster,” he claimed “According to Arnet, he receives up to 100 letters a day.
4: People and Animals both Adored him.
Mister Rogers was adored by everyone, not only children and their parents. Also avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood follower was Stanford-educated ape Koko, who understood 2000 English words and could interact in American Sign Language.
The first thing she did when Rogers came to see her was give him a hug and take his shoes off.
5: He was a Talented Musician, To say the Least.
In spite of the fact that Rogers began his college career at Dartmouth, he switched to Rollins College in order to pursue a degree in music after his freshman year (he graduated Magna cum laude).
Also an accomplished pianist and composer, he wrote all of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’s songs and hundreds more.
6: Because of His Dislike for Television, He became Interested in the Medium.
As far as I know, Rogers’s decision to join the television industry wasn’t motivated by a love for the medium.
Rogers once told Pittsburgh Magazine, “When I first saw children’s television, I thought it was perfectly dreadful.” It seemed to me that I could use this wonderful medium in some way to nourish those who will watch and listen.
7: Mister Rogers Neighborhood had a Greater impact on Memory Retention in Children than Sesame Street did.
Followers of Sesame Street versus Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fans were pitted against each other in a Yale study and discovered that kids who watched Mister Rogers were more patient and could remember more of the plot lines from their favourite shows.
8: All of Rogers Sweaters were Made by his Mother.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood sweater envy? We’ve got bad news: You won’t be able to buy his sweaters at a store. Nancy, Fred’s mother, made all of those cozy-looking cardigans.
His mother would knit sweaters for all her family members as Christmas gifts every year, Rogers revealed in an interview with the Archive of American Television. The zipped sweaters that he wore on The Neighborhood were all knitted by his mother, he stated before she passed away.
If you’re color-blind, you may not have seen Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood signature jumpers. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in 2003, just days following his death, that:
Fred Rogers was so colorblind that he couldn’t tell the difference between tomato and pea soup. It’s been 50 years since his TV co-star Josie Carey told him which of the two she preferred at lunch, but he still remembers asking her to tell him.
Carey inquired as to why he needed her to do this. Why not try a little bit of both? That’s why I’ll add sugar to tomato soup,” he said.
10: As a Practical Matter, He wore Sneakers.
Rogers’ decision to wear sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was motivated by production rather than comfort, Wagner claims. He started wearing sneakers because they were quieter than his dress shoes on stage, according to Wagner.
11: Michael Keaton made His Acting Debut in this Show.
Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton got his start in the entertainment industry as a stagehand and Purple Panda on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
12: Rogers also Provided George Romero His First-Ever Paid Position, as Well.
A horrific, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead may seem out of character for a soft-spoken champion for children’s education like Rogers, but it fits right in with Rogers’ thinking. This horror picture was his way of showing his support for the young filmmaker George Romero, whose first paid assignment was with everyone’s favourite neighbour.
The first person to have faith in me enough to hire me to shoot a movie was Fred, according to Romero. Short film segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy,” were Romero’s first foray into filmmaking when he was just out of college.
Even after his death in 2017, the zombie king still joked that his film “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy” was the scariest of his work. The truth is that I was terrified the entire time I was attempting to pull it off.”
13: Rogers had a Crucial Role in the Survival of Public Television Under His Leadership.
Ricky Rogers appeared before the Senate in 1969 to beg for a $20 million grant for public radio that had been recommended by President Johnson but was on the verge of being slashed in half by Nixon.
As a result of his passionate argument that television had the capacity to turn children into productive citizens, funding for public television was boosted from $9 million to $22 million instead of being reduced.
14: He was able to Keep the VCR as well.
Rogers also convinced the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV programmes at home should not be deemed a form of copyright infringement later in his career (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate).
This allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch TV together as a family, Rogers claimed. In this instance as well, he came across as convincing.
15: His Sweater was Donated to the Smithsonian, Which now has it on Display.
Rogers made a generous donation to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1984, donating one of his most famous sweaters.