45 years ago today on February 19, 1968, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood made its national TV debut. The show’s purpose, as put forth by Mr. Rogers, was to promote: good self esteem, self control, imagination, creativity, curiosity, appreciation of diversity, cooperation, patience, and persistence.
In homage to the great Fred Rogers, here are a few interesting Mr. Rogers facts you may not know:
1) Many of Mr. Rogers’ famous sweaters he wore on the show were made by his mother.
2) The reason Mr. Rogers started wearing sneakers on the show was because they made less noise than normal dress shoes when moving around behind the sets.
3) Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. In 1962, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree and was ordained as a minister in the United Presbyterian Church and charged with continuing his work on creating and contributing to wholesome children’s television programs, which was his passion.
4) Mr. Rogers got into TV because the first time he saw a TV show it had “something horrible on it with people throwing pies at one another…” He stated, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.”
5) Mr. Rogers was a vegetarian. He didn’t smoke or drink or seem to have any major vices. He also stayed married to the same woman until his death; their marriage lasted 47 years. About the only even slightly “scandalous” thing Mr. Rogers seemed to do, which he revealed in an interview, was that he swam laps completely in the buff nearly every morning of his adult life at various clubs that allowed nude swimming at certain times of the day.
6) Contrary to rumors spread about on the Internet, Mr. Rogers was never a sniper in the military nor was the reason he wore sweaters because he had tattoos all over his arms and body, one for each person he killed. These, and other similar rumors, first started on the Internet around 1994 and saw a surge in popularity after his death. Mr. Rogers never served in the military and was a pacifist.
7) Unlike on most children’s shows, Mr. Rogers played himself not just in name, but also in personality and mannerisms, changing nothing about how he acted off camera to how he acted on camera. His reasons for this were that: “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.”
8) 895 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood were filmed with the first episode broadcasting in 1968 and the last episode shot on December of 2000 and was subsequently aired in August of 2001.
9) Mr. Rogers famously didn’t mind if people recorded his show with a VCR, arguing for people’s right to do so in a 1979 case Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. At the time, it was being argued by the opposition that this constituted a copyright infringement. Mr. Rogers was one of the few involved in television that did not believe so and felt people should be allowed to record programs. The Supreme Court noted that Mr. Rogers’ testimony was a significant piece of evidence that helped lead them to their ultimate decision.
Specifically, Mr. Rogers’ stated:
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.
10) Mr. Rogers once appeared as preacher, Reverend Thomas, on an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman called “Deal with the Devil”.
11) Mr. Rogers did the voices on the show for: King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, Henrietta Pussycat, Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchild and Larry Horse, among others. He also composed most of the music on the show.
12) Mr. Rogers once appeared on the Soviet Union children’s show Spokoynoy Nochi, Malyshi (Good Night, Little Ones) and was the first foreign guest to do so. That show has been on the air since 1964.
13) Mr. Rogers didn’t just try to teach children important life lessons and the like, but he also produced a series of specials intended for parents called “Mister Rogers Talks to Parents About X”, where X was whatever the topic of the day was. These shows were meant to help parents be able to answer any questions their child might have after watching a particular Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode.
14) Mr. Rogers was red/green colorblind.
15) Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer at the age of 74 years old on February 27, 2003.
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