This Is A Mister Rogers Post

Fred Rogers began working in television because he “hated it so.” He believed that children deserved respect and that tv shows could do a better job of giving it to them. He became the change he wanted to see in this world, is what I’m saying. Today is Fred Rogers’ birthday, along with Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day, and those are both excellent excuses to talk about our Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood-related feelings, of which I have a blue million.

I can barely even think about Mister Rogers without being on the verge of tears, which is ridiculous and embarrassing, to be totally honest. I mean the crying is embarrassing, not how much I love Mister Rogers. I’ve never been embarrassed about that. My family always appreciated creativity and uniqueness (we were all such special snowflakes back then), but I must’ve taken that for granted because when Mister Rogers told me I was special just the way I was, it resonated in a different way. You just knew that everything he told you was true, and kids appreciate straightforward honesty.  So when he said he liked me for me, and that it was ok to have feelings and that he’d be back when the day was new, I believed him. And even though I wasn’t scared of being sucked down the bath drain, Mister Rogers showed me that some kids were. That was probably the most invaluable lesson I learned from him: really respectful empathy.

So in honor of his birth (and Daniel Lion, just in general), here are my number one feelings and favorite things about Fred Rogers on this snappy new day!

1. Fun Fact: The very first version of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a 15-minute show called Misterogers that aired on Canadian television beginning in 1963. In 1966, Fred Rogers bought the rights to his show and brought it to the US, proving yet again that damn near everything that’s good and decent in this world probably had something to do with Canada. (see also: SCTV)

2. Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech in 1997
Totally crying, obviously.

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3. Fred Rogers had really progressive parents. They respected him as a whole person when he was young, and he was encouraged to talk about his feelings. So much respect and feelings and love in that house.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

4. He was really into honesty. I love honesty! Write this down and read it all the time:

“The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”

5. Speaking to the US Senate in support of government funding for public television.
This just never ever gets old. Ever.

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6. Mister Rogers was so proud of you. All the time.

“I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said “yes,” when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else.”

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“I’m proud of you for the times you came in second, or third, or fourth, but what you did was the best you have ever done.”

 

7. Two words: Picture Picture
Please observe the mandatory viewing of the Picture Picture tour of a crayon factory aka The Best Factory Tour Ever and the beginning of my obsession with shows like How It’s Made. (Again, thank you Canada.)

You can purchase so many seasons of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on Amazon Instant Video! Or watch complete episodes on PBS Kids, including “Mister Rogers Talks About Competition,” in which Big Bird himself visits the neighborhood of Make Believe.

Did you want to visit Lady Elaine’s Museum-Go-Round? Was your favorite part when Mister Rogers would do crafts in his kitchen or when he fed his goldfish? I think you should share all of your feelings in the comments!

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 909 articles for us.

58 Comments

  1. He gave the Commencement address at my college when I graduated. He was in the line with the porfessors that snaked through the two lines of students prepared to graduate. The line got stalled and he was about three feet from me and we all went gooey at the sight of him. He stood there, looking around with his expression of wonder and shaking hands with students until the line restarted. When it came time for him to give his address there was a low murmur before he spoke, but when he spoke we all got sucked back to our childhoods as we realized that his voice was exactly the same. It felt the way I imagine apparition feels in Harry Potter-a sharp tug behind your navel that pulled us all back to being young and rapt in front of television with dials instead of remote controls. The silence spread through the crowd almost like the hush in church as we each fell back to that time and then a murmur grew again as we all returned to our chairs and turned to the person next to us to compare that whooshing feeling. It was marvelous.

      • You’re welcome. Ten years later I couldn’t tell you a word of what he said but I can conjure that day without effort and the feeling that fell over all of us when he spoke. I was a little punk then, all full of wisecracks over having Mr. Rogers give our address instead of someone “important”, but I sat entranced the entire time he spoke. Now I know what a moron I was not to see that he was really the perfect choice to send us on with the rest of our lives as we walked a little farther down the road, away from our childhoods.

  2. Oh, man. The crayon episode. Also, the opera about a potato bug who wanted to be a cow and the cow who wanted to be a potato bug.

    My parents apparently started watching Mister Rogers before I was born.

  3. Oh man, I watched that lifetime achievement with my face contorted smile trying so hard not to cry in front of my mom. It’s the audience crying at his presence, it’s his soft calming voice that always makes me feel safe and like it’s going to be okay, it’s his ten seconds of silence for people who matter to us.

    He’s like a blanket that I want to wrap myself in and never take off.

  4. When I was really little, I would only watch the Land of Make-Believe segment. When I got a little older, I started watching the factory segments (somehow I never saw the crayon one, though. That was super cool), and then finally the whole show. I cried so hard when I found out that he had died. And then again the next day when PBS reran the episode of Arthur he was in.

    Also, I was totally one of those kids that was terrified that the drain would suck me in. My parents used to sing that song at bathtime to keep me from hysterics.

  5. 8. Another fun fact, Mister Rogers also gave Congressional testimony in favor of home recording that was so influential it made the difference in favor of the practice not being outlawed in the 80s (the MPAA was worried that it would destroy the film industry). Basically, everything from VHS to DVD and VOD is around today because of him.

    PS: Am I the only one slightly disappointed that he didn’t have full sleeve tattoos?

  6. So much to love about Mister Rogers, just so much…

    1-As a Mom, it’s deeply satisfying to assure my own Mancub to look for “helpers” when life gets very real and very scary.

    2-I miss trolley. Still. Ding ding.

    3-I’ve been to the Crayola Factory in person. It fucking rocks. And the smell is intoxicationg 🙂

    Thanks Laneia.

  7. The Land of Make Believe was so amazing.
    But my favorite part of the show was always when he came in and switched his outside shoes and jacket for houseshoes and a cardigan. I wanted to be that cool to have a indoor/outdoor wardrobe when I grew up.

  8. My wife’s grandpa knew Mr Rogers through the ministry in Pittsburgh. She never got to meet him, but she did meet Mr. McFeely and Purple Panda at a church event once.

    This post also reminds me that I have not yet showed Mister Rogers to my daughter. I should fix that because I’m sure she will love him as much as I did.

  9. he makes a surprise appearance in a candid camera episode where they remove the tvs from hotel rooms in order to annoy people (and many people get very annoyed). mr rogers doesn’t understand what the problem is, and just says “oh it’s ok i don’t ever watch tv.”

  10. I still think of him when I feed my goldfish…and talk to them. Also, the crayon factory and how a postage stamp is made will forever be etched into my memory!
    <3
    your neighbor

  11. Mr Rogers is such a part of my childhood. We didn’t have cable until I was 12 or so, so all my early childhood edutainment was on PBS. I ascribe my deep and abiding love of cardigans and crafts you can do in your kitchen to him. Also, whenever I’m feeling really overwhelmed by the vitriolic hatred spewed by some so-called religious people, I remember that Mr Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister and he liked me for me (no matter what). Oh, man, I’m crying again (but that’s okay! Mr Rogers told me so!)

  12. I wasn’t allowed to watch Mr. Rogers when I was little. My mom was convinced he was super sexist because he made a comment in one show once about garages being for boys and not girls. My mom wasn’t about to let Mr. Rogers put me in a box. No matter how beautiful a day it was in the neighborhood.

  13. I’ve been in and out of the hospital lately and I feel like remembering Mr. Rogers and the good parts of my childhood was the best medicine I’ve gotten so far. Reading the title of the article I immediately thought of the crayon episode and then WHAM you reference it?? Watching the clip made me weep and feel like life was good and simple. Thanks Laneia – I’m awarding you an honorary PhD for feel good medicine.

  14. This post was the best thing i’ve read in a while. Didn’t know about
    His congressional testimony which was awesome.
    Also I absolutely adored Lambchop and Sherrie Lewis.

  15. I’m from Pittsburgh, which is home to Mr. Rogers. If you are familiar with Pittsburgh, we have dinosaur statues spread out over the city as part of the Carnegie Museum of Art. Outside of our local PBS station, this one stands!

    I never got to meet Mr. Rogers, but I did meet Mr. McFeely. He delivered mail to the dancers at THON at Penn State, on his famous bike!

  16. I loved the crayon factory segment so much as a kid that I still sometimes think about it randomly when doing other things. Look, there it is! Thanks for that!
    Also, now my face is covered with Mister Rogers related tears.

  17. In 1966, Fred Rogers bought the rights to his show and brought it to the US, proving yet again that damn near everything that’s good and decent in this world probably had something to do with Canada. (see also: SCTV)

    see also: drake

    thank you for this post it was really nice and made me warm in the heart

  18. One of the fun facts I love about that Senate hearing for the PBS budget, is that Senator Pastore was notorious for being one of the hardest and toughest you could ever face, and routinely voted against requests like this. But after 2 minute plea from Mister Rogers, Pastore has ‘goosebumps’. What an incredible human being Fred Rogers was. Thank you so, so much for this post!

  19. This was the absolute perfect thing to read. My best friend and I watched his show religiously. Unfortunately, she passed away 4 days ago, but simply hearing HIS voice again brings me back to all of the wonderful memories I have of her. Words can’t thank you enough for this post, Laneia.

  20. He was someone that told me the best way to go was to be (at the time…when I was 9)the best way to go was to be “nice”. As a 42 yr old watching his lifetime achievement award speech, I get the message “know your audience..work them like a door handle…but remember who you are and what you think and feel…because you do matter”. I can’t give this guy enough thanks.

  21. My dad, a minister, once met Fred Rogers at some sort of pastor con and got an autographed picture from him, then gave it to me.

    I have not yet forgiven myself for losing that photo during a move some years ago.

    But I still have my memories of that show, and Mr. Rogers being amazing, and all those little big lessons I learned from him/it, so that’s what really matters.

  22. i’m in the middle of a contracts law class, and i am having to try so hard not to cry reading this. mr. rogers is my favorite, for make believe when i was a little kid, to my honest self at 28. and always, ALWAYS for the sweaters.

  23. Seriously, Laneia! i skipped all the importants speeches, so as to avoid all my MrRogers-related feeling, but i still started to cry after watching the crayon vid! and then reading all these comments! im glad other ppl feel as strongly about him as i did. I was practically raised on pbs even when Sesame St & Mr Rogers were almost the only kids shows. My grandparents were the only ones with cable and even then id watch his show with them. i really did weep like a baby when he passed away. i realize my young cousins and even my own little sister never got to watch him.smh. im about to spend my saturday night on youtube watching Mister Rogers and crying and feeling all my feelings, lol!

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