Fred Rogers: Creator of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Fred Rogers was a popular children's television icon on public television for more than three decades. His show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, provided viewers with a chance to experience his soft-spoken gentle persona. It created an instant connection between him and his audience. He was the show's creator, producer, head writer and more. Rogers was the host for each of the 895 episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He also composed hundreds of songs for the show as well as being its puppeteer. Fred Rogers created all 14 of the characters used in the show. He is credited with changing the way people think about young children and their inner lives.
Fred McFeely Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1928. His mother was named Nancy. His father, James, was a very successful businessman. The McFeely Brick Company was one of the most successful and largest businesses in Latrobe. Nancy Rogers was known for knitting sweaters for soldiers from Pennsylvania who were serving in Europe. She was also a regular volunteer at the hospital in Latrobe. Fred Rogers has one adopted sister named Elaine. During most of his childhood Rogers spent time being alone. He also spent a lot of time with his grandfather as well as playing with puppets. At the age of five, Fred Rogers learned how to play the piano. His childhood was difficult as he was overweight and had to deal with having asthma. He struggled with being introverted, shy and often bullied.
Fred Rogers was able to overcome his shyness during the time he went to Latrobe High School. Things changed after he made a few friends. One of them was the head of the football team. During high school, Rogers was a member of the National Honor Society, president of the student council as well as the school's yearbook editor-in-chief. He graduated from Rollins College with a degree in music composition in 1951. He also attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In 1963, Fred Rogers was ordained as a minister of the United Presbyterian Church.
After Fred Rogers graduated from college, he went to New York City and worked at NBC. During this time he was the floor director for such shows as Gabby Hayes' Children's Show, The Kate Smith Hour and Your Hit Parade. He also worked on The Voice of Firestone show as an assistant producer. After returning to Pittsburgh in 1953, Fred Rogers started working as a program director at WQED, the local public television station. He worked with Josie Carey to create a children's program called The Children's Corner. Rogers worked off camera to develop characters, music as well as puppets for the show. Carey hosted the show. It was during this time when many of the famous characters of Mister Rogers Neighborhood were created. Daniel the Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, Henrietta, Lady Elaine and more were used during the show. The show won a Sylvania Award in 1955 for best locally produced children's show. It then started to be broadcast on NBC to a national audience.
Fred Rogers attended the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development. During this time, he started working with Margaret McFarland. She was a child psychologist. McFarland was an important collaborator as well as adviser for the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood show. She is credited for helping Fred Rogers develop an appreciation for children as well as shaping his ideas for the show. During the entire time Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was being broadcast, Margaret McFarland was a consultant for the songs and scripts used on the show.
First Time on Camera
The television network CBC in Toronto contacted Fred Rogers in 1963. He was asked to develop, as well as host, a children's television show that would be called Misterogers. The show started in 1963 and lasted until 1967. This would be the first time Fred Rogers was in front of a camera for a television show. The head of children's programming for CBC was impressed with Fred Rogers' work. During this show is when a tree, castle as well as a trolley were used by set designers.
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Fred Rogers created his own production company in 1971. It was called Family Communications and was founded to produce Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The show was an educational children's program that was half an hour long. Episodes of the show started being aired in 1968. The peak viewership for it occurred in 1985. At this time eight percent of all households in the United States watched the show. Each episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood had two sets. One of them was the inside set showing Mister Rogers home. The other was the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Each episode would have Mister Rogers singing the theme song Won't You Be My Neighbor, putting on sneakers and a cardigan sweater. Rogers would talk to the audience, speak with guests, take field trips or even watch a short film. Every episode would have a trip to the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” This would involve a trolley chiming, a kingdom involving various citizens as well as a castle and more. Each episode of the show would cover a specific theme. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood would close with a song such as “Tomorrow” and others. Four Emmy Awards were given to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. In 1997, Fred Rogers was given the Lifetime Achievement Award during the Daytime Emmy Awards.
Complex Social Issues
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was known as a show that would address complex social issues. This involved divorce, racism as well as the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and more. During one well-known episode, Rogers soaks his feet during a hot day in a kiddie pool. Next to him is an African-American police officer named Officer Clemmons. This was done to discuss racial segregation in the United States.
In 1952, Fred Rogers married Sara Joanne Byrd. They remained married until Fred Rogers passed away in 2003. The couple had two sons named John and James. He was known as a faithful husband and devoted father.
In December 2002, Fred Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer. In January 2003, prior to having surgery, he was the grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade. His co-hosts during the event were Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter. On February 27, 2003, Fred Rogers passed away from complications associated with stomach cancer. His wife was with him when he passed away. It was a month before his 75th birthday. The next day entire sections of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were dedicated to covering the life o Fred Rogers. A public memorial was held for Fred Rogers at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh and more than 2,600 people attended it.
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