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Children's Show Hosts

Mr. Fred Rogers the host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood - Photo courtesy of PBSMr. Rogers - Fred McFeely Rogers, a slender, gentle-looking Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh hosted the popular Public Television children series MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD that originally debuted on WQED in Toronto, Canada in 1963 as a 15-minute daily program called MISTEROGERS. Set in a cozy little house at 4802 Fifth Avenue in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood – the gateway to the Neighborhood of Make Believe – Mr. Rogers entered his TV home singing "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..." and followed-up with the invitation "won't you be my neighbor?"

After changing from his street clothes into more casual sweater and slippers, the soft-spoken Mister Rogers explored the wonders of the world while interacting with such lovable characters as Lady Aberlin, Handyman Negri, Chef Brockett, Mr. McFeely "the Speedy Delivery Man," Robert Troll, and Police Officer Clemmons.

Puppet characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe included King Friday the XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, Prince Tuesday, Lady Elaine Fairchilde (who ran the Museum-Go-Round), Henriette Pussycat, the shy Daniel S. Stripped Tiger (who lived in a clock), X the Owl, Donky Hodie, Cornflake "Corny" S. Pecially (who owned a rocking chair factory), Henri de Tigre (Grandpere), William Duckbill Bagpipe Platypus the IV, Dr. Tadpole Frog, Harriet Elizabeth Cow and a ventriloquist dummy, Hischer Booptrunk (Rogers' childhood toy).

Mr. Rogers' philosophy towards his child viewers was always comforting. He constantly reminded them "There is only one person in the whole world exactly like you, and people can like you just the way you are."

He often made a point of talking about emotions like anger, fear, sadness in daily life and such common activities as starting school, getting a hair cut, being admitted for a hospital stay, sleeping in the dark, the death of pets and loved ones.

During the Gulf War Crisis, Fred Rogers made special appearances on PBS to reassure those children whose parents were fighting in Desert Storm. He advised parents to:

1) Let your children know that they are not in danger.
2) Don't expose babies and toddlers to war news on TV.
3) Limit your own TV viewing.
4) Talk to your children about war-and peace.
5) Be a good listener.
6) Monitor your children's war play.
7) Help your children learn to handle anger constructively.

Mr. Rogers' friendly demeanor inspired NBC's SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE to create two parodies "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Rogers" and "Mr. Robinson." Comedian Eddie Murphy appeared in the Mr. Robinson skits playing a soft spoken black man who lived in a tenement slum apartment and sang his own version of the Mr. Rogers theme song that goes: "It's a hell of day in the neighborhood...I hope I get to move into your neighborhood. But the problem is, when I move in, you all move away!"

When not visiting the Neighborhood of Make Believe (via the magic trolley) children watched Mr. Rogers talk with artists, astronauts, musicians and sports figures; play with materials and make paper airplanes or finger-paint; visit the corner Bakery to see how bread was made; drop into a crayon factory to see how they were manufactured; or take a trip to the local library and listen to a storytelling hour. Mr Rogers also wrote most of the music and songs on the program. One memorable tune about taking a bath reassured kids "You can never go down the drain."

At the end of each program, Mr. Rogers said goodbye by singing "I'll be back when the day is new, and I'll have more ideas for you. And you'll have things you'll want to talk about. I will too."

Over his 40 year career Fred Rogers wrote such books as "Mister Rogers Talks With Parents," "Going To The Hospital", "Wearing A Cast," "When Your Family Moves," and "Talking With Families About Divorce."

In 1980, Fred Rogers received an Emmy Award for his outstanding work in Children's television and throughout his career has received such honorary degrees as the George Foster Peabody Award, the Saturday Review Television Award and an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1998.

Fred's career in television began in April 1954 when Fred Rogers and friend Josie Carey created THE CHILDREN'S CORNER for the educational station WQED-TV in Pittsburgh. He later moved to Toronto, Canada in 1963 where he started a program called MISTEROGERS which with the financial support of Eastern Educational Network, National Educational Television (NET) and the Sears-Roebuck Foundation became the most popular and longest running children's program on Public Television. The final episode of the series was taped at Pittsburgh's WQED in December 2000.

Although the show is no longer being produced, there are 900 episodes in the can that PBS plans on airing to stations nationwide. Fans of the show who miss the Fred Rogers can find solace in riding a larger-than-life Trolley that resides in the Mr. Rogers' inspired Neighborhood of Make-Believe section of the Idlewild Amusement Park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania southeast of Pittsburgh.

TRIVIA NOTE: Fred Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 1928. His favorite color is yellow though he is colorblind. His middle name "McFeely" was the last name of his grandfather whom he loved dearly. Fred called his grandfather "Ding Dong" because McFeely taught Fred the nursery rhyme "Ding Dong Dell, Pussy's in the Well..."

Fred Rogers was married to Joanna Byrd on July 9, 1952. He studied at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and became a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in 1963.

Child psychologist, Dr. Margaret B. MacFarland helped Rogers produce MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD/PBS/1967-75/1979-2000 over the years.

The PBS network honored Fred Rogers in March 1990 with a prime-time retrospective called "Our Neighbor, Fred Rogers." Rogers was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Fred Rogers, who projected a powerful aura of gentleness, died of stomach cancer on February 27, 2003 in his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was 74.


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