My children were crawling and toddling in winter 1972/3 when Fred Rogers came to our church to give the commission at his college roommate’s investiture as our new minister (First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, PA). After the service Mr. Rogers went into the infant-toddler room and I still tear up every time I remember it. These children were too young to know who he was but EVERONE of them who could move independently went over to him like the Pied Piper as as he walked into the room! A magical and incredible scene! I treasure the memory. We became devoted fans from then on!
I loved Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a kid growing up in Rome, NY. My favorite episode, which I would love to see again, was the one where Mr. Rogers visited the chocolate factory. The factory owners said that visitors could not leave without tasting the chocolates first, and as an autistic child, I took that literally! I also enjoyed watching Betty Aberlin in the opera “A Star For Kitty”, which inspired my lifelong love of the star motif in my art and design.
I was 4 years old when Mister Rogers came into my life. At that tender age my father was no longer living in our home and I remember watching Mister Rogers and being instantly comforted by this gentle soft spoken man. My world was confusing and unsettling, but having Mister Rogers and his tender songs to look forward to each day truly made a difference in my life . He became a father figure and role model for me. Mister Rogers was a huge inspiration!
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a pivotal part of my childhood. I was enthralled with the puppet characters like Daniel Tiger and others in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. It lead to my childhood fascination with puppeteering. I wanted to bring the characters of Make Believe alive in my own life and started a small puppet collection. I have fond memories playing puppets with my dad and the way her brought them alive was like magic to my young mind.
Eventually that early love of puppets from Mister Rogers turned into a growing interest in marionettes. I spent countless hours exploring Syracuse’s Open Hand Theatre museum with my mom, learning about all the types of puppets, watching shows, and building my own little creatures.
While I am not longer an inspiring puppeteer, the early love still resides and I have saved my little childhood friends to some day share with my future nieces and nephews. A joy I have thanks to Mister Rogers and his wonderful land of Make Believe.
p.s. some of my puppets still in my collection include:
• Katrina the Bar Maid (Marionette)
• Panda the Panda.. creative, I know (Marionette)
• Washcloth the Pig.. named for the washcloths that I stuffed inside him with when I wanted him to be a stuffed animal, and not a puppet (hand puppet)
Mister Rogers continues to touch my life – in memories of viewing the series with my children, who sometimes wore their own sweaters when watching. The series was on just before we would eat dinner and I think watching helped make our dinners relaxed and positive and taught me many valuable parenting lessons. Today, in my work at WCNY with area families, I am amazed how often the adults name Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as one of their favorite PBS programs – and how they love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, an animated extension of Mister Rogers’ work. The wisdom of Mister Rogers’ is enjoyed everyday at WCNY via the most looked-at calendar in our offices – a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood calendar featuring a daily quote from this extraordinary caring and well-loved man.