It's a Sad Day in the Neighborhood.
August 30, 2001 8:51 AM   Subscribe

It's a Sad Day in the Neighborhood. Mister Rogers Hangs Up That Cardigan. Combined with the death of Charles Schulz last year, I feel like my youth is slipping away. How has Mr. Rogers affected your life?
posted by Hankins (38 comments total)
Actually, sadly, he hasn't had any impact on my childhood as I did not watch television until my teens. However, my daughter, who thinks he hangs the moon, will miss him terribly as will I for it is truly 45 minutes where I can let her veg while I do such productive things as post on Metafilter! :P
posted by gloege at 8:54 AM on August 30, 2001

Like most kids, I thought Mr. Rogers was talking to me.

When I was a kid I wrote Mr. Rogers a letter asking if he could come visit me and bring along the models of the buildings in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. You know, the ones that always sit on his shelves in the kitchen? I got a letter back saying, basically, thank you for writing, but Mr. Rogers is very very busy... at the time I thought it was really from him, but I'm sure it was just a form letter.

But damn, I loved those models. From left to right -- Grandpere's replica of the Eiffel Tower (rarely seen), the castle, Cornflake S. Pecially's factory, the tree, the Museum-go-Round, the platypus mound (originally the frog home), Daniel's clock... and then there was "Someplace Else," with Harriet Elizabeth Cow and her school and Donkey Hoty (Don Quixote?).

"Anna, Prince, and Daniel,
Anna, Prince and Daniel,
Anna, Prince and Daniel... are friends..."

posted by Tin Man at 9:02 AM on August 30, 2001

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine,
Could you be mine?...

if i sung this to some of my neighbours near where i live i think id be in traction, for a good long time...
posted by monkeyJuice at 9:14 AM on August 30, 2001

I don't think I've seen an episode of Mr. Rogers since I left Houston in 1981, age 6. Yet here I sit, 20 years on, remembering the whole "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood" theme tune....

I can't believe he's been around for this long! As far as I can tell, he looks the same today as he did to my 6 year old eyes!
posted by netsirk at 9:19 AM on August 30, 2001

I watched Mr. Rogers as a child, and when I was in college I found out that he lived in Pittsburgh like I did. He presided over the funeral of John Heinz, a former senator, in 1991, and a bunch of us got the chance to meet him afterwards. He was as gracious and kind in person as I always remembered him from TV.
posted by thescoop at 9:20 AM on August 30, 2001

The only thing I liked about that show was the trolley. Even as a small, innocent child, I somehow sensed that he had an unhealthy fascination with us. (And what was with taking off his shoes in front of us? I think he got off on that. Sick.)
posted by jennak at 9:28 AM on August 30, 2001

I HATED Mr. Rogers from a very early age. My dad says that I loved Sesame street and all of the characters, but that I would not watch Mr. R after 2 or 3 episodes.

Even now, he totally creeps me out. The voice sounds so insincere to me, and I get the impression that he's (patiently) talking down to his audience. And the puppets gave me nightmares that I still remember.

All I can think of (and I know this is unfair) is a very patient child molestor. Sort of like a very smooth Gollum looking at tasty little hobbits.

I wish I wasn't such a curmudgeon, but I'm good at it.
posted by Irontom at 9:31 AM on August 30, 2001

Just when neighborhoods are disappearing, and community is breaking down. What will fill his time slot, WWF or Jerry Springer?
posted by zanpo at 9:34 AM on August 30, 2001

Mr. Rogers taught me a valuable lesson as a kid: Stay away from creapy men in sweaters and loafers.
posted by bondcliff at 9:39 AM on August 30, 2001

Here's a story from a woman who actually was his neighbor. Not a whole lot of insight, but kinda fun nonetheless.
posted by moses at 9:42 AM on August 30, 2001

I hated the puppets. Loved the show, but hated the land of make believe. I'd usually watch the first five minutes, see him change shoes, talk a bit, feed the fish, sometimes follow him on a journey to some part of the neighborhood, but as soon as that train showed up and he started talking to it, the tv was off.

I get the impression that he's (patiently) talking down to his audience.

I felt that way too, as if I was always too old to be watching the show. I can't remember when I started watching it, but I must have been really young, since I started watching seasame street at 3 or 4, but all my memories of Mr. Rogers are of a show that was talking to a younger age than me.
posted by mathowie at 9:46 AM on August 30, 2001

The three shows I remember watching as a kid were Sesame Street, He-Man and of course, Mr. Rogers. There was never anything about the show I didn't like, except for one character in the Land of Make Beleive. I forget exactly which character, but he was a bear or a dog or something else played by a man in a furry brown jump suit. Whenever he'd come on the TV screen, I'd be frightened out of my mind and start yelling. I won't be sad to see him go.
posted by tomorama at 10:03 AM on August 30, 2001

The show isn't going anywhere! They hust aren't going to be making any new ones.

thank goodness (irontom's feelings aside).
posted by o2b at 10:10 AM on August 30, 2001

everybody's special
everybody's fine
your body's fancy
and so is mine

Imagine that sung by Frank Booth from Blue Velvet. Sleep well.

Mr Rogers was a good show for kids, I think. The really creepy show was that Slim Goodbody thing on Capn Kangaroo.

A man of health
from Body Control
Nutrition's his mission
Good health's his goal
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:14 AM on August 30, 2001

tomorama-- That's funny. I was scared of Lady Elaine, the one in the museum and had the boomerang. She had this meglomanical streak a mile wide. I still get the shakes when she says "Boomerrang Toomerrang" and starts casting those spells.

I was a jumpy child. :)
posted by ikareru at 10:35 AM on August 30, 2001

Not to mention the fact that she kind of looked like she was on a bender.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:36 AM on August 30, 2001

i'll be back when the day is through
and i'll have more ideas for you
and you'll have things you'll want to talk about
i... will... to.
posted by TacoConsumer at 10:45 AM on August 30, 2001

"Meow meow Henrietta Pussycat. Meow play meow meow learn!"

Henrietta Pussycat lives in a tree house that sits on a branch of X the Owl's Tree, and X is her best friend. She loves to dress up in fancy clothes, and though Henrietta says "Meow" instead of most words, her friends in the Neighborhood usually understand what she is saying.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 10:49 AM on August 30, 2001

*resists urge to allude to potential tryst between Henrietta and TigerMan*
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2001

I drive past WQED (where Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was filmed) every day on my way to/from work (at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh), and just about every other time I drive by it I look, hoping to see Mr. Rogers walking out the front door. Never have, though.

Side note: the University of Pittsburgh School of Library and Information Sciences has every Mr. Rogers Neighborhood episode on tape (donated by Mr. Rogers and WQED), as well as some artifacts (I think). So, if anyone ever gets the urge to see a particular episode....
posted by arco at 10:57 AM on August 30, 2001

I hated Mr. Rogers. But I had to watch it or nothing, since my baby sister (5 years younger) tended to get her way.

I thought those were some uuuuugly puppets.
posted by phichens at 10:58 AM on August 30, 2001

I watched the show a lot as a kid but I wasn't really that affected by the news that Mr. Rogers was retiring. I guess I sorta figured he had retired years ago, and the show will live on forever in repeats. Plus, I'm not a kid anymore and am sufficiently jaded as to think that it was just a show I enjoyed as a kid, nothing more.

Then the other night I was flipping channels and landed on Nightline's report about Mr. Rogers. Toward the end, he started singing. I think the song was It's Such a Good Feeling, and I got completely choked up. I guess the man really had an effect on me.
posted by realityblurred at 12:51 PM on August 30, 2001 [1 favorite]

I was fascinated by the weird factory videos he showed on Picture Picture, the video screen-turned-framed painting. They were always to such weird places (this link) talks about visits to a sneaker factory, a plate factory, and a wagon factory.
posted by GaelFC at 1:43 PM on August 30, 2001

Added bonus: funny Mr. Rogers stories here.
posted by fusinski at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2001

I worked at Family Communications Inc. (the show that produces Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood) for a couple of weeks in 1996 (it was for a high school project, hence the short tenure). Mr. McFeely, Lady Elaine, and Mr. Rogers himself were always in the office, and they were some of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met. My friend's grandfather was also the piano player on the show for many years.

One of my tasks while I worked there was to read through and sort the mail, of which there was quite a lot. There was quite a bit of strange and even depressing mail: a woman in a rent dispute with her landlord copied Mr. Rogers on her letters; another woman upset with the US Government cc'ed Mr. Rogers and about 14 other people. There were also some collages sent to indicate that the creator thought Mr. Rogers was gay; those were interesting.

I still have my "Pittsburgh IS Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" t-shirt; it was my only tangible payment for working there.
posted by binkin at 2:15 PM on August 30, 2001

I can't believe that their are so many player-haters in the house. You are all going to hell. I am getting Lady Elaine to hex you all. (I am pretty sure she can do that.)
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 3:02 PM on August 30, 2001

Hell is every day when you're a grown man in a dog suit.

Or Mr McFeely.

*speedy delivery! speedy delivery!*

posted by Kafkaesque at 3:11 PM on August 30, 2001

So I guess I'm the only one who found Mr. Rogers kind of umm erotic?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:14 PM on August 30, 2001

RJ I'm going to go out on a limb and say "probably".

Daniel Striped-Tiger on the other hand: rrrrrrr!

posted by Kafkaesque at 4:34 PM on August 30, 2001

I liked the trolley and some of the Lilliputian models. At first the model of the neighborhood that they'd so leisurely over-fly was interesting -- I even made some maps and tried to identify each building, until I realized that they would change it as needed! Later I was disappointed in the quality of the, so to speak, special effects. I realized that they were using a full-size camera so they couldn't really get any closer.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the Mr. Rogers image is waaaaay outdated -- as some of the "creepout" posts above indicate. It worked a little better when he was younger and when there were still real dads around with cardigans and pipes. (I actually knew a guy like that, though his being British by birth might have been an influence.) Not to imply that ol' Fred encouraged smoking, or anything; that was just the image he projected, like an ink drawing out of a Hardy Boys mystery.

The trill in his voice is obviously intended to get through to younger kids, the same way that Barney does. I think the kids that need that particular reach are very few in number these days; most of them grow up watching a much wider variety of TV media than we did, and they get over his being a stranger on the little moving screen a lot more easily. If you could somehow deal with the loss of the main character, I think the show could evolve into a more up-to-date, urban setting and approach, with salutory results for the kids who need it most.

Well, I guess what I'm thinking of was already achieved in the guise of Pee Wee Herman, and that ain't gonna happen.

With the pedophilia hyperawareness we have today, we're actually cheating ourselves, because we are so suspicious of somebody willing to set aside his adulthood and live entirely in a child's world for a little while.
posted by dhartung at 6:45 PM on August 30, 2001

For whatever bizzare reason, I always called him Roger Neighbor when I was a kid. I loved everything about the show, as far as I can recall, but two things about the Land of Make Believe always frustrated me: Mr. Rogers hardly ever walked all the way out to the potato patch/field or whatever it was that lay beyond that snidely Lady Fairchilde's place, and one of the human characters -- King Friday's niece or daughter or something -- looked incredibly hot to this prepubescent yet oddly horny little kid.
posted by Bixby23 at 11:12 PM on August 30, 2001

mr. rogers was the speaker at my college graduation in 1996. i got to shake his hand, and we ended up singing the theme song 3 times.

and for some reason, i always liked lady elaine. i don't quite know why. i think she reminded me of my family, somehow.
posted by meep at 5:29 AM on August 31, 2001

Does anybody remember the episode where one of his fish died, and Rogers (and the delivery guy, I believe), went out and buried it? I always liked the show, but that episode bothered me for years: I mean, they certainly couldn't WAIT for one of the fish to die, could they? So that means somebody had to . . . .

Maybe they just sent a production assitant around to pet shops looking for dead fish--

PA: "Excuse me, I'd like to buy one of these fish."

Pet store guy: "Sure. Which one?"

PA: "The one floating by the filter intake with the fuzzy stuff growing on it."

Heh heh. Come to think of it, that might be fun to try.
posted by crake at 8:45 AM on August 31, 2001

Binkin: Mr. McFeely, Lady Elaine, and Mr. Rogers himself were always in the office, and they were some of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met.

I'm pretty sure you mean Lady Aberlin, aka Betty Aberlin, as Lady Elaine is the puppet who lives in the Museum-Go-Round. N'est ce pas?

Kafkaesque: Hell is every day when you're a grown man in a dog suit.

Bob Troh, the man who played Bob Dog (who passed away a couple of years ago) was a friend of my family for many years, and I had the pleasure of seeing him at get togethers, parties and whatnot fairly frequently in the years just preceeding his death. He loved being Bob Dog, and would do the voice for anyone -- kid or adult -- who asked. Life in a dog suit isn't for everyone, but when he was on the show he when his character had a storyline, and had a blast. He was, coincidentally, also a very talented artist, and drew wonderful sketch portraits of many who knew him, including one of my mother on her wedding day. It's very cool to think "Hey, Bob Dog drew my mom's wedding portrait!"
posted by Dreama at 8:47 AM on August 31, 2001

as a child i had pretty much the same reaction to Mr Rogers as Irontom did...

"All I can think of (and I know this is unfair) is a very patient child molestor. Sort of like a very smooth Gollum looking at tasty little hobbits."

I felt that way about him until my early 20's when i met my future husband (who is from Pittsburgh). Turns out that Mr. Rogers is an old friend of hubby's grandmother and it's a cardinal sin to make fun of the man anywhere near the family. I've never met him but the rest of my new clan insists that he is a kind and gracious man. consequently, my children love his show. thankfully for them, they get to watch reruns on our public television channels here.
posted by s.carrier at 8:55 AM on August 31, 2001

When our baby was born back in May, I was able to take three weeks off from work as paternity leave. Several times during those first amazing weeks, my wife and I would be flipping through the channels on the TV in the middle of the day and come upon an episode of Mister Rogers.

Each time, as he would begin to sing one of his songs, we found ourselves singing along to our newborn daughter, but before either of us could get more than a few words out of our mouths we would be in tears.

I remember so vividly from my own childhood how much I loved to watch the shows and sing the songs, and now, learning to be a parent, singing the same songs to my little girl is an overwhelmingly powerful experience of love.

It makes me sad to see so many of you talk about Mister Rogers in terms like "pedophile" and "creepy" because he represents something so gentle and caring to me.
posted by briank at 9:08 AM on August 31, 2001 [1 favorite]

King Friday's niece or daughter or something -- looked incredibly hot to this prepubescent yet oddly horny little kid. Lady Aberlin - wowsah! She still looks great in my mind's eye.

I enjoyed the 'Hood as a kid, but as I grew older he did seem to be a bit condescending. But, hey, at least it gave us an alternative to The New Zoo Revue - now THERE was a creepy show. EmmyJo was sorta cute, though. And damned if I can get the theme song outta my head, all these years later ("with Freddy, Charlie, Henrieeeeetta...!").
posted by davidmsc at 9:19 AM on August 31, 2001

Gosh darnit, it's the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Not the Land of Make-Believe.

And Lady Aberlin was the nun at the airport in "Dogma."
posted by Tin Man at 1:59 PM on August 31, 2001

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