Connect with us

Biography

How Fred Rogers’ Family Inspired ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’

mm

Published

on

Mister Rogers gently wove his messages of kindness and compassion into his television show for more than 30 years — but it was his loved ones that brought those elements into his own life.

When Fred Rogers walked through the door of the yellow-brown house on the street corner on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he entered the lives of so many families around the country — but much of it wouldn’t have happened without his real-life family.

Through 895 episodes that aired nationally from 1968 through 2001, the unlikely star, who died of stomach cancer in 2003, reached out to an audience of young viewers on their level, winning them over by his relatable routines of changing into his sweater-and-sneakers outfit, feeding his tankful of fish and going out in his community to meet with friends and neighbors. He also whisked viewers into their imaginations by traveling via trolley to the Neighborhood of Make Believe, where no topic was off-limits, as tackled by hand puppets like Daniel Tiger, King Friday XIII, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Henrietta Pussycat, X the Owl, and more friends.

Both kid-friendly universes were the result of Rogers’ upbringing in the small town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a tight-knit community about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the layout of it, and the doctor and the baker and the dentist were all in this small town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, along with the trollies,” David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the show, told USA Today in 2003. “He was using it as a symbol to tell stories, a touchstone. That’s how the trollies became part of the neighborhood and how Trolly became a character.”

And that wasn’t the only element of his childhood that showed up on his children’s show. Here’s how his own family inspired many of the Neighborhood elements:

His family environment led to the creation of Daniel Tiger

When Nicholas Ma’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor came out in 2018, Roger’s widow, Joanne Rogers, revealed elements of her previously private life with Fred. She noted that his favorite character from the Neighborhood of Make Believe was Daniel Tiger because it was a way for Fred to express the feelings that were suppressed in his own childhood family.

In fact, Joanne and Fred bonded over the fact they weren’t encouraged to express their emotions in their families growing up — and she believes Daniel Tiger was a way to release those bottled up emotions, which both of them carried into adulthood.

“Fred was a very sensitive person, and tears were available to him. I used to say, ‘You’re my liberated man, and I think it’s just wonderful’… We never got mad at each other that much — that we could express well,” Joanne told the L.A. Times. “We just got quiet. Both of us handled it that way, and that’s not the best way. It’s good to yell sometimes.”

That persona is exactly reflected in his alter ego of Daniel Tiger, who is described as having “a gentle vulnerability… He is shy, yet he is able to talk openly about his feelings and concerns when his caring friends give him loving support and help him feel more confident.”

While expressing his feelings at home was a challenge, that didn’t mean Rogers wasn’t loved. Growing up as an only child until the age of 11 when his parents adopted a baby girl, Rogers knew that his parents showed their love in other ways.

Proof of that comes from the fact that every single one of his trademark knit cardigans were handmade by his mother, Nancy McFeely Rogers, as he showed the viewers in an episode.

“This is a picture of my mother. She knits the sweaters that I wear when we have our television visits. I just wanted you to see her picture and to look very carefully at the beautiful work that she does with her knitting,” he said while the camera zoomed in on a photo of his mother and then close-ups of several sweaters. “That’s one of the ways that she has of saying that she loves somebody. She uses needle, yarn and her own hands to knit the sweaters. When I put on one of these sweaters, it helps me to think of my mother. I guess that’s the best thing about things — it reminds you of people.”

Now one of the red cardigans is officially part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The delivery man, Mr. McFeely, was named after Mister Rogers’ grandfather

While Rogers grew to have an affection for his hometown, his childhood wasn’t always easy. According to the Fred Rogers Center, he was “overweight, somewhat shy, and introverted” and often had to stay inside because of his childhood asthma, leading to a feeling of isolation.

It was his maternal grandfather who gave him the boost of confidence he needed by telling him things like, “Freddie, you make my day very special.” But it was another phrase that Rogers remembered from his grandfather, “I like you just the way you are,” which became one of Mister Rogers’ most essential phrases and lessons for young children.

To honor him, Rogers named the “Speedy Delivery” man Mr. McFeely after his grandfather — and was one of the only characters in the “real” neighborhood to not use his real name.

His wife and kids appeared on the show

In another nod to his honest approach, Rogers made clear on the show that the house wasn’t his real home — and even brought his wife and sons, James and John, onto the show several times.

When his kids were still young, the entire family came on for a portrait. The photographer had them pose around the piano as they sang “It’s Such a Good Feeling” together and then had them feed the fish together.

In a 1971 episode, James came on to show his dad how to properly make a paper hat out of newspaper — and two decades later, James came back with his son, as Rogers showed his toddler grandson how to play with the trolley.

When it came to parenting and handling youngsters, Joanne said, “He had a patience the likes of which I greatly admired but couldn’t emulate.”

Continue Reading
Comments
Celebrities News2 weeks ago

Carly Pearce, Michael Ray Marry After a Year of Dating

Singer2 weeks ago

Shawn Mendes dishes on perfect date with Camila Cabello – Music News

Singer2 weeks ago

Kanye West reiterates support for Trump at Saturday Sunday Service – Music News

Celebrities News3 weeks ago

Drake To Donate All Proceeds Of ‘Rock In Rio’ Merchandise To Amazon Rainforest Conservation Efforts

Hollywood3 weeks ago

Ariana Grande Lives Out Her Dreams to Record Duet With Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth

Celebrities News3 weeks ago

Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez Celebrate Engagement Party in L.A.

Celebrities News3 weeks ago

Khloe Kardashian Has Lunch With Malika Haqq After Ex Compliments Her

Singer2 months ago

Justin Bieber: ‘Marriage has saved me from myself’ – Music News

Singer2 months ago

Taylor Swift doesn’t care about political critics – Music News

Facts2 months ago

How To Sleep Soundly At Night: Tips And Tricks

Celebrities News2 months ago

Gigi Hadid & Tyler Cameron Keeping Their Romance ‘Low Key’ – Hollywood Life

Hollywood2 months ago

Ed Sheeran Debunks Retirement Rumors After Announcing 18-Month Hiatus

Hollywood2 months ago

Jennifer Lopez Made Constance Wu Bleed While Filming ‘Hustlers’ Fight Scene

Hollywood2 months ago

Taylor Swift Reigns Over Beyonce as 2019 Highest-Paid Women in Music

Celebrities News2 months ago

Having Another Baby Before Getting Married – Hollywood Life

Biography2 months ago

Antony and Cleopatra’s Legendary Love Story

Singer2 months ago

French Montana thinks he and Drake are like ‘brothers in a past life’ – Music News

Hollywood2 months ago

Nicki Minaj Confirms She and BF Kenneth Petty Will Tie the Knot Soon

Hollywood2 months ago

Why Disney Won’t Acknowledge ‘The Lion King’ Remake as the Top Grossing Animated Film Ever

Singer2 months ago

Taylor Swift and Rita Ora defend Bebe Rexha over claims she’s ‘too old to be sexy’ – Music News

Join Us On Facebook

Trending Posts

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This