‘It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood’

I was a fan of Mr. Rogers, even when I was old enough not to be.
I was thirteen when Mr. Rogers hit the air. I had grown up with the likes of Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans with Mr. Moose and Dancing Bear who hit the airwaves in 1955 and ran for thirty-eight seasons. And I looked up, way up to see The Friendly Giant and his comrades Rusty the Rooster and Jerome the Giraffe, while the giant welcomed me with his recorder playing Early One Morning, a song I can still sing.
But Mr. Rogers was different and I confess, when I was home sick from school, I loved watching Mr. Rogers.
He was kind, with his messages of love and acceptance to children via his television program and we all need kind, no matter how old we are.
Fred Rogers started out in the adult world as an ordained Presbyterian minister, but in his concern for what and how children were being taught on television he began writing and performing for children in his home city of Pittsburgh and before long he was invited to share his message via the powerful medium of television and for more than 30 years he did just that.
Many characters visited Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood, characters such as world-renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma who had mastered the cello at age four.
He brought his cello and his young son Nicholas to play the piano for a duet, with Mr. Rogers joining in on the piano to make it a trio.
Itzhak Perlman and his violin visited the Neighbourhood and Koko the Gorilla, though I think Mr. Rogers probably visited Koko’s neighbourhood. Big Bird dropped by to say hi and many others.
Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood has been credited with many lasting lessons for both children and their parents, and perhaps the most important one to remember in these difficult times is to love your neighbour.
Mr. Rogers invited Officer Clemons on to his show regularly and when African Americans were being denied access to public swimming pools, Mr. Rogers asked Officer Clemons to join him in his backyard pool where he was cooling his feet with a hose.
Officer Clemons said he would love to but he didn’t have a towel. Mr. Rogers had a ready answer. “You can use mine,” and the two put their feet into the pool together, side by side with the water running over both their feet. It was a touching scene. There were many like that.
This fall shooting will begin for a movie about Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood. You Are My Friend will star Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. This is very good news.
I can’t wait to see Mr. Rogers come to life again.
wendistewart@live.ca

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