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Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are. -Mister Rogers

From 1968-2001, Mister Rogers put on his cable knit cardigan, changed into his sneakers and calmly reassured us that it was such a good feeling to know we’re alive.  For 31 seasons, he was a master at Children’s programming.  

Born in 1928, Fred Rogers spent the first 11 years of his life as an only child until his parents adopted a little girl. Growing up, Fred led a quiet life playing with puppets and making music. Part of his childhood was difficult. According to FredRogersCenter.org, “He was overweight, somewhat shy, and introverted. Fred was sometimes homebound because of his childhood asthma, even kept inside in air-conditioning during the worst air congestion of the summer months.“

Fred spent a lot of time with his maternal grandfather who gave him great guidance and built his self esteem.  FredRogersCenter.org says “Fred’s own sense of loneliness and self-doubt taught him to be aware of the insecurities and needs of small children. What he learned about himself and life as a child—much of it from his loving grandfather—prepared him to help millions of young children later.” Things did start looking up for Fred.   Once in high school, he had more confidence. He was a good student and an accomplished musician. His popularity even grew grew and he was elected president of the student council in his senior year.

After graduating from high school, Fred spent a year at Dartmouth College before transferring to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida where he graduated with a degree in music composition.  It was there that he met Sara Joanne Byrd, the lady that would become his wife.  According to WQED.ORG, “Rogers was preparing to enter seminary school after graduation when he saw television for the first time in his parents’ home. He decided to pursue a career in the medium in order to improve it.”  The children’s television programming that Fred saw, he found appalling. He thought it was too simple minded and knew that there was potential for giving children something better and he was right.  While working in television, Rogers was also working on his seminary degree. He would take seminary courses during his lunch hour.  Fred Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister where he had the unique charge of serving children and families through television.

Fred Rogers was a pioneer in children’s television and a champion for children everywhere. Through the television, he was able to walk alongside children during some of history’s most traumatic events including the 1968 assassinations of both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the 1970s Iran Hostage crisis and the 1980s Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. 

The last episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired on August 31, 2001 just days before the September 11th terrorist attacks.  This life altering event brought Mister Rogers out of retirement in order to release public service announcements aimed toward parents. According to Biography.com, “The post-9/11 videos Rogers made were meant to be viewed by adults, but his paramount concern was for children. He wanted to provide guidance to adult caretakers so they could ensure the next generation was not overly traumatized by such terrible events.”  

I’m sure we all have our favorite Mister Rogers memories.  In this episode of Trivia Rewind, I’m taking you back to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I’ll ask you ten trivia questions from the series and then give you some fun facts about Mister Rogers.

In our fun facts segment,  find out which celebrity once had a job getting to run the trolley on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Find out why Mister Rogers sued the KKK.  Plus, find out how Mister Rogers basically saved the VCR. Those are just a few of the fun facts in this week’s episode.

Things mentioned in this episode:

-The Speedy Delivery Documentary

Fred Rogers 1969 Testimony before the Senate in Washington D.C.

Mister Rogers Message to adults after the 9/11 terrorist attacks

-Visit the John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh to see the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Exhibit

Watch episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

-The letter Mister Rogers sent my daughter

The Letter Mister Rogers Sent my Daughter

Spoiler alert! Below, you will find the transcript for this episode. You can listen to Trivia Rewind on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. For more Oscar fun, look back at some of our previous episodes!


Trivia Rewind Episode 48 Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

[00:00:00] Hey Trivia Rewind listeners, I’m Debi Jenkins, your host. From 1968 to 2001, Mr. Rogers put on his cable knit cardigan, changed into his sneakers, and calmly reassured us that it was such a good feeling to know we are alive. For 31 seasons he was a master at children’s programming. Born in 1928, Fred Rogers spent the first 11 years of his life as an only child until his parents adopted a little girl.

[00:00:44] Growing up, Fred led a quiet life playing with puppets and making music. Part of his childhood was difficult. According to FredRogersCenter.org, he was overweight, somewhat shy and introverted. [00:01:00] Fred was sometimes homebound because of his childhood asthma. Even kept inside in air conditioning during the worst air congestion of the summer months.

[00:01:10] Fred spent a lot of time with his maternal grandfather who gave him great guidance and built his self-esteem. FredRogersCenter.org says “Fred’s own sense of loneliness and self-doubt taught him to be aware of the insecurities and needs of small children. What he learned about himself and life as a child, much of it from his loving grandfather, prepared him to help millions of young children later.”

[00:01:36] Things did start looking up for Fred. Once in high school, he had more confidence. He was a good student and an accomplished musician. His popularity even grew and he was elected president of the student council in his senior year. After graduating from high school, Fred spent a year at Dartmouth College before transferring to Rollins College [00:02:00] in Winter Park, Florida, where he graduated with a degree in music composition.

[00:02:05] It was there that he met Sara Joanne Bird, the lady that would become his wife. According to WQED.org “Rogers was preparing to enter seminary school after graduation. When he saw television for the first time in his parents’ home. He decided to pursue a career in the medium in order to improve it.”

[00:02:26] The children’s television programming that Fred saw, he found appalling. He thought it was too simple minded and knew that there was potential for giving children something better, and he was right. While working in television Rogers was also working on his seminary degree. He would take seminary courses during his lunch hour.

[00:02:48] Fred Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister where he had the unique charge of serving children and families through television. Fred Rogers was a [00:03:00] pioneer in children’s television and a champion for children everywhere. Through the television, he was able to walk alongside children during some of history’s most traumatic events including the 1968 assassinations of both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the 1970s Iran hostage crisis, and the 1980s Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. The last episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired on August 31st, 2001 just days before the September 11th terrorist attacks. This life altering event brought Mr. Rogers out of retirement in order to release public service announcements aimed toward parents.

[00:03:46] According to Biography.com, “The post 9/11 videos Rogers made were meant to be viewed by adults, but his paramount concern was for children. He wanted to provide guidance to adult caretakers [00:04:00] so they could ensure the next generation was not overly traumatized by such terrible events.”

[00:04:06] I’m sure we all have our favorite Mr. Rogers memories. In this episode of Trivia Rewind, I’m taking you back to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I’ll ask you 10 trivia questions from the series, and then give you some fun facts about Mr. Rogers. In our fun facts segment, find out which celebrity once had a job getting to run the trolley on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Find out why Mr. Rogers sued the Ku Klux Klan. Plus find out how Mr. Rogers basically saved the VCR. Those are just a few of the fun facts in this week’s episode. Are you ready for the trivia questions?

[00:04:47] Here’s question one. What was the name of the Speedy Delivery man who often visited Mr. Rogers home?

[00:04:58] Question two. [00:05:00] In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, what was the name of the owl that lived in the oak tree and had trouble making decisions?

[00:05:09] Question three. In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, what was the name of the king?

[00:05:17] Question four. What is the name of the animal character in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe that lived inside of a clock?

[00:05:27] Question five. What are the two main colors on the neighborhood trolley?

[00:05:36] Question six. Was the name of the framed device that Mr. Rogers could project videos or slides through when he wanted to show us a video or film about how things were made?

[00:05:50] Question seven. What color cardigan sweater and what color sneakers were Mr. Rogers most famously known [00:06:00] for wearing?

[00:06:02] Question eight. In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, what is the name of the lady that lives in the Museum-Go-Round and often isn’t afraid to stand up to the king?

[00:06:15] Question nine. After arriving at his home each day, what pet would Mr. Rogers feed?

[00:06:24] And question 10. What was the name of the queen in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe?

[00:06:32] Those were our 10 questions. Let’s go back and get the answers and fun facts. Question one. What was the name of the Speedy Delivery man who often visited Mr. Roger’s house? His name was Mr. McFeely. Actor David Newell played Mr. McFeely.

[00:06:50] Originally he was hired on as the program’s Public Relations Manager and Fred Rogers cast him as the delivery man. In [00:07:00] 2008, a documentary titled Speedy Delivery was released. It follows the life of David Newell and his role on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. According to MrRogers.org, Fred Rogers originally named the Speedy Delivery character Mr. McCurdy in honor of president of the Sears Roebuck Foundation that underwrote the Neighborhood programs. But Mr. McCurdy declined the honor, so Fred turned to his own middle name, which was also his beloved grandfather’s last name, McFeely.

[00:07:34] A fan of the program, when my daughter was little, she drew a picture of Mr. McFeeley and sent it in a letter to Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers wrote her back the nicest letter. He was known to write the children who sent him letters. According to Guideposts.org, “Responding to fan mail was part of Roger’s daily routine. According to Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, kids would send him [00:08:00] letters in which they expressed personal issues they were experiencing such as the loss of a family member or pet. Arnet says Rogers received 50 to 100 fan letters per day, all of which he took very seriously.” Another thing Fred Rogers took seriously, he did not like people referring to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a show, he preferred they use the word program.

[00:08:26] If you want more information on the Speedy Delivery documentary, visit TriviaRewind.com for a link. I will also post a picture of the letter there that Mr. Rogers sent my daughter.

[00:08:39] Question two. In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, what was the name of the owl that lived in the Oak tree and had trouble making decisions? His name was X the Owl. According to MrRogers.org X the Owl got the name X because he X-caped [00:09:00] from a cage. Fred Rogers provided the voice for X the Owl. X the Owl had appeared previously on a different children’s program called the Children’s Corner that aired on WQED.  Host Josie Carey worked with Fred Rogers to develop the program.

[00:09:19] While working on that program, Fred Rogers developed many of the puppet characters that you would later see on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, X the Owl being one of them. The Children’s Corner was the first program that would feature the puppeteering of Fred Rogers and it would pave the way for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

[00:09:39] Question three. In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, what was the name of the king? The king’s name was King Friday the 13th. King Friday was the ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. On the program The Children’s Corner, King Friday first appeared [00:10:00] where he ruled over the kingdom of Calendarland. Fred Rogers was the voice for King Friday.

[00:10:08] Question four. What is the name of the animal character in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe that lived inside of a clock? That character was Daniel Striped Tiger. Fred Rogers was the voice of Daniel Striped Tiger. He too was a product of the television program The Children’s Corner. Daniel was actually the very first puppet to appear on The Children’s Corner.

[00:10:34] In a video interview with the Television academy, Fred Rogers said they named Daniel Tiger after Dorothy Daniel, the general manager of television station WQED. A couple days Before the Children’s Corner went on the air, Dorothy Daniel threw a party for the program and passed out party favors. She gave Fred Rogers a little tiger puppet.

[00:10:59] In the interview [00:11:00] with TelevisionAcademy.com, Fred Rogers described how he came up with the idea to make a slit in the set and he could just poke the stuffed tiger through the slit. It just so happened that a clock was part of the set and Fred Rogers said he made a little slit in the clock and put Daniel Tiger in it.

[00:11:19] His intention was to only have Daniel appear once, but the people ended up liking Daniel so much that he stayed. He said the program was never expecting to use puppets, but this ended up being the start of puppeteering on his programs. According to Grunge.com, “As a staple of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Daniel would tap into the uncertainty and insecurity that so many children feel growing up, but in a way, Daniel was Roger’s inner child.” Daniel Striped Tiger would later go on to be Daniel Tiger’s dad in the PBS kids program, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

[00:12:00] [00:11:59] Question five. What are the two main colors on the neighborhood trolley? Those colors are red and yellow. According to PittsburghKids.org, when Mr. Rogers was young, there were lots of trolleys in Pittsburgh, and he liked riding on them. When he began Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he decided to use a trolley as a transition between the real and pretend segments of each episode. On the program, the trolley was considered an actual character named Trolley.

[00:12:32] You may remember that he’d move back and forth and make bell noises as if he were communicating with King Friday, for instance. One celebrity once helped on the set and even got to operate the trolley. Actor michael Keaton, former Pittsburgh resident was once a stagehand at WQED in Pittsburgh and had the opportunity to help out on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on occasion. In 2018, Michael Keaton hosted a 50th [00:13:00] anniversary tribute program on PBS called Mr. Rogers, It’s You I like.

[00:13:06] Question six. What was the name of the framed device that Mr. Rogers could project videos or slides through when he wanted to show us a video or film about how things were made? That device was called Picture Picture. One of my favorite parts of the program was having Mr. Rogers show us how things were made. As a child growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much to see. I was fascinated with how things were made and by Mr. Rogers taking us to factories, a whole new world was opened up to me.

[00:13:41] Speaking of videos, did you know that Fred Rogers practically helped save the VCR and public television? Back in 1969, a $20 million grant was headed to PBS and President Nixon threatened to slash it. [00:14:00] Doing so could have destroyed educational children’s programming. A relative newcomer to TV at the time, Fred Rogers headed to Washington to defend public television.

[00:14:12] A CNN article says, “When the government wanted to cut public television funds in 1969, the relatively unknown Mr. Rogers went to Washington. Almost straight out of a Frank Capra film, his five to six minute testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens, was so simple but passionate, that even the most gruff politicians were charmed. While the budget should have been cut, the funding instead jumped from nine to $22 million. After the speech Senator John O. Pastore, the chairman of the subcommittee had this to say, “I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy and this is the first time I’ve had goosebumps for the last two days he said. [00:15:00] Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”

[00:15:04] A decade later, Fred Rogers would give testimony once again, this time defending the VCR in what is known as the Betamax case. Eventually that court case went before the Supreme Court and in their decision, they cited Fred’s testimony and that testimony ultimately helped save the VCR. That same CNN article said, “Rogers also spoke to Congress and swayed senators into voting to allow VCRs to record television programs from the home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his, allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch programs as a family.”

[00:15:49] According to Rollins.edu, the case has served as a precedent for other popular recording and streaming technologies, including iPhones and [00:16:00] Netflix. If you’d like to watch Fred Rogers give his testimony, visit TriviaRewind.com for a link to the video.

[00:16:08] Question seven. What color cardigan sweater and what color sneakers were Mr. Rogers most famously known for wearing? Well, he was famous for wearing a red cardigan sweater and blue sneakers. While Fred Rogers were a lot of different colored cardigans, the red one is his trademark cardigan. The sweater now belongs to the Smithsonian Institute. However, it’s not currently on display. All of those iconic sweaters that Mr. Rogers wore were made by his mother who had a gift for knitting.

[00:16:44] The blue sneakers Mr. Rogers changed into at the beginning of each program were made by Sperry and they were the men’s Captain CVO style. Have you ever wondered why he changed into the sneakers? According to Pbs.org, [00:17:00] “Fred began wearing sneakers in the studio so he could run behind the set from the organ to the puppet area without being heard. He later made that an important part of his program opening.”

[00:17:12] Question eight. In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe what is the name of the lady that lives in the Museum-Go-Round and often isn’t afraid to stand up to the king? Her name is Lady Elaine Fairchilde. Fred Rogers provided the voice for Lady Elaine. The character was named after his sister, Elaine Rogers. While Lady Elaine wasn’t afraid to stand up to the king, in real life Fred Rogers wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in either.

[00:17:43] Did you know that in 1990, Fred Rogers sued the Ku Klux Klan? They had been using his voice and the effects of his program to spread racist ideologies on one of their hotlines. According to AllThatsInteresting.com, a federal [00:18:00] judge ruled that the KKK must stop using the messages and ordered a temporary restraining order on the recordings a day after the suit was filed. As a result, the three men agreed to stop playing the hateful messages on the hotline and to destroy the recordings.”

[00:18:18] Question nine. After arriving at his home each day, what pet would Mr. Rogers feed? That pet was fish. The fish tank didn’t become a part of the program until after the first year. Of course in Mr. Rogers fashion, he wanted to show kids how to take care of a pet and having a fish tank would do just that. According to MrRogers.org. “It became so much a part of his routine that sometimes he’d feed the fish without saying what he was doing. Times like that disturbed a five-year old blind girl whose father put her thoughts in a letter. ‘Please say when you are feeding your [00:19:00] fish, because I worry about them. I can’t see if you were feeding them. So please say you are feeding them out loud.’ And so he did.”

[00:19:09] In one episode of the program, Mr. Rogers discovers that one of the goldfish in his tank is dead. On episode 36, titled Death of a Goldfish, Mr. Rogers walks kids through the process of taking the dead fish out of the tank and burying it. He talks with the television audience about how when he was a kid, his dog died. He discussed the grief process of losing a pet.

[00:19:37] And question 10. What was the name of the queen in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe? Her name was Queen Sara. The character Queen Sara voiced by Fred Rogers. The character was named after Fred Rogers’ wife, Sara Joanne Bird, who went by the name Joanne. The two met while attending Rollins [00:20:00] College. The two both had a love for music. According to the Los Angeles times, Fred proposed to Joanne via letter while the two were both working in separate states.

[00:20:11] Joanne Bird received a bachelor of music degree from Rollins college and went on to earn her master’s of music degree from Florida State University. The two were married for over 50 years when Fred died in 2003. In January of this year, Joanne Rogers died at the age of 92.

[00:20:32] Fred Rogers made a huge impact on children’s television. Over the years, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood won for Daytime Emmy Awards. Fred Rogers won a George Peabody award in 1993 and a Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1997. He was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Over his [00:21:00] lifetime, Fred Rogers received numerous awards, honors and dozens of honorary degrees.

[00:21:07] If you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, visit the Senator John Heinz History Center. On the fourth floor, you will find the Special Collections Gallery, which houses the largest collection of original items from the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood television set on public view. I’ll give you more details on TriviaRewind.com.

[00:21:29] If you’re interested in taking a trip back in time to watch some of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episodes, you can head on over to MrRogers.org. According to the website, full length episodes will be posted on the first and third Monday of every month. The selections will be feature programs from the theme weeks library from 1979 to 2001. I’ll post the link on TriviaRewind.com.

[00:21:56] Well, that’s it for this week’s episode. You [00:22:00] can visit Trivia Rewind on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at TriviaRewind.com. Visit the website to find all the links mentioned in this episode. Thanks for taking the time to listen and go be a good neighbor.

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