The Story of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Making of Hamilton

Have you heard about the musical Hamilton? Maybe you’ve seen the movie on Disney Plus, listened to the music, or actually seen a live performance. My kids and I enjoy listening to the music. It’s catchy and fun to sing along, and what’s also great is we learn something new while having a good time together! The musical Hamilton has been seen on Disney Plus and Broadway millions of times and has come to be one of the most popular musicals of all time. But how did the musical come to be? Do you know who wrote the story and lyrics and music? If you guessed Lin-Manuel Miranda you were right!

Lin-Manuel Miranda was born January 16, 1980 in New York, New York. 

Lin-Manuel’s parents were from Puerto Rican. Puerto Rico is an island and U.S. territory in the Carribean. Lin-Manuel  grew up in a Hispanic neighbourhood in northern Manhattan with his family. His unique name was inspired by a poem about the Vietnam War . His father worked in politics and helped  several of the mayors of New York City, and his mother was a psychologist. They often played salsa and show tunes, which are songs from musicals, at home.. 

During childhood and his teens, Lin-Manuel spent at least one month each year with his grandparents in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. Lin-Manuel attended Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School. He wrote some of his first musicals while growing up in school. 

Lin-Manuel saw his first Broadway musical, Les Misérables, when he was seven, and it made a life-long impression on him. His tastes also ran to hip-hop and R&B, and he became an excellent rapper. In high school he won the lead role in the musical The Pirates of Penzance and was very active in the school’s drama program. 

In school he met Stephen Sondheim, who later became a mentor to him, along with fellow musical-theatre legend John Kander. Lin-Manuel went on to study theatre at Wesleyan University, where he continued to perform in musicals and to write his own songs and shows.

It was there in 1999 that he wrote the first draft of his musical In the Heights, which was set in Washington Heights, a northern Manhattan neighbourhood similar to that of his own childhood. At college Lin-Manuel wrote and directed several other musicals and acted in many other productions, ranging from musicals to Shakespeare.

After graduating from college in 2002, Lin-Manuel  started an acting career, appearing in films and on television. He also performed with a hip-hop improvisation group, Freestyle Love Supreme around New York City and at festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

At this time Lin-Manuel  continued to develop In the Heights with his friend Thomas Kail. The musical blended hip-hop and salsa. Lin-Manuel wrote the music and lyrics for the show. He also co-wrote a book with Quiara Alegría Hudes that is the complete script and all the song lyrics from the show. 

In the Heights opened Off-Broadway in February 2007 and ran until July, with Lin-Manuel in the lead role. It won two Drama Desk Awards. In the Heights had its Broadway debut in March 2008 and won four Tony Awards, including those for best musical and best original score. They also nominated the show for the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and its original-cast recording won the 2008 Grammy Award for best musical show album. 

Also, In the Heights will be available to everyone as a movie in theaters and on HBO in June 2021.

While Lin-Manuel was on vacation in 2008, he read a book about the U.S. Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. The biography was written by Ron Chernow and told Hamilton’s life story. Lin-Manuel was inspired by Hamilton’s life, from his difficult childhood in the Caribbean island to his move to New York and the part he played in the American Revolution,  eventually becoming the U.S. secretary of the treasury. Lin-Manuel saw an important story that needed to be told and the wheels in his head started to turn. 

In Alexander Hamilton’s story, Lin-Manuel saw one that was very similar to that of the simple beginnings of many famous rappers. It inspired him to write a rap about Alexander Hamilton. In 2009 he later performed it for  the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word before President Barack Obama and others.

Lin-Manuel later said he spent a year writing the Hamilton song “My Shot”, changing it countless times for every verse to reflect Alexander Hamilton’s smarts. By 2012, Lin-Manuel was performing an extended set of pieces based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, which he then referred to as the Hamilton Mixtape. The New York Times called it “an obvious game changer”.

The resulting show, which Lin-Manuel called “Hamilton” was smart, energetic, catchy, and immediately popular with audiences, and featured a racially diverse cast, with Lin-Manuel starring in the main role of Alexander Hamilton. In January 2015 the musical opened Off-Broadway at New York City’s Public Theater. It was so successful it made an early move to Broadway in July.

In 2016 they awarded Hamilton the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and that year it received an outstanding 16 Tony nominations, which rarely happens. Lin-Manuel earned several nods, including best actor in a leading role in a musical. The production eventually won 11 Tonys, falling one short of the record. They named Hamilton best musical, and Lin-Manuel won for best book and best original score. 

On March 15, 2016, members of the cast of Hamilton performed at the White House and hosted workshops; Lin-Manuel performed freestyle rap from prompts held up by President Obama. Later In 2016, Miranda and Jeremy McCarter published Hamilton: The Revolution, a book describing Hamilton’s journey from idea to Broadway success. In July 2016 Lin-Manuel appeared for the last time in the show.

The following year the musical opened in London’s West End, where it was a critical and commercial success. It won seven Olivier Awards, including best new play. In addition, Lin-Manuel garnered the award for outstanding achievement in music. 

In 2017 Hurricane Maria hit the Carribean Islands. It was the worst recorded hurricane in history in that area of the world. Many lives and property was lost.  To help, Lin-Manuel briefly returned to his role as Alexander Hamilton in Puerto Rico and used the money made from the shows to help the people there. Lin-Manuel had been active in helping the people of Puerto Rico and the arts there over the years. 

Have you seen the Disney movie Moana? Lin-Manuel wrote the song “How Far I’ll Go” and sings parts of it. In the movie Mary Poppins Returns, he played Mary Poppins sidekick and chimney sweep, Bert. He also starred in the HBO TV series His Dark Materials. Today Lin-Manuel continues today to work on many projects with different studios, including Disney.

Lin-Manuel is an outstanding example of someone who found a talent he enjoyed and dedicated his life to improving it. Can you believe he spent a year working on the songs “Alexander Hamilton” and “My Shot”? Great things don’t come easy. Often they start off very imperfect and need to be worked on over and over until they improve with time and focus. He also wasn’t afraid to take risks by being original. Many of his close friends told him his idea for Alexander Hamilton wouldn’t work. A rap-musical about a founding father was a very unique and bold idea! But he kept working at it anyway until it was a great success!

Once Lin-Manuel reached fame and stardom, he didn’t only use the money he made for his own benefit. He has found many ways to give back to the communities he grew up in and places like Puerto Rico when it was hit by a devastating hurricane. He has also worked with charities that help children who are in foster care and are being adopted. 

What is something that you love to do? Think of what your next project might be related to your interests and set a goal. Plan out how you might work on that project each day until it becomes something better each time, so then you can share it like Lin-Manuel.

The Shirley Temple Story for Kids

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a movie star?  Many people around the world dream of being famous and acting in blockbuster movies.  Lots of actors work hard to build their careers and spend years trying to get even small parts on movies. But imagine if you were just a young child and suddenly became a star before you even started kindergarten.

This is what happened to Shirley Temple.  Shirley Temple became the most famous child actress of her time during the Great Depression in America.  The Great Depression was a time when the country was very poor and most American families did not have enough money to live well.  Many people were sad about their money situation and they needed something to make them happy.  And Shirley Temple became just what they needed.

Shirley was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California.  Her father was a banker and her mother was a housewife and she had two older brothers.  Although the country was quite poor at the time, Shirley’s family had enough money that they did not struggle.  

When she was young, Shirley’s family moved to Brentwood, Los Angeles and it was there that Shirley’s acting career started.  Her mother encouraged her to sing and and act and when she was three years old, she enrolled her in a dance school in Los Angeles.

Around this time, Shirley’s mother also began styling Shirley’s hair into corkscrew ringlets.  This cute hairstyle became her signature look and when she became famous, parents around the world started putting ringlets in their daughters’ hair so that they would look like Shirley Temple.

Getting her hair to look just right was not easy.  Every night before bed, Shirley’s mother had to roll her hair into 56 pin curls.  Shirley Temple did not like having her hair done, and she wished that she could just wear a short haircut like her hero, Amelia Earhart.

While Shirley was at the dance school, she was spotted by Charles Lamont, who was a casting director for Educational Pictures at the time. A casting director is someone who decides which actors and actresses will be put into movies.  When Mr. Lamont met Shirley, she was shy and hid behind a piano. But Mr. Lamont thought she was very cute and funny and he asked her parents if she could be in his movies.  She was just three years old.

Shirley Temple starred in many movies from the time she was three until she was six years old and became very famous.  She spent long days on set working very hard on the movies.  “Being on set” means spending time where the movie is being filmed and it usually involves spending long days filming and waiting for your turn to act.  When Shirley was not working on films, she attended the Westlake School for Girls.

Shirley starred in a number of feature films between 1932 and 1934, including Bright Eyes, Curly Top and Heidi and she became a worldwide star. In the movie Bright Eyes, Shirley sang a song called “On a Good Ship Lollipop”.  Everyone thought that she was so cute and so talented that she won a special Academy Award for the part.

Everyone around the world loved the curly haired girl.  Companies made dolls and dishes and clothing with her picture on them.  Everyone wanted to look like Shirley Temple and many girls dressed like her and curled their hair the same way. It became a very popular look.  

Someone even named a drink after her, called “The Shirley Temple”.  It was flavoured with cherry, lemon and lime and had a cherry in it.  It became a very popular drink and still is today.

Shirley became a sign of hope and optimism during the difficult years of the Great Depression.  Many people found Shirley’s attitude and energy in her movies made them very happy and optimistic. Optimistic means having a positive outlook on life and believing that the future will be positive and happy.

The President of the United States at the time was named Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt called Shirley Temple “Little Miss Miracle” for making people happy during such a difficult time for the country.  He said in a speech to the country that, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” 

By the time Shirley was 12 years old, she had made 43 films. However, as Shirley Temple got older, her movies became less and less popular.  Everyone wanted Shirley to stay the cute child star she was at first, but she was growing up.  Shirley was sad about this, but instead of wallowing, she decided to shift her focus to other things in life.

In 1945, Shirley married an actor named John Agar Jr., when she was only 17 years old. They had a daughter together but they got divorced in 1949.  The next year, Shirley Temple got married again and this time her marriage lasted for the rest of their lives.  Her new husband was a businessman named Charles Alden Black and together they had two children: a son, Charles, and a daughter, Lori.

In 1948, Shirley appeared in her last big movie, a Western movie also starring with John Wayne. Her career as a popular film star had ended at an earlier age than most actors’ had begun and she retired from acting in films in 1950 at the age of 22.

While Shirley Temple may have been sad about her movie career ending, she decided to refocus her efforts on other activities, including activities that would help others.  She sat on the boards of companies and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods, and the National Wildlife Federation.

She also decided to get involved in politics and from 1969 to 1970. She was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She later became the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia.  She found a way to give back to the world again through her political work instead of her movies.

In 1988, Shirley Temple published her autobiography, Child Star.  An autobiography is a book that someone writes to tell the story of their life. 

She received many awards and honors throughout her life, including the Kennedy Center Honors and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2005, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

Shirley Temple died on February 10, 2014, at her home near San Francisco, California. She was 85 years old. Following her death, Shirley’s family said that: “We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of 55 years.”

Shirley showed a great deal of charisma at a young age, which first got her noticed to be in the movies.  But it was ultimately her dedication to being a good actress and working hard that helped her build success.  Shirley also demonstrated resilience throughout her life.  Resilience means the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.  Shirley was able to shift her focus to new activities allowed her to continue to give back to the world in a positive way, even after her movie career ended. 

All of us can learn from Shirley about the power of being positive and spreading happiness and joy.  We can also learn about how to look forward to what we can do next in life when something stops working out for us.  By focusing on the positive things in life, we can continue to build happiness and meaning for ourselves and others. 

History of Buffalo Bill Cody for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you live in America in the 1800s, a time before cars, the Internet and TV. You are riding in a wagon pulled by your family’s best two horses. Your mom and dad are up front and you and your siblings are in the back. You look around and see many other families also riding towards the main event. When the wagon stops you climb out and hurry to a stand where your father buys tickets and hands you one. You give your ticket to attendant then rush into the large arena and climb up the stairs to what you think is the best seat with the best view. You smell popcorn and your mother hands you a bag with a smile. You take a bite and wait in anticipation for the show to begin. 

Suddenly a gun fires and you hear the thunder of hooves as a stampede of horses fill the arena. Dust clouds fill the air. Indians whoop and holler. Army men shoot their guns and flash their swords. Soon a battle begins. But this isn’t a real battle, it’s just a show, and the crowd watches in amazement as the showmen act out a battle from American history. An soldier cries out and falls off his horses. An Indian charges and waves his tomahawk. The smell of gunpowder fills the air. Soon the dust and the smoke settles. The battle is finished. The audience cheers wildly. 

Suddenly a lone man rides into the arena, waving his hat. From his leather coat, long hair and mustache, you instantly recognize the rider as the greatest showman of the Wild West — Buffalo Bill Cody. You wave your hat and cheer too. The show has just begun and you can’t wait to see what comes next.

Bill Cody was born in 1847 on a farm outside Le Claire, Iowa to Isaac and Mary Ann Cody. When Bill was young slavery was still happening in some parts of the country. Bill’s father, Isaac, was very much against it.  Many people didn’t like Bill’s family for this reason. One day when his father was speaking out against slavery someone hurt him very badly. After this Isaac had to move away to avoid his enemies. Later, the same group planned to catch Isaac and hurt him again. When Bill heard what they were going to do to his father, he jumped on his horse and rode 30 miles to warn him before they came. 

Not long afterward Bill’s father became very sick and soon passed away. This left Bill to help take care of his family when he was only 11 years old. His first job was with a wagon company. He rode his horse up and down the train of wagons and delivered messages to help them keep in touch with each other. 

When Bill was 14 years old gold was discovered in California and many Americans hurried there in hopes to mine gold and become rich. This was called a Gold Rush. Bill left on his horse for California, but along the way he found a job delivering mail from one place to another. Because there were no telephones, mail by horse was the only way people could talk to each other.

A few years later, Bill joined the Army’s 3rd Cavalry, which was fighting the Native Indians in what was called the Plains Wars. Bill was the Chief of the Scouts. His job was to ride ahead and see if they were going to be attacked. He fought in sixteen battles with the army.

While the army was on the trail they needed food, so one of Bill’s jobs was to hunt buffalo. Buffalo are huge, wild, hairy animals with horns that roamed the plains during the Wild West. At this time there were hundreds and thousands of buffalo and Bill became a very skilled hunter of them. Once, another hunter with the same name as Bill challenged him to see who could hunt the most buffalo within 8 hours. Whoever won would keep the name “Buffalo Bill.” The race was on. Bill took off on his horse and raced around the massive herd of buffalo, aiming his long rifle, and firing, picking them off one at a time. He kicked his horse faster and faster, aiming and firing, aiming and firing, buffalos dropping at every shot. When the time was up, someone rode around and counted the buffalo. Bill had killed more beasts than the other man and won the name “Buffalo Bill.”

Often people came from the East Coast or other parts of the world to visit the Wild West and hunt the famous buffalo. Buffalo Bill started taking these visitors on trips to explore the West and hunt. Some of the people who went with Bill wrote about him in the newspapers and someone even made him a character in a book. Soon many people knew about this famous hunter of the American West.

A few years later Buffalo Bill joined a traveling show called The Scouts of the Prairie. Together with the other actors he would act out famous battles for audiences. These shows were very popular and often they performed to sold out crowds. Everyone was excited to see the famous Buffalo Bill Cody and gun fighters such as “Wild Bill” Hickok. 

Before long, Bill had the idea to start his own show and called it Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. He and his crew dressed in colorful costumes and acted out battles with guns and horses while a live band played music. Many of the acts included horses and their riders from all across the world from Spanish Cowboys to Turks, Arabs, and Mongols from Asia. The American Indian war hero Sitting Bull was in the show along with famous women sharp shooters such as Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. People came from all across the country to be entertained by Buffalo Bill and his talented performers. 

Later Buffalo Bill’s West West show took a ship across the ocean to Europe, where they performed before such royalty as the Queen of England and the Kings of France and Germany. They also performed nearby the Chicago’s Worlds Fair and were a huge hit.  

Buffalo Bill used the money from his world famous show to found his own town in Wyoming and called it Cody. There he bought land and built a beautiful hotel and brought in cattle for a very large ranch. He designed Cody so people from all over could visit the countryside and pretend to be cowboys, go on horseback rides, and hunt animals in the woods. These activities were some of his great loves and he wanted to share them with others.

Even though Bill fought against Indians early in his life, he later had great respect for them and their simple way of life. He knew the reason many of them attacked settlers was because they had been treated poorly in the first place. He felt bad for what had been done to them, that they had been driven from their lands by the new Americans. He believed they should be treated with respect and hired many of them to work for his show and paid the same as everyone else.

Bill spent much of his time in nature, so he came to have great respect for the land and animals of the American West. He later did what he could to help preserve these beautiful places. This is called conservationism. Americans like he and Teddy Roosevelt believed that much of the land should be kept safe, so it can be enjoyed by everyone. This is why we have National Parks today.

Today spend a moment thinking about what it would have been like to start taking care of your family like Bill did at a young age. It was hard and probably scary at times, but Bill learned new skills such as hunting and horseback riding. When you face challenges remember that sticking with things until you get better is the only way to learn and grow. So be sure to face hard things with courage and keep on trying. 

Like Buffalo Bill you can use your imagination to come up with new ideas to entertain others. Spend some time thinking of an act or show you could perform and share it with a family member or a friend. If you can make someone else smile or laugh, that is a very good thing. 

Also, spend a little more time outside. There is much to appreciate outdoors, even if it is your backyard. Take the time to look at the sky and clouds and the trees and the listen to the birds in them. There is much to be enjoyed in the natural world around you if you take the time to notice it. 

The Sylvester Stallone “Rocky Story” for Kids

On July 6, 1946 a boy named Sylvester was born. When it was time for his mother to give birth Sylvester’s body was not coming out easily. In order for him to survive they used special tools, which although they saved his life, caused part of his lip and face not to work right. Because of this he always had a funny smile and even talked funny. 

Sylvester grew up in the big city of New York. Growing up wasn’t easy there. His parents didn’t get along and they had to move many times. At one point he had to live with different families until he was able to move back with his father. With all of this going on in his life, Sylvester had a tough time in school and didn’t always do very well. 

But Sylvester loved going to the movies. He in the theater and stared up at the gigantic screen as larger than life heroes did amazing things. He saw how strong and fast and courageous they were and wanted to be just like them. The problem was Sylvester realized he didn’t look like those heroes. He was short and small and got teased for his smile. But this didn’t stop Sylvester. He began to exercise and do pushups and run, and do anything to shape himself into the heroes he saw in the movies. 

As Sylvester got older his love of movies made him want to become an actor, so he went to a school for actors. He tried his very best there until it was time to be done and look for a job. But finding an acting  job isn’t easy. Sylvester did all kinds of odd jobs on the side. He even cleaned lion cages at the zoo! But most of the time he didn’t have any money and it was very hard to get by. So he could pay for food, Sylvester had to sell his favorite dog. He was very sad about this. But Sylvester was determined to become an actor so he sacrificed things for it.

One day Sylvester saw a boxing match on TV. The boxers were Muhammed Ali and Chuck Wepner. Even though Chuck was getting beat up pretty badly, he kept standing up and fighting back. Sylvester had an idea, so he rushed home and started writing. He wrote all night and all day until the story was done. Next, he took his story to the movie companies and they loved the boxer story. They said they would pay him $125,000 for the story. Sylvester said he would sell it, but on one condition — that he would also be the star in the movie. The directors laughed at this. They thought Sylvester looked a little funny and talked funny. They kept offering Sylvester more money for the story, but he demanded that he be the star. He was persistent and believed in himself. 

Finally, the movie directors said he could be the star, but they didn’t pay him as much for the story. But Sylvester didn’t care because he believed he could be the star. And one of the first things he did with the money was bought his old dog back! 

When the movie was finished it was about a small boxer named Rocky who nobody knew. But the boxer exercised and practiced and worked very hard until in a big boxing match he beat one of the best boxers in the world! People loved the movie named Rocky! It even won many awards and became one of the most popular movies of all time. Sylvester went from being an unknown actor to starring in many big movies. He always worked hard playing his parts, and exercised and stayed strong and fast. Most of the time he wanted to do his own stunts, even though it was dangerous. Today Sylvester Stallone is known as one of the greatest action movie stars of all time. 

Later in his life Sylvester tried to do good things with the money he earned from his movies. They held an auction to sell the boxing gloves and other items from his Rocky movie and made $3 million dollars which they gave to those in need.

Remember that becoming good at something requires a lot of practice and persistence. Persistence is when you keep trying and trying even when things aren’t working out. Sylvester had a dream and stuck with it even when it wasn’t working out. Sometimes dreams take time and courage and patience. Like the boxer Rocky we can keep getting back up and trying even when difficult things in life knock us down.

Fred Rogers Story for Kids

Can you hear that?

“Ding, ding.”

It’s the Neighborhood Trolley making its way back from King Friday’s castle to the Neighborhood Of Make Believe. It’s here to deliver a message to all of you about the man known as Mr. Rogers.

Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His father’s name was James and his mother Nancy. His love of music started early in life as he began to play the piano at the age of five. 

Before we go any further, I know that you’re all dying to know about Fred’s middle name, McFeely. Yes, that is actually his middle name. McFeely was his grandfather’s last name. Fred Brooks McFeely.  Fred’s grandfather was a local entrepreneur and the man that they named Fred.

Now that we have that interesting fact out of the way, let’s learn some more about Mr. Rogers.

Childhood wasn’t the easiest for the man who would become known as one of the nicest, happiest men on TV. He was very shy and overweight. He spent a lot of time stuck at home suffering from bouts of asthma.

Fred was picked on a lot as a child because of his weight. Some kids even called him “Fat Freddy”. Fred had a very lonely childhood which forced him to make up imaginary friends. He spent a lot of time playing alone with his toys in his bedroom, making up imaginary worlds for them to explore.

In High School, Fred finally overcame his shyness and made a couple of good friends. Fred served as president of the student council. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook. 

Fred got into television because he hated the shows that were on TV. In an interview, he said, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of 

using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen”. His first job in the TV business was working for NBC in New York as a floor director on several shows.

Fred worked for NBC until 1963 when he moved back to Pitsburg. He took a job as a program developer at the public television station WQED. Together with Josie Carey, he developed a children’s show called The Children’s Corner. While Josie was the host of the show, Fred made puppets, characters, and music for the show. Many of the puppets and characters that he developed for The Children’s Corner were used on his later shows. 

It was while working on The Children’s Corner in 1963 that Fred became an ordained minister. Rather than becoming a pastor, he turned his focus to ministering to children and their families through television. He would appear before church officials regularly to keep up his ordination.  

It was during this time that he met Margaret McFarland. Margaret became his key advisor, collaborator, and child-education guru. Most of Fred’s appreciation for children came from his work with Margaret. Margaret helpd with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood scripts and songs for 30 years.  

The original Mr. Rogers show ran from 1963 to 1967 on the CBC in Toronto. It was a black and white 15 minute long show and was the first time that Fred appeared on TV as Mr. Rogers. In 1967 Fred headed back home to Pittsburg with his wife and two young sons.

In 1968 the real magic happened. Fred began filming the show Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers filmed 895 magical episodes of the show between 1968 and 2001.

Oh, can’t you hear it? I hear it. 

The shows about to start.

[Verse 1]

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood

A beautiful day for a neighbor

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Verse 2]

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood

A neighborly day for a beauty

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Bridge]

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

[Verse 3]

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day

Since we’re together, we might as well say

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please

Won’t you please

Please, won’t you be my neighbor?

Every show started this same way. Mr. Rogers would sing this song, greeting everyone while changing from his jacket to a cardigan sweater and his dress shoes to sneakers. He was now ready for the show’s adventures to begin.

He always welcomed everyone with open arms into his world. He would share stories of make-believe. He took everyone on amazing journeys outside his home to see how different things worked in the world. But most of all, he taught many lessons about life.

The show ran the same way for the entire time it was on the air. Mr. Rogers would introduce the show’s theme. Then he would leave his home to visit another location. He would let everyone see how different things were made or built.

Once he finished his visit, Mr. Rogers left and returned home. Now we knew it was now time to visit the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers headed to the window seat by the trolley track and tells the viewers about the story they were about to see as the Trolley comes out. The camera follows it down a tunnel in the back wall of the house as it enters the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Each story and lesson would take place over a week’s worth of episodes. Each involved puppet and human characters. The end of the visit occurs when the Trolley returns to the same tunnel from which it emerged, reappearing in Mr. Rogers’ home. Mr. Rogers always had the last talk with the viewers before the ending of the episode.

Unlike the show Sesame Street, which focused on teaching kids numbers and letters, Mr. Rogers’ show focused on often things like developing feelings and having good morals. There was no other show quite like it. 

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood stopped filming for 4 years between 1975 and 1979. Mr. Rogers focused on adult programming to the shock of many of his coworkers. When he returned to making the show in 1979 until it ended in 2001 the show was better than ever.  

In 1969 Fred went before the U.S. Senate to help get more money for PBS. Fred wasn’t well known but he had the ability to be very convincing. He was able to connect emotionally with everyone he spoke to. His words helped get money for the television station for many years afterward. It was also considered some of the most powerful words spoken before Congress. In 1970, President Nixon appointed Rogers as chair of the White House Conference on Children and Youth.

Not bad for a guy who was so shy as a child that he only played with toys! Now he was using his talents to not only help children everywhere but also to make sure the TV station, PBS, had enough money to keep making Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for years to come. 

Over the years, Mr. Rogers did many interviews and over 150 speeches to college graduates. His speeches were all about children, television, education, his views on making the world a better place, and how he never wanted to stop learning.

Though Mr. Rogers always spoke with a soft voice, everyone always listened to what he had to say. During some speeches, he would ask the audience to be silent. He asked them to think about someone in their lives who helped them. This is something Fred always encouraged. He always appreciated others for all they have done. 

Mr. Rogers won a Lifetime Achievement, Emmy award, in 1997. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.

Have you heard of the show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This kid’s TV show is based on characters from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

We can all learn some very important lessons from Mr. Rogers. Even though he started out shy and unhappy as a child, he didn’t let that stop him from having an enormous impact on the world around him. He focused his life on helping children grow and learn to be the best they could be. He taught kindness, compassion, and caring to everyone he ever met.

Mr. Rogers treated everyone like they were his friend and neighbor and only asked the same in return. The world would be a much better place if more people had this same attitude.

Each day please be kind to a stranger and do something nice for your friends and family. Even these simple acts of kindness can make a big impact on the world. Love and happiness are contagious!

As Mr. Rogers once said;

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connect us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

Thanks for listening to this episode about Fred Rogers. Be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode!

Harry Houdini For Kids

Have you ever seen or heard something that you couldn’t believe, as if it was magic? Maybe you’ve tried to learn some card tricks or other illusions to impress your family and friends. With enough practice and a convincing performance, anything is possible! 

According to the subject of this podcast, “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.”

Our story begin is 1874 in Budapest Hungary, when Harry Houdini was born. He had six brothers and sisters. His real name was Erik Weisz. 

Erik’s family moved to the United States in 1878, and eventually settled in Wisconsin. The Houdinis were Jewish and their father was the rabbi for the local congregation. When his father lost his job, the family moved to Milwaukee, and eventually ended up in New York City. As a child, Erik took several jobs to help his family, and first showed off his skills as a trapeze artist when he was only nine years old. A trapeze artist hangs from a rope and does tricks in the air. His performing name was ‘Erik, the Prince of the Air.’

Erik was coached by the magician Joseph Rinn while he was a teenager. When he first started out, he did not have much success. He first performed in dime museums and sideshows, sometimes also performing as ‘The Wild Man’ at the circus. In the beginning he focused his show on card tricks, and he even called himself ‘The King of Cards’ for a short time. However, other professional magicians noted that Houdini lacked the grace and finesse – or style – to be a magician who was excellent at card tricks. Because of this, Houdini would start to experiment on escape acts. An example of an escape act, is when Houdini would put handcuffs on himself and then escape them before a timer ran out.

When Erik became a professional magician he started calling himself Harry Houdini, naming himself after the French magician jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. Although he claimed he took the name Harry as a tribute to another magician, the American magician Harry Kellar, it is widely believed that it came from the nickname ‘Eri,’ which is what Erik’s family called him.

In 1894, Houdini was performing with his brother Theodore (also known as ‘Dash’) at Coney Island. Their act was called ‘The Brothers Houdini.’ While there, Erik met and courted a fellow performer named Wilhemina Beatrice ‘Bess’ Rahner. Eventually they would marry, and Bess replaced Theodore in the act, which changed its name to ‘The Houdinis.’ Bess became Houdini’s stage assistant for the rest of his life. 

Five years later, Houdini met a stage manager named Martin Beck in Minnesota. Beck was impressed by Houdini’s handcuffs act, and encouraged him to keep concentrating on his escape acts. Beck also asked Houdini to perform on the Orpheum Vaudeville circuit, which was a chain of movies and theaters where performers could take the stage with their act and perform in front of large audiences. Houdini’s act fit right in with the other types of vaudeville performers: musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, ventriloquists, and strongmen. After a few months on the circuit, Houdini was performing at top vaudeville houses all over the country.

The following year, Beck was able to send Houdini and his act on a tour of Europe. Although it took a few tries for Houdini to convince any stage managers to allow him to perform in their theaters, eventually he was able to interview with the manager of the Alhambra Theater. After a demonstration of his escape act from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, Houdini was booked at the Alhambra for six months. 

For the next twenty years Houdini would go on to perform all over Great Britain. He performed his escape acts, as well as card tricks, illusions, and outdoor stunts. At the time he was one of the world’s highest paid entertainers. He earned the nickname ‘The Handcuff King’ by traveling to places like the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia, and challenging the local police to lock him in their jails. In Russia, Houdini even escaped from a prison transport van.

Houdini also spent a lot of time performing in the United States. Many times he would perform for street audiences, and he escaped from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets. Around 1908, Houdini switched from escaping from handcuffs to escaping from other, more exciting traps, such as a locked, water-filled milk can. He even went so far as to challenge his audiences to come up with contraptions to try and hold him. Some examples are: nailed packing crates (both in and out of water), riveted boilers, wet sheets, mailbags, and even the belly of a whale that had washed ashore in Boston!

When Houdini was in Berlin, Germany in 1912, he introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell into his act. During the performance, he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass and steel cabinet that was filled with water, requiring Houdini to hold his breath for over three minutes. This act was performed by Houdini for the rest of his life.

Houdini wrote a book for the magic brotherhood (his fellow performers and magicians) explaining some of his tricks. The book was called Handcuff Secrets, and he revealed how many locks and handcuffs could be opened with applied force or shoestrings. Houdini also discussed how he sometimes carried concealed lockpicks and keys. When he was tied down in ropes and straitjackets, he would gain room for his body by expanding his shoulders and chest and holding his arms slightly away from his body. 

Over the years, some of Houdini’s tricks would change as he discovered ways to make them more exciting. The straitjacket escape was first performed with Houdini behind a curtain, popping out when he was finally free. When he figured out that the audiences were more impressed when they could watch him struggle, Houdini eliminated the curtains. He would also sometimes attempt his straitjacket escapes while dangling upside-down from the roof of a building in the city. 

While Harry was known for his escape act and performances, he also performed other tricks. One of his most famous non-escape stage illusions was performed in New York, when he vanished a full-grown elephant from the stage. 

Houdini was very invested in supporting the work of both professional and amateur magicians. He served as the president of the Society of American Magicians for nine years. Houdini’s goal was to create a large unified network of magicians across the country. While on his vaudeville tours, Houdini would meet with the local magicians, give speeches, and throw banquets to convince them to join his Society. He was successful in places like Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and even London. If a local club of magicians did not exist, Houdini would gather the local magicians, introduce them to each other, and encourage them to form a club. Houdini created the richest and longest-surviving organization of magicians in the world. At this time it is made up of almost six thousand members and nearly three hundred assemblies around the world. 

Houdini would film his outdoor escapes, which led him to acting and a film career. While he started a film production company, it was not successful. Some of the titles of the films that Houdini acted in are: The Grim Game, The Master Mystery, Terror Island, and The Man From Beyond.

Harry Houdini died from a ruptured appendix. It is believed that while he was suffering from appendicitis, a punch he received to his stomach made the illness worse. Houdini continued performing until his pain and the poor condition of his health forced him to be hospitalized. He passed away in 1926 in Detroit, Michigan. 

Harry started from very simple begins, but with lots of imagination, practice and determination he became a world-class entertainer. He spent many hours perfecting his skills and strengthening his body so he could perform the task. Like Harry, you can find something you want to improve at and stick with it until you become better at it. Physical exercise is also very good for your body.

Have you ever seen a magician or a magic trick before? Learning how to entertain others with magic can be fun. Recently, my daughter became interested in card tricks. We found a deck of cards and watched a few videos about how to do some basic tricks. When you find the time, you should try it to. It’s a fun skill to develop and is lots of fun to entertain your friends and family!