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!