How many of you remember the opening song to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood? Can you believe that the first episode aired on February 19, 1968? The song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was written by Fred Rogers in 1967 and was used as the opening theme for each episode of the show. When he walked through the doors of his set, then changed into his cardigan and sneakers, everyone was stoked and ready to watch his cast of puppets and marionettes, from the Land of Make-Believe perform. Created and hosted by Fred Rogers, this classic American children’s TV series was characterized by the tenderness of his voice and the quiet simplicity of each episode.
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood spoke directly to the audience about factory tours, scientific experiments, music, crafts and above all interacting with his friends. At the end of his closing song in each episode he gives viewers these simple reminders:
“You always make each day a special day. You know how: By just your being you/yourself. There’s only one person in the (whole) world that’s like you, and that’s you. And people can like you just/exactly the way you are.” He then signs off as he walks out the door, usually by saying, “I’ll be back next time. Bye-bye!”
Some of the characters appearing on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood were: King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, Prince Tuesday, X the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Daniel Striped Tiger, Cornflake “Corney” S. Pecially, Grandpere Tiger, The Platypus Family, Harriet Elizabeth Cow, Edgar Cooke, H.J. Elephant III, Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones, Collette Tiger, The Frogg Family, Mr. Skunk, Audrey Duck, New Goat and of course who could forget that small, red electric trolley entering and exiting the Neighborhood of Make-Believe? Most of the main puppet characters were played by Fred Rogers. There were many other characters, puppets and marionettes appearing throughout the entire series.
Did you know that Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was notable for its use of jazz-inspired music, mostly arranged and performed by Johnny Costa? When Costa died in 1996, he was succeeded by Michael Moricz for the remainder of the series. Can you believe that the lyrics and melodies were written and sung by Fred Rogers, who created more than 200 original songs? The final episode aired on August 31, 2001.
Fred McFeely Rogers, an educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, author and TV host died February 27, 2003. He was married to Sara Joanne Byrd and they had two sons, James and John! No doubt Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood left a lasting impression on children and adults of all ages everywhere!