At some point Fred Rogers’ death from stomach cancer is going to hit me, but so far mostly I think it’s kind of passed by me in a glaze. Somehow I’m associating Mr. Rogers with my maternal grandfather, an equally calming presence. An op-ed in the Times today nearly brought a tear to my eye, and reminded me of the X the Owl puppet character. I vividly remember them enhancing the Z pattern of supports on the inside of his Owl-hole door with pieces to turn it into an X.
B hadn’t known that the king’s full name was King Friday the Thirteenth (or, I suppose, Friday XIII).
Few people knew that Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I gather that the story I once heard that he was a convicted felon is an urban legend, since none of the obituaries have mnetioned.
I had at least one Mr. Rogers record as a kid (it went national in 1968 when I was 4), the one with the closeup of the little trolley train on it. I always loved the way the opening sequence of the show enhanced the whole make-believe theme.
My mother liked that he spoke kindly and gently. My father hated the record almost as much as our I Love Lucy record and fretted that Mr. Rogers was going to turn me gay. Later on a National Lampoon Radio Hour LP that made the rounds in my dorm featured a sketch based on the same insinuation, with an angry father complaining to Rogers, “What kind of a gift is lederhosen for a six year-old boy?” To which the faux Rogers replied, “I lined them with silk so they wouldn’t chafe him.”
I’m somewhat relieved to hear the McFeely was Rogers’ middle name, because the Mr. McFeely character always weirded me out a little. I think those weakly acted visits broke the illusion a bit for me, even when I was little. Contrast that with the way Pee-Wee’s friends on his Playhouse show made the camp overt.
In college one of my roommates remembered the show fondly. It sure beat Captain Kangaroo for entertainment. After that came Sesame Street and The Electric Company, which I felt I was too old for, but watched anyway, and later Zoom.
I wanted to end this with a quote from the song he sang at the end of each show, but I can’t remember it.