In the late 1970s and early 1980s, as the mother of young children, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS was my hero. Mister Rogers taught children his wise and fulfilling lessons about the world and their own self worth, while also serving as a role model for parents.
Many of the oft-repeated aphorisms of Mister Rogers have remained with me throughout my adult life. If I have not always practiced them, it is not because I do not believe them. Who cannot see the intrinsic value of being told, “There is no person in the whole world like you and I like you just the way you are”?
On March 23, the United States Postal Service will issue a new Forever stamp in honor of the work of Fred Rogers. The Postal Service issues many new stamps each year, including perennial favorites such as the U.S. flag, birds and flowers of America, love and wedding stamps, and stamps featuring celebrities in a broad range of fields, including science, social justice, entertainment, and more. The Mister Rogers stamp depicts Fred Rogers with one of his creations, King Friday XIII.
There is a time of day that, as a parent, I came to know as “the witching hour.” Unlike the occult witching hour, which happens at either midnight or three a.m., the children’s witching hour generally occurs in the late afternoon. After a full day of school or day care for the children, and work for the parents, hunger and crankiness set in. Then, there was Mister Rogers to the rescue.
Although we were not the type of parents who parked our children in front of the television, I did make an exception for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Each day, Mister Rogers started his show by coming through the front door of his imaginary house in his imaginary neighborhood, removed his shoes and exchanged them for sneakers, hung up his jacket, and slipped on a red cardigan sweater. After making both himself and his audience comfortable, the show and its timely lessons took place.
Mister Rogers shared his program with a cast of characters, including Mr. McFeely, the speedy deliveryman, the show’s equivalent of a mail carrier. Mr. McFeely was played by David Newell and was named after Fred Rogers’ grandfather. Many of the characters in the Neighborhood of Make Believe were puppets, including King Friday XIII. King Friday was regularly portrayed on the show, and proudly sits with Mister Rogers on the new USPS stamp.
My personal favorite character was Daniel Striped (strie-ped) Tiger. Daniel was Fred Rogers’ earliest puppet creation, appearing first on his program, the Children’s Corner, the predecessor of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Daniel was shy, soft-spoken and worried a lot. He was the sweetest little puppet ever.
Mister Rogers was six years younger than my own father, but for adults and children alike, he was a kind and knowledgeable friend rather than an authority figure. As he welcomed his television audience to his neighborhood, he always struck an authentic note of caring and sincerity.
Mister Rogers never pontificated; rather, his method was the epitome of “showing, not telling.” He was kind. A lifelong advocate for children, Mister Rogers was just the kind of person every person needs in his life.
The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Mister Rogers Forever stamp will be held at WQED’s Fred Rogers Studio at 4802 5th Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA on March 23 at 11 a.m. EST. The event is free and open to the public.
#MisterRogersStamp. Hashtag Twitter
The Children’s Corner. Neighborhood Archive of All Things Mr. Rogers
Daniel Striped Tiger. Neighborhood Archive of All Things Mr. Rogers
Forever Stamp Fact Sheet. United States Postal Service
King Friday XIII. Neighborhood Archive of All Things Mr. Rogers
Mr. McFeely. Neighborhood Archive of All Things Mr. Rogers
Mister Rogers Neighborhood. PBSkids
Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Wikipedia
A Mister Rogers Postage Stamp is coming to Your Neighborhood by Christine Hauser. New York Times, Feb. 13, 2018
Neighborhood of Make Believe. Wikipedia
U.S. Postal Service to Dedicate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp. United States Postal Service News Release, Feb. 2, 2018
WQED Fred Rogers Studio