Visiting the Land of Make-Believe

Visiting the Land of Make-Believe

Visiting the Land of Make-Believe, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.

UPDATE 3/20/2008: Today is "Won’t You Wear a Sweater?" Day. Let’s make the most of this beautiful day!

Andrew Stockey wrote a nice "happy birthday" message to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which today is 40 years old.

I mentioned this to my brother, who asked if I remembered the first episode. And then laughed.

But I may well have seen the first episode. At the least, I must have started watching early on.

The photo above is of me and my sister Laura dressing up like King Friday and Queen Sara. (I am King Friday because I’m bigger. This never seemed strange.) We’re standing in the kitchen of our house in Exton, PA, and it’s November or December of 1969.

Incidentally, the blanket Laura is wearing was a permanent fixture, like Linus’s blanket in the Peanuts comics. I have resorted to robing myself in a common afghan.

So clearly we were fans of the show within the first two years of its launch. Oh, we loved it. I was particularly fond of X the Owl, because even as a tot I was an insufferable know-it-all. I found Lady Elaine Fairchild kind of creepy.

Needless to say, I had no idea when we moved to the Pittsburgh area that we had moved closer to the actual Mister Rogers. I spent the first few years thinking that we had moved into a house that had previously been owned by a butler.

But back to my point: How lucky we were to have grown up with Mister Rogers! Happy birthday to the show, and many thanks to The Public Broadcasting System and WQED.

7 replies on “Visiting the Land of Make-Believe”

  1. When my brother was working for the Pirates in the late 80’s/early 90’s, Mr. Rogers was asked to throw out the first pitch before a game. They did the whole routine of him with the sweater and when Fred threw the ball it completely missed the catcher and came within inches of crackin my bro in the head. Mr. Rogers came over and apologized as they both got a laugh from it.

  2. Lady Elaine freaked us all out. Henrietta Pussycat was just annoying. Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Tea Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Magic Show Meow Meow Meow Meow. Ugh. I want them to be on DVD so my kids can watch that and sesame street and nothing else.

  3. Lady Elaine was not “kind of creepy.” She is the foundation upon which all frightening people are built. …along with E.T.

    I think I will celebrate this occasion by building a table top sandbox for my kitchen.

  4. Amy: I can see why Daniel Striped Tiger was likable for you and many others. I confess I felt he needed a little more confidence. Boy needed to tiger up, as it were. But hey, he’s a good cat.

    Spoon: That’s awesome!

    Will: As formative as Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street were for me — and some other key PBS shows, especially Zoom and Hodge Podge Lodge — I think your kids will benefit from a slightly broader TV selection. Obviously they’ll need all the Looney Toons stuff, plus Schoolhouse Rock. I apparently watched Gumby a lot too. But there are non-obvious good influences. I’ve posted previously about watching lots of Speed Racer as a kid, and I was also a big fan of the Monkees; I doubt my parents were truly psyched about either of those. Isn’t there anything else you’d want your kids to absorb early?

    Anthony: In retrospect I see that Lady Elaine was important to the show. She was a source of conflict, without which there would have been really no plot, ever. I always wondered why they let her hang around when she was so tricksy, but as it turns out that’s exactly what life is like: We are surrounded by people we don’t much like but can’t get away from. She may be the most instructive character on the show.

    Christina: I would love to see that, even though my head will then explode.

  5. Not only did I get to see the set for Mr. Rogers, I had lunch with the man in 1991. Just him, his producer, and me. If I had to pinpoint the five best days of my life, that would surely make the list.

    Unfortunately, our boy won’t watch Mr. Rogers re-runs. Too slow. We did that to him, I’m afraid, by letting him watch some of today’s whiz-bang rapid-cut stuff. The Mr. Rogers influence is still there on him, though, courtesy of his old man. Whenever parenting hits a rough patch, I quite literally ask myself “What would Mr. Rogers do?”. And the answer usually comes to me, and it’s usually the right one.

    40 years after I first started watching with my mom (and yes, I was there from the very beginning), Mr. Rogers is still teaching me things.

    I was just thinking of this article last week — enjoy.

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