Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's a pessimistic attitude, but I feel like the majority of people I really appreciated as a child later turned out to be dicks. Of course, this happens with almost any group of people that get admired: politicians, athletes, movie stars, etc... a lot of great people turn out to be kinda slimy. It always hurts a little bit, too, to realize this and then process it without becoming entirely disillusioned. But then every once in awhile you come across one of these people, these influences on your life and character that is revealed to not only be the person you had always admired them for being, but actually a better person than you thought you knew. It's not often, and it's rarely who you want it to be, but when it happens you can only appreciate it.

Fred Rogers happens to be one of those people. Like everyone else raised between 1968 and 2001 (!), I grew up watching Fred on PBS and loving it. Like everyone else, I got older and started watching other stuff and forgot about the show. I'm sure that on a very base level, that man taught me all sorts of things that I was taking for granted a few months later. The impact a show like his must have on a nascent mind is unfathomable. But I digress.

By the time I went to college, I had all but forgotten about Mr. Rogers. I didn't have kids and spent most of my time watching horror movies and smoking pot, so there really wasn't much I'd get out of his show. But what I didn't know is that he was from Pittsburgh. That he still lived in Pittsburgh, did the show there at WQED, and was something of a patron saint of the 'burgh. He wasn't forgotten there the way he had been in my mind. He was on street murals, and his portrait adorned restaurants. So, being in a new city and trying to get my bearings, I did what I always do; I went to the library.

Of course, my superficial research yielded a few results, but what I mostly took away from it was that he a)was an ordained Presbyterian minister, b)he was instrumental in the development/legalization of the VCR, and c)this guy was loved by everyone that ever met him. He was a minister? Despite his show definitely feeling like the church workshops I'd attended as a small child (namely lots of felt and sweaters), I'd never remembered him to be all that pious. After going back and looking, there are certainly elements of faith, but never anything substantial. Perhaps my upbringing was of that era when it was still overlooked. I don't know. But it still made me happy my parents had a resource like Fred to park me in front of when they could. There isn't much I could consider to be mandatory viewing to the general populace, despite what I'd like to foist unto the unsuspecting eyes of this world. But I could consider Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Of course I forgot about a lot of it. When he died in 2003, I wished I could've been back in Pittsburgh to attend some sort of memorial. I thought about him for a few days and it passed. Yesterday, though, I listened to a podcast all about him and I was reminded once again how special that guy truly was. I'm sure it'll sink back down into the clouds of my memory, but before it does I could share the podcast with anyone who wasn't as familiar with his story. So here you go. There's plenty of great stories and remembrances of the man here.


ib said...

Well. Living as I do in Scotland, Fred Rogers had little impact on me as his show did not make for the transatlantic crossing. I enjoyed reading this post all the same; from what I can gather, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is vaguely like a distant cousin to "Camberwick Green" and "Trumpton". Homegrown TV shows from the 60s which occupy a special place in my affections. Trippy, but very comforting.

Jonathan said...

Thanks ib...curious to check out "Camberwick Green" and "Trumpton"...wonder if I can find them in the states?

Cotton said...

Go check out ib's site if you haven't yet. He likes the good stuff.