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Fred Rogers' 'Neighborhood' revisited in new documentary

Augustin Mingoia Murphy, 11, of Garden City,

 Augustin Mingoia Murphy, 11, of Garden City, saw the movie "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Credit: Mingoia Murphy family

The film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was a really great and moving documentary about the life of Fred Rogers and his popular children’s show, “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,” which was on PBS from 1968 until 2001. Fred Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and became a television star, writer musician, producer and even a Presbyterian minister. During his show, he taught children about feelings and how to think positively about themselves even when they were blue.

Fred Rogers' episodes were on social issues that grown-ups didn’t like talking to children about like war, assassination, death and divorce. He also did an episode on superpowers because after the movie "Superman" came out, kids thought they could fly out a window, and a lot of them were getting severely hurt. This upset Mr. Rogers because kids didn’t understand the difference between what was real and what was make-believe because no adults ever took the time to tell them about it. 

What was really amazing is that on his TV show, he was the voice for 10 different puppets and also was puppeteering them as well. One of his favorite puppets was Daniel Tiger, whose personality resembled Mr. Rogers'. He explained that he used puppets because kids were more comfortable talking with puppets than talking to adults.

 The documentary focused mostly on how Mr. Rogers was a kind person.  One of my favorite parts was when he had a kid named Jeff on his show. Jeff had a tumor on his spine and had to move around in a wheelchair.  When he was put on the set, outside Mr. Rogers’ house, I did not think that Jeff was that happy because he was asked to explain why he was in the wheelchair, which made him sad. But then Mr. Rogers started to sing a song to cheer Jeff up, and Jeff started to sing along with Mr. Rogers. They were both happy and remained friends for a long time.

Another cool part of the documentary was when Mr. Rogers described what the number “143” means. I never knew what it meant, but it means I love you! The number means “I love you” because the “I” is one letter, “love” is four letters, and the “you” is three letters, which comes out to be 143.  Mr. Rogers also explained that every day for 30 years he weighed himself and it was always 143 pounds, which is such a crazy coincidence. Even though it may seem unbelievable, Mr. Rogers had a really good sense of humor. The funniest part of the film was when they showed how the crew of his show played practical jokes on each other.

"Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" ended filming in August 2001, but Fred Rogers did go back on the air for a special episode on 9/11. He was really nervous and felt like he didn’t know the right things to say, but he ended up just being himself, which made kids and adults feel safer and happier. Fred Rogers died on Feb. 27, 2003, of stomach cancer when he was 74 years old.

Kids today may not know who he is, but would like the documentary because they could learn to be grateful for who they are because Mr. Rogers said that all children are special. Kids also face the same issues he taught about and need to know about the bad things in life so they can be prepared for when it happens. Adults will like it, too. 

Rating: 5 smiles out of 5


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