We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.fred rogers
In 1951, fred arrived in new york city and began his television career as an apprentice on NBC’s music programs, working his way up to assistant director and then floor manager on some of the most popular programs of that time.
But Fred did not abandon his goal of creating a personal, nurturing connection with young viewers. In 1953, he decided to return to Pittsburgh to help launch WQED, the first community-supported and community-owned educational television station in the nation. Fred worked as WQED’s program manager. He and Josie Carey, co-workers at the station, decided to produce a program for children.
In April 1954, the local station began broadcasting The Children’s Corner, a live, daily program for young children. Carey was the program’s on-screen host, while Fred worked behind the scenes as co-producer, puppeteer, composer, and organist. Fred composed the music; Carey wrote the lyrics. The pair interacted gracefully, improvising conversations to fill technical lags on the live broadcast. “We were just having fun!”, Fred remembered of those days. Their inventive, playful spirit informed the shows. Based on the program’s local success, NBC also ran it for a short time; Fred and Carey commuted weekly to New York for live, Saturday broadcasts.
In 1961, Fred was invited to launch a children’s program for the public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). He moved his family to Toronto, where he created Misterogers––a 15-minute, daily program that took place primarily in what later viewers would know as the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Reluctantly, Fred appeared on camera as himself for the first time. But he was more than the host—he was the driving force behind the program’s internal engine.
Behind the Scenes
In October 1966, Fred returned to WQED and launched a half-hour version of his CBC program, now called Misterogers’ Neighborhood. The Sears-Roebuck Foundation and National Educational Television (NET) eventually partnered to underwrite production, and national distribution was established. In February 1968, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had its first national airing on NET; the following year, the program was broadcast in color. The familiar set of his “television house,” first created in Toronto for CBC, came back with Fred; he made it an integral part of his new program.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood not only was an artful melding of Fred’s interests and sensibilities; it was also the manifestation of over 40 years of hard work and unwavering dedication, both his own and that of dozens of his collaborators.
Fred was a prolific writer and musician. He developed and wrote the scripts, manipulated and voiced the puppets, composed the music, and wrote the lyrics for each of the program’s almost 900 half-hour episodes. Fred wrote by hand, on yellow legal pads, and made extensive revisions. Each summer, working at “The Crooked House,” his home on Nantucket, he outlined the episodes for the upcoming year and wrote new music. In Pittsburgh, he met regularly with child psychologist Dr. Margaret McFarland, who gave him a theoretical road map for the themes he wanted to explore.
As thoroughly as it was structured, the program was also spontaneous, personal, and improvisational. Unlike anything possible in today’s broadcasting environment, Fred had carte blanche to make his own decisions about themes, content, and pacing.marc brown, author and illustrator of the “arthur” book and television series
The program was also the product of Fred’s many talented co-workers. Together, cast, crew, and production staff formed a kind of family. Fred’s nonprofit production company, The Fred Rogers Company, still creates materials that communicate the Neighborhood’s messages.
Often, Fred was asked, “What’s next?” He replied, “This is next—exactly what we’re doing.” The production process matured over time, but as Fred maintained, the developmental and emotional needs of young children remained constant. He and his co-workers continued to meet those needs with sincerity, caring, and dedication.