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Turning 50 With Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

GPB will air a theme week of children's programming featuring classic episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and a brand new special to commemorate the program's 50th anniversary.

As someone who loves the music of the 60s, I’ve always been fascinated by the era. Although it’s 1968, my birth year, that really sparks my curiosity. Regarded as one of the most tumultuous and transformative years in American history, 1968 was marked by civil unrest that included Vietnam War protests and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

But as observances of these somber events make the headlines, it’s also important to note that amid the uproar and bleakness of that year, a calm, reassuring figure emerged that would change the face of television. On February 19, 1968, Fred Rogers made his national debut as the star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Rogers, who also created the series, always said, “I am not a teacher, I simply help children learn.” In the early 70s, I was one of those children. Growing up, I had no clue that the source of my enjoyment for Mister Roger’s Neighborhood would one day be my place of employment. Back then, I didn’t have a concept of what Georgia Educational Television (now GPB Television) was. It was simply the number eight on the dial that made a loud popping noise when you changed the channel on our Zenith television. Today’s widely used terminology like “multi-screen viewing” would have meant that I could walk to my grandmother’s house and watch Mister Roger’s Neighborhood there as well, not on a completely different device in addition to a television.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood teaches preschoolers practical strategies and skills necessary for growing and learning.

Today, media is consumed in a totally different manner, but Mister Rogers’ legacy endures. Beginning Monday, February 26, GPB will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with vintage episodes from 1970, 1982, 1984 and 1985. Each day at 9: 30 a.m., you can tune in for a new episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, the award-winning animated spin-off from The Fred Rogers Company, followed by the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode that inspired it.   

For me, much of the appeal of the program was that I always felt welcome in Mister Rogers’ world. Whether it was an adventure in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe or a visit with Mr. McFeely the delivery man, it was almost as if Mister Rogers was speaking directly to me, and breaking down topics like loss and the feelings that go with it into terms that I could understand as a young child.

Actor Michael Keaton hosts Mister Rogers: It's You I Like

I also admired his fashion sense, and I can still see Mister Rogers walking in and changing out of his “work” jacket and shoes while singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” as the show began. To this day, I remember becoming fixated on his blue tennis shoes at some point and begging my mother for a pair. And as for Mister Rogers’ iconic sweater collection, I recently discovered that his mother knitted each one of them for him.

On Tuesday, March 6 at 8 p.m. on GPB, original cast members will share their own reminiscences in the new special, Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like. The program also features celebrities including Michael Keaton, who worked as a stagehand and made appearances on the series in the 1970s, Judd Apatow, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Kratt, John Lithgow, Itzhak Perlman and Sarah Silverman among others.

Watch A Preview:

For more information on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood anniversary events scheduled throughout this year, follow Facebook and Twitter. #MisterRogers50 #ItsABeautifulDay

Mandy Wilson

Mandy Wilson serves as the director of communications for GPB. In her role, she works on various marketing and public relations initiatives for the company. Prior to joining GPB, she worked at the Country Music Association and Group W Satellite... more