|THE NEIGHBORHOOD ARCHIVE - All Things Mister Rogers|
Around the Neighborhood - Volume 1, Number 4
In 1973, Family Communications initiated a print newsletter titled Around the Neighborhood. This newspaper-like publication was largely directed towards parents but included some material for children as well. The information below documents the fourth issue.
Most of the scenes you see on your television screen in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood originate from Studio A in the WQED building in Pittsburgh. Here is a picture of the studio with Mister Rogers' living room set, surrounded by wiring, lights, cameras, and busy action. Mister Rogers is sitting in his living room set in the middle of the picture, talking to a crew member about plans for the day's taping session.
One neighbor we never see on the screen is Nick Tallo, Floor Manager for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Nick joined the staff as chief switch operator in charge of Trolley, Picture Picture and Traffic Light -- turning them on and off, changing slides, timing his movements with Fred Rogers' subtle signals. He spent those first months practicing the techniques of television production and getting to know the feelings, ideas, and beliefs of the people who create and produce Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
Today, as Floor Manager, Nick oversees all the activities in the studio as programs are being taped to ensure a smooth production. He wears a headset connected to the control room where the director sits watching monitors that show the action being captured by the cameras, just like you see on the television screen. If the director sees that a change should be made because the picture on the screen is not the way it should be, he relays the message to Nick through the headphones. Nick silently signals to the actors, seeing that Fred steps slightly to the left, or that a visitor faces toward the camera, for example. If Fred wants to communicate something while he is on camera, he uses one of the silent, unseen code signals he and Nick have worked out. A tap of the foot, for example, means a knock on the door, and Nick makes sure the sound comes when it should. Nick also silently shows Fred and other actors time cards, indicating how much time is left in each scene.
All the ingredients must run smoothly together so that each taping session goes as quickly and as successfully as it can. Nick often says, "We are a happy, very together bunch of people. We all work hard at our jobs. None of us could function without the help of the others."
Nick goes home in the evening to Foley, his wife of a year now, who shares with him a passion for roller skating, flea markets, and big band sounds. They plan to have children some day, and Nick knows that working for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood will help him to be a better father. "There is so much to learn about kids," Nick says, "Even to me, some of what Fred Rogers says doesn't make sense because I'm old, twenty-six, but I don't put it down because it's important to kids. Kids are people; they're not dumb. This job is one of the best things that could happen to me and my kids."
Not long after he joined Pittsburgh's WQED in 1953 as Program Coordinator, Fred Rogers met Josie Carey, a young woman who was then working on a word-game show. The two of them got together and shared ideas about children's television, and soon they came up with a program of their own: The Children's Corner.
When they started talking about what the program could be like, Fred and Josie found themselves coming up with a colorful collection of characters to join them. Josie wanted to see household objects come to life, so they created Lawrence Light, Lydia Lamp, Gramma Phone, and the Dendron family: Phil O. Dendron, Rhoda Dendron, and little Baby Dendron. Fred wanted a bookworm puppet, and so Bill Bookworm joined Pleuro C. Bugg, Foo Foo Chenille Fish, and McPheely Punk (a name that may strike a familiar note), along with some of the puppets we know from today's Neighborhood of Make-Believe: Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl, King Friday XIII, and Lady Elaine Fairchilde.
Today, Josie Carey has moved to a new television neighborhood where she plays with names and words as much as ever. Creator and star of "Wheee!," a program for 8 to 12 year olds originating in South Carolina, Josie spends some time each week investigating the history of special words or people's names.
In ways appropriate to his younger viewers, Fred Rogers, too, develops the word-sense of the children who watch his program. A poem like the one X the Owl recites on August 22 (program #328) subtly suggests to children that it isn't fancy words and complicated thoughts that make poetry ... it's saying what you're feeling, and sharing it with others.
Here are a few lines of X's poem:
When it's warm, there are hours to spend in the out of doors. You can look for natural ingredients to make a simple mobile. Elsie Neal has made one here, by tying two dried flowers together with good strong yarn. Mister Rogers has a dried seed pod he is using to make another mobile.
Those of you whose families have been long-time viewers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood may have noticed changes in format over the years. In the summer, when the reruns appear, you can see that the older programs have things happening in them that are no longer seen in the new shows.
For example, Trolley used to have conversations with Mister Rogers, dinging its bell and moving back and forth to express questions or answers. Picture-Picture used to talk independently, too, with sentences and questions that would appear on the screen as Mister Rogers stood beside it. These two practices were changed when Mister Rogers and his associates decided to make even firmer attempts than ever to keep "magic" out of the reality segments of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. After all, it's people, and logical mechanics, that made the machines "communicate" that way, and in his constant effort to be honest, Mr. Rogers decided to show the children how those machines worked. So now Mister Rogers makes sure that children see him flick the switch to bring Trolley in, showing that the little car is a mechanical toy controlled by human decisions. He also talks about Picture-Picture nowadays as a slide and movie projector and he shows the film he is inserting before the photos appear on the screen. Picture-Picture and Trolley are machines that work. There's no magic to them. Magic can happen in Make-Believe -- and only in Make-Believe.
Fred Rogers says he likes these changes. He likes to know that with added insight into children's growing that he as an adult can grow too -- growing involves changing!
Note: If you miss a program that you or your child is particularly interested in, check with your local station to see when it will be repeated. Give them the program number.
Week of September 3:
Mister Rogers and King Friday both buy television sets this week. Handyman Negri makes one from a kit Tuesday (#337), and Wednesday (#338) King Friday demands that all Neighbors of Make-Believe watch a certain program every day, for their own good. There is a demonstration against this ruling in the Neighborhood, and King Friday decides Friday (#340), that the others are right -- they should not be forced to watch anything on TV.
Week of September 10:
X becomes angry when Henrietta is rewarded for her baby-sitting work with a bell from King Friday Monday (#341), and the owl wants to believe that everyone else in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe is angry at Henrietta too (#342). The King realizes Thursday (#344) that all X really wants is a job of his own, so he commissions X to print royal calling cards. On Friday (#345) there are plumbing problems with the sink in Mister Rogers' house that only a plumber can solve.
Week of September 17:
Monday a magician appears in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe (#346), and Lady Aberlin tries to sell tickets to his show, since he needs to earn money to support his family. Thursday (#348) King Friday establishes KFQSSRFFTPA (a special foundation for the performing arts). Lady Elaine suspects that though the king is calling for donations, he won't give anything himself. On Friday, however, he does give the Magician a bright new cape (#350).
Week of September 24:
Monday is Mrs. McFeely's birthday (#351). In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe Lady Elaine paints a rock gold to try to attract attention. She learns that dishonest attempts like that just get her into trouble. Tuesday (#352) Lady Elaine gains attention in a better way, by turning her Museum-Go-Round into a merry-go-round.
1. In order for the picture of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to get to you on your television screen, big cameras like these have to take that picture first.
2. Large, bright lights hang all over the ceiling of the studio to be sure that the picture is bright enough for you to see at home.
3. Here you see a camera man standing behind a camera as he looks at Mister Rogers putting on his sneakers. See the little picture of Mister Rogers in the view finder of the camera? That is what the cameraman looks at, and it is just what you will see on your TV screen at home.
4. Once Mister Rogers held a music box in his hands and wanted you to be able to take a very close look at it. The camera had to get very close, too, in order to take as good a picture of the music box as it could.
5. In this picture you can look right into the camera as it points at the music box on Mister Rogers' lap.
Around the Neighborhood and the materials that accompany it are published ten times a year by Family Communications Inc., a not-for-profit Pennsylvania corporation.
Around the Neighborhood is created for FCI by Media Projects Incorporated of New York.
Executive Editor: Sara Stein
© 1973, Family Communications Inc.
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Corner image by Spencer Fruhling. Used with permission.
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