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Hour Magazine

Date: March 3, 1986


GARY COLLINS: Let's talk about my man of the hour today. Boy, what a thrill. He was here once before, gosh, about four years ago and we had a great time. For you at home, he's the surrogate dad to millions of children across America. Wherever he goes, youngster as well as their parents greet him with enthusiasm, and with good reason. He's the host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and he's always welcome in our neighborhood. Please welcome our man of the house, Fred Rogers.

FRED ROGERS: [Motioning towards the audience] You have a lot of nice neighbors here.

GC: Oh, we always do have nice neighbors. Well, you don't care whether they're grown or they're youngsters. They're nice neighbors, aren't they?

FR: Well, I enjoy to talk with people of any age.

GC: I have a correction. Fred's been here twice before. One time we shared sneakers and I tried to fit that song. Do you remember that?

FR: I'll never forget it.

GC: It's the one...and I tried to do the sweater and the shoes. I don't know how long it took you to get to that but...

FR: You said it was hard.

GC: Of course I did. But I don't do it every day. You feeling well?

FR: I'm just fine, thanks. I've had a busy day already.

GC: I know you did. Tell us a little bit about your busy day. You were just honored by the American Critics Association. These are critics from all over the country and as critics want to do, they raised a couple of interesting questions.

FR: They certainly did. We had a whole hour together and they asked me all kinds of things about children and about television. While I don't watch a lot of television, it certainly is an enormous force in people's lives. You must know how very personal it is.

GC: I do but I don't deal on the same level that you do. I don't...I'm certainly not in that persuasive an area as you are working with young fertile minds. And one of the questions I was kind of interested in, because I got a little advance copy from the meeting today, was "What happens when Mister Rogers goes? What happens to all those kids out there? How do we explain that to them? Is that gonna be difficult?"

FR: You know, we did one program about death -- about the death of one of my goldfish. And I talked about my dogs dying when I was a little boy and how my grandmother comforted me and how I cried. And what I like children to know is there will always be somebody there to take care of them. And I think that's the most important message of all because, afterall, what are we scared of as far as death's concerned? We're there that there won't be anybody there to feed us or to take care of us.

GC: We're scared of that as adults.

FR: Of course.

GC: Something else you're very interested in is day care. You've written a wonderful book for parents with the aid of pictures to explain to their children about day care because we're moving into this two-partner working family these days.

FR: It's a strain for everybody in the family when both of the parents have to work. And yet we have this series called First Experiences with Putnam and one of the books is about day care. Another is When a New Baby Comes. One of the new ones is Going to the Doctor. And another one that's just coming out is called Going to the Potty. I don't know that there is any book that you can get that actually talks about toilet training with children but it's a very serious matter in a three-year-old's life or a two-year-old's life.

GC: I did want to talk with you about an area that I don't think we've discussed before and that's your family. You've got a couple of grown sons. One of them is married.

FR: One of them was married this summer.

GC: Yeah. Are you going to be a grandfather?

FR: Someday I hope.

GC: [Photo appears on screen] Woo hoo! Here's a picture. Here's Fred Rogers and his family. Why don't you introduce us to your family.

FR: There's John Rogers on the left. He was the best man. He's our younger son. And there's Tori and Jim -- the bride and groom. And Joanne is my wife. And I. My wife is a concert pianist. She and her friend Jeannine Morrison do two piano concerts all over the country. They're just about to go and do a tour in the south.

GC: Was this something she acquired during the marriage or was she an awfully good piano player before you got married?

FR: Very good. We met, as a matter of fact, in the conservatory. I was a composition major -- you know, I write all the music for the Neighborhood.

GC: I knew you wrote music but I didn't know you wrote all the music.

FR: Yeah. And Joanne was a piano major at school and I was a composition major. And this team developed way late in life -- she and Jeannine have this wonderful two-piano team.

GC: What'd she do when the kids were being raised?

FR: She took off eleven years from her career. It's very hard to get back but she said she's amazed at how quickly she got back.

GC: Would you have objected to child care when your youngsters were growing up? If both you and your wife had to work in those days.

FR: I think I would have had to talk to Joanne pretty seriously about it. It would have had to have been a mutual decision. I think you can object you really need to work those things out together. She decided that she didn't have to continue to concertize and I said, "Fine." She wanted those early years with just the kids.

GC: I know you've been doing work in television for roughly thirty years. How long with Mister Rogers now?

FR: On the network it's been about eighteen.

GC: Eighteen. Does that affect you as a father with your kids growing up? I mean, do you try to be something beyond just the normal father? Any pressure of being a father to kids growing up with this image?

FR: I think you really have to be yourself. The best thing you can do for anybody -- and I'm sure you've learned that -- is to offer just one more honest adult in their lives.

GC: See, that's a wonderful thing to say. One more honest adult in their lives. That's truly all we have, isn't it? Relationship not only with their little friends but with adults.

FR: But you do that through your work and the millions of friends that you have through your television. You offer yourself and that's why you're here so long. And that's why I'm here so long.

GC: What about a message? Thank you by the way. What about a message to your youngsters growing up?

FR: Oh, I hope that they can feel good about who they are. You know, there's only one person in the whole world like them. And there's never been anybody before and there never will be anybody after.

GC: I feel like I'm shrinking. My shoe size is getting smaller and I'm sitting in front of the television. I hope you take that as a compliment.

FR: I do.

GC: What do you tell people -- parents -- who have to send their youngsters off to child care? What's the best advice you can give them -- aside from taking a look at the series by Putnam?

FR: I hope that they can know that they can be fine parents with the time that they do have with their children. And that they continue to grow themselves. Because that's truly the most important thing about parenthood is the ability to be able to grow through all of those early stages of childhood that you went through. You have a second chance to grow through them again with your children.

GC: What about this quality versus quantity? Should we look at these short periods of time we have with children and try to pump them up artificially or are we doing more harm than good?

FR: The quantity is important. I mean, we can talk about quality all we want but ten minutes a year with somebody really isn't enough to have a wonderful relationship with that person. So I hope that we'll have more than ten minutes year.

GC: We've got more than ten minutes. We've got about fifty more minutes and, amongst other things, in your honor sir, we have -- I don't know if it's been done before but it certainly is the first time on our show -- a tennis fashion show. Or a tennis shoe fashion show, I should say.

FR: We're going to have sneakers.

GC: We're going to have sneakers. Yes indeedy. We'll go through the whole gambit. Okay. And I'll be right back with more of Hour Magazine along with my co-host, Fred Rogers.

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