Fred Rogers was a big part of my childhood. I watched his show nearly every day when I came home from school at Kirksville Elementary in Madison County. His shows were always informative and very educational and entertaining.
I always remember the show on PBS as a friendly place I could escape to even when the Trolley led its way to the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe” featuring puppet characters such as King Friday, Daniel Striped Tiger and Ana Platypus.Lady Elaine Fairchilde, X the Owl, not to mention Lady Aberlin and Mr. McFeely and his speedy deliveries.
Prior to family Thanksgiving festivities last week, we celebrated my wife’s birthday with a dinner and movie night. We dined at one of our favorite places and followed that up by taking in “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” I admit I didn’t know what to expect considering it had been decades since I even visited the World of Make Believe, but I knew a movie featuring Tom Hanks was worth every penny, nickel and dime.
The movie centered on Rogers, but the storyline displayed the type of man Fred Rogers was on and off the television screen. Rogers was human just like the rest of us, but the way he dealt with emotions, especially anger, was truly remarkable and it is no surprise his show was such a smashing success.
The movie centers around the friendship between Rogers and journalist “Lloyd Vogel,” who is assigned to do a profile story on Rogers. Vogel is portrayed by actor Matthew Rhys. Following an interview session between the pair, Rogers can’t help but become concerned about the interviewer, who endured a rough relationship with his father. Rogers helps Vogel overcome his shortcomings and ultimately was a central figure in helping Vogel overcome his personal hardships.
The character also learned about Rogers and turned a short profile story into an award-winning front cover story for Esquire magazine. The piece was titled “Can You Say, Hero.”
The journalist and his father reconciled their differences before he passed away and the concern Rogers showed Vogel’s father demonstrated the true person Rogers was in real life.
Rogers’ legacy is a reminder that despite all our differences, we all can be friendly neighbors and care for each other, especially with the Christmas season just around the corner.
It’s a such a good feeling and I urge each of you to be a better neighbor.
KEITH TAYLOR is sports editor of Kentucky Today.