I grew up in the era of Romper Room, Captain Kangaroo, Sheriff John, Hobo Kelly and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I remember watching those shows in the early morning and at lunch time - Sheriff John's red light/green light game caused milk to spurt out my brother's nose on more than one occasion, which I still think is hilarious. The games and the activities we performed with the little kids who got to be on the shows were all exercises in learning disguised as a good time. I remember wanting so badly for Hobo Kelly to have left presents under my bed, and for Sheriff John to sing "Put Another Candle on Your Birthday Cake," especially for me.
I loved Mr. Rogers most of all because he was the kindest man I knew. He was really interested in what I thought and because of that many of the neighbors who actually lived near me would find themselves visiting with my 8 year old self.
As I've mentioned before, the neighborhood I grew up in was one of those subdivisions built in the early 60s, very much like the one on "The Wonder Years". All of the moms would send their kids out to play because other than the Helms Bread man who got busted for selling marijuana out of his Woody station wagon/bakery truck, our streets were crime free.
This was great except that I didn't always want to play outside with the kids. Sometimes I wanted to have grown up conversations about my life and the things I thought were important, like what book I was reading or the Vietnam war (my parents were progressive and anti so those discussions were happening all around me). So while the other kids were playing Capture the Flag and Colored Eggs I would go visiting, hanging out in kitchens with my friend's moms, drinking iced tea and talking to them while they cleaned, or sometimes, if I was lucky we would play cards.
I fully expected that they would welcome my company and enjoy our conversations and I'm sure some of them did. Looking back I do believe that my mornings with Mr. Rogers definitely influenced my feeling that I was important and what I had to say was valuable. (It was also because my parents were always interested in talking to me, but they had to be, I was their kid and I liked to chat.)
Mr. Rogers was an all around cool guy and a hero to all the kids who got to grow up with him. Check out this video of him testifying before the U.S. Senate. It's inspiring!
I still love you Mr. Rogers, thanks for caring!