THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT MISTER ROGERS

Benjamin Wagner and Fred Rogers really were neighbors. Here are some things Benjamin learned about the TV icon while creating the 2012 documentary 'Mister Rogers & Me.'
  1. Little Freddy Rogers was a lonely, chubby, and shy child who was sometimes homebound because of childhood asthma common to industrialized towns like Latrobe.
  2. According to The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers author Amy Hollingsworth, little Freddy was bullied walking home from school. “We’re going to get you Fat Freddy,” the other boys taunted.
  3. "I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” he said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” As he grew up, he decided to always look past the surface of people to the “essential invisible” within them.
  4. A framed quotation from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince hung in Mister Rogers' WQED office his entire career. It read, “L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." (“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”)
  5. He weighed 143 pounds most his adult life, and relished the weight for its numerical equivalent I (1) Love (4) You (3).
  6. Mister Rogers attended Dartmouth for one year, then transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he met his future wife Sarah Joanne Bird, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Music Composition.
  7. He landed his first television job on NBC’s Kate Smith Hour in 1951. He worked on numerous shows there, including NBC Opera Hour and Your Lucky Strike Hit Parade.
  8. The hour-long program that would become Mister Rogers' Neighborhood began as a 15-minute Canadian Broadcast series called, simply, Misterogers.
  9. "I got into television because I saw people throwing pies in each other's faces," he said. "And that's such demeaning behavior. And if there's anything that bothers me, it's one person demeaning another."
  10. Actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.
  11. In a now-famous clip from 1969, Rogers appeared before Senate Subcommittee on Communications chair John Pastore to advocate for increased support of public broadcasting in the face of then-President Nixon's 50 percent reduction.
  12. After six minutes of thoughtful testimony advocating for the value of commercial-free television for children, the typically gruff senator replied, "I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you earned the $20 million."
  13. His mother made his trademark cardigans. “She knitted a sweater a month for as many years as I knew her. And every Christmas she would give this extended family of ours a sweater. She would say, 'What kind do you all want next year? I know what kind you want, Freddy. You want the one with the zipper up the front.'”
  14. He donated one of his sweaters to the Smithsonian Institution in 1984. The museum calls it a "Treasure of American History."
  15. His 1979 testimony in the case Sony v. Universal Studios—in stark contrast to the views of television executives who objected to home recording—was cited by the Supreme Court in its decision that held that the Betamax video recorder did not infringe copyright.
  16. NPR Correspondent Susan Stamberg often called on Mister Rogers to explain “hideous and horrible” tragedies like the 1986 explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
  17. His death from stomach cancer was sudden, and unexpected. He was diagnosed in December 2002, underwent surgery in January 2003, and passed away on the morning of February 27 at his home with Joanne by his side.
  18. But Mister Rogers prepared children for his death. The day he died, his website posted a link to help children understand. ''Remember," it read, "that feelings are natural and normal, and that happy times and sad times are part of everyone's life."
  19. The Fred Rogers Statue created by Robert Berks (whose bust of JFK Mister Rogers admired) opened to the public on Pittsburgh's North Shore in November 2009.
  20. Two years later, artist Alicia Kachmar crocheted the statue a giant red cardigan.
  21. You can learn more about 'Mister Rogers & Me' at PBS.orghttp://m.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=12571767