Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Celebrating Mister Rogers

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” with Fred Rogers, debuted in February 1968. Credit…Family Communications, via Reuters

When I was a little kid, I loved watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I loved the puppets and used to think about how fun it would be to ride on the trolley. The visits Mr. Rogers took to see different things around town were also exciting.

Like most kids, I lost interest in the shenanigans of Lady Elaine and King Friday some time after I started elementary school. After I reached about third grade, I never thought I’d watch the show again – until 2020. After several months of not going anywhere, my family and I had pretty much watched every current show on Netflix and Hulu. We started browsing the PBS Kids app and my husband saw Mister Rogers’ on the list of shows. The nostalgia got to him and he turned it on. We watched with our then 18 month old daughter and were hooked. We quickly moved through all of the episodes and moved to Amazon Prime.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was on the air from 1968 – 2001, so there are a lot of episodes to go through. The basic-hand puppets and simple design of their home, the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, combine with the sweet nature of Mister Rogers to create a really fun show. In the real world and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, we see examples of how to be kind to our neighbors and friends.

March 20 is Fred Rogers’ birthday. It’s also Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day, which celebrates the legacy of Fred Rogers. Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day encourages people to celebrate Fred Rogers’ birthday by showing kindness to others in your neighborhood. It’s a great way to remember Fred Rogers’ message of spreading love and kindness to others. 

If you need ideas on how to be a good neighbor, start by watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. You can’t go wrong getting your ideas straight from the source! Here are my five favorite episodes of the show, and some ideas from each on how to be a good neighbor.

1. Season 1, Episode 1 –  The First Program

I love watching the first episode of any show. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood debut episode opens with Mister Rogers swinging on his porch and then entering his house in the real world to start the show. In this episode, we meet many of the main characters of the show – Mister Rogers himself, Mister McFeely, King Friday XIII, Lady Elaine Fairchild, Handyman Negri, Trolley, Daniel Tiger, X the Owl, and Henrietta Pussycat. We also get a first glimpse of the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Even in black and white, you can tell a lot of creativity went into the show. The storyline for the Neighborhood of Make Believe focuses on Lady Elaine moving things around and causing a lot of chaos in the neighborhood.

What we learn from this episode on how to be a good neighbor: 

  • Introduce yourself to a new person in your neighborhood, school, church, work, or social gathering.
  • Help a friend with a home project.

2.  Season 1, Episode 9 – Jealousy

By episode six, Mister Rogers’ house in the real world and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe are in color. Grandpere (also in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) has had his granddaughter Collette visiting him in his very own Eifel Tower. Chef Brockett bakes Collette a cake and brings it to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe on the day she is supposed to receive the key to the city. Henrietta Pussycat has been dealing with feelings of jealousy towards Collette over the past few episodes, and when no one is looking she hurls the cake off of the Eifel Tower and instantly regrets her decision. Sadly, this is not the last time Henrietta deals with jealousy. In the real world, Mister Rogers visits Chef Brockett’s bakery and learns about cake decorating.

What we learn from this episode on how to be a good neighbor:

  • Bake a friend a cake, or buy someone a slice from your favorite local bakery.

3. Season 2, Episode 8 – Competition

In the real world, Chef Brockett comes to talk to Mr. Rogers about the disappointment he felt when he recently failed to place in a cake competition at a local mall. We get a glimpse of Chef Brockett at the competition enthusiastically checking out all of the other cakes. He’s a good sport at the end even though he really, really wanted to win. In Make-Believe, King Friday XIII is holding an art contest. Big Bird, who happens to be a friend of X the Owl,  comes all the way from Sesame Street to enter the contest!

What we learn from this episode on how to be a good neighbor:

  • Be happy for whoever wins, even when it’s not you or your team.
  • Paint a picture for a friend.

4. Special Episode #1300 – Potato Bugs and Cows 

Potato Bugs and Cows is one of several opera episodes of the show. This opera features Priscilla Cow, played by Lady Aberlin, who doesn’t want to be a cow anymore. She meets some potato bugs, played by Chef Brockett and Miss Paulificate, on the farm and tries to be like them, because no one has ever heard of a “groovy cow.” The other residents of the farm call the king, who introduces Priscilla to Joe Bull. Joe Bull teaches Priscilla cows can be “groovy” and all is well again.

What we learn from this episode on how to be a good neighbor:

  • Make sure to pay someone a compliment. You never know who needs to hear that they’re good enough just the way they are. 

5. Season 1, Episode 15 – Windstorm in Bubbleland 

This is my all-time favorite episode. Windstorm in Bubbleland is another opera. It is written by the characters of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe in the few episodes leading up to the opera. The opera begins in the news station of Bubbleland, where there is never ever any trouble. The news show is sponsored by Sweaters in a Can. Hildegard Hummingbird, played by Lady Elaine, warns the residents of Bubbleland that there is going to be a windstorm, while Lady Aberlin’s character exposes Sweaters in a Can as a hoax. Hildegard flies away when no one listens to her. When the other characters realize she was right, they convince her to save them from the founder of Sweaters in a Can, who just so happens to be the personification of wind. 

What we learn from this episode on how to be a good neighbor:

  • Do a closet clean out and donate your old sweaters to your favorite charity, or post them on Buy Nothing.

Even though Mister Rogers has passed on, his show (and its spin-offs) live on to teach our children to use their imaginations and be kind to their neighbors. Take some time to watch a few episodes with your children, and always seek out ways to be a good neighbor.

How will you celebrate Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day?

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Allison Linden
Allison Linden is an Alabama native who moved to the Midlands in 2011 with her now husband, Darin. Allison and Darin currently live in Red Bank with their children - Vivian and Henry. Allison has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and obtained her MBA in May 2019, while almost 8 months pregnant with Vivian. She has worked for a retail energy company since 2013 and began working from home during the pandemic. Her husband became a house spouse after the birth of Vivian to allow Allison to pursue her career goals. Balancing working at home with a baby and a preschooler has been a challenge, but she has thoroughly enjoyed watching her children grow up. Allison enjoys taking her children to Edventure, Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens (the garden is way cooler than people give it credit for), local parks, the library, gymnastics, and dance class. When she is not working or momming, Allison enjoys exercising, binging true crime shows on Max, and occasionally having dinner and drinks with friends. Likes: Vacations, concerts, stand-up comedy, nice restaurants, bacon, juicy gossip. Hates: Yard work, driving, pants without an elastic waistband (hard pants), running.


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