Mr. Rogers (and his neighborhood) were a beloved part of my childhood. My odd little perfectionist brain especially loved the beginning of his show, when he took off his suit jacket and dress shoes before slowly and carefully putting on his cardigan and sneakers instead. As an adult, I’ve gathered a bit more information about this wonderful man. I’m so grateful that he was just as sweet and kind in real life as the character he played on TV (unlike some other characters–I’m looking at you, Bill Cosby). Anyway, here are a few fun facts about the sweater man himself.
1. His sweaters were hand-knit by his mother, Nancy.
I’m assuming Nancy Rogers was just as kind-hearted as her sweet son, because each and every single one of those cardigans were handmade by her capable hands. I mean…that’s a lot of sweaters. Even if you have nothing else going on in your life, that’s a lot of sweaters to make.
2. He was a minister.
Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, to be more precise. However, he decided to pursue his television career rather than serve as a minister in a church.
3. He was really smart.
I mean, his genius isn’t exactly a documented fact, but he did attend Dartmouth. As of this post, Dartmouth is ranked #12 in the country, so I feel like he was pretty smart. He was probably just to humble to gloat about it on his TV show. Plus, I’m not really sure how they’d work that in. As a child, I just had a feeling that he was smart, ya know?
4. He didn’t smoke or drink.
This isn’t really all that shocking to me. Maybe it’s because I’m married to a man who neither smokes nor drinks, but I know some people feel like life isn’t worth living without either one. But, not only did Fred Rogers not imbibe or puff, he actually seemed pretty happy about it. Who knew?
5. He was color blind.
Mr. Rogers couldn’t tell a difference between red and green, but that didn’t stop him from dressing incredibly snazzy all day long.
6. He appeared before Congress.
When PBS needed funding, they knew who to ask for help. Congress had proposed some cuts for public television, but Fred Rogers convinced them to not just keep the current budget, but to actually increase it–from $9 million to $22 million! If you’re wondering how impressive his speech could’ve been, watch it for yourself.
7. He was a vegetarian.
I am personally not a vegetarian, but his reasoning did get me thinking… He once stated simply that he won’t eat anything that has a mother. How can you argue with that?
8. He refused to have a desk in his office.
His office was considered cozy and comfortable. It was set up more like a den than an office. It had no computer, no desk, and few typical office furnishings. Instead, it featured a sofa, armchair, rugs, and a comforter. So, it was very similar to the office setup I have at home. (To be fair, I have a desk. I just never use it.)
9. He had a sense of humor.
Do you remember the hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch about Mister Rogers? It was called Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood. I was occasionally allowed to watch SNL as a child (with much editing by my parents), and I thought this sketch was awesome. Apparently, Mister Rogers did, too. I feel a little guilty, though, because he assumed children weren’t watching it. Oops.
10. He wore sneakers because they were quiet.
Apparently, the sneakers thing was realistic, too. Early in his career, Mr. Rogers decided that his regular work shoes were too loud, so he traded them out for sneakers. The rest is history.