Most of Monday’s Fresh Air program at National Public Radio was about how It’s a beautiful 50th birthday for ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.’ That got me thinking about my joyful memories of Fred Rogers, from early childhood in Pittsburgh.
The Neighborhood actually was his third TV show. It was proceeded by Misterogers, a 15-minute program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from 1963 to 1966. His first show was only in Pittsburgh on WQED beginning in 1954. It was called The Children’s Corner, and ran for an hour on weekdays. There is a summary for one episode. Fred produced, wrote and played the music, but the visible hostess on live TV was Josie Carey (who wrote lyrics).
Fred also operated his puppets, who engaged in impromptu conversations with Josie when the educational films they were showing broke. For example, there is a minute of YouTube video about building a house.
Daniel Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, Xscape the Owl, etc. all first appeared on the Children’s Corner. King Friday had a royally pompous version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat:
“Propel, propel, propel your craft
gently down liquid solution
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is but an illusion”
There was a 1954 book about the series called Our Small World. I vaguely remember that the Daniel Striped Tiger’s chapter contained several recipes, which all began something like:
“Take four pounds of medium-grind hamburger.”
Not much video of the show is easily accessible, but there are some audio recordings on YouTube, like from the 1958 LP Around the Children’s Corner.