Family, Friends, and Neighbors

From a Time article in 2003, Jessica Reaves reminisces about what it was like to really be Mister Rogers' neighbor:

I lived in Mister Rogers' neighborhood.

No, I mean I really did. When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, the Rogers family lived just around the corner, in a big brick house with a sloping lawn.

When I was a student at CMU back in the late 80's, the story was that you could see Mister Rogers over in Schenly Park occasionally. Apparently, he lived close by the CMU campus, and would either go for walks or go jogging in the park. I never ran into him, but knew several people who mentioned having seen him. Always with an excited, "Guess who I saw?" sort of catch to their voice.

From everything I have heard about Fred Rogers, he was one of the all-around nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. Even more than that, he was the canonical example of what we native Pittsburghers really consider a celebrity. Oh, we have our typical collection of football stars, hockey players and the like. Ask people about who the real Pittsburgh celebs are, though, and natives will mention people like jazz guitarist Joe Negri, county coroner Cyril Wecht, horror show host Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille, weatherman Joe DiNardo ("Joe said it would!"), the Shop and Save Lady, news anchor Edie Tarbox... the lsit goes on and on.

Of course, we can't forget former mayor Sophie Masloff, who's main claim to fame, these days, is that she's a DNC superdelegate. I was just discussing Sophie yesterday with a coworker, and we both had the same attitude: love her or hate her, she's ours. There's a sort of fierce pride in our "little Jewish grandmother". While she was at home, we may have squabbled a bit, but hey - that happens in families. When you folks who don't know dahntahn from the sou'side start giving her a hard time, though, yinz guys had better realize that in Pittsburgh, things like "family" and "neighbor" still mean something special to us.

That's something I think Fred Rogers understood, and communicated. In a lot of ways, he was the embodiment of what many Pittsburghers wanted to be: just a plain nice guys, through and through; a guy who could look around himself, and whoever he saw, say "Hey - he's my neighbor."


Chris Keslar said...

I am not sure if you were at work that day, but Mr Rogers did stop by the WiseWire Offices. I was in the machine run when I think Mr. Hart gave him the tour.

Samrobb said...

Wow. So, apparently, I'm in some kind of freaky orbit around Fred Rogers. I wonder how many other times in my life I've been around him without actually meeting him.