Here is a little background information on Fred Rogers, because it is most interesting. He was born and grew up in Latrobe, Pa., but the media market where he became famous was nearby Pittsburg. As a side note, there is another famous American who was also born and reared in Latrobe. Do you know who it was? If you said golfing legend Arnold Palmer, you would be right.
But, back to Fred Rogers and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the legacy he has left us. I guess, quite naturally, because of his target audience, and PBS is not one of our most watched networks, his popularity has waned. As Tom Dvorak, director of broadcasting for WMVS-TV, a public television station in Milwaukee has said, “Kids today just don’t know him.” However, he will never be forgotten in the Pittsburg area. In October 2010, a 10-foot $3 million statue of Mr. Rogers tying his sneakers was unveiled along the city’s riverfront with great fanfare.
The reason I am sharing this information with you is because I got an e-mail sometime back about Fred Rogers that contained some very untrue things about him. The e-mail stated that he was a U.S. Navy Seal, combat-proven veteran of the Vietnam War and had 25 confirmed kills to his name. He was a master in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, able to disarm or kill in a heartbeat.
The myth continues that after the war Mr. Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister, and therefore a pacifist. Vowing to never harm another human being he also dedicated the rest of his life to trying to help lead children on the right path in life. This e-mail also stated the reason he always wore a cardigan sweater was to cover up the many tattoos on his forearms and biceps from his past life. He did not wish to set a poor example for the millions of children who watched his program for more than three decades.
It’s right here that I would like to set the record straight. After the original column ran in our local paper, which included the myth, I got an e-mail from a lady associated with PBS and she told me that Fred Rogers was never in the military service and did not have tattoos on any part of his body. My question was, “Why would anyone distort the legacy, of a fine human being, by making up things that are just not true.” Well, there you have it. In memory of Fred Rogers, I have done my best to set the record straight.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit www.bookcaseforeverychild.com. You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)