I’ve just returned from a movie date with my wife, and had to relate the tale of the day I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Rogers. The film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood stars Tom Hanks as beloved television host Fred Rogers and details a fictionalized version of how he influenced the life of a journalist assigned to write about him.
Around 1975, I lived in Nolanville, TX, which was nearby to Ft. Hood – where my father was stationed in the army at the time. I was about six years old and in the first grade. One spring day, my mother brought me a mimeographed copy of a coloring book page of Daniel Tiger from Mr. Rogers’ show.
It was a coloring contest promotion from KLRU – the Public Broadcasting Station from nearby in Austin, TX. The winners would get a tour of the station and receive a free vinyl record of Mr. Rogers songs for their entry..! Along with the coloring sheet, Mom also presented me with a new box of Crayola crayons. The 65-count box with the built-in sharpener..!
After coloring on Daniel and his clock, Mom mailed off my entry – and I quickly forgot about it. Well, until later that summer when Mom announced that I had been selected as one of 10 winners..! I’ll never know if Mom knew that Mr. Rogers himself would be presenting me with a copy of his record, but if she did, it was kept a secret right up until the point when I shook his hand in the studio.
Before the award ceremony segment was filmed for the local station, we each got to meet with him individually for a few minutes. I told him that my father was away for awhile doing Army training in Virginia. He asked me if it was scary thinking about him being so far away. He said it was OK to feel scared sometimes, but that he was sure my father would return home safely very soon. And Mr. Rogers was right!
The movie touched my heart several times because it showed how Mr. Rogers was the same on television as he was in real life. The world lost a good man when he died in 2003, but he left a lasting impression on me….