Thursday, August 9, 2018

One Dollar and Fourteen Cents Well Spent

These are my new friends, Eleanor and Ben.

Eleanor and Ben contacted me a few weeks ago after reading the article about my Mister Rogers collection that ran in the newspaper back in February. Over the phone, Eleanor mentioned that they had something to contribute to my personal "archive."

Today, just before I picked up my son from his martial arts camp (or "ninja camp," depending on who you're talking to), I met up with my new friends in a nearby Walgreen's parking lot. After introducing ourselves, Eleanor presented me with a homemade envelope which had been carefully sealed by weaving ribbon through holes punched along the edges.

Inside were the piece of a well-loved Playtime Puppet Theater! These stick puppets had belonged to their children who, according to Eleanor and Ben, put on countless puppet shows for them several decades ago. The fun that was had with these puppets was evident in every crease, every worn edge, and every repair made with tape.


As I collect Neighborhood memorabilia, I try my best to find items that are in the best condition possible. This collection, however, is a very welcomed exception to the rule. It gives me such a good feeling to hold these puppets that were once used by children playing the parts of characters from King Friday to Edgar Cooke.

Adding to the charm, the original price tag remains on the front.

$1.14 at K-Mart.

Many thanks to Eleanor and Ben for going out of their way to share their story with me!


Friday, May 11, 2018

Podcast 32: 50th Anniversary Round Table

Time for a new podcast, neighbors!

Listen in to Episode 32 as Tim is joined by four guests who discuss the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and some of their favorite Neighborhood moments!

Guests include:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Make Your Own Sweater Color Print

A few weeks ago, I special-ordered a canvas print of the eye-catching artwork created by Owen Phillips for an article about the many different sweaters that Mister Rogers wore throughout the modern run of the Neighborhood.

Since then, I've received several inquiries as to how others might order a similar print of their own. After contacting the artist, here's how:

1. Make at least a one-time donation of minimum of $5 to the PBS member station of your choice. This can easily be done online HERE.

2. Send the receipt from your donation to Owen at It should look something like this.

3. Owen will send you a hi-res image.

4. Upload the image to the photo printing site of your choice to create your own print. I used Sam's Club for the canvas I had made.

Easy as that, Neighbors!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Going Away & Coming Back

It seems that I was gone during what turned out to be one of the busiest weeks in the Neighorhood so far in 2018!

In case you missed anything, here's a run-down of the major events over the last week:

Fred Rogers' 90th Birthday

Tuesday we celebrated the 90th birthday of Fred Rogers. People across the nation wore sweaters and encouraged/performed acts of neighborly kindness -- something we should all remember to do every day.

Well, maybe not the sweaters.

Twitch Marathon

Tuesday also marked the (unexpected) beginning of another Twitch marathon! Starting with a series of favorite episodes, the marathon has currently reached the point of moving through all Neighborhood episodes in sequential order. Check it out on Twitch!

USPS Stamp Release

The long-awaited Mister Rogers postal stamp was release on Friday with a celebratory ceremony held at the WQED building in Pittsburgh.

This official event was shared live on Facebook, if you missed it.

. . .

As for me, it's been a wonderful week away with my family! I unplugged as much as possible (something I'd encourage all of you to try from time to time) and enjoyed several days in the Orlando area at Walt Disney World with the rest of the week spent on the beach further south in Bradenton.

We're (finally) home now -- safe and sound back to the Midwest where we were greeted with six inches of snow! Thanks to all of you faithful Neighborhood Archive readers for allowing me to step away for a few days!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Spring Break

In an interview with Fred Rogers, he once made the following comment about television:
"We don't have to have this sound and picture 24 hours a day. Turn off the Neighborhood. Turn off whatever's there. And play."
My wife and I are both school employees and our kids, of course, go to school. Spring break has arrived and, extending Fred's thoughts to other time consuming forms of media, I'll be unplugging for a week to enjoy the break with my family.

See you in a week, neighbors!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bob Brubach: The First Black & White Panda

After my recent converastion with Randy and Bill on Pittsburgh's 102.5 WDVE Morning Show, I received an email with the title "Info on Black & White Panda."

Interesting. What an obscure character.

Opening the email, I saw the thumbnails for the attached images and immediately knew that I was in for a treat!

The message was from Bill Brubach, the brother of Bob Brubach who appeared twice in the credits for Neighborhood episodes -- specifically episodes featuring the circus -- but I'd not yet been able to place what part he had played. Bill's email clued me in with the following details:
[Bob] was a young dancer and performer that Don Brockett and Joe Negri "discovered" in high school performances at Pittsburgh's South Hills Catholic High School (now Seton-LaSalle HS). While in high school he starred in several shows alongside Lisa Negri, Joe's daughter.
Bob was a performer in some of Don Brockett's summer stock productions at that time -- and I guess Mr. Rogers told Don that he was looking for a "dancing Panda" to accompany Purple Panda on several episodes. Don brought in my brother Bob, and he was immediately cast in the role. (We always called his role "the Dancing Panda," but I understand the show referred to his character as "Black and White Panda" on several occasions.) 
I was a few years younger than Bobby, but I remember his stories about how hot the Panda costume was, and that he was doing silly dance moves under hot lights over and over again -- but how much fun he was having doing it. 
Anyway, Bobby went on to perform in several Broadway plays, including "The Magic Show" with Doug Henning, and later as an original cast member in the Tony Award-Winning "La Cage aux Folles." His bio in the Magic Show Playbill even listed his appearance on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood among his theatrical credits!
Unfortunately, Bobby passed away on Christmas Day in 1988 at the age of 33. Even though he was so young when he died, he had lived a full and fulfilling life, touring the world as a dancer, singer and performer. He was a proud Pittsburgher and fan of Fred Rogers -- and a memorable alumnus of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
My thanks to Bill.

In memory of his brother Bob.

Black & White Panda.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

50 Years: Celebrate You

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood debuted nationally on February 19, 1968 -- approximately eight and a half years before I was born. I had graduated from college and completed a master's degree by the time the final Neighborhood visit initially aired in 2001.

That's a long time.

As we celebrate this 50th anniversary of the Neighborhood we've all come to love and appreciate so much, I ask you one question: "Why?"

Why was Mister Rogers' Neighborhood so important?

I'm not talking about nostalgia. I'm not talking about groundbreaking children's television.

I'm talking about you.

Why are you celebrating the Neighborhood? What's your story?

Really. Look past the puppets and the cardigan. Past Mr. McFeely and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. What is it about Mister Rogers' Neighborhood that has struck such a worldwide chord that we're celebrating the anniversary of a program that many have labeled for years as dated, soft, and boring?

Mister Rogers presented his television neighbors with the same message during each and every Neighborhood visit: "You make each day a special day by just your being you." Despite the blemish on your cheek. Despite a few extra pounds. Despite your glasses or your nervous feeling around others. Despite your crooked teeth or your smelly feet or your single-parent household or your lack of financial stability or your self-doubt...

You are special.


This is what we all long to hear regardless of our age, gender, ethnicity, background, or nationality. If you say you don't need to hear someone you love tell you that you are special -- that you are important -- consider me first in line to say you're fooling yourself.

Everyone longs to feel valuable. Everyone longs to feel loved.

Mister Rogers' message of peace, love, acceptance, and self-worth is one that is foreign to most -- an awkward topic that is not easily discussed. Society has conditioned us toward dissatisfaction with ourselves and a constant desire to fit the mold of expectation set before us.

We should act a certain way.

Dress a certain way.

Look a certain way.

Feel a certain way.

The pastor of my church recently delivered a message including a question that hit home as I think about the value Fred Rogers placed on self-worth: "When you look in the mirror, do you see the stuff you want to change, or do you see the beauty there to be celebrated?"

As we celebrate fifty years of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, I hope you are looking in the mirror, remembering Fred Rogers' message, and celebrating you.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pittsburgh Weekend, Neighborhood Models, News From the FRC

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Pittsburgh -- one to explore the city and another to meet with several staff members from the Fred Rogers Company. Here's a rundown of two incredible days in Mister Rogers' real neighborhood.

. . .

On the first day, I met up with my friend Derek at 9:30 for a late breakfast. Those of you who know me personally know my love of The Homeless Gospel Choir.

That's Derek.

Check out his music sometime.

Derek and I scarfed down our food and coffee at Piper's Pub while we solved many of the world's problems. At Derek's recommendation, I went with the fried chicken and sausage on a waffle.

With gravy.

Although my 42-year-old arteries likely disagree, it was glorious.

From there, we were disappointed to find that the Fred Rogers statue down by the river was boxed and the site was closed for construction. Instead, we decided to spend much of the day hitting up record stores, coffee shops, and the famous Mineo's Pizza.


Near the end of the day, we found our way to the Heinz History Center to check out the Neighborhood exhibit -- a site worth seeing if you're ever in Pittsburgh. I won't pretend you're here to read about record stores and food, so here are several shots from the exhibit.


Once again, Derek...a huge thanks for taking time out of your day to hang out...

. . .

The next day was spent meeting with the fine folks of the Fred Rogers Company. More on that after you spend the next hour gazing at photos of the Neighborhood model located under glass just inside the main door to the FRC offices.

. . .

So let's get down to it. What kinds of things were discussed at the Fred Rogers Company that I can share here.

The upcoming PBS special?

It's terrific. I was able to see a portion of the special and I assure you that if your DVRs are not currently set to record on March 6th, you need to remedy this immediately! While the documentary that recently premiered at Sundance focused on the life and career of Fred Rogers, the PBS special is centered around the Neighborhood program itself. Very different and very well done!

Were there episodes of the Neighborhood -- besides the Conflict series -- that were banned from broadcast for potentially controversial reasons?

There were not. While it is widely believed that there are several chunks of episodes which were "banned" at some point over the years, I was assured that the only reason something like this may have happened would have been because there were simply more episodes than days to air them. No controversy.

Another Twitch marathon?

Hang in there.

Other methods of viewing Neighborhood episodes? Not just the ones on Amazon but all of them.

Not out of the question. Don't give up hope.

What about physical DVD copies of the episodes?

My recommendation to you would be that if you want DVDs of more than what is currently available, buy this box set of 30 episodes when it is released. If the demand for more is clear, we may see more. If not, we'll see the Neighborhood DVDs go the way of the Old School Sesame Street DVDs ... gone after just a few volumes.

. . .

The biggest news of the day, from my side of things, comes in the form of an "official" endorsement of the Neighborhood Archive by the Fred Rogers Company. At this point, it's safe to share with you all that I have been working in partnership with the FRC for a few years now as the Archive site has continued to grow. As they shared some of their plans for the near future with me, it was suggested that this cooperative effort has certainly evolved to the point of an "official" partnership with some exciting opportunities for us to collaborate in documentation of "all things Mister Rogers."

What does this mean for you?

Here's one example of things you haven't seen here before that may start popping up more often ... the pre-68 footage ... MisteRogers' Neighborhood, The Children's Corner...

Beyond that, stay tuned. :)

. . .

When I started this site just over nine years ago, I had no idea it would ever be at the point it is today. I'm continually humbled by the traffic it receives and dedicated readership that it's gained. I look forward to this official partnership with the Fred Rogers Company and eagerly anticipate sharing as much as possible with all of you!