Monday, November 25, 2019

The Definitive 2019 Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Holiday Gift Guide

With interest in Mister Rogers at the highest it's been in years, there will no doubt be some Neighborhood gifts given this holiday season. But there's just so much out there! Where does a person even begin? In hopes of easing your burden, here is the Definitive Mister Rogers Gift Guide for 2019!

As the definitive source for all things Mister Rogers, I have chosen my favorite items among the many new books, memorabilia, and ephemera that have hit the market this fall. If it's older items you're looking for, I certainly encourage you to check out the Neighborhood Archive site itself where you're sure to find more gift options than you ever knew existed!

Right off the bat, let me throw out three resources for amazing gifts too numerous to list here! Steel City, Papersalt, and Little Shop of Pins have definitely been the leaders when it comes to the best Neighborhood merchandise made available throughout 2019! Hands down!

Through their respective online stores, you'll find options to purchase everything from amazing t-shirts and hats to creative enamel pins and high quality stickers! I can't begin to describe the amount of marvelous products you'll have to choose from by way of these three stores alone! Click the logos below to check out their Neighborhood collections!


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So your kids have caught on to the fact that Daniel Tiger wasn't the first to sing the words "won't you be my neighbor" and they've caught the Mister Rogers bug that seems to be going around? Some terrific new books have hit shelves this fall specifically geared towards the younger market.
  • Who Was Mister Rogers?
    • If my own kids are any indication of the popularity of the "Who Was...?" series of biographical books, the new title about Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood is sure to please your young reader!
    • Purchase from Amazon
  • Henrietta Meets Someone New
    • You can't resist a classic. Seriously. If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, you probably had the original edition of this Little Golden Book on your bookshelf. Although the cover art has been slightly updated, the content of the story and the artwork inside are exactly the same as they were a few decades ago. This would be a great book to read with your children -- especially if you are able to share with them that you read this book yourself as a child!
    • Purchase from Amazon
  • Snowflake Songs
    • If kids know Mister Rogers, there's no doubt that they also know Daniel Tiger. In fact, it's more than likely that they knew Daniel first. Either way, Snowflake Songs is a great book to read (and sing) along with on a snowy winter day. The buttons on the side allow for the tunes to be played as you and your children sing along!
    • Purchase from Amazon

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  • Cat's Meow Village
    • Do you know someone who likes cats? Do you know someone who likes cats and Mister Rogers? How about someone who likes cats, Mister Rogers, and finely handcrafted replicas of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe? Yeah? You've just found the perfect gift. These pieces can be purchased individually or as a full set to be displayed as a subtle representation of true Neighborhood appreciation.
    • Purchase from Cat's Meow Village
  • 2020 Wall Calendar
    • Most calendars are kept on digital devices these days and paper calendars seem to be on the road to becoming as obsolete as a TV Guide, but there's still that space on your grandmother's wall that would be naked without a calendar. One has hung there for decades and with each new year, she takes down the old and replaces it with the new. This year, rather than letting her hang the free calendar she picked up at the bank or the one she bought for for $25 from the kid down the street raising money for his travel sports team, why not let Mister Rogers and his wisdom walk her month by month through 2020?
    • Purchase from Amazon

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  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Replica Sweater
    • If you've always dreamed of following Mister Rogers' lead by coming home from work and changing into a warm sweater before settling for some time of quiet reflection, you're in luck. You can now pick up your own replica sweater designed after those worn by Fred Rogers on the Neighborhood program! Since this item has become available, I've often been asked about its quality. Is it a cheap costume piece or a quality sweater you could actually wear? I assure you friends and neighbors, this is a legit sweater -- thick and very well made.
    • Purchase on Amazon

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  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: A Visual History
    • Full disclosure. Yes, I was one of the co-authors of this book, but I don't include it at the top of this list because my name is attached to it. I do so because it's awesome! Really, if you're buying a gift for someone who would appreciate an in-depth look at the history of the Neighborhood with never-before-seen photographs and first-hand interviews with cast and crew members, this is the book for you. On a side note, if you can hold off until early December, I will likely have signed copies available for purchase through the Neighborhood Archive site. That's assuming you'd want me to scribble inside your book with a Sharpie in the first place.
    • Pick up a copy directly from co-author Tim Lybarger ... He'll even personalize it and scribble his name inside! :)
    • ...or...Purchase on Amazon
  • Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain In Your Neighborhood?
    • This is one of the all-time great books from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood which features many innocent letters written to Mister Rogers by his young viewers. Along with these letters are Fred's thoughtful and caring responses -- a book sure to touch the heart of any parent who grew up watching the Neighborhood. Beware though ... I've heard rumblings that if you order the updated copy on Amazon, they are likely to send you the old version instead.
    • Purchase from Amazon (if you're a risk taker)

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  • Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Jazz
    • Speaking of Omnivore Recordings, they hit one out of the park with longtime Neighborhood fans this fall when, for the first time on CD, they released the Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Jazz. A fan favorite for many years, this album was previously available only on vinyl and has been out of print for quite some time.
    • Purchase from Amazon

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  • Neighborhood Socks
    • When I think of stocking stuffers, I think of candy, lip balm, and socks. You've probably seen the Mister Rogers Encouragemints which have been out there for a while, and I'm not quite sure how Neighborhood lip balm would even be marketed, but socks? You're covered. You could give a different pair of Mister Rogers socks to each of your family members over two full generations and you'd likely not run out of options. Seriously. There are a lot of socks out there. Visit the Neighborhood Archive site or click on the image below for specific options.

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From this neighborhood to yours, Happy Holidays!


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Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Mystery of Mr. McFeely & His Cigarettes

In the early days of the Neighborhood Archive, it was brought to my attention that one of the few catalogues of Neighborhood episodes that existed at that time -- the University of Pittsburgh's PittCat -- included a curious description for Episode 0037.

According to this description, at one point in the episode Mister Rogers "talks about how he is sometimes angered by Mr. McFeely's smoking."

Wait. What?!

Unfortunately, at that time there was no easy way to verify this information one way or the other. But it was detailed in this official academic catalogue, so it had to be true! Right? I mean, this episode was filmed in the late 1960s -- a time when smoking was much more socially acceptable than it is today.

Maybe Mr. McFeely was a indeed a smoker.

Not long after that, I had the opportunity for one of my first conversations directly with the staff of the Fred Rogers Company (now Fred Rogers Productions) -- some of whom would have been working on the Neighborhood program at that time.

But no one remembered anything. The response I got was one of curiosity but uncertainty. Sort of a "I don't think so. But maybe... I don't know."

It wasn't long after that when, with the help of the Fred Rogers Company, I began filling in gaps in the episode details found on the Neighborhood Archive site.

You'd better believe one of the first episodes I asked to see was Episode 0037! As I viewed the episode for the first time, I can't say I was surprised to find that there was no mention anywhere in the episode of Mr. McFeely (or anyone else) smoking.

With this new information -- or lack thereof -- the mystery continued as urban legends began to develop. The most common theory that surfaced was that a scene with Mr. McFeely smoking was originally in the episode but was replaced with new footage when the harmful effects of smoking started to be taken more seriously.

Pitched once again to those at the Fred Rogers Company, this theory could not be confirmed. In fact, at this time I learned that the University of Pittsburgh had been contacted about this content and expressed that the information in their system could not be changed. So even if the legend of the smoking Speedy Deliveryman was ultimately debunked, editing this information would require a significant amount of effort.

That's where the story stalled for many years -- with so many questions left unanswered.

Was Mr. McFeely ever a smoker? Was this originally part of a Neighborhood episode or not? Was this footage replaced? If so, is the original footage still in existence anywhere?

Fast forward to the late summer of 2019 -- over fifty years after Episode 0037 originally aired. It was at this time that an unexpected contact through Instagram opened the door to this mystery being solved once and for all!

We'll call the person who contacted me "J" so as to prevent a visit from the NIA (Neighborhood Intelligence Agency). J is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and, in the summer of 1994, he was one of the people responsible for writing the episode descriptions for the University Library System's online catalogue (called PittCat at the time). At that time, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was still in production as he and a co-worker began with documenting current episodes and working their way back to those from 1968.

According to J, the summaries in PittCat were transcribed from forms originally written by Fred Rogers himself. Each form listed a brief description of the episode as well as any characters and contributors for the episode. The episode entries were created using a networked CRT monitor and took roughly 15-20 minutes to prepare and type each one.

What I found most interesting about this process was J's confirmation that any errors -- deliberate or accidental -- could not be corrected after the entry was submitted due to the fact that the information was then transmitted to the Library of Congress. When an item (regardless of the medium) was added to the Pitt collection, the first step of documentation was to see if a Library of Congress record already existed for that specific title. In the case of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, of course, there was no Library of Congress record; hence, the need for J and his co-worker to create the entries. Once completed, the records were submitted to the OCLC (Online Catalogue of the Library of Congress). Pitt is considered a Federal Depository Library so the law requires this information to be shared with the Library of Congress. Once submitted, entries cannot be changed without official Library of Congress approval.

So back to Mr. McFeely and his alleged smoking habit.

As the process of entering information for each Neighborhood episode neared completion, J was growing tired of the tedium and found himself taking more frequent cigarette breaks. One morning, he was called into the office of his supervisor and reprimanded for his excessive time away from his responsibilities. In a passive-aggressive response to this confrontation, J wrote a line in the description for Episode 0037 about Mr. McFeely smoking.

The rest, friends and neighbors, is history.


Monday, July 8, 2019

Review: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Game (Buffalo Games)

With more and more Neighborhood products continuing to make their ways onto shelves this year, one item that I don't think most people were expecting was the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Game from Buffalo Games. Teased with the idea of a Neighborhood game in Episode 1515 and Episode 1604, this is more a card game than a board game.


Buffalo Games has packaged this new Neighborhood game into a sturdy and colorful box featuring the unmistakable image of Mister Rogers' sweater and tie. Initially, this game is only available at Target or through We'll see if it becomes more widely distributed in the near future.

So what's in the box?

Let's start with the least interesting of the contents -- the instruction book. The covers uses the same image as the outside of the box and the instructions go into great detail about game play.

What I find most interesting about the game instructions is the target age range -- ages 10 and up. While most younger kids today are more familiar with Daniel Tiger than they are Mister Rogers, this game is certainly appropriate for players much younger than the age of ten. The first time it's played, younger players will certainly need an older player to explain the game to them, but with the rules in place, this simple game is absolutely one that could be played with kids in a much younger age range. I'd go as far as to suggest ages 5 and up.

One of the oddest items included in the game box is a thank you note from Mister Rogers.

The note -- obviously not actually from Mister Rogers -- is found inside a sealed red envelope and features the following quote: "It's the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives."

While this was an unexpected addition to the game's contents, I feel like it's a bit odd. It just seems like a lot of trouble to go to in order to include this quote within the game. Why bother printing a card and even sealing it in an envelope when the quote could just have easily been printed directly on the box or the instructions? It was a kind of cool to find this in the box, but it just seems like a very unnecessary addition.

The best part of the game? The playing cards!

Check out those amazing illustrations! In many ways, they rival the images recently printed as t-shirts and stickers by Pittsburgh's Steel City!

I'd love to know more about these illustrations if anyone reading happens to have any information. Who is behind them? How was it determined which characters to use and which ones to leave out?

I have questions, people.

[UPDATE: Illustrations on the playing cards were done by Jerrod Maruyama]

With all of the contents out of the box, the words "Won't you be my neighbor?" are revealed. [Now this is where that quote from the thank you note could have been printed.]

Cost? Full price is around twenty bucks -- although I've seen it as low as $16.99. Maybe a bit much for a simple card game.

So is the game worth your while? Yeah, I think so. I wouldn't say it's for everyone, though. It's certainly not a game that teenagers and adults would want to play with their friends on a game night -- it's way too simple for that. But is it a game that a family with younger children could play together on a game night? Absolutely. Not only is it a game appropriate for that sort of dynamic, the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Game is also a great opportunity to introduce younger players to the Neighborhood that paved the way for Daniel Tiger.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Steel City? Yes, please.

When the package says "Steel City," you know it's gonna be a good mail day! Our friends at Steel City continue adding to their amazing line of Neighborhood products.


Most recently was the addition of t-shirts and stickers featuring illustrations of six characters from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe -- X the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat, Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Queen Sara Saturday, and King Friday XIII. A Neighborhood Trolley sticker is also available.

I have a super soft New York Knicks shirt (yes, I'm a Knicks fan) that is among the most comfortable t-shirts I have ever owned. If you're wondering about the quality of the shirts from Steel City, I can assure you that my Knicks shirt now has some serious competition!

Many times, shirts with large graphics are quite uncomfortable. Maybe you know what I mean. Have you ever worn a shirt like that? It's a hot day and a nice breeze cuts through the air -- but you wouldn't know it because the heavy screenprint on your shirt does nothing but serve as a wind resistant shield to your suffocating torso.

Not these shirts. No, no, no. These shirts are comfy. None of that heavy material and thick print here!

And the stickers?

You know as well as I do that your laptop would look amazing with King Friday or Lady Elaine staring down coffee shop onlookers.

And get this..looking at the Steel City website to connect the links below, it appears that fifteen bucks can now get you a Handyman Negri apron!
And if you're going with the apron, you might as well go the whole nine yards with the matching hat!

Having seen countless pieces of Neighborhood memorabilia over the years, it's no exaggeration when I say that what's come from Steel City are some of the best! Check out a Neighborhood Archive review of earlier Steel City products HERE or take a look at all of their Neighborhood products HERE.

Wanna make a purchase?

Yes, of course you do.

Head over to Be sure and follow them on social media to stay up to date on new Neighborhood merchandise as it becomes available!

I can't wait to see what they come up with next!

And don't stop here. Visit the full Neighborhood Archive at!