Wont you be my neighbor…
Hi neighbor! Yup…good old Mr Rogers. But he almost ceased to exist in my house. Could you imagine life without Mr. Rogers doing his thing on your old black and white TV set?
Ma stayed at home with us kids…and she would hang in the kitchen smoking butts and smashing coffee every morning, usually followed by endless phone calls to her 4000 siblings. Ma has a hearty laugh…so that was typically my alarm clock. After I woke….I would moonwalk down the long a$$ hallway you find in every triple decker (footsie pajamas worked awesome) and give ma the good morning smooch. After I had enough second hand smoke she used to set me up with a bowl of lucky charms on the parlor floor and I would watch WGBH for a few hours. Seemed like that was the thing to do…cable didn’t exist in Dorchester yet. If you had an older TV like us…half of your cereal was gone before the TV warmed up. Sesame Street, Electric Company and Mr Rogers were always in the lineup. If you woke before everyone else..you could turn the switch to channel 5 and catch Jabberwocky. or leave it on channel 2 for Bob Ross painting sh*t with his huge fro.
So Pops is home one morning and I’m sitting there watching Mr. Rogers Hood. He comes out of the bedroom and starts barking “what is he watching?”…comes over and shuts the TV off. I’m like WTF? in my 4 year old head…..now it’s gonna take 20 minutes for this b*tch to warm up again. So I resort to my secret weapon….”Maaaaaa!!” She comes bombing in with her cup of coffee and smoke dangling from her lip and sees the TV off. She shoots Pops a look only a married guy would understand. They head out to the kitchen for the summit. 3 minutes later Pops comes and turns the TV back on…but he’s visually p*ssed. Very confusing for a young Dot Rat….
Over the years I never gave it much thought but would still notice my dad cringe every time Mr Rogers came up. Finally at like 19 years old I drop it on him….”Pops whats your beef with Mr Rogers?”. He looks at me dead serious and says “He’s a diddler!”…I’m like WTF all over again. I ask who told him that and he says his father. So…my dad explains…my grandfather hated any men who acted remotely feminine…I mean this guy hucked my aunt Peggy’s Johnny Mathis record out her bedroom window because he “sounded like a skirt”. This guy was a boxer, laborer, bartender and shoveled coal in the powerhouse at the Hingham Shipyard during the war (the smokestack is still in the parking lot to this day). For the most part he was very soft spoken around his family…but he was a man’s man deep down and had his quirks. Turns out…Papa wanted to beat Mr Roger’s ass…he totally thought he was a pedophile. And of course he passed all that old school mentality to my Dad. My brother Pat used to sing the theme song just to bust my Dad’s chops. I just thought Mr. Rogers was cool…and I still do …I could probably do without the puppet sh*t but that trolley and fish tank rocked. If anyone is questionable here…it’s Bob Ross right?