I did not grow up with Mr. Rogers. I was a Captain Kangaroo man. Without fail, every morning I was in front of the tube watching the Captain, Mr. Greenjeans and Bunny Rabbit do their thing. Perhaps because of that, neither of my kids was a Rogers fan, either.
My familiarity with Fred Rogers came during adolescence. I still did not watch the show, of course. Not one of my friends ever admitted to ever having watched it, even as pre-schoolers, although many undoubtedly did. How else could they claim to be mimicking him? Personally, though, I learned of Rogers and his mannerisms the way my parents feared I would learn about sex: on the street. He was the object of a great deal the kind of scorn that only a teenager can summon up. I do not claim that the scorn was in any way justified. Only that it existed and was liberally applied with what was considered great wit back then. "Can you say 'asshole'? Sure you can."
Despite all that, Rogers was clearly an icon for a vast number of Americans in their youth. And just as clearly, he and his show had an affect on them. That affect could only have been good, since the man was, to say the least, kindly. His death the other day will mark the end of an era for many Americans of a certain age.
But Captain Kangaroo still had a much better show.