Improbable beginning – WBUR & WQED

Listening last night with my hubster to Are We There Yet?, an episode of NPR’s On Point (we are big radio fans), it hit me that two of the most influential public television stations – WBUR/Boston (where On Point originates) & WQED/Pittsburgh – are rooted in wildly improbable beginnings.  In a large-boned, effusive woman with a singular way of addressing her audience & a duck ~and~ a soft-spoken, kindly man who conversed with a king & kids.

Yes, it’s a bit of a flip from radio to television, but my mind managed it nicely, thank you.

Julia Child & Fred Rogers were beyond improbably, “Are you kidding me?” television stars.  Speaking to them at a party, the term “paradigm shifter” would probably not have crossed your mind.  Yet both were.  And both took their respective television & affiliated radio stations into BIG time broadcasting.

That touches me deeply, inspires & gives hope.  At this moment in time, I am excitedly diving into wondrous new projects, taking me in directions that have beckoned for years.  (One of the great advantages about being 66 rather than 33 & certainly younger is the ever-present thought, “If not now, when?“)

It’s a good time for me to ponder Mr. Rogers & Mrs. Child.

Consider the incomparable Julia.  Last year’s book, The Gourmands’ Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy, is a marvelous meander through post-war Paris & how a “ragtag band of passionate epicureans  (with an assist from a certain Francophile First Lady) transformed American cooking.”  Hands down, the greatest transforming factor was Julia Child, who entranced & inspired the masses to master the art of French cooking.

The current film about Fred Rogers vehemently underscores the amazing fact that this man not only had/has an astonishing impact on our American culture, but that he was successful from the very first, not in spite of, but due to his modest demeanor & soft-spoken ways.

Both Julia Child & Fred Rogers became the most super of super stars by just being themselves.  WBUR & WQED, both of which achieved fame prominence power thanks to their marquee stars, were founded on a woman & a man committed to quality integrity authenticity.

Quality integrity authenticity – as improbable as it may sound in today’s slap-dash, short shelf life, helter skelter culture, those three qualities are still the basis for genuine, long-lasting, satisfying accomplishment.

My thanks to Mr. Rogers & Mrs. Child for the well-timed reminder to carve out my own path, to set whatever it is I serve on the table with confidence & verve, telling all & sundry, “Isn’t it lovely?  It’s JUST the way I like it – dig in!”


Mister Rogers’surprising back story – Go, Canada!

Fred Rogers, I hardly knew ye!  Startled, listening to a 1985 interview with Terry Gross on a fledgling Fresh Air, to discover that while firmly rooted in Pittsburgh, a major step toward the neighborhood we all love came through the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting System)!

Juggling two loves, for seven years Fred produced his quietly cutting edge show, The Children’s Corner (1954-61), for WQED, Pittsburgh’s  public tv channel -and- worked toward a degree from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary over lunch.  As he told it to Terry, his expected next step up was cancelled – on the day before his graduation – due to a funding crisis.  Praise be, the day AFTER graduation brought a call the CBC, inviting him to work his magic north of the border.

The 15-minute children’s program, Misterogers. ran for three seasons & introduced some of his signature set pieces, from the Trolley to the castle.  Wanting to protect his creation, Fred obtained the rights to his show from the CBC, moving it back to WQED.

On February 19, 1968, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood debuted & the rest is history.  The quiet man who worked for NBC because he hated what television was, who had a dream of what it could be, set programming on its ear, producing 895 episodes of child-centered, tender loving broadcasting that touched the heart by its willingness to be honest, loving & true.

Thanks, CBC, for giving a young minister with a big dream his first mega stage, for  helping Misterogers welcome us to an enchanting neighborhood.