A 5-year-old, one of his young fans, wrote to the host revealing why she would appreciate it if he talked about feeding the fish.
Over the years that he hosted the preschool television series "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Fred Rogers' name became synonymous with kindness, empathy and love. After premiering on Canadian TV in 1963, his beloved children's program debuted in the U.S. in 1968, inspiring generations of kids across North America to be more thoughtful, kinder neighbors.
Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen once revealed one of her favorite stories of the late host. Fans had noticed that Mr. Rogers had a curious habit of mentioning aloud that he was feeding his fish. Apparently, that gesture came as a result of a letter from a young fan. "Mister Rogers would narrate himself feeding the fish in each episode with 'I'm feeding the fish' because of a letter he received from a young blind girl who was worried the fish were hungry. Love you, Mister Rogers," Teigen tweeted in 2018.
Mister Rogers would narrate himself feeding the fish each episode with “I’m feeding the fish” because of a letter he received from a young blind girl who was worried the fish were hungry. Love you, Mister Rogers. https://t.co/YXacyFDXKo— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 20, 2018
According to TODAY, the fish story appears in the book "Dear Mister Rogers, Does it Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?" which was a collection of children's letters to the television personality. A visually disabled 5-year-old girl named Katie had written to Mister Rogers urging him to say when he was feeding his fish because she was concerned about them. "One girl and her family wrote to tell us there was a special reason why she wanted me to talk about feeding the fish each day," a passage in the book noted. "Dear Mister Rogers, Please say when you are feeding your fish because I worry about them. I can't see if you are feeding them, so please say you are feeding them out loud," her letter read.
Her father also mentioned that his daughter was so empathetic that she would cry if Mister Rogers didn't mention he'd fed the fish. As a result, Mister Rogers began to make sure to say out loud whenever he passed the fish tank, that the fish would be getting a meal.
Another notable story of compassion came when Mister Rogers invited "Officer Clemmons" to wash his feet alongside him in a wading pool at the height of civil unrest. Black actor Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons on Rogers' show, had the first recurring role for an African American on children's TV. Clemmons told NPR, "He invited me to come over and rest my feet in the water with him. The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet."
Rogers took a bold stance when he asked Officer Clemmons to cool his feet together in a wading pool together. It was a powerful, revolutionary moment on television. "They didn't want Black people to come and swim in their swimming pools," Clemmons wrote in his memoir later. "That is absolutely ridiculous," Clemmons recalled Fred Rogers' response in a 2018 documentary about the show titled "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
In the show, when Officer Clemmons initially hesitates to join him in the pool, saying that he doesn't have a towel, Mister Roger responds, 'You can use mine,' before holding out a blue towel. Officer Clemmons then takes off his shoes and Mister Rogers sprays water on Officer Clemmons' feet as well. What seemed like a scene of friendship was actually in many ways a revolutionary act on television. Clemmons recalled that moment in an interview with WBUR. "My God, those were powerful words. It was transformative to sit there with him, thinking to myself, 'Oh, something wonderful is happening here. This is not what it looks like. It's much bigger,'" he said.
In 1969, Mister Rogers invited a black officer to join him in a pool, during a time when racial tensions were high, and pools still segregated. He displayed on television, to his huge audience of children (the next generation), that diversity is good. Thank you, #MisterRogers. 📺 pic.twitter.com/jo5RAMLcfU— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) July 24, 2019