The Neighborhood of Make-Believe…in the Archives?

Readers recently got to experience the joys of Indiana University’s former Audio Visual Center (IUAVC) in Hannah Osborn’s post “Chucky Lou: The Story of a Woodchuck…and Captive Wildlife in Indiana.” I’m happy to report that as we process this collection at the archives, we continue to find plentiful moments of joy in the documents and materials that represent the IUAVC’s history. Not too long ago, Director Dina Kellams was perusing the collection to pull some material for an undergraduate class when she stumbled across a folder with the handwritten label: “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” To celebrate a joyful new year and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which starred Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and premiered November 22, let’s take a look at the relationship between the AVC and this beloved touchstone of educational television.

At first glance it might not be obvious why this folder exists in the IUAVC collection. It is comprised of news releases issued by National Educational Television (NET) from 1967-1969. The releases detail specific Mister Rogers’ programs as they were aired, including initial broadcast dates, program lengths, medium information, indications if the program was in color or black and white, and synopses. These synopses are admittedly pretty adorable and endearing in and of themselves:

                “Program #41: What to do if you’re frightened? Misterogers explains that people can express their feelings in all sorts of ways. X the Owl spends the day making a rainbow from cardboard and doing scientific experiments. Henrietta Pussycat is upset by the thunder and lightning. Lady Aberlin suggests it is because the noise is unexpected. A game of “peek-a-boo” helps Henrietta; so does the explanation that lightning helps light up dark places. Misterogers turns the lights off and on to show that everything in the room is the same, even when it’s dark.”

Program Information NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION 10 Columbus Circle New York, New York 10019212 JUdson 6-0055 TO: FROM: SUBJECT: DATE: All Stations Elinor Solomon (Information Services: Bunny Heller) MISTEROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD PROGRAMS #39 THROUGH #45 February 27, 1968 The following is program information on programs #39 through #45 in the Misterogers' Neighborhood series. Additional information will be forth¬coming on subsequent programs in the series. PROGRAM #39: Invitations and zip codes and a men's fashion show! King Friday invites everyone to a royal reception for Sara Saturday tomorrow. He wants people to write their replies. Handyman Negri gathers his confidence and decides he will try. to play his guitar for the King at the reception. But what should he wear for such a special performance? Mrs. Frogg's fashion show of men's clothing from cave-men days up to today offers exciting and unusual costumes. PROGRAM #40: King Friday commanded a special reception for Sara Saturday and today's the day! A congo drummer, a baton twirler, and a guitar player who looks exactly like Handyman Negri all help to enter¬tain. They even have S-shaped cookies! PROGRAM #41: What to do if you're frightened? Misterogers explains tha-t people can express their feelings in all sorts of ways. X the Owl spends the day making a rainbow from cardboard and doing scientific experiments. Henrietta Pussycat is upset by the thunder and lightning* Lady Aberlin suggests it is because the noise is unexpected. A game of "peek-a-boo" helps Henrietta; so does the explanation that lightning helps light up dark places. Misterogers turns tne lights off and ou to show that everything in the room is the same, even when it's dark. PROGRAM.#42: Today is a day for trading! Misterogers makes paper airplanes; once he traded them for buckeyes. In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, X the Owl is delighted with the scarf Lady Aberlin knitted for him. He offers her a walnut to take to Grandpere's new "Tour D'echange" (Trading Tower) in exchange for a piece of chocolate.. The King's visitor, Bernard Goldberg, symphony flutist, plays from Bach's Suite No. 2. Misterogers suggests that anyone can have a trading tower. PROGRAM #43: What can you do when you really miss someone? Playing out your feelings can help. King Friday's visitor from the Metropolitan Opera Company, John Reardon, sings an aria about a bird-catcher from the opera, "The Magic Flute" by Mozart. The King then commands John -- more
Information for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood programs 39-43. February 27, 1968.
Program Information NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION 10 Columbus Circle New York, NrW York 10019 212-JUdson 6-0055 TO:All Stations FROM: Bunny Heller SUBJECT: MISTEROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD PROGRAMS #94 through 100 MAILING DATE: June 10, 1968 INITIAL BROADCAST DATES: LENGTH: MEDIUM: COLOR OR BLACK & WHITE: June 27, 28, July 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1968 Thirty minutes Videotape Black & white Program #94: Flowers to wear, flowers to hold, flowers for King Friday's guestl Lady Aberlin pretends she's a flower. Mr. Lee, the neighborhood florist, visits Misterogers. Program #95: A day for pasting. Misterogers and Handy¬man Negri make collages by pasting different things on paper. King Friday watches a wallpaper hanger paste wallpaper on the wall of the new room at the Castle. Program #96: Moms and Dads help each other because they care about each other. Lady Aberlin and Daniel blow bubbles from liquid detergent and wonder if King Friday and Sara Saturday will get married. Misterogers tries waxing his floor. Program #97: TBA Program #98: Every stone is different, just as every person is different. That’s why everyone is special. Neighbor Farnum and his daughter Cindy show Misterogers how to cut and polish stones. Mr. Anybody returns and decides to be a stone-man today. Program #99: Today is an "S'* day, for Scotland. Mr. Any¬body is a Scotsman today, and he even has a Scotty dog named Mac. There are performances in the S-Room of the Castle of a Scottish sword dance and the highland fling to the music of the Barker Bagpipers. Program #100: It doesn't hurt a bit to get weighed and measured and checked at the Doctor's office. Misterogers and Mr. McFeely weigh each other. Lady Elaine Fairchilde is afraid to have a check-up and acts silly about it until she finds out it doesn't hurt.
Information for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood programs 94-100. June 10, 1968.

These descriptions give us a picture of the major themes, characters, and lessons we came to know and love in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. The associated information, such as broadcast dates and other administrative data, give us some historical understanding of the show’s trajectory in the late 1960s. But why are these releases in a folder used by the AVC? A document nestled about halfway through the folder, titled “INDIVIDUAL PROGRAM DATA” from June 1, 1967, gives us some clues. The document includes a general description of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, biographies of Fred Rogers and other featured talent, and descriptions for the first 100 Mister Rogers’ programs. The document is created by “ETS Program Service, Bloomington, Indiana.” I wasn’t sure what ETS stood for (I ventured to guess “educational television service”), so I did a quick Google search for “ETS Program Service Bloomington Indiana 1967.” This isn’t always the case, but sometimes a well-phrased Google search can be an archivist’s friend. I immediately found the answer in a digitized copy of The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. A section of the act included facts about educational television stations—or ETS. It detailed:

                “The ETS Program Service was established in 1965 at Bloomington, Indiana. It is operated by Indiana University Foundation under contract to Educational Television Stations, NAEB. This service provides an exchange of a variety of programs selected from the best productions originating at local stations. There is a small per-program use charge to offset distribution costs. This nation-wide program distribution facility was made possible through grants for the National Home Library Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.”

ETS Program Service Bloomington, Indiana INDIVIDUAL PROGRAM DATA June 1, 1967 MISTEROGERS > NEIGHBORHOOD Number of Programs: 100 (5/week) Length: half-hour Produced by: WQED, PittsburghType: VT General Description: The imaginative Neighborhood of Make-Believe and a playroom filled with songs, stories and happenings, encourages Fred Rogers’ viewing guests to enjoy and wonder, to trust and learn about the feelings and things which they can experience together. Designed for children from 6 to 9* the series also includes these members of the Neighborhood: TROLLEY, the little streetcar who expresses himself with his tinkling bell; DANIEL STRIPED TIGER, who lives in a clock; CORNFLAKE S. PECIALLY, manager of the ROCKIT (ROCKING CHAIR) FACTORY; HENRIETTA PUSSYCAT, governess of NINE NICE MICE: MR. X THE OWL: and KING FRIDAY XIII, who celebrates his birthday "when the day of the week is Friday and the day of the month is thirteen". Featured Personalities: Fred Rogers, ordained a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1963, presently teaches children's work at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is a consultant in creative media for children at the Arsenal Child Study Center, a division of Western Psychiatric Institute of the University of Pittsburgh. Fred Rogers worked in production at NBC early in television's history. From 1953 through 1961 he produced and performed on CHILDREN'S CORNER over WQED. In 1955 the series won the Sylvania Award for the best local children's show in the country. For six years he worked for CBC TV doing specials and a daily 15-minute program. At the present time he is doing a series of "specials" for CBC, continuing a sponsored show in Pittsburgh, and the MISTEROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD series. Other series talent includes: Don Brocket; members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Vija Vetra; Frank Napier, naturalist; Francis Alder, WQED's science teacher; the poet- lady, Emilie Jacobson; and other Pittsburghers disguised as interesting imagination drawing characters. MISTEROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD is a 1966-67 production of WQED, Pittsburgh. Directed by David Chen.
Individual Program Data for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Issued by the ETS Program Service, Bloomington. June 1, 1967.

ETS members such as IU’s ETS Program Service were responsible for preparing regional and national conferences on education and media, communicating educational television issues to national government and private agencies, compiling reports that documented educational television progress, and disseminating information to other educational television stations. This last point helps clarify the purpose of this June 1967 document: The ETS Program Service in Bloomington likely distributed this informational sheet to area television stations and other entities (such as schools and libraries) who would be interested in showing Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

It is pretty cool to see IU’s educational television services represented in the congressional act that established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and set the path for establishing the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). The Public Broadcasting Act also had a strong connection to Fred Rogers himself. Rogers was a key supporter of the act and, two years later in 1969, testified before the Senate to defend the CPB and public broadcasting as a whole. The footage of the testimony has become iconic, in part because it played a central role in the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Rogers’ testimony is celebrated as a meaningful moment in American public rhetoric, and featured goose bump-inducing quotes such as:

“This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.” And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.”

You can view the video of his testimony and read a transcript of it here!

Now that we know why the ETS Program Service would have a folder on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, we can better understand the multifarious functions of the IUAVC. IUAVC was originally called the Film Archives’ Educational Film Collection and was launched in the 1940’s through IU’s Extension Division. The center amassed tens of thousands of 16mm films, which it would rent out to schools, libraries, and educational groups for low fees. IUAVC became a leader in the field of instructional technology and media in the mid-twentieth century. It worked in tandem with the National Instructional Television Library (NIT), which was located and operated by the IU Foundation (NIT became an independent entity in 1968 and renamed itself the Agency for Instructional Technology—AIT—in 1984. Learn more about AIT at the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive!). The IUAVC was also the exclusive distributor of films produced by National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor to PBS. Going back to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the first nationally broadcast season of the show was aired on NET in 1967. This means the IUAVC played a central role in the rise of Mister Rogers’ popularity in the late 1960s.

As we continue to process this exciting and important collection we’ll be sure to share more gems with you. In the meantime, you can get in touch with our friends at the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive to access IUAVC films and videos! And remember: You always make each day a special day. You know how: By just your being you!

Contemporary MLK: 1960s Civil Rights Documentaries from IU Collections

Please join the IU Libraries and the Office of the Bicentennial in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Thursday, January 19 from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm for a screening of several civil rights documentaries. These rare documentaries were made during and just after Dr. King’s life, offering a historical lens into how he was viewed and understood by a contemporary audience. The screenings will take place in the new screening room in the Moving Image Collections and Archives on the ground floor of the Herman B Wells Library.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service in the IU Auditorium on April 5, 1968. Indiana University Archives.

Many of the films for the screening come from the educational film collection of the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive. They were produced for the purpose of teaching about civil rights, discrimination, and the activism of Dr. King. Though the specifics of the historical and political moment have changed between when they were made and the current day, the questions the films raise remain relevant. How do the ideals of America match up with the day-to-day reality of racial and economic inequality? What is the proper way to effect social change? What lessons can we take from Dr. King’s life?

A digital exhibit highlighting materials related to Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights from IU collections will also be on display outside of the Moving Image Archive’s screening room all day. Images were generously provided by the Archives of African American Music and Culture, Black Film Center/Archive, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University Archives, Jerome Hall Law LibraryLilly Library, and Mathers Museum of World Cultures. This exhibit gives a glimpse into the historical documents, photographs, literature, and art related to civil rights and Martin Luther King, Jr. from IU repositories across campus, demonstrating the rich research value and diversity of IU’s collections.

King, Martin Luther. Why We Can’t Wait. New York: Harper & Row, [1964]. Courtesy, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
King, Martin Luther. Why We Can’t Wait. New York: Harper & Row, [1964]. Courtesy, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
The screening lasts from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm. It is intended as a drop-in event, so please come and see as many of the films as your schedule allows. From 4:00 pm to 4:45 pm, there will be a brief lecture by Professor Alex Lichtenstein from the IU Department of History. A break with complimentary snacks will follow.

Location: Moving Image Collections and Archive (Ground Floor of the Wells Library, Room 048)

By Andy Uhrich and Kristin Leaman