An actor known to several generations of Iowa Public TV watchers will be in central Iowa this weekend. David Newell played Mister McFeely on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” which debuted in 1968 and ran for more than three decades. Newell says his character, the delivery man, was almost named something else.
Newell says the character was supposed to be named Mister McCurdy in the first episode because that was the name of the person at Sears that gave them the money to underwrite the program. Sears called at the last minute saying not to use that name as it was too self-serving.
Fred Rogers, who wrote all of the scripts, used “McFeely” instead as that was his own middle name and his grandfather’s name. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74. Newell says Rogers was a great guy to work with. He says Rogers was “a genuinely kind man, very astute, very educated, very wonderful sense of humor.” He says Rogers didn’t see himself as an actor or a singer but he said the songs were more important than how he sounded.
I-P-T-V recently made the decision to stop airing the program, which Newell says is unfortunate. He urges Iowans to call I-P-T-V and request the “Neighborhood” be put back on the air. He says Rogers’ death had nothing to do with the show being taken off I-P-T-V. He uses the example that “Tom Sawyer” hasn’t been taken off library shelves just because Mark Twain is dead. Newell will be appearing in Fort Dodge at the Faith Works for an all-day event on Saturday.