Historical society slide show portrays Latrobe roots of children’s TV host Fred Rogers | TribLIVE.com

Historical society slide show portrays Latrobe roots of children’s TV host Fred Rogers

Jeff Himler
Latrobe Area Historical Society collection
Editor Fred Rogers poses with fellow staff members in this photo from the 1946 Latrobe High School yearbook.
Latrobe Area Historical Society collection
Fred Rogers is the second student from the left in the back row of this 1930s photo of the boys’ choir at Latrobe’s Second Ward School.
Latrobe Area Historical Society collection
Fred Rogers, standing at right, shares the podium with his father, James, as they dedicate Latrobe’s Rogers-McFeely Memorial Pool in 1959.

A glimpse back at Latrobe in the 1950s provides a sense of how the town looked as native son Fred Rogers completed his undergraduate college studies and started to make his mark on the world of television broadcasting.

People attending Mister Rogers Family Day in Latrobe on Saturday will get that glimpse if they drop in at the Quatrini Rafferty Building, 816 Ligonier St.

That’s where the Latrobe Area Historical Society will be screening a slide show of about 100 local photos from the 1950s interspersed with some revealing moments in Fred Rogers’ growth from a child to a young adult.

Historical society President Mary Lou Townsend edited the slide show this week. “What I’m trying to show is the Latrobe that Fred Rogers grew up in, his family’s association with the town and his school days,” she said.

Among the images Townsend included was a 1930s elementary school photo showing Rogers as a member of the boys’ choir at Latrobe’s Second Ward School — a structure on Main Street that has since been razed.

In a 1991 interview, Rogers noted he occasionally played the organ for services at the nearby Latrobe Presbyterian Church that his family attended.

He would play a Hammond organ at his family home on Latrobe’s Weldon Street and placed the sound box on the porch to entertain passersby with carols during the holidays.

Rogers went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music composition in 1951 from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. He applied that skill to write the songs for his subsequent “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” show.

Another photo in the program, from 1959, shows Rogers, and his father, James, dedicating Latrobe’s Rogers-McFeely Memorial Pool, which continues to serve as a public space for swimming and cooling off in summer months.

Along with the slide show, the historical society will display some Fred Rogers memorabilia in its collection, including the 1946 Latrobe High School yearbook he edited. Rogers’ other school activities are noted in its pages. President of the student council, he also was active in forensics, the National Honor Society and the French Club.

Visitors also may view some of the early puppets Rogers created. It was a talent he used to enliven the puppet inhabitants of his television show’s Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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