One topic that has come up a few times on the Neighborhood Archive message board over the past few weeks has been the content of Episode 37 from 1968. For those who have not been a part of this message board conversation, you might be surprised to learn that the question at hand is this: On the Neighborhood program, was Mr. McFeely a smoker?
Let's start with what led to this question in the first place. According to the summary of Episode 37 found on the University of Pittsburgh Library's online catalog, Mister Rogers "talks about how he is sometimes angered by Mr. McFeely's smoking."
There it is in black and white. I had never seen this myself until it was pointed out to me by readers of the Archive site. Included in the most recent batch of episodes provided to me for the site, I was able to check Episode 37 first hand.
And guess what.
Mr. McFeely does indeed appear in this episode and the rest of the description from the Pitt library is accurate; however, there is nothing in the episode that suggests that Mr. McFeely is a smoker.
So then the question became -- was this episode edited at a later time to remove this content once smoking became less "socially acceptable?" While this is a possibility, I just couldn't believe that this was ever included in a Neighborhood visit to begin with. So I sought out the help of a reliable source from the Fred Rogers Company and here is what I learned.
1. Mr. McFeely never smoked and no mention was ever made of him smoking.
2. This was clearly something added (for whatever reason) by the person documenting this episode at Pitt.
3. According to Pitt, this information is part of a permanent database and cannot be edited.So there it is. The story behind the story.
Mr. McFeely. Non-smoker.