While researching about food myths yesterday I came across a site that listed the "25 Most Popular Urban Legends." Going back to the discussion of observational vs. clinical science in the video I linked yesterday, I have to wonder how the "List 25" site knew they were the most popular, rather than just popular ones that hit the author's radar, but regardless some of them are interesting to me since I, personally, held onto them tightly for a long while in my youth.
I acknowledge what snopes.com has to say about the titillating desire to see public figures as "not who they say they are," but that wasn't really why I bought into these myths. I remember, back when I was young, how wonderful it felt to believe that people who were already pretty awesome could be heroes, too. There were two separate myths whose bandwagons I recall leaping right onto:
- Mr. Rogers was a Navy SEAL who served heroically in Vietnam, and
- John Denver was a military sniper who served heroically in Vietnam.
Okay, I admit, I rephrased that last bit to make it easier to swallow.
The dates kinda sorta work out, ish. Mr. Rogers was born in 1928, and the SEALs were formed in 1962 and first used in Vietnam in 1963. Granted, one might imagine they'd initially go for younger men, since by that point a lot of military folks are winding down into less physically active parts of their careers, but there's no reason to believe a 34-year-old couldn't have made it.
Of course, that suggests that the 34-year-old wasn't already doing other things. 1963 was a bit of a milepost year for Mr. Rogers. That was the year he graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and subsequently packed his bags to head to Toronto (yes, Canada--not really a participant in the Vietnam War) to do the very first few years of Mister Rogers on a broadcast network. Kind of fortunately for us, that show didn't last, but he learned what he needed to and three years later moved the show to WQED in Pittsburgh, and then two years later to PBS, and the rest, as they so annoyingly say, is history: four Emmys, a Peabody, a Lifetime Achievement award, the afore-mentioned PMoF, and even an asteroid named after him. Not bad for a non-Navy-SEAL, eh?
Meanwhile, the age thing works much better for John Denver, who was born in 1943 and therefore could easily have been a young, strapping and eager 19-year-old when the SEALs were formed. But the legend doesn't have him as a SEAL; what I've heard places him as an Army sniper. Eh, a hero's a hero, right?
There's a little more of a military bent to Denver's case, too--while Fred Rogers probably never, ever, considered the military as a career, Denver wanted to follow his dad through a career in the Air Force as a pilot. He was turned down, though, due to his eyesight--as was I, once upon a time (the only reason I add that is to note that I have something in common with John Denver).
Regardless, in the early years of Vietnam, Denver was comfortably (ish) ensconced in college at Texas Tech School of Engineering in Lubbock. At about the same time the Navy SEALs were leaping to service over there, Denver decided (and rightfully so, in his case) that he could do better for himself as a singer than as an architect, and so he dropped out, moved to Los Angeles, and joined a group. Then, at the same time the war was peaking and winding down (1968-1969) Denver reached a point where he'd learned what he needed to about the music business, and so it was 1969 when he broke away from his group and released Rhymes and Reasons. And the rest, as they say, is....
Nah, I'm not gonna say it.
Have a great Memorial Day.