"Don't tell any of your friends!" Mom shook her finger in my face before letting me out the door for school. She didn’t want a bunch of “youngsters underfoot with so much setting up to do. Besides, our teeny living room can only hold a handful of people at a time.” Struggling all day to conceal my excitement, my pent up frustration exploded as I darted off the school bus. My seven-year-old feet barely skimmed the ground, sprinting down the half-mile track of pavement to my driveway.
That afternoon promised the delivery of our first television set. My father wired home enough money to buy it. Working in Alaska, far from our Port Orchard home, he shared a small apartment with my oldest brother, Donald, stationed with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Until then, us neighborhood kids had been at the mercy of Gary and Dougie Knight. They owned the neighborhood’s first TV set. For a whole month, the ritual remained the same. Get off the bus. Go home. Wash up. Then head down the street to the Knight’s house where, at the magical hour of 4:00 p.m., eight to ten of my buddies semi-circled the black and white Motorola, waiting for the next adventure of "Hopalong Cassidy." Dressed in black, like the outlaws, but with snow-white hair and his white stallion, Topper, Hopalong never failed to save the day and always defeated the forces of evil – each time with honor.
A few commercial breaks simply gave us kids the chance to talk about the on-screen events. "I hope Hoppy puts Bart in jail for good this time." "Oh, he’ll get him, I’m sure." That sheriff's a fraidy cat." "I want a horse just like Topper." Then, the Ovaltine ad concluded, we quieted as the TV again transported us back to the Old West where Hopalong brought crooks to justice and made wrong things right.
"It's time," Mrs. Knight announced with her warm, freckled-faced smile. "Your folks will be expecting you before five." After Hopalong, we were obliged to leave. No...