I remember the first television on our block. I was four and my sister, Rae, was seven-almost-eight. It was a bright July early afternoon and we were playing with the neighbor kids in the empty lot, actually a pasture, across the street from our house. Across the street was the edge of town. Our house was in town. Where we were playing was in the country, but at four such finite distinctions are of little consequence. They just mean more room to play.
I remember a series of games: Hide and Seek, Breakaway, Red Rover, King of the Hill, Captain May I—young kid games. We boys were too young for baseball and the girls in our neighborhood were few and far in between. They usually played with us boys—some of them even climbed trees or played Pirate, my favorite game of all. Wooden swords, a red handkerchief from my Father’s work-clothes drawer tied around my head, and another two around my waist for a sash. A cardboard eye-patch colored black, with a rubber band to hold it around my head.
Next door to us lived twin girls my age, Annette and Nancy (“Ann and Nan?) and their older brother Paul, the same age as Rae. Their Dad worked in a hardware store downtown and drove a 1954 Ford. I hated his car because it only had two doors. Ours was so much better. We had a 1949 Studebaker Shark with “sewerside? doors, with the hinges to the rear and the latch toward the front, so you can open the door when the car is doing sixty miles an hour down the highway and jump out and commit “sewerside.? On our Studebaker, only the back doors were suicide doors. It would stall at stop signs and then refuse to start. Sometimes the Studebaker made Dad so mad that he threatened to push it off the bank into the Sheyenne River, just a little ways from our house. Mom thought it was a bad car and we should get rid of it. I thought it was great and didn’t care if it started or not. I liked the suicide doors…
Later that afternoon we five kids were playing Pirate, using the black Studebaker for a ship. All four doors were wide open and the Jolly Roger—an old bleached-out flour sack towel with a black crayon skull and cross bones—was flying from the radio antenna, with the battery slowly dying from the open doors and the accidentally-turned-on headlights. After repeated sightings of treasure ships, only to have them disappear over the horizon, it was time to walk the plank—girls first, of course. The plank was an old tobaggan turned upside down and stuck out the back door of the passenger’s side of the Studebaker—it was not our toboggan and nobody knew whose it was. It just magically appeared one day when it was needed as a walking plank for a pirate ship.
After our fill of walking the plank, with no more Spanish galleons on the horizon, we all were lying around, wondering what was next. Our ennui soon ended. Ann, Nan and Paul’s Mother had a voice that could shatter a newly preserved jar of crab apple jelly. We heard her screech: “Paul-Ann-Nan!? Three names, one word. “It’s here!!!?
What was here? The end of the world? Had the Russians dropped the Big One? Were they getting another ’54 Ford? What?
Paul looked at us with a huge grin and announced, “It’s our new TV!?
A TV set!! An actual TV set. We’d heard about TV. It was like having a movie theater in your house; better than the drive-in movie because you didn’t have to go outside to go to the bathroom and you could get a drink of water any time and you could—believe it or not—change channels to see a different show! Plus, there were advertisements for so many great things every family should and could have for their own!
Of course we all rushed over to see the TV. Paul-Ann-Nan’s Father had come home early from work at the hardware store to help the deliveryman from the Furniture Palace set up the aerial on the roof of their house. Ladders, pliers, wires, their Mom on the phone talking to every neighbor, and a howling static coming from their living room through the open windows. An hour later, with a roomful of adults and kids waiting and staring at the screen, black and white fuzz, snarling and howling from the speaker (the neighborhood dogs loved it and were singing along while every cat disappeared from sight), disappointed faces, empty coffee cups, crumb-filled cookie plates, overflowing ashtrays, and nothing to do, nothing to see. No Mickey Mouse Club, no Three Stooges, no Superman: howl and squeak and black and white fuzz.
“I know!? I said, “Let’s play Treasure Island…?

I’m not much of a dessert fan. My favorite desserts are usually pretty simple and not overly sweet. This recipe is an old favorite of mine and is very quick and easy to make. You can substitute brandy for the rum, or use ½ teaspoon rum extract and water. A cream cheese frosting, applied after baking, is a nice addition also.

2/3-cup raisins
3 Tablespoons dark rum
2½ cups plus 1 Tablespoon flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
¼-teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup light molasses
½ cup butter, softened
½ teaspoon lemon extract
3 Tablespoons buttermilk
½-cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place raisins and rum in saucepan over low heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except for walnuts) and mix until smooth and creamy. Slowly add dry mixture to liquid until thoroughly blended. Stir in walnuts. Use two spoons to drop cookie dough onto oiled baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to rest briefly, then transfer to cooling rack.

Yield: about 30 cookies.

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