In 1950, six million homes in America had television sets. That included our family, living in a smoky steel town on the Ohio River. My father was a busy general practitioner with three inquisitive children and a discerning wife. We all stood in hushed reverence when our town’s TV man wheeled the glorious 19-inch DuMont console into the recreation room, wired it to the new antenna on the roof, and plugged it in.

I was barely five, a tender witness to the cavalcade of programs that flickered magically before my eyes. Young boys are always hungry for heroes and the early network dream merchants offered my post-WWII generation a rich pantheon of icons, starting with the Lone Ranger. That slick, soft-spoken masked man with silver bullets lining his gun belt patrolled the West in boots and tights. Every Friday evening, in less than 25 minutes of airtime, the Lone Ranger solved a life-and-death problem, exposed and humiliated the villain, and then vanished on his white stallion to a rousing brass send-off by Rossini.

Early TV offered modern day heroes, too. The suave detective Boston Blackie busted criminals in Los Angeles, as did Joe Friday in his droll, just-the-facts-please, Dragnet. And way up north, Sergeant Preston stymied evil claim jumpers in the Yukon snow banks.

And during the Eisenhower era what American boy (or girl) did not worship the caped super human from Krypton, who was able to leap the tallest skyscraper and squeeze a lump of coal in his fist into a glistening diamond in less than five seconds?

But none stirred my soul as powerfully as Captain Video. A low-budget science fiction program on the DuMont Network, Captain Video and his Video Rangers was broadcast live at 7 p.m. weeknights from a tiny studio in the Wanamaker’s department store in New York. The show ran from 1949 till 1955 for over 1,500 episodes. I watched most all of them, always spellbound.

Captain Video’s first appearance in our home was traumatic. Our family had gathered after dinner to watch Kukla, Fran and Ollie, the popular puppet show out of Chicago. We waited for smiling Fran Allison to croon her merry theme song, but suddenly a jagged mountain appeared with a transmitting tower flashing signals from its summit. The music was tumultuous, Wagner’s Flying Dutchman.

We were stunned. Captain Video preempted our puppet show. My sister Mary Ann began to cry. I was upset, too, but only briefly. Quickly I learned that Captain Video was the Master of the Stratosphere and that he fought evil throughout the universe. Instantly, I volunteered for service with the Captain. I was done with puppets. Now I wanted robots, ray guns, and rocket ships.

Sponsors included Post cereals and Powerhouse candy bars. To purchase the Captain Video merchandise advertised on the show, viewers had to send in money plus Post Toasties box tops or Powerhouse candy wrappers. The selection included a space helmet with a clear plastic visor that went up and down, a flying saucer ring and another very special ring with a picture of Captain Video holding a ray gun.

I had to have the helmet and I had to have the ring with the Captain’s face and ray gun. I sent in the candy wrappers with several weeks of my allowance money. After an eternity, the helmet and the ring came in the mail. I became an official Video Ranger.

For my seventh birthday I received a powder blue uniform with a yellow lightning bolt across the front and a ray gun with holster. I have home movies of me as a young Ranger prowling through my mother’s rock garden (a/k/a the surface of Mars) in full regalia, including my Captain Video ring.

I was 10 when Captain Video went off the air, and I was ready to move on to other heroes like Cleveland Indian stars and maybe Pat Boone and Elvis Presley. I deposited my Captain Video gear into our basement toy closet, which had evolved into the graveyard for old board games, tin soldiers, partially amputated dolls, baseball cards, cowboy pistols — the detritus of childhood no longer amusing or relevant.

When we kids went off to boarding schools, our mother cleaned out the toy closet. We hardly noticed. When I went off to college, however, I would sometimes return home and snoop about the house nostalgically for my old toys. I wondered what had ever happened to my Captain Video ring. I tried to forget about it, but I could not.

I went to medical school and when I returned home, I searched everywhere for some special hiding place but found nothing. No trinket from my childhood seemed as important. Like “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane, the ring haunted me. I wanted to hold it in my hand and look into the Captain’s face.

I completed my medical residency and was practicing in Boston. Still, when I flew home to visit my parents in Ohio, I nosed around for that ring.

When my mother died and my father moved into a nursing home, we sold the house. The night before the closing, I searched through the house again, seeking out every possible corner, shelf, rafter. Still nothing. And yet, 30 years after the sale, I still wonder if that ring hides somewhere in that house, totally unappreciated by its current inhabitants.

Then several Christmases ago my wife Martha gave me a DVD of some early Captain Video shows. The disk includes the Powerhouse commercials and Wild West cattle stampedes along with clunky sets, makeshift props from the Wanamaker hardware department, and utterly egregious dialogue. It was almost too painful for me to watch. But I couldn’t turn away.

At one point the Captain’s assistant, Ranger Ray, speaks confidentially into the camera: “I have a personal message to all of you Video Rangers out there. If you have purchased your official Captain Video ring, never lose it! You must keep it on your person at all times, and if you lose track of your ring, the Captain will think you are not a loyal Video Ranger, and he will be very, very cross with you. I repeat: Never lose your Captain Video ring!”

That clear message from Ranger Ray, heard long ago, had crept in deep. For many decades it played on my conscience. To borrow a phrase from the 1950’s, I was “brainwashed” but I never knew it. I suspect there are other boomers out there with the same hardwired anxiety neurosis caused by losing track of the precious ring.

On Ebay I discovered a Canadian seller willing to part with a Captain Video ring (close to mint condition) for only $100. I bid on it and won. I gave it to myself for my 74th birthday this summer. My ring cycle is complete, and I hope the Captain will at last forgive me.

Dr. Gerald Yukevich is a partially retired physician living in Vineyard Haven.