Well, PDIR does indeed work, and I can get the display output that I want ... sort of ... BUT ... only in very limited and very specific circumstances.
PDIR really only works, IF:
(1) All the filenames in a directory are more or less the same length
(2) Or, if there are longer filenames they are only at the top of the directory listing
(3) File names don't contain spaces
(Note that Joe's example matches #2 and #3.)
Otherwise, the output of PDIR (with or without | FFIELDS) is pretty much a mess.
It appears that I have accidentally discovered the real reason why TCC and CMD display directory contents backwards, with the filename last instead of first. Because the length of filenames can vary greatly, making it is extremely difficult to put the filename first and then get everything else (size, date, etc. ) to line up in nice neat columns. Maybe not impossible, but way too complicated.
Oh well, it was a learning experience. Thanks to everyone.
If you want to be ambitious, you can write a BTM file that caches the file information in one or more arrays in memory, keeping track of the maximum filename width as you go, and then generates the output lined up accordingly.
15-20 years ago, I would have probably written it and posted it here.
With age, comes wisdom. I leave the actual implementation to the reader.