SFO salutes television when it first took off

“Lucy–you got some smokin’ to do!”
SAN FRANCISCO—At first, I was kinda bummed my flight to Pasadena to attend the January 2012 TCA press tour would detour through the San Fran airport, a necessary stopover in order to cash in some Areoplan points. Mmmm–points.
Then I happened upon a treasure trove of television history. Truly, every journalist traveling to TCA should be routed back through Frisco.
The exhibit is called “TV in the Antenna Age” and it is scheduled to run through February. You can find it in Terminal 3, in the North Connect Gallery.
Thank goodness that was where my connecting flight was located or I’d never have known it was there. Well curated and displayed in giant, see-through display boxes right where thousands of commuters rush past every day, the exhibit is a Baby Boomer’s delight. 
Hey kids, know what time it is? Time to buy a 5-inch TV
Early TV sets, some dating back to the introduction of commercial television at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, are prominently on display. My parents had an old black and white Marconi as well as an Admiral when I was growing up in Etobicoke, but they were 60-inch Plasma screens compared to some of the hinged-door “talking furniture” sets on display at SFO. Many of the TVs are RCA models, including a few of the very first colour sets. The last TV on display is a monster deal with a built-in VCR player, the miracle of 1980.
There are plenty of smaller, portable sets, some that look like space age helmets, a few of those groovy, swiveling, Philco Predicta sets from the late ’50s and a crazy old Zenith with one giant round eye staring back at you like a surprised cyclops.
The Zenith: back when hi-def was round
Beyond the sets themselves, many artifacts bring back the so-called “Golden Age” of TV in the ’50s and ’60s. There is a carton of Phillip Morris cigarettes from the ’50s with Lucy and Desi’s picture on it–a little carcinogenic tie in from the sponsor. Dozens of board games are on display, including Twilight Zone games and many based on the original panel shows such as What’s My Line? Guess they came with wear-at-home masks.
Have to admit I want most of this junk, including the Ponderosa Flapjack mix, the vintage Swanson TV dinners, the chalk board for keeping track of your night’s viewing and the cool clock calendar shaped like a TV set. And those are all in the same case!
The exhibit was made possible by the San Francisco Bay Area television collecting community, so tube rat packers, we salute you.
George & Gracie: the only way to fly
Adding to the vintage TV ambiance are the many giant TV Guide covers on the walls, right where commuters zip past on those moving conveyor belts. Spotted two vintage Gene Trindl cover shots from the ’60s, one for I Dream of Jeanie next to a Lost in Space. That one has a story behind it. Gene had rigged Guy Williams up on wires to suspend him in mid air. They snapped after four or five shots and after he got up off the ground Williams told Trindl what he could do with his wires. Fortunately, Gene had his TV Guide cover shot.
TV in the Antenna Age is great fun for TV geeks like me, as well as media students, but, when it comes to airport time wasters, it has to be great fun for anyone. Plus, c’mon, like you need another reason to visit ‘Frisco?
I’m thinking these vintage board games would fetch a few bucks on eBay
A pair of TV Guide Trindl’s dress up the SFO conveyor
Gleason’s TV Fun Game, hootch for Crazy Guggenheim optional

One Response to “SFO salutes television when it first took off”

  1. interesting pictures, that seems to be about as good as being there

    I remember the Gilligan book

    This is actually an odd mix, because the TV’s are from an era before the shows whose merchandise is represented.
    But the shows featured are very special because each of them aired during the period when television made the transition from B & W to colour.

    Remember when the first appearance of the Beatles was broadcast in black and white on Ed Sullivan and their second in colour.

    Reply

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