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SFO Salutes Television When It First Took Off
January 6, 2012  | By Bill Brioux  | 1 comment
From tvfeedsmyfamily.com

At first, I was kinda bummed my flight to Pasadena to attend the January 2012 Television Critics Association press tour would detour through the San Francisco airport, a necessary stopover in order to cash in some Aeroplan points. Mmmm -- points.

Then I happened upon a treasure trove of television history. Truly, every journalist traveling to TCA should be routed back through SFO.

The exhibit is called "TV in the Antenna Age," and it's scheduled to run through February. You can find it in Terminal 3, in the North Connect Gallery.

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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 (or TV lover's) delight.

Early TV sets, some dating back to 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, Ont. 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 color 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 a giant round eye staring back at you like a surprised cyclops.

Beyond the sets themselves, many artifacts bring back the so-called Golden Age of TV in the '50s and '60s. There's a carton of Philip Morris cigarettes from the '50s with Lucy and Desi's picture on it -- a little carcinogenic tie-in from their I Love Lucy 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 chalkboard 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 pack rats, we salute you.

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 Jeannie next to a Lost in Space.

That latter one has a story behind it. Gene had rigged Guy Williams up on wires to suspend him in mid-air. That 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-killers, it has to be great fun for anyone. Plus, c'mon, like you need another reason to visit 'Frisco?

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Read more by Bill Brioux at tvfeedsmyfamily.com



Neil said:

I live in the Bay Area, and over the years there have been some superb exhibits in the Terminal 3 gallery. The last time I walked through there (which was probably Fall 2010, because that corridor takes you to and from the United Airlines gates, a carrier I avoid like the plague if any other alternative exists), they had an exhibit of old-time phonographs, 78 rpm records and similar memorabilia from before and just after WWII. Great stuff, and yet the thousands of passengers who whiz by it every day mostly ignore the display cases, unless they're trying to kill time until their inevitably-delayed flight starts boarding.

Thanks for spreading the word about this little gem for visitors to SAN FRANCISCO ('cause the term "Frisco" is verboten, on pain of death, or at least banishment to Fresno).

Comment posted on January 7, 2012 3:06 PM

chris shank said:

Interesting and worthwhile article on the vintage TV display at SFO. And, please, show us San Franciscans some respect by calling our lovely city, San Francisco. I can forgive you one "'Frisco", but not two in the same article.

[You'll have to forgive Bill Brioux on the double "Frisco" infraction. He's Canadian. Explains SO much. - DB]

Comment posted on January 8, 2012 9:43 PM

Joel Ford said:

What's wrong with saying SanFranfrisco?

Comment posted on January 10, 2012 2:59 PM
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this piece of info was awesome i remember when i was 4 we had the munsters and now when we have it its so old that we cant even play it thanks for this awesome piece
Sep 2, 2013   |  Reply
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