Classic TV Combats Airport Ennui

Posted by - November 18, 2011 | Category: Escapes, North America, United States

Looking Back a Move Forward in Airport Entertainment

What do you get when you pair a terminally boring place (an airport) with an equally boring attraction (a museum)? Actually, you get something that proved to be quite a bit of fun.

While transiting in San Francisco recently, in between scouring for elusive electrical outlets for my laptop and scanning the departures board for flights to Bangkok (I had 4 hours to kill), I happened upon the San Francisco Airport Museum.

In their own words, here’s what it’s all about:

“Since 1980, SFO Museum (SFOM) has presented the traveling public with exhibitions exploring art, history, anthropology, science, and popular culture in galleries throughout SFO’s terminals, SFOM has the distinction of being the first and only fully accredited museum located within an airport, and its success has inspired the initiation of arts programs in other airports nationwide. Nearly all of SFOM’s galleries are located presecurity and are accessible to the public year-round and twenty-four hours a day.”

Rotating Exhibits

Television -- TV in the Antenna Age Display, SFOM San Fransisco Airport Museum

The current rotating exhibit is entitled “Television: TV in the Antenna Age”, and since I’m a recovering boob-tube addict, I was like Lindsay Lohan in a jewellery shop.

The displays and stories just drew me in.

I got a real kick out the old collectible television sets from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Old General Electric televisions

Old futuristic-looking black and white television set

Collectible television sets on display, San Francisco airport musuem

Retro antique television sets, San Francisco Airport museum

Television Remote Controls

I love an industry whose idea of a key improvement is a quicker way to turn off what they’ve just sold you.

So what self-respecting television museum collection would be complete without a thorough inventory on remote controls. There’s a stellar display here on the history and development of the remote, including the aptly named Blab-Off.

Blab-Off 1950's TV remote control, , San Francisco airport museum

The small print in the bottom left of the Flash-Matic (the world’s first TV remote control, invented by Eugene Polley) reads: “With a beam of magic light, this Zenith ‘flash tuner’ works TV miracles. Absolutely harmless to humans!” 

Flash-matic tuning remote control ad, , San Francisco airport museum

I like the wording of the Commercial Killer best: “This is the way to beat televiewers’ disease…yes sir, men, tests prove that you can cut the glib gab out of your set with this gadget.”

Commerical Killer remote control ad, , San Francisco airport museum

But let’s not forget the granddaddy of all remotes – the seminal Lazy Bones.

Zenth Lazy Bones Remote ad, , San Francisco airport museum

Television Games and Memorabilia

Several display cases are devoted to games, puzzles and all shapes and sizes of television memorabilia.

Board games from the 1950's

Dino the Dinosaur table lamp anyone?

Old television related games and toys

A rousing round of The Patty Duke Game perhaps? No? Think you’ve got a prayer in a spirited game of The Flying Nun?

children's TV games and toys from the 50's and 60's

Thirsty? What say you wet your whistle with a sip from a Hopalong Cassidy thermos?

Retro antique children's games, toys, and memorobilia - San Framcisco Airport Museum

Or maybe just take a seat and just soak it all in.

Antique child's television stool

Television Posters

The exhibit also features an array of vintage television posters. One entire wall of otherwise wasted space along a moving sidewalk is adorned with TV Guide covers from the 1960’s.

I Dream of Jeannie TV Guide poster, San Francisco airport museum

Agent 99 Get Smart TV Guide cover poster, , San Francisco airport museum











Batman TV Guide poster, , San Francisco airport museum

Dick Van Dyke Show TV Guide Cover 1964, San Francisco Airport Museum











TV Guide Covers from the 1960's, San Francisco airport museum

Larger stills from favourites throughout the history of television are displayed throughout the exhibit adding visual interest to a usually dull and monotone airport space.

All in the Family poster, Television museum, San Francisco Airport

The Honeymooners poster

Original Star Trek poster

The Lone Ranger and Silver

The San Francisco Airport Museum is a shining example of how an airport can do it right.

There’s only so much book-reading, web-surfing, and duty-free’ing  you can do before you go bonkers. The museum here gives a much needed boost of fun (did I just say museums were fun?) to the waiting game. And the rotating exhibits ensure frequent fliers are not stuck with the same old same-old.

What cool things to do have you encountered at airports?


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54 comments - add one
  1. This is pretty cool! Knowing the museum geek I am, I’d be so enthralled by Zenith’s new technology (“absolutely harmless to humans!”) and the intricacies of the “I Dream of Jeannie” board game (“Yes, Master!”) that I’d miss my flight…

    The worst airport “museum” I’ve encountered was in Toronto – there was a room reserved for such historical wonders as a glass case filed with a pile of used slippers from the (yawnnnn……) National Ballet of Canada. They were behind several layers of bullet-proof plexiglass, so you couldn’t even try them on to see if you, too, would develop an impressive case of pre-flight hammer toe, or have a toenail or two turn black and fall off, a la Natalie Portman’s “Black Swan”.

    One again, Raymond, you are my HERO, man…

    1. LISA!!! You leave the best comments EVER! Sadly I missed the slipper show in T dot O. Well not sadly at all really. And when I read “hammer toe” all I saw was “camel toe”. Thanks for that. 🙂

      1. Tsk, tsk, tsk – don’t you know by now that us girls DON’T get “camel toe” from trying on USED FOOTWEAR?!?! We get it from actually trekking across the SAHARA in MOROCCO on a CAMEL in our Patagonia zip-off pants and a Tilley hat!!
        Which, as I recall, I don’t believe YOU’VE ever done, Mr. Walsh – with or WITHOUT the Patagonia pants and/or Tilley hat!! (PS – Name-brand endorsement contracts gratefully accepted)….

  2. I am another musuem geek and I have to admit that I sometimes book my flights to get routed through Amsterdam’s shipohl. Why? Because a) they have a real musuem too, orignlas from the teikjsmusuem, so you can get up close and personal with your Rembrandt and Tizian. Next to it is the casino, where I just love to watch the addicts pull at the one armed bandits and then comes the best massage parlor (no, not what YOU think) I’ve ever been in. 5 hours in Shipohl? No hardship at all.

  3. SFO has terrific exhibits. I liked this television one, too, even though I haven’t had a chance to really stop and look — just enjoyed it while passing by on my way to/from the gate. Cool post.

  4. This is very cool. I love it when airports make a bit of an effort to make things interesting for people in between flights.

    My favourite is Detroit, they have a lightshow.

  5. Having used SFO as my airport base for the past four years, I think I can say with authority that it consistently has the BEST airport exhibits. Oh, and have you seen the new Virgin America terminal 2? Stunning!

  6. Last time we flew through Bush International (Ugh) they had a brilliant arts and crafts exhibit (I mean the movement, not latch hooks). Really, it turned out to be a very enjoyable way to kill some time.

    This exhibit in SFO looks great. Fun surprise.

  7. Before reading this, I thought FOR SURE I wanted to live at the airport in Singapore.

    (The auditorium-like seating and kids jungle had me sold.)

    But a feature on television remote controls? Well I think I may just change my mind…


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