Aura of the Era - Page 4

Coolest of the cool television sets from the mid-century eye a cozy comeback stage inside today’s modern homes
Aura of the Era
Aura of the Era
Sacramento Eichler homeowner Mark Saunders of GoogieTime (above) has a special affection for mid-century TVs, including this snazzy Admiral model (top) from his collection.
Aura of the Era
1950s ad for the Sylvania 'Halolight.'

Consider the Teleavia Panoramic, with models designed in the late 1950s by French designers Roger Tallon, Philippe Charbonneaux, and others. With its face-like screen attached to the chassis via a neck, and with four spindly, diagonal legs, one model looked like a creature about to strut across the room.

An Italian set from the same period with a similar look was dubbed the 'Marziano,' or 'Martian.'

In the 1950s Germany produced the Kuba Komet, as much a piece of avant-garde sculpture as a TV-stereo set. Its screen was encased in a wildly angled wall that shoots off into space. Amazingly, Kuba Komets are not all that hard to find, McVoy says, as "a lot of GIs brought them back from Germany with them."

Ironically, perhaps, some of the more unusual TV designs come from the late 1940s and very early 1950s. Some TV cabinets and housing for portable models are made of Bakelite, a plastic that was used for many radios of the period. As with the radios, the aesthetic was often Deco or Streamline Moderne.

Throughout the '50s and '60s, among the models that took on a modern look is the Sylvania 1959 Dualette, a two-tone with a protruding screen and zigzag frame. Then there's the Spartan Imperial, its wooden cabinet enlivened with three incised and pointed lozenge shapes.

Not to be overlooked are the 'roundies,' as early color sets are called.

"I'm a real big fan of the early color sets from 1955 to '60," Rubsam says. "They're fairly scarce, because there was not a lot of color programming then. They might show a color show once or twice a week. They were very expensive. It was a real status symbol. Many of [the sets] said, right on the front in big block letters, 'color.' So you knew they were in color even when they were off."

If you live in a 1970s Eichler or Streng mid-century modern home, you might consider going for a 1970s TV, when Space Age design returned with such sets as the plastic, transistorized Videosphere from JVC, which resembled either a space helmet and a baseball; or the Panasonic Orbitel 'flying saucer,' which, with its twin antennae, looked more like a guy emerging from a spacecraft.

Collectors of vintage TVs look beyond aesthetics to such things as innovation—and how well the TVs worked. Rubsam appreciates the simplicity of the electronics in the 'roundies.' He also loves the clever touches found in some TVs. "GE made a great coffee-table TV," he says. "The screen would fold down flat into the coffee-table top."

Also worthy of admiration, Weddington says, is "the 32-inch DuMont. "It was taken off the market because it was an X-ray hazard. It has a huge, huge picture tube. I think it was the biggest ever made. You stood eye to eye with the set. It was an awesome set."