There are no employees at the House of Broadcasting.
On a recent trip, I walked up the stairs at Santa Fe West in Old Town Scottsdale, where the the museum, filled with memorabilia from local television and radio, is in a converted apartment above the Southwest jewelry store. I was greeted by ... no one. No clerk at the front desk, no docent, no tour guide. Nothing but paraphernalia from local TV and radio stations.
Perhaps due to the Santa Fe West employees downstairs, there’s never been much of an incident in the four years the House of Broadcasting has been in this location (the museum, founded in 1997, spent four years at Chris-Town Mall in Phoenix).
“So far no one’s walked out with anything except some money,” says House of Broadcasting founder Mary Morrison.
Naturally, the museum isn’t always unmanned. Volunteer tour guides show off Morrison’s collections to groups, including schools and civic clubs.
Morrison, now retired, worked as a media buyer for years and accumulated a large collection of items during her career, which prompted the founding of the museum.
The exhibits span several rooms and include a 1940s film projector, an old “furniture piece” television/radio/record player combo, old TV cameras and broadcasting consoles and an outfit and guitar worn by famed country singer and former KNIX (102.5 FM) owner Buck Owens. There are historic photographs, showing employees of radio stations like KOY (1230 AM), the oldest radio station in Arizona, with old-time celebrities like satirical musician Spike Jones and boxer Jack Dempsey, and various tchotchkes such as T-shirts and other promotional items from radio stations. Noted names in local news, such as Phoenix’s first female news anchor, Mary Jo West, are celebrated (one of her outfits is on display), as is the long-running local children’s program “The Wallace and Ladmo Show.”
“People who are local spend more time with (the “Wallace and Ladmo” exhibit) than anything else in the museum,” says Dave Weiser, a retired KTAR (620 AM) employee and current House of Broadcasting volunteer tour guide.
Which isn’t to say that everything there is old. There are recent additions, too, like a tribute to the KTKV-TV (Channel 3) and KNXV-TV (Channel 15) employees who died in a helicopter collision last summer. Current items, like a KISS (104.7 FM) flier featuring Gwen Stefani, Ashlee Simpson and Usher, make a jarring contrast to the bulk of the collection.
“As much stuff as we have here, we have even more we have no room for,” says Weiser.
So much stuff, in fact, that they’re looking for a new, permanent place to put it all. The museum, which is free to the public, is supported through two annual fundraising events: a celebrity golf tournament and the Celebrity Toast. The goal of this year’s Celebrity Toast, which will honor former KPNX-TV (Channel 12) president Jack Clifford and Sleep America co-founder Debbie Gaby, is to raise money so the museum can have a building of its own. (The event is scheduled for May 17 at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix.)
The House of Broadcasting does more than hold old photos and equipment. It also reminds of a time when local radio and TV had a huge influence on residents; before the Internet and cable TV created mass competition for consumers’ attention.
“It used to be, when there were only four of five stations, you’d build your station on the strength of local newscasts,” says Weiser. “Now, an awful lot of local viewers get their news via cable.”
House of Broadcasting
Where: 7150 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Information: (602) 944-1997 or houseofbroadcasting.com