“That is like my childhood in a nutshell,” Valley Relics Museum founder Tommy Gelinas says as we survey a show of Southern California quick meals curios. Between a wood Taco Bell signal and an oil portray of Colonel Sanders, there’s a Jack within the Field clown head that you just used to have the ability to yell your drive-through order into—no less than till “the clowns may’ve freaked out one too many children so within the late ’70s, early ’80s they began blowing up Jack [in TV commercials].”
If there’s a Twentieth-century native popular culture curiosity that’s vanished from L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, there’s a very good likelihood some remaining shred of it has discovered a second life at this Lake Balboa museum. Gelinas has been rescuing, accumulating and preserving Valley-related ephemera for over twenty years. In 2013, he first put his accumulation of mementos on show on the Valley Relics Museum’s first brick-and-mortar location in Chatsworth. As his assortment of 20-foot-tall indicators grew, he moved the museum in 2018 to its present dwelling, a pair of spacious hangars on the Van Nuys Airport filled with automobiles, bikes, neon, arcade cupboards and superstar memorabilia.
For out-of-towners and Basin-dwelling Angelenos, the Valley’s repute has usually been unfairly distilled down to some issues: warmth, grownup leisure and, like, grody-sounding Valspeak. For Gelinas, although, rising up within the Valley was a lot greater than that. It was go-karts and BMX tracks, report shops and themed eating places, movie studios and film star residents, sizzling rods and airplanes, and glowing swimming swimming pools alongside empty ones that’d been transformed into skateparks. However there wasn’t actually any form of shrine to that story of the Valley.
“I all the time inform individuals, it’s not Van Gogh,” Gelinas says. “The Valley’s historical past is de facto necessary historical past, it’s very fascinating historical past. However nobody’s actually preventing for it.”
Now, although, the Valley Relics Museum positive is. In contrast to a Publish-Impressionist masterpiece, its acquisition and authentication course of tends to be a bit extra simple. Lots of the gadgets that enter into the museum’s assortment are donated, many instances from celebrities’ and enterprise house owners’ surviving members of the family. The remainder are rescued. In these instances, there’s a fairly good likelihood the museum already has postcards and photographs to doc the historical past of the merchandise, and oftentimes Gelinas is scooping up the artifacts himself.
“I just about have saved each merchandise personally by hand,” he says. “And when one thing’s donated, it takes money and time to rent a crane and convey a crew down. Anybody can take down an indication for just a few hundred bucks. However simply anybody can really fastidiously take away the neon, convey the signal down, transport it, get it secure after which restore it.”
The museum’s hangar stuffed with illuminated signage is well its most visually spectacular asset. You’ll discover insignias from some acquainted spots like Henry’s Tacos and Bob’s Huge Boy, however the neon and backlit assortment is generally a set of Valley bygones: nation western membership the Palomino, mostly-vanished quick meals chain Pioneer Hen and Woodland Hills spot My Brother’s Bar-B-Q (three-dimensional cow signal included).
For a very long time, the Valley was regarded down upon as a result of individuals didn’t perceive it
It’s additionally the place the museum deviates essentially the most from its geographic boundaries and acts as a catch-all for dying signage across the metropolis, just like the starburst-adorned Premiere Lanes from Santa Fe Springs or the Sundown Strip’s former Tiffany Theater and Ben Frank’s. After we met with Gelinas this fall, we occurred to convey up the Pig ‘N Whistle register Hollywood that had been abruptly dismantled the day earlier than. Positive sufficient, Gelinas began swiping via photographs on his telephone: His staff had already saved the neon letters and thoroughly positioned them into the mattress of a pickup truck.
Past the monument to enterprise marquees, you’ll discover rows upon rows of nostalgic souvenirs. BMX bikes from producers like Redline and Mongoose—that have been made within the Valley, the place the game first took off within the ‘70s—are suspended from the ceiling. There are indicators and blueprints from Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works aerospace plant in Solar Valley. Nonetheless-functioning cupboards from Household Enjoyable Arcade in Granada Hills are set to free play. There’s a money register and belt buckles from cowboy-bedazzler Nudie Cohn’s North Hollywood store, plus his antler and spur-adorned Pontiac. Spicoli’s Volkswagen bus from Quick Instances at Ridgemont Excessive is presently on show on a yearlong mortgage, full with its inside disco ball.
Like every correct museum, there’s a present store, too, and right here Valley Relics has taken the intelligent step of letting you actually purchase a bit of nostalgia. Gelinas scooped up the rights to dozens of defunct native restaurant and retail logos, so you possibly can assist the nonprofit by shopping for a T-shirt with Malibu Grand Prix’s F1-style go kart towards the sundown or Licorice Pizza’s steaming report. Taken altogether, it’s a fairly persuasive argument that the Valley has provided far more than simply sleepy suburbia.
“For a very long time, the Valley was regarded down upon as a result of individuals didn’t perceive it,” Gelinas says. “However each time somebody talked humorous concerning the Valley, we have been like, it doesn’t actually matter, as a result of there was a lot to do.”
The Valley Relics Museum is positioned at 7900 Balboa Boulevard in hangars C3 and 4 (you’ll discover the doorway on Stagg Avenue). It’s open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm. Admission prices $15.
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