Valley Relics Museum Collects and Showcases San Fernando Valley History

Valley Relics Museum Collects and Showcases San Fernando Valley History
The original sign from the legendary Palomino club in North Hollywood now lives at the Valley Relics Museum in Van Nuys. (Photo by David Sprague)

Nostalgia fueled the beginning of the Valley Relics Museum in Van Nuys.

Founder Tommy Gelinas said he was disappointed at the rate in which classic San Fernando Valley landmarks were disappearing in his adulthood. So the Valley native started tracking down keepsakes and relics, which he eventually started showcasing on social media blogs.

As popularity grew, his fans started helping him load up on more totems.

“A lot of people just jumped on the bandwagon,” Gelinas said. “They’ll call me and say, ‘Can you save this?’ or ‘There’s this estate sale and this guy was big in aerospace.’ It’s been really embraced and supported by the community.”

These artifacts come in the way of classic neon signs, such as the one that previously adorned the famous music venue, the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. As a former manufacturing hub in the aerospace and defense sectors, there’s also a lot of memorabilia and swag from defense contractors.

Film of course has a huge history in the region. The seminal film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was filmed throughout Northridge, Tujunga and Porter Ranch. Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson frequently sets his movies in the Valley, where he grew up.

“People who come here say, ‘Oh I remember all of this.’ It’s definitely Southern California pop culture, but what I find interesting is when people come from New York or Australia, they say they know the Valley well from all of the movies,” Gelinas said. “I call the Valley the world’s most famous valley. We produced the very first Camaro, out of Van Nuys. Lockheed made most of the warplanes that defended this country. You had some of the best boutique guitar makers. You’ve had so many movies made here. You had so many celebrities live here.”

Entering the events space

When Valley Relics moved from Chatsworth to the Van Nuys Airport in 2018, the space was not just bigger. It would also prove to be a lifesaver after the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

The more central location and stronger pull of displaying more items – which also included flashy classic cars and lowriders as well as BMX bikes – meant the museum could build up reserve funds. That allowed Gelinas to pay the year’s rent up front in 2020. And the ability to open enough of the structure to make it open air meant the museum had more freedom to operate while pandemic restrictions were still in place.

“Ever since Covid, I haven’t ever been busier with events,” Gelinas said. “It started with all of our money being depleted, but it kick-started us becoming a really popular destination and event space.”

In particular, the museum has played host to many bar and bat mitzvahs in the past few years, with the traditional venues for the event overbooked on account of the closure-induced backlogs. Gelinas said he also frequently hosts birthday parties and photo shoots at the location.

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