Like oh my god, there’s a totally tubular place in Chatsworth that celebrates everything that was rad about The San Fernando Valley, you know like, THE VALLEY.
Out in the Valley.
Once a wide open area full of expansive vistas, farms and ranches belonging to early Hollywood stars, by the ’60s and ’70s the Valley was paved and suburbanized, a bedroom community to the L.A. basin.
The butt end of jokes by those on the other side of the hill who criticized it as being generic, much of the Valley’s rich history, amazing pop culture contributions and uniqueness was ignored, scoffed at or even erased. Valley history was considered a dark shadow compared to its shinier sister Hollywood.
Chatsworth, Yo. 21630 Marilla St. Chatsworth CA 91311 to be exact.
“As I got older and things disappeared, it really started bothering me. I remember trying to explain to a friend, ‘There was this place… that place…’ I started to search and I realized there was no place to go for Valley history. The Valley preservation got pushed to the side. Any type of documentation is hidden underneath people’s beds. People are almost ashamed. The Valley got the shit end of the deal.” – Valley Relics Museum curator/founder Tommy Gelinas.
It took lifetime Valley Boy Tommy Gelinas, a Gen-Xer whose 1970s childhood memories include long gone BMX bike tracks, the first skateboard park, Skatercross in Reseda and the amusement park Uncle Ben’s Kiddyland in Van Nuys to finally take a stand about the disappearance of his precious past. “At a young age I thought, ‘Where is it all going?’ I honestly thought there was gonna be somewhere in the Mojave Desert, a graveyard of artifacts of things that used to be here. And the reality is that there was no preservation.” – Valley Relics Museum curator/founder Tommy Gelinas
Don’t Cry…I miss Busch Gardens too, Iron Eyes. I really do, that was one of my favorite childhood places to visit growing up.
To keep his memories alive, at first Tommy started collecting vintage Valley postcards. They were easy to handle and cheap. But he soon got the bug and his collection spread to pop culture memorabilia and eventually massive vintage signs. He began taking it upon himself to go on rescue missions when long established Valley businesses, restaurants or bars shut down. Opened October 2013 in a sizable warehouse and jam-packed with his fascinating and substantial Valley collectibles, Tommy is quick to mention that this is only about 50 percent of his collection.
A current display revolving around bigger-than-life Western wear tailor Nudie Cohn and his coveted Nudie suits.
“Every Valley person has a story. There’s a language of the heart for Valley people… It’s like hunting treasure. Everything I get has such an important meaning… I want to tell a story. I want to keep that history alive”. – Valley Relics Museum curator/founder Tommy Gelinas
“In the past it’s gotten the short end of the stick as far as its history is concerned. Things just disappear,” said Tommy Gelinas, who owns a T-shirt printing plant in North Hollywood and has a lifelong fascination with the Valley.
The museum’s walls are filled with vintage signs that once drew customers to the Valley Ranch Barbecue in Lake Balboa, Northridge’s White Horse Inn, Chez Nous in Toluca Lake and the Palomino country bar in North Hollywood.
To keep his memories alive, at first Tommy started collecting vintage Valley postcards.
Dimples Showcase ~ Burbank California First Karaoke Club in America.
Nudie on Nudie. The collection includes Western wear mogul Nudie Cohn’s 1975 Cadillac convertible, still festooned with silver dollars and Texas Longhorns on its hood.
Some of the trailblazing BMX bicycles manufactured during the 1970s by Gary Littlejohn, Mongoose and Redline — the three big firms in the Valley.
Gelinas retrieved the original Henry’s Tacos sign and menu when the Studio City food stand faced closure in 2012.
The Sherman Room was old school. Naugahyde booths, wood paneled walls, waitresses who’ve been there for ages, good steaks at a good price. RIP. Keep the Valley alive and go check out this incredible place. The Museum is open to the public with free admission every Saturday 10am-3pm. Private guided tours group tours are also available.