Vintage Cars, Neon Signs, and BMX Bikes — A Look Into the Valley’s Past

Before stars like Marilyn Monroe and Bing Crosby made their mark in Hollywood, they got their start in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, otherwise known as the “Valley.” Home to both automobile manufacturers and iconic film stars, the Valley became a melting pot for pop culture.

To preserve its unique history, long time collector, Tommy Gelinas, founded the Valley Relics Museum showcasing artifacts from the Valley’s past. We talked to Tommy to learn more about the museum and his inspiring mission to rescue artifacts from the Valley for generations to come.

Filled with countless vintage cars, neon signs, valley-made BMX bikes, old photographs, and collectibles dating back to the early 1800s, explore this pop culture hotspot and learn the story behind the space below. 

What is the history behind the Valley Relics Museum?

In the San Fernando Valley, we produced 62 million Chevrolets, invented the sport of BMX, and produced some of the best war planes that defended the USA out of Lockheed and rocket engines out of the West Valley. The Valley was also home to stars such as, Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, and even Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. As the history continued to disappear, I felt that I was losing my childhood and started to collect artifacts and later rescued large pieces of history from the Valley’s past.

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How did you come up with the name for the museum?

Everyone refers to the San Fernando Valley as “The Valley” so I started there and began to research the definition of artifacts, museums, etc. and the word “relic” popped up on Google while searching. While the definition could be for religious objects, it also is used for keepsakes or items of importance. So there it was, Valley Relics.

Did you always have a passion for pop culture?

Absolutely! I really love extremely old photographs and documents — the older, the better. But when you can actually relate to a piece of history that you grew up with, nothing compares with that.

What are some of your favorite items in the museum?

That is a hard question to answer. From an ashtray from the 1930s to a restaurant menu from the 1950s, or even the extremely large neon Palomino sign from North Hollywood, they all have purpose and meaning and hold a special place.  

Do you remember the first piece purchased for your collection?

The first relic I collected was an early 1900s postcard of Van Nuys.


What is Valley Relics’ mission?

Our mission is to continue to protect and preserve our local history while educating the community on the Valley’s and Los Angeles’ rich history. Eventually, we will be doubling the size of the museum and increasing our educational programs for the community.

What is Valley Relics working on now?  

Currently, we are working on what some people call the first Disney House / studio. Walt and his brother rented out the back garage as the studio and lived in the house in their humble beginning. The new owners were unaware of the home’s history and want to demolish it and build a new home.

That’s when Valley Relics stepped in and offered our services recommending they keep the house in place or worst case scenario, move the house to a new location making it into a Disney museum. Fortunately, we were able to have the city put a 75 day hold on the home to see if it held historical status. The new owners seem to be open to letting us move the home, but since a plan is never guaranteed, all we can do is ask and offer our assistance. We ultimately want to keep history in its place so moving the house would be a last resort.

What’s your favorite part about owning this museum?

Bringing the community together and preserving our history has been the most rewarding part of founding the Valley Relics Museum.

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