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Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

Making History in The Valley

Walk into an unassuming office building in Chatsworth and instead of offices you’ll find a museum. On display is an assortment of 15,000 artifacts, including a telephone booth from the original location of the Smoke House (a revered barbecue in Burbank), a working cash register from the 1800s and the multicolored Googie taco sign from the original Henry’s Tacos stand in Studio City. The 21630 Marilla St. building is the home of Valley Relics, a museum of all things Valley that Porter Ranch resident and local businessman Tommy Gelinas is opening Oct. 12. “The obsession started at age 10. It was a need to understand my history,” Gelinas said. The Valley native said a fascination with the Valley began in his youth after seeing a life-size sepia mural at the local Department of Water and Power building in Van Nuys. Gelinas became fascinated with what happened to the buildings depicted in the mural. So in 1997, Gelinas started collecting items from yard sales, thrift stores and eBay, at first focusing on yearbooks, postcards and photographs. One of his favorite possessions is an old letter from Isaac Newton Van Nuys, the founder of the community which bears his name, which explains a trip Van Nuys took from the East Coast to Napa Valley. It was acquired from a document dealer for $4,000. Gelinas later moved on to bigger stuff, such as the sign of Drexler’s Delicatessen, the former first kosher deli in North Hollywood. The sign cost $10,000 and still glows its bright neon and yellow. All in all, he has spent $300,000, with funds coming from his North Hollywood T-shirt printing business, Print Lab. Other major relics in the shop include a Lincoln Continental customized by former rodeo costume designer Nudie Cohn. The car features silver dollars all around the interiors and real guns on the door handles and hoods. The museum will be one of several individually owned curiosity shops in Los Angeles. Others include the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City and the Bunny Museum in Pasadena. The latter holds a Guinness World Record number of bunny memorabilia and was started by couple Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski to memorialize their love for each other through bunny gifts. “People come here to see the love story, but it’s become a full-time job,” Frazee said. Gelinas said he doesn’t intend to make Valley Relics his full time job. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. – Jacquelinne Mejia

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