Okay San Fernando Valley, tell me you haven’t seen “IT 2” yet? IT (pun intended) fails in many ways; the pace lags, the dialogue at times seems forced and the plot takes you places I personally didn’t care to go.
“IT 2” shines in the one scene Stephen King makes a cameo. James McAvoy enters a vintage shop, enticed by his childhood bike in the window display. It is clear from his fixation the hold that nostalgia has on most people. The chance to glimpse items from the past brings back visceral memories and elicits euphoria. This moment of clarity however is not worth the 170- minute runtime of the film. Especially when we have our own space dedicated to nostalgic blast- from-the-past feel good relics.
The Valley Relics Museum resides in two airplane hangers on the outskirts of the Van Nuys airport. Boasting 10,000 square feet of exhibition space, this multi-use facility is the perfect mix of old and new and even includes a working retro arcade.
Previously located in Chatsworth, the Van Nuys space (which opened in November 2018) allowed for the restoration and display of 15,000 new relics including large neon signs, classic cars (most notably Nudie Cohn’s white Cadillac) and vintage BMX bikes. Walking through the space I couldn’t help but wish I had brought my mom.
As if on cue, I see a neon Henry’s Tacos sign. This is what is truly special about going through this museum with deep roots to the Valley, I guarantee you will find an item that feels like it is speaking to you directly. Henry’s Tacos will always be a visual symbol of my mother. Without fail, either driving to my grandmother’s house (her childhood home) in Laurel Canyon or making the trip to LAX, we stopped at Henry’s. Not one time did we get there on our first try. See, this was before an iPhone, and my mother is terrible at directions. So the journey to Henry’s became a mandatory pilgrimage certain to go astray. We laughed at ourselves for demanding Henry but never quite remembering where he was.
That neon sign was my piece in this pop culture museum filled with memories.
Started in 2013 by founder and curator Tommy Gelina, the objects on display are fueled by local stories that show the Valley’s large role in shaping the culture of greater LA and the nation. Community donations include costumes and makeup from early cowboy westerns, photography and ephemera from the Valley’s various industrial outputs from Chevrolet vehicles to model airplanes and circling back to food, hundreds of vintage menus and ash trays.
I would challenge someone who considers the Valley their community to not have this connection while visiting. The breadth of items displayed, the curation of objects to tell a narrative and perhaps the location which drives home the local history of the aviation and aerospace’s evolution in the last 50 years, makes The Valley Relic Museum a must see.
I myself plan to go back, because the amount of spark one finds wandering alone showed me the potential for connection with neighbors, family and friends that this museum inspires.
So grab a friend, or make a new one, but skip the theater and invest your time in a trip down memory lane that leaves you feeling like you just found IT. You found a piece of your past that reminds you of who you are.
The Valley Relics museum is open Thursday to Saturday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The museum is located at 7900 Balboa Blvd and general admission is $10.
Britt Campbell is a second generation Angeleno who lives in the San Fernando Valley. Born into a family of artists, and having completed a BA in Art History, Britt currently works at The Autry Museum in Los Angeles.