Be prepared for a history lesson when visiting the home of Mark
and Vickie Mendenhall in Buellton, because they literally live in a
The couple operates Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps and
Petroliana, a private collection of all things related to cars and
then some. The collection boasts mostly gas pumps and the globes
that lit the tops of them, along with road signs, classic cars,
license plates and everything in between.
“I got the collecting bug from my dad, who worked as a traveling
salesman after he retired from the gas station business. He would
come home with trailers full of items we would unload and have
nowhere to put,” Mark Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall’s father, Jack, owned and operated a Richfield
service station on the corner of Avenue of Flags and Zaca Street,
which is now the site of an automotive repair service.
After selling the station in the late 1970s, Jack Mendenhall
went on the road as a traveling salesman for signs, but mostly he
The Mendenhalls’ museum, on the original site of the family’s
wrecking yard, displays many of the items Mendenhall’s father
collected while on the road.
“Collecting is a habit you can’t break. The art of the find
becomes an obsession, but we’re also preserving the past,”
One wall displays an early Buellton road sign that cites a
population of 700 and elevation of 490 feet. Buellton now has more
than 4,500 residents and an official elevation of 360 feet.
“I think all the people who moved in have weighed the city down,
that’s why the elevation dropped,” Mendenhall said with a
The museum has a Symphonion music box from the 1880s, a jukebox
that used to be in Pea Soup Andersen’s in the 1940s, more than
4,000 AAA road signs dating back to the 1920s, and a variety of
porcelain gas signs.
“The signs you see now are made out of plastic. Porcelain signs
are the most sought-after by collectors because they keep their
color forever,” Mendenhall said.
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The museum is more than just collecting memorabilia for the
Mendenhalls. It’s also home to the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame,
and hosts annual events for the induction of new honorees at the
end of every April.
Mendenhall and his father were involved in several racing
events, the last of which was land speed racing. Jack Mendenhall
became a lifetime member of the 200 MPH Club in 1991, after
breaking the record with a speed of 207.015 mph in a roadster, and
was inducted into the Land Speed Hall of Fame in 1993. Mark
Mendenhall reached 210.114 mph in the same car in 1996.
The Hall of Fame honorees are all involved in land speed racing
on the dry lake beds of the Bonneville Salt Flats and El Mirage.
They include land speed record holders, car owners, officials,
historians and more.
One of Mark Mendenhall’s favorite displays is his first race
car, a red Quarter Midget, in which he won a trophy at 5 years old
in Santa Maria.
“Racing is also in our family. The thrill and the rush being in
something that fast is indescribable,” he said.
In the room under the Mendenhalls’ deck is memorabilia from
their days at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School such as letterman
jackets, cheerleading uniforms, class pictures, newspaper articles
and old sports films.
Mendenhall and his wife were high school sweethearts, and
married after they graduated from Santa Ynez Valley Union High
School in 1970. For their 40th class reunion in early July, the
Mendenhalls opened their home to the classes of 1967 through 1970
so alumni could get together and remember their high school
“We were big on football and sports, as my class was the only
year Santa Ynez has won CIF football,” Mendenhall said.
The museum puts on other events such as birthday parties,
weddings and fundraisers. Even though it isn’t open to the public,
the Mendenhalls will give private tours with reservations.
“This is our home and we value our privacy, but we do like to
have people over and show them around. A museum of this nature is
meant to be shared,” Vickie Mendenhall said.