(Bakersfield, July 12, 2005) — In 1915, much of America had its eyes on a European war that became known to its generation as the Great War. In that year, cowboy actor Bronco Billy Anderson was a popular silent movie star and the Boston Red Sox were baseball's World Champions. Also, 1915 was the year that the Automobile Club of Southern California opened its first office in Bakersfield at the Kern County Board of Trade Building to serve a growing membership.
In 1915, Bakersfield had a population of 18,000 with another 7,000 living in the surrounding areas. Today, Bakersfield is home to almost 300,000 residents with another 150,000 living nearby. Now, the Auto Club serves 84,000 members in the Bakersfield area.
"The Bakersfield office encompasses one of the largest geographic areas of the Auto Club, north to Kernville and Lake Isabella, west to Maricopa and Taft, east to Tehachapi and south to Frazier Park," said Linda Heald, manager of the Auto Club's Bakersfield office. "Our 90th birthday is a milestone that shows how the Auto Club has grown along with all of Kern County."
Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall and other community leaders joined Heald for a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of one of the city's oldest businesses.
"We have been an important part of the community as a member of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce since 1967 and a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce since 1993," Heald said. "Our office managers have served on the Board of Directors for Kern Tax, the Board of Directors for the Kern Transportation Foundation and the Kern County Committee for Quality Transportation."
The opening of a Bakersfield office in was part of a rapid expansion of the Auto Club from a 3,000 member group of enthusiasts in Los Angeles in 1912, to motorists in all 13 Southern California counties. By the time Bakersfield opened in 1915, the Auto Club had more than doubled its membership to 6,500.
When the Bakersfield office began operations, there were probably more horses in Kern County than automobiles. State records indicate that 191,196 vehicles were registered in California in 1915. Today, there are more than 21 million vehicles registered statewide.
In those early years, there were few directional signs, so motorists were likely to get lost while taking a drive. Auto Club members took on the responsibility of signposting thousands of miles of streets and highways in Southern California. The Auto Club also worked with local cities and county boards of supervisors to pass bond initiatives to build, expand and improve state highways.
Bakersfield Office Locations since 1915
|1915–1919||Kern County Board of Trade Building|
|1919–1932||2204 Chester Avenue|
|1932–1942||1715 Union Avenue|
|1942–1957||2731 "M" Street|
|1957–1991||2301 "F" Street|
|1991–Present||1500 Commercial Way|
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest AAA affiliate, has served members since 1900. Today, Auto Club members benefit by the organization's roadside assistance, financial products, travel agency and trip planning services, highway and transportation safety programs, insurance products and services and automotive pricing, car buying and financing programs. Information about these products and services is available at www.aaa.com.