The Bakersfield branch of the Automobile Club of Southern California will celebrate its 100th birthday with an open house this Saturday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the branch, 1500 Commercial Way.
“We are proud to have been a part of the Bakersfield community for 100 years,” said Cheré Smith, the Auto Club’s Bakersfield branch manager. “We encourage members and the public to visit our event on Saturday to help us celebrate and allow us to thank them for their membership.”
The open house will feature:
- Exhibits of Auto Club memorabilia and the earliest California license plates, which were manufactured by the Auto Club before the DMV existed
- Vintage Auto Club vehicles
- A member antique/classic car show
- Information about Auto Club services
The Bakersfield branch now serves more than 107,000 members in the area. It offers free DMV vehicle-related services, a full-service travel agency, maps and travel publications, insurance services, discount attraction and movie tickets, and many other member benefits.
The Auto Club established its first presence in Bakersfield at the Kern County Board and Trade Office in 1915, the year that the first version of the Ridge Route over Tejon Pass was completed to create a more direct automobile route between Southern California and Bakersfield. The Auto Club provided political and engineering support for the Ridge Route and its subsequent improvements, as well as marking the entire original route with speed limit and warning signs.
In 1911, the American Automobile Association sanctioned the first-ever road race held in Bakersfield, according to the Auto Club magazine Touring Topics (now Westways). “Although the day was one of the hottest of the season, with the mercury hovering around the 100 mark, the enthusiasm of the spectators was unabated and there was no diminution of the crowd until the last contender in the last race had finished,” stated the August 1911 article.
As Bakersfield expanded quickly through the 1910s and 1920s, the Auto Club helped the area’s rapid development with its sign posting program for new streets and its regularly updated road maps made available free for members.
In the 1920s, the Auto Club brought traffic safety education to schools in Bakersfield and throughout Southern California, an effort that continues today with free education materials available to teachers.
The Auto Club moved out of the Kern County Board and Trade offices in 1919 to its own facility at 2204 Chester Ave. As membership grew, it moved to several other offices, including 1715 Union Ave. (1932), 2731 M St. (1942), and 2301 F St. (1957), before building its current branch on Commercial Way, which opened in 1991.
Today, the Auto Club is a title sponsor of the Auto Club Famoso Raceway and the annual Hot Rod Reunion Presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, occurring this year on Oct. 24.
For more information on Auto Club membership and services, visit the Bakersfield branch or AAA.com. The branch phone number is (661) 327-4461. Branch hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.