The Santa Barbara branch of the Automobile Club of Southern California will celebrate its 100th birthday during the week of April 13, 2015 with member appreciation days.
“We are proud to have been a part of the Santa Barbara community for 100 years,” said Chris Olvera, the Auto Club’s Santa Barbara branch manager. “We encourage members to visit during our Centennial week to help us celebrate and allow us to thank them for their membership.”
On Friday, April 17, members are invited to the branch, located at 3712 State St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to see historic Santa Barbara photos and an antique Auto Club tow truck, participate in prize wheel drawings, and meet AAA travel partners Grand Canyon Railway and Hertz. And on Thursday evening, April 17, members and non-members are invited to a free international travel show, “Explore the 7 Continents” with AAA Member Choice Vacations and “Explore the World in Comfort” with Viking River Cruises. The show begins at 6 p.m., but seating is limited. Reserve a seat by calling 805-898-2870.
Also, during all this week in preparation for the summer travel season and in honor of the centennial, the Santa Barbara branch is offering passport photos to members for $4 and to non-members for $11.
The Santa Barbara branch was the fourth branch established by the Auto Club since its founding in 1900 in Los Angeles by 10 horseless carriage enthusiasts. San Diego, Long Beach and Pasadena were the first three branches.
Prior to building its own Santa Barbara location, the Auto Club offered services inside the Chamber of Commerce building until 1917. It then moved to a series of new offices to accommodate growth: 1014 State St. from 1917 to 1921, 1425 State St. from 1921 to 1931, 1301 Santa Barbara St. from 1931 to 1966, and finally to its present location at 3712 State St.
But the Auto Club’s involvement with Santa Barbara began well before the branch opening. It was the primary poster of road signs throughout Southern California, and also 4,000 along the National Old Trails Road (the predecessor to Route 66) bringing thousands of new visitors from the East and Midwest to Santa Barbara and other communities. It also helped raise funds to build early roads where no government funding existed, including the Rincon Road allowing motorists to travel between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and the first road allowing cars into Yosemite National Park.
Touring Topics, the Auto Club magazine now known as Westways, published an extensive travelogue detailing the attractions of Santa Barbara in 1913. “There are a dozen cities throughout the world that become, during each year, the fleeting abode of those wealthy nomads who have no fixed habitation but are in the truest sense world inhabitants,” the article begins. “One such city is Santa Barbara, California.”
The Santa Barbara branch started out by offering members Auto Club-made license plates (prior to the establishment of the DMV), custom strip maps personalized for members’ trips later known as TripTiks, auto insurance policies (the Auto Club Interinsurance Exchange opened in 1912), and general motorist travel information and advice. Roadside assistance for members was added in 1924. Today, the 26 employees in the Auto Club’s Santa Barbara branch offer:
- Free DMV vehicle-related services for members
- A full-service travel agency
- Maps and travel publications
- Insurance products and services that cover life and property in addition to vehicles
- Discount tourist attraction and movie tickets
- Discount car buying services
- Recommendations for local AAA-inspected vehicle repair facilities
For more information on Auto Club membership and services, visit the Santa Barbara branch or AAA.com. The branch phone number is (805) 682-5811. Branch hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.