Friday, February 12, 2010

Auto Club of Southern California

This is a nod to the Auto Club for their efforts in making LA the city it is today, and I don’t mean just rescuing the stalled cars impeding your driving progress.

Since I was due for a smog check anyway, I decided to visit the Auto Club headquarters at the corner of Figueroa and Adams and utilize their Test Only facilities. The complex dates back to 1921. I love this building, so I could just hang out there as opposed to some grimy garage for the test.

For distraction purposes while waiting for the smog check, the courtyard is full of surprises. There’s a display of the 12 flags that have flown over California, and a huge slice of a sequoia tree (loaned by Sequoia National Park and the National Park Service) with the California historical date markers. Multiple old-school road signs that were installed by the Auto Club are scattered around. Shown here is one of the signs for the National Old Trails Road, part of which became the better-known Route 66 in 1927. You can also see El Camino Real signs with the bells providing mileage and directions between the missions.

Since it’s founding in 1900, the Auto Club installed road signs in Los Angeles then across California and America, with the intention of directing folks to LA. I learned all about this from Tom Zimmerman’s fantastic book “Paradise Promoted: The Booster Campaign That Created Los Angeles 1870-1930.” I was blown away by all that the Auto Club did, in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce, the railroads, and the citrus industry, to market Los Angeles.

So I got my smog check, was inspired by the intertwined LA and Auto Club history, and paid my registration fees inside the offices, all in about 30 minutes. Convenient and captivating at the same time; not a bad way to take care of an errand.

Click here to go to their Web site.

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