Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Fremont Pass Service Station Scenes
"Family Plot" (Universal 1976)

The Fremont Pass Service Station at the south end of the Newhall Pass was still a functioning gas station when director Alfred Hitchcock used it for a scene featuring Bruce Dern and Ed Lauter in his final feature film, "Family Plot" (Universal Pictures 1976). Hitchcock gives us a rare glimpse of the old Walk family home on the west side of the highway (22127 Sierra) at the beginning of this clip and the separate restroom facility next to the service station on the east side (22124 Sierra). The structure that looks like a 2-story building behind the service station is a façade.

Principal filming took place from May 12-August 18, 1975.

George Vernon "Bob" Walk — grandfather of 1980 World Series Pitcher Robert Vernon "Bob" Walk (Hart High 1974) — started the Fremont Pass Service Station on 15 acres of land he received as a wedding present in 1926 from his father, Albert B. Walk of San Fernando (see below). The young couple, George and Nell (Gordon), made their home on the property, which straddled U.S. Highway 6 below the Newhall Tunnel. It was prime real estate for a gas station, as every motorist traversing the Newhall Grade had to drive by it — even after the tunnel was cut away and the road widened in 1938 to form the current Sierra Highway.

The station featured a garage, sandwich shop and picnic tables. After operating the station himself for many years, he leased it to independent operators and went to work for Lockheed as an experimental mechanic.

All good things must come to an end. The fate of the service station was sealed when the state started drawing up plans for major road improvements in the Newhall Pass.

Maybe they saw the handwriting on the wall, for the Walk family sold the property at an ideal time in 1959. The early 1960s brought construction of two big, new freeways — Interstate 5 replacing Highway 99 on the west, State Route 14 bypassing Sierra Highway on the east.

Cut off from most traffic, the service station that was once an obvious choice was relegated to the role of an emergency pit stop for motorists who didn't plan ahead. Seeking an operator in 1963, its new owner advertised it as an "excellent opportunity" because it was the "first service station motorists pass coming off all the new freeways." The trouble was, most motorists didn't exit there.

The station limped along under the Mobil and then Texaco brand names until the late 1970s, after which it became home to a string of short-lived businesses — everything from a detective agency to a would-be nightclub. It was probably a specialty automotive shop when "Halloween III" was in production.

The city of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power purchased the eastern half of the property (with the gas station) in the early 2000s. When the property went on the market in 2000, it consisted of three parcels: the original service station on 2.62 acres on the east side of the highway (22124 Sierra) and an adjacent 3.13-acre parcel east of Sierra Highway zoned for agricultural use; and a second service station and the old Walk family home (22127 Sierra) on 4.8 acres west of the highway.

Assessor records show a 1,467-square-foot structure (presumably the house, built in 1920 and remodeled in 1928) and a 528-square-foot structure (presumably the second gas station, built in 1939) on the western parcel. As of 2019, the western parcel remains in private hands.

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Walk: Longtime SCV Resident Dies.

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A Santa Clarita Valley old-timer died Saturday [December 20, 1986] after an extended illness.

George Vernon Walk, known to family and friends as Bob, lived in the SCV for 75 years. In April he was interviewed by a Signal staff writer to find out about the changes he had witnessed and the life he lived. The following are some of Walk's recollections.

Walk was born in Downey on June 13, 1901.

He first viewed the valley when he was 5 years old, and he and his father drove a buckboard from Downey in search of a piece of land.

Walk's father, Albert, found a $300, 15-acre plot on Fremont Pass that became the family home [sic: Newhall Pass; the actual Fremont Pass was about one-quarter mile to the east].

To make the move from the Los Angeles area up to the pass, Walk's father hired a neighbor with a team of horses to pull a flatbed wagon to the ranch. The trip was not easy, and the Walks had to use some ingenuity to make it to their destination.

At one point, the family came to a creek that had lost its bridge in a spring flood. The troop traveled downstream to a place where the creek bottom was shallow and sandy. Timber was cut and laid on the creek bottom to make a firm base for the wagon to cross. The Walks finally arrived at their land late in the night.

Walk's first years in Fremont Pass were spent hauling lumber from San Fernando with his father. The Walks lived in tents while their family home was being built by Bob and his dad.

Getting to their land the first night was a lesson in bridge building; getting back and forth from San Fernando was a lesson in determination.

At the time Walk was helping build the family home, the only way to Newhall from the San Fernando Valley was over the very steep and treacherous, hand-dug Fremont Pass. Walk and his father would stop the wagon before the worst part of the climb and, to eliminate the possibility of slipping back down the grade, would fasten a railroad tie from the back wheels.

During Prohibition, Walk got his first job playing piano in a bootlegging bar. He worked at the Sunshine Inn, pounding keys for $15 a week.

Walk met his wife, Nell Gordon, when he was 23 years old. They were married in 1926, one year after they met.

All three of Walk's children — Vernon, Betty and Ruth — were delivered at the family home at Fremont Pass.

Walk was given the deed to his parents' land several years after his marriage. As traffic flow increased between the two valleys, Walk saw that the Sierra Highway plot could he used to meet the needs of some of the drivers. In the early '20s he became the owner and operator of a service station at 22117 [sic: 22127] Sierra Hwy.

There were no service stations for miles on Walk's stretch of the highway. Walk had a garage, a sandwich shop and several oak-shaded picnic tables that were used as a rest stop for travelers.

Walk remained owner of the land and station but worked as an experimental mechanic for Lockheed Corp. for 20 years.

Walk was a Tiler for the San Fernando Lodge 343 of the Free and Accepted Masons for 35 years. In 1963, he was presented with the Hiram Award, one of the organization's highest honors.

[...] He is survived by his daughter Betty Gregg of Canada, his son Vernon G. Walk of Newhall, 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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