Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

F.R. Lamkin's Newhall Garage

Newhall, California

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Fred R. Lamkin's Newhall Garage and vulcanizing service, located on the west side of Spruce Street (now called Main Street) between 9th Street and 10th Street (now called Lyons Avenue). Earliest known photo of it. Tiny 1½x2½-inch print from the collection of Fred's son, Ted Lamkin.

The photograph is undated, but it's 1919. How do we know? From the registration tag on the porcelain license plate. It's a star. Specifically, a red star. The red metal star was the California registration tag for 1919. For reference, 1916 was a lead (uncolored) bear, 1917 was a yellow poppy, 1918 was a green bell, and 1919 was a red star. In 1920, California switched to embossed metal license plates.


The license plate number — 84170, if we're reading it correctly — was issued in 1912. The plates issued in 1912 were numbered 61317-61400 and 61785-90660. This suggests the automobile is a 1912 model. It does appear to have wooden spokes.

Note the sign that probably reads, "Free Air and Water."

The photographic evidence tells us Lamkin expanded his garage in the early 1920s. His original structure is shown here; by the mid-1920s, as seen here, he has added an office or possibly a small showroom on the left with "Newhall" painted above it.

In the 1930s he obtained a Chevrolet franchise and turned it into Lamkin Chevrolet.

About Fred Lamkin and Happy Valley, by Ted Lamkin.

Ted Lamkin wrote the following story for in about 1996.

The Newhall Garage was owned and operated by my father, Fred R. (Richard) Lamkin, who is seated on the bumper of the car in this photograph. Also shown are his mechanics, Householder and Davis, and (probably) Deputy Sanderson. The garage stood on the west side of Spruce Street (now called San Fernando Road), midway between 9th Street and 10th Street (Lyons Avenue). I estimate the date of this photograph to be the mid-1920s.

My family moved to Newhall in December of 1917 when I was just a few months old. My mother's parents, Jess and Belle Pennywitt, had a chicken ranch on the north side of 8th Street, 100 feet or so west of Cross Street. My mother's younger sister, Edna, still lived there. She had a sunny disposition and often walked over the hill and into the central part of Newhall. Someone gave her the nickname of "Happy." The area where she lived was referred to as "Happy's Valley" and is now just called Happy Valley.

My mother's cousin, Charley Lercher, owned several acres of orchards and vineyards on the northeast side of Valley and Maple Streets. He wanted to join the army in World War I, but the U.S. Army would not accept him, so he joined the Canadian Navy. He needed someone to take care of his ranch and talked my father into quitting his job in Los Angeles as a chauffeur for the school superintendent and moving to his ranch.

Dad had little formal education but was a highly intelligent man. He worked for a while as a roustabout on local oil wells, where he saw a need for a trucking service. He managed to acquire a hard tire Fageol truck with carbide headlights and began hauling drill stems and casings to the local wildcatters.

This went well, so he bought a more modern White truck. Edna Pennywitt had married Hugh Page, and Dad hired him as a truck driver. Charley had returned from the war and moved back into his old ranch, so Dad bought a plot on Spruce Street across from William S. Hart's main gate. We lived there in sort of a tar-paper shack until Dad saw another need for a repair garage in Newhall. He and a brother had run an auto repair school in Los Angeles, so he know the business. He built the garage shown in this photograph and a home for us next door. The business thrived.

Albert C. Swall, a local businessman, learned that The Newhall Land and Farming Company needed money and would be willing to sell a portion of its ranch adjacent to Newhall. Swall came to my father, who had saved a small amount of money, and together they bought the land north of 11th Street and subdivided it into a few home sites and the rest into small chicken ranches. The home sites sold for $250 to $350 each, on terms of $5 down and $5 per month.

Dad became a real estate broker and an Associate Dealer for the Bill Morris Chevrolet Agency in San Fernando; he was sort of an independent salesman. He then applied for and was granted a direct Chevrolet dealership. I believe the year was 1932. He remodeled the garage into a showroom and built a repair shop south of the old structure. I was his parts manager and bookkeeper while I was going to high school.

Dad was a quiet man who served the community in many ways. He was on the local elementary school board for many years. He helped organize the Kiwanis Club and served a term as its president. When he died, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adjourned a meeting in his honor.

Note: Ted Lamkin also dabbled in real estate; among other things, he subdivided the Peachland area of Happy Valley in the late 1950s.

TL1901: 9600 dpi jpeg from original print in the Ted Lamkin Collection, acquired October 19, 2017, by Leon Worden.
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