Old Highway 99 service station gets new life
At the corner of Mount Shasta Boulevard and Alma Street, the old Freeman’s Fast Lube building is getting new life. Kevin Brooks, owner of Brooks Complete Auto, has purchased the building and is renovating it to look as it did in days gone by.
As one of the last remaining service stations along Old Highway 99, which ran smack dab through town, the building was constructed sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s – years before Interstate 5 was punched through in 1964.
Brooks is renaming the building “Mt. Shasta Pit Stop.” Though he will still offer oil changes at his other location further down North Mt. Shasta Boulevard, Brooks said the Pit Stop is the perfect location for people to drop off their vehicles and enjoy downtown shops while they wait.
“As I work to restore this old place to its new lease on life, I can almost hear the service-needed bell ringing, marking the arrival of a weary traveling soul along this old Highway,” said Brooks last week. “It makes me wonder who these people might have been, where they came from and where they might be headed.”
Brooks said over the course of time, the station has been painted many colors and called by many names. Long gone are the fuel pumps, filling island and awning.
“As we race along today in our high tech fast paced lives, we have long lost sight of how thing used to be,” said Brooks, who has researched the building and other Old Highway 99 businesses from the 1940s and ’50s.
It was a time when automobile travel had just become popular with the masses, he explained.
“Highway 99 would bring travelers to our little town at a rate of three cars a minute in 1950,” Brooks said. “It didn't take long for all the towns along this route to figure out the economical effects of getting these travelers to stop and do their shopping in the local businesses.”
Mt. Shasta Boulevard was once home to many full service gas stations, diners and motels, Brooks said. Signs of these long gone businesses are still present if you look closely.
“A prime example of a highway roadside motel is the Strawberry Valley Inn,” Brooks said. “The telltale sign is the adjacent small garage on each room, small by today’s standards but more then ample to house yesterday’s-sized cars.”
Replacing the old diners are retail shops, office space and galleries.
“Our piece of this economical pie was last served sometime around 1964 when the opening of Interstate 5 bypassed the local town’s economy,” Brooks said. “In a pursuit of faster travel and less congestion on the city streets the life line of travelers had been severed.
“Like most towns along I-5 we were given an on and off ramp for the modern traveler to access the services our town had to offer. A close look into the bushes at the Central Mount Shasta offramp will detect the curbing for the two lane off-ramp that was promised to the city, yet never finished.”
Brooks said the Boulevard was abandoned by the service stations and moved into the Lake Street area, becoming the town’s “Gasoline Alley.”
As the pilgrimage to Lake Street happened, the old businesses servicing the Highway 99 traffic were no longer needed, Brooks said.
“Most of these old haunts continued to service the locals for a short time. Ultimately most have disappeared,” he said.
“Today the face of Lake Street has also changed. Gone are the full service gas stations. What were once service bays are now aisles of chips, sodas and post cards. Where stations once stood we can find fast food restaurants in thier place.”
In addition to the Pit Stop is the old Richfield station at the south end of town, which now houses a radio station. The building is easily identified as an old service station by its unchanged classic design, Brooks said. The only things missing are the six foot letters on the steel tower, which is now home to an osprey family.
As for the new Mt. Shasta Pit Stop, Brooks said he’s aiming to make it look and feel like a place somewhere in the 1950s, “a time before the hustles and bustles and multi-tasking schedules... A time of friendly service and of pride in our community and its people.”
“Our intention is to keep this small part of it intact and reminiscent of those early days. A place marked in time if only by one little Pit Stop along our section of this Historic California US 99 Highway.”