Being vaccinated means I feel a bit more comfortable going out and doing some things, and I’ve been itching to get on the road for a little day trip. I recently heard that Bakersfield had a wealth of great neon signs, which are a favorite subject of mine, including an entire courtyard display dedicated to signs saved by the Kern County Museum. So, Patrick and I headed up north for a day to hunt down vintage neon, and our first stop was the Kern County Museum.
Due to COVID, only the outdoor exhibits were open, which was fine, we came for the neon courtyard and the Merle Haggard house, but what I didn’t expect was a sprawling 16 acre outdoor space with over 50 buildings (nearly all of which were relocated to the museum) showcasing the history of Kern County. Saving local history started early in Kern County, 1929 to be exact, when the Bakersfield Lion’s Club wrote to the local paper suggesting locals donate historical items to the Chamber of Commerce. A little over ten years later, in 1941 the Kern County Museum was founded.
What I loved is that for many of the buildings you could peek inside, seeing displays of what various merchants and services were like in the 1800s and the early 1900s. Agriculture and the railroad served important roles in Kern County, and there is a large area dedicated to the railroad. It is within this area that the childhood home of country music legend Merle Haggard is located in. But why exactly is it in the railroad area? Well, it was originally a Santa Fe refrigerator car from 1910, that Haggard’s parents, James and Flossie (what a great name) purchased in 1935, and they converted it into a home, making additions and giving it a pitch roof.
Amid the neon courtyard, which is filled with saved signs from various local businesses, is a service station built in 1936, that was originally located at E. 18th and Sonora, and in 1989 it was moved to the museum and restored by the local Modal A Ford Club.
While some of these businesses are gone, you can still grab a bite at Andre’s! Check out the “What’s Nearby” section below!
Overall I was extremely impressed with the museum, and shocked we ended up spending nearly two hours there! The interior portion of the museum has a Bakersfield Sound exhibit, which I would love to see, so I look forward to revisiting the Kern County Museum in the future once it reopens.
Soak up Bakersfield history at the Kern County Museum, located at 3801 Chester Avenue in Bakersfield.
Hat: Redlands Galleria, Redlands, California
Mask: Made by me
Shirt: Nudie’s Rodeo Tailor
Shorts: Buffalo Exchange
Belt: Belonged to my grandfather
Saddle Purse: Honestly, I don’t remember…probably Buffalo Exchange…