By Lucette Moramarco
Back in 1921, the small community of Rainbow got its very own gas station. Since it was located several miles from anywhere, the station was a much-needed asset for both residents wanting to buy an automobile and for travelers passing through on their way either to or from Escondido or San Diego to the south, Temecula or Los Angeles to the north.
Located on a small triangular strip of land now bordered by Eighth Street to the south, Camino Rainbow on the east and a curving Rainbow Valley Boulevard from west to north, the Rainbow Service Station served more than just Red Crown gas; it also carried groceries.
Longtime resident Bill Hitt remembers that residents could buy canned goods, chili beans, rice, spaghetti, soda and even milk from the icebox (but no beer) at the station bought by Ed Glackin in 1930. One of many owners through the years, Glackin sold the station halfway through World War II, Hitt said.
Hitt, who was not quite six years old when his family bought land in Rainbow in 1929, remembers that he and his brother rarely saw cars going by when they walked to the gas station for a soda pop. The two lane road (aka US 395) was busier on the weekends when people traveled to the coast (Oceanside) but “the inlet route was a long drive back then,” Hitt said.
Fallbrook Historical Society member Jo Griset, a Fallbrook resident since 1963, said her mother told her stories about traveling in a wagon from Perris to Escondido along the dirt road that would become US Route 395. Back then, over a century ago, there were two watering troughs in the Rainbow area for the horses who pulled that wagon. When she moved here, Griset added, “the road was still not paved.”
She said she and her husband preferred to drive the original Route 395 to transport their avocado crops from Fallbrook to a packing house in Escondido. That route went west on the present State Route 76 to Vista Way, from there it headed east on Santa Fe over to Escondido. This way avoided the steep and curvy road that had become the “new” 395 (along the route Interstate 15 eventually was built on through the hills).
Griset also explained how the old gas pumps worked. She said that the attendant “filled the gas pump up to the level you’re paying for” then put the hose into the tank and let the gas flow down into the tank.
Hitt said there were two pumps, one for standard gas and one for premium, each with its own tank in the ground. Back then, the pumps were cranked by hand. He said the pumps were kept full, which was 10 gallons each, so they were ready to go when a car needed gas. The marked glass cylinder at the top of the pump showed the level of gas and the flow from the hose could be stopped when the requested amount was reached.
After World War II, the route of US 395 was shifted farther west, bypassing Rainbow Valley Boulevard and its service station. In the mid-1950s, the gas station closed, its customers no longer having to drive through Rainbow.
The route of Old 395 has been changed several times through the years. According to Hitt, there was another version of the road, different from the one now marked by the Historic California US 395 Route signs.
After leaving Fallbrook on East Mission Road and crossing over Interstate 15, then turning north on “Old 395,” Hitt said that the older route turned east at the driveway just past the cactus, then straight north past 395 and traveled north on the ground now underneath Interstate 15. At the north end of Rainbow, he added, 395 continued northward on the frontage road, not on Rainbow Canyon.
As the location of 395 changed, life for local residents also changed. One of only a handful of old-time service station buildings still in existence, the former Rainbow Service Station saw a variety of businesses occupy its structure. The building has housed a barbershop, knick-knack shop, a convenience store, a yarn and fabric outlet, a traveling veterinarian, and a dog groomer.
In 1979, the building was bought by Christopher Duarte who had moved to Rainbow with his wife and three children in 1976. A history buff, he wanted to preserve the building for its historic value. After restoring the structure, he decided to apply to the county for a historical landmark designation.
He used the building for a real estate office in the meantime and collected antiques that would have been used in an old gas station. The first historical landmark designation given in the unincorporated county area was bestowed on the service station in November 1988. Sometime after that, a drunk driver took out one of the gas pumps and Duarte had to install several cement poles at the edge of the property along the Rainbow Valley Boulevard curve to protect it from other errant drivers.
Duarte died in 1995 and his widow, Jeannette Duarte, has been renting the building to Rainbow Realty. She still has the damaged gas pump at her house. It needs welding and some restructuring she said, before it can be placed back where it belongs. She added that her kids won’t let her sell the property, so there won’t be any changes made to it anytime soon.
There are not very many longtime residents left who remember the building as a functioning gas station, but there is at least one group of area residents who have not forgotten it. The Fallbrook Vintage Car Club featured the Rainbow Service Station on its 2014 Vintage Car Show poster, copies of which hang in homes and garages all over Fallbrook.
While most Rainbow residents do not stop at the real estate office, it is a highly visible landmark to use when providing visitors with directions to a good part of the area. And it keeps alive the country charm of the little community that is still several miles from anywhere.
Originally published in Village News, August 27, 2015