The History Behind Baker Part 1
In this blog series I want to tell the Then and Now story of Baker Electric Solar and our journey to becoming a leading solar installer in Southern California. To do so, we have to go way back in time to the 30s where the Baker story begins.
The Great Depression
Our story begins with the founder of Baker Electric, LeRoy Baker. LeRoy graduated from the University of Nebraska and moved to New York to work for GE. Years later he began to migrate west and wound up in Missoula, Montana where he served as one of four electricians in the area. LeRoy was fond of hunting and fishing and the sprawling landscapes of Montana proved to sate his desire of the outdoors.
The Great Depression affected millions around the world. LeRoy witnessed the three other electricians in Missoula slowly go out of business. In 1936 he hung up his climbing hooks and left his life of stringing aerial electrical wire in Montana to move to San Diego where his wife’s family lived.
In 1938 San Diego County was home to less than 300,000 people, many of which traveled to the region in hopes of finding a better life in the wake of the Great Depression.
Balboa Park had just hosted a Worlds Fair two years prior, Bing Crosby was at the opening of the newly constructed Del Mar Fairgrounds for racing season and the San Diego State Teachers College was recently changed to San Diego State College (present day SDSU). The city and surrounding area was booming.
Two years after arriving to San Diego County, LeRoy Baker purchased a local electric company called Dietrich Electric for $4,000. While he did not realize it at the time, LeRoy would soon begin the Baker legacy of excellent customer service and quality workmanship in electrical contracting.
World War II
It only took a couple years before San Diego began to feel the impact of the global events occurring in 1940. Local industries and the military responded in supplying allied nations with much needed equipment and weapons of war. Life in San Diego changed overnight.
Neville L. Baker, LeRoys son, moved to San Diego in the early 40s for health reasons and took up the occupation of electrical work at Camp Pendleton and Naval Base San Diego. With the war in full swing and America fully involved, San Diego military bases and camps expanded to accommodate the thousands of young men and women that were arriving for training. There was plenty of work to be had.
In 1942, Neville joined his father at Baker Electric where he continued to do work at Camp Pendleton and all of North County San Diego.
Passing of the Torch
Fast forward eleven years to 1953. Neville became President of Baker Electric after the passing of his father, LeRoy. Neville continued to grow the company despite the Korean War’s effects on the electrical market.
The mid-50s were a time of great growth for the company. It was the time of transitioning from the average appliance repair and pipe and cable job to commercial electrical contracting. In 1955, Neville incorporated his small business, making Baker Electric into Baker Electric, Inc.
In 1956, Baker Electric, Inc. acquired its Electrical Contracting License. Prior to this time, the laws were loose and a license wasn’t required to perform work. One year later, Baker Electric, Inc. joined the then small group of electrical contractors in the National Electrical Contractors Association.
1961 was a milestone year for Neville and Baker Electric, Inc. That year Baker began installing the electrical wiring for the Escondido Village Mall. This mall was said to be the first fully enclosed mall in California where one could stroll from one store to another without touching a door or even seeing one. This project really launched the company into the commercial electrical contracting arena.
That same year, Neville was elected President of NECA San Diego. The Master of Ceremonies? The actor-turned politician Ronald Reagan. Of course Reagan wasn’t President yet, but after years of serving in the Screen Actors Guild he was very involved in union relations.
After serving in the US Army, Kent Baker joined the Baker team as an Apprentice in 1960. He learned all that he could from his father over the years until taking over as President of Baker in 1982. Following in his fathers footsteps, Kent became President of NECA San Diego in 1983.
Go to Part 2 of this historical series!