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Traveling in full circles in a Corvette

Bob Kramer

Do you ever have things in your life that go full circle?

Sometimes people refer to these kinds of events as “what goes around,

comes around.” Usually, these kinds of things are negative and involve

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someone being paid back.

For me, what went around came around in the form of a Chevrolet

Corvette. Let me start back in 1964, when I was a senior at John

Burroughs High School. I was working 30 or 40 hours a week and actually

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owned my first Corvette.

I would buy one and then sell one, eventually moving up to newer and

newer models. The highlight of this was cycle came in 1966, when I had the privilege of buying a 1963 Corvette from John Shields.

I imagine there aren’t too many people who remember John Shields. In

the ‘60s John was “mechanic to the stars.” At least that was how it

appeared to me.

John had a repair shop on the corner of Riverside Drive and Rose

Street. After John moved away, the corner became Priscilla’s Coffee Shop

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until Priscilla’s moved to a new location down the street. A large

theater now sits on the site.

But in the ‘60s this corner belonged to John Shields. There were a

couple of rundown buildings on the site, but they were full of cars that

belonged to the rich and famous.

John’s specialty was high performance racing boats, and they usually

filled some of the bays. It wasn’t unusual to see cars sitting around

that belonged to Frank Sinatra’s family or John Wayne.

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John worked on Jayne Mansfield’s cars and it wouldn’t be surprising to

see her or her boyfriend hanging around the corner. The couple owned a

pet leopard and they’d often be seen walking the leopard on the corner as

though it was an ordinary dog or cat.

John was quite a character and he would hold court on a daily basis.

Between the Corvettes he drove and the racing boats he worked on, his

shop was never a dull place.

When I was growing up, I would sometimes hang out there, visiting with

John and meeting his friends. Audie Murphy was another regular and one of

John’s interesting friends. Murphy once took me over to his house where

his Congressional Medal of Honor hung on his mantle along with many, many

other medals. As the most decorated United States soldier in history, his

medals were pretty impressive.

Back on the corner, John would talk to his pals while working on his

Corvettes and racing boats. Shields had a pretty colorful vocabulary,

well beyond even any of the drill instructors I came across in the Marine

Corps.

He always loved his 1963 Corvette and I was surprised when he offered

to sell it to me. The car was perfect and I was truly honored to purchase

it.

It sat at home on a carpet in my parents’ garage. I would wax it each

week and make sure it never rusted. Those were the good memories, just

before I joined the Marines.

When I left for boot camp my father had assured me the Corvette would

be OK, as long as I continued to pay off the loan. I sent the money each

month to my father and I was more than shocked when I came home on leave

and discovered my father had sold my car.

This was 30 years ago. I can’t honestly remember what his reasons

were, if he simply wanted more room in his garage. I can’t remember what

the financial arrangements were, or what happened to the money. I can

only remember that my Corvette was gone.

I recently wrote about inheriting my father’s Buick Riviera when he

died. It was a great car and I drove it for a few months.

The car was real nice, but it wasn’t me. I put an ad in the paper and

since it had such low mileage, it sold right away.

And what did I do with the money? I bought another Corvette. Thirty

years later what went around came around.

No, it isn’t a brand new one, nor is it as old as my 1963. But it is a

Corvette. When I get in it I think back to the ‘60s when the mechanic to

the stars held court each day across from Bob’s Drive-In.

Sometimes when I start the car I wonder what happened to my earlier

Corvette, and if my dad knows what his contribution was to my new one.

Yeah, I believe what goes around does come around. It might take 30

years, but it still comes around.

BOB KRAMER is a Burbank City Councilman. Reach him at 238-7950.


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