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Corvette tale stirs memories of a Burbank gone by

Donna Bertuccelli

Yes Bob, Corvettes o7 aref7 special.

There’s no mistake about that. I used to ride around in one in the

early ‘60s. In fact, it was the very one that Bob Kramer bought and wrote


about in his “Traveling Full Circle” column (Dec. 4). It belonged to my

boyfriend at the time, John Shields. Bob’s comments on John brought back

many memories, not only for me, but I’m sure for many old timers. He and

his automotive shop on Riverside Drive and Rose Street were very familiar


to many Burbankers -- especially the young auto enthusiasts. To them,

John was “the great teacher” and he had their respect. As Bob knows since

he was one of those who used to hang around the shop. It wasn’t only that

John knew so much about cars, but also that he could always be depended

on to spin some interesting yarns.

John held daily court, not only at his place, but also at the

International House of Pancakes restaurant across the street. That is

where I worked and met him in 1960. Almost always John would sit at the


large round table nearest the front entrance. Here, he had a full view of

the action -- people coming in from the parking lot, patrons paying at

the cash register, and not least of all, the actions of the waitresses

and cooks at the pass-bar.

John shared that table many times with the young fellows that worked

for him and some who just helped out gratis. They were a motley group

that we waitresses affectionately dubbed “The Mafia.” But quite often, he

shared his table with the jet set of Burbank -- judges, politicians, NBC


news anchormen, Jack Latham or movie stars. Frequently, it was Don

Murray, Jim Stacy or Audie Murphy who, incidentally, always ordered

German pancakes.

John Shields was indeed “mechanic to the stars,” working not only on

the Sinatra family cars, but also on the Houston family cars and many

other celebrities. I once met Ursula Andress when she dropped her car off

for repairs. But, he spent as much time working on racing boat engines as

he did on car engines. John would be so busy working on them that many

times he’d park autos in his gas pump stations so that no one could pull

in and interrupt him to purchase gas.

Sometimes, Burbank police officers would park by the pumps, courtesy

of John. Here they could observe would-be traffic violators at that

intersection where Bob’s Drive-In, IHOP, The Hotdog Show and Shield’s

Automotive met. I wonder how many Burbank old timers remember receiving a

ticket from a cop that seemed to appear from out of nowhere?

But getting back to that ’63 Corvette that Bob Kramer bought from John

Shields. It was originally purchased at Community Chevrolet here in

Burbank and truly was a special automobile. Young fellows would ogle it

with admiration. John always kept his cars in mint condition and I felt

like a queen riding in that Corvette. To tell the truth though, my

favorite automobile of John’s was his ’60 silver Cadillac convertible --

but that’s another story.