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Irvine Profile-Wendy Shields

Wendy Shields

As part of the City’s yearlong 40th Anniversary Celebration, the GrapeVine will feature Irvine employees with an Irvine story. For the month of June, long time Irvine resident and Community Services Supervisor, Wendy Shields shares her Irvine story.

What brought you to the City of Irvine in 1979?

I was looking to buy my first home and Irvine was considered rather remote at the time, so it was less expensive. Plus, I knew it well from going out to the South Coast Gun Club. (Yes, there used to be a place at the end of Jeffrey Road to shoot guns). I bought a mobile home in the Meadows on Jeffrey Road. Back then, you only had to be 18 years old to live there, and there was a group of young people who lived there.

When did you start working for the City, and in what capacity?

I took jewelry classes at Irvine Fine Arts Center (IFAC) while my studio was being installed in my home in 1980, the year the Art Center opened. In 1992, I began teaching Jewelry and Lapidary classes at IFAC. I was also the first Jewelry Open Studio volunteer on Saturday mornings. I taught classes until December 2000, when I was hired by the City as a Program Coordinator at the Art Center. In 2006, I became the Supervisor of the Irvine Fine Arts Center.

Do you have any fond memories of early Irvine?

Yes! I have a friend who worked in the nursery at Lion Country Safari. I was able to visit there and hold a newborn baby bear; play with a chimp; visit a lioness (yearling);hold and feed mouflons, which are very friendly little antelope-like animals; care for a variety of birds; and I was spit on by a llama. My friend would bring baby animals home on the weekends to care for.

I also used to park my car or bicycle in front of the hitching post at the general store when it was on Sand Canyon where I visited the old post office, raided the ice cream freezer, and just hung out with some of the other residents. The diving platform at the old Aquatics Center made for some good “after hours” times as well.

What do you like best about living in Irvine?

Irvine still has open spaces and is so nicely maintained. I like the trend toward natural landscape.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen over the years?

I miss all of the orange groves and that footbridge over the railroad tracks that is now the Yale overpass between Walnut and Irvine Center Drive. Also, the Jeffrey Road bridge that went over the riverbed in Woodbridge had miners lamps that would swing as you drove over it. There has been a lot of growth over the years requiring some major changes.

Anything else you would like to share?

My grandfather used to ride horses out here on the Irvine Ranch. He worked between the Bixby family in Long Beach and the Irvine family in the horse business. My father’s family lived in what was then called Colley Canyon, now Canyon Acres in Laguna Canyon.

Are you a long-time Irvine resident and/or employee? We are also looking for those of you with an Irvine story. Send an email to Melissa Haley at mhaley@cityofirvine.org in which you “Tell Your Own Irvine Story.” Throughout 2011 we will publish these compelling stories in the GrapeVine. Please visit the “Intranet” often for 40th Anniversary news, and to participate in the photo and motto contests.