Monday, May 21 , 2018, 9:40 pm | Fair 59º


Laguna Blanca School to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

{mosimage}When Tony Guntermann first set foot on the campus at the private LagunaBlanca School on Hope Ranch, the United States was in the throes of theGreat Depression, and Franklin Roosevelt had just begun conducting histrademark fireside chats.


When Tony Guntermann first set foot on the campus at the private Laguna Blanca School on Hope Ranch, the United States was in the throes of the Great Depression, and Franklin Roosevelt had just begun conducting his trademark fireside chats.

This weekend, the soft-spoken last surviving member of the school’s first graduating class will be a key participant as the school celebrates its 75th anniversary . Among the events he plans to attend is the school’s eight-man football game against the Cornerstone Christian Eagles, where he is scheduled to be publicly recognized.

Guntermann, 88, still recognizes some of the buildings on campus — one of which he helped construct in woodshop class. When asked about what seems to be the most telling change on campus, the Hope Ranch resident doesn’t hesitate.

“Girls,” he said, while sitting on a bench in the middle of the campus as students strolled by. “We didn’t see girls when I was a student.”

The campus didn’t open up for girls until 1942, when a dearth of boys brought about by World War II forced the school’s hand.

Since Guntermann graduated in that first class of six boys back in 1937, hundreds of people have followed suit. Many have gone on to lead promising careers. In fact, reading a list of alums is a little like looking at a who’s who book.

It includes Rob Moor, CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves; Alex Funke, a Hollywood special-effects guru and three-time Academy Award honoree who worked on “Lord of the Rings”; Scott Pearson, an Internet pioneer with American Online; and Kelly Summers, a vice president for Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

Tony Guntermann didn’t do so shabby, either. The son of a banker, Guntermann went on to start an accounting practice that still exists on Montecito Street, called McGowan-Guntermann.

Seventy-five years is a long time, and Gunterman’s memory of high school isn’t crystal clear, but a few highlights come to mind.

He remembers meeting the girls of another private school — the Santa Barbara Girls School — regularly for dance class. He remembers the teachers and students eating catered lunch together every day.

“Teachers were part of the gang and vice versa,” he said. 

He remembers this interesting observation from the school’s founding headmaster, Edward Selden Spaulding: “As you go through life you’ll notice that it isn’t the ‘A’ students who are doers. It’s the ‘B’, ‘C’ and sometimes ‘D’ students.”{mosimage}

And he remembers what seemed at the time to be a comical incident: the boys and Spaulding shooing a weasel out of its hole with a blast of water from a hose, so it could be studied. As Guntermann remembers it, the weasel got away. But that’s not what the 1935 yearbook says: “After an exhilarating (sic) run back and forth over the premises, Mr. Weasel was dealt a blow by that none too small foot of Ed Spaulding; thus his assailants were enabled to capture and to execute him.”

In any case, Guntermann’s life journey took some sign-of-the-times twists and turns.

He was the first Laguna graduate to attend Stanford University. Shortly after he was accepted, Spaulding went beyond wishing him luck.

“He said, ‘I want you to do well, because we want to get accredited,’ " Guntermann recalls, with a chuckle.

After graduating Stanford with a business degree, Guntermann tried to enlist in the Air Force, so he could participate in World War II. But he was turned away.

“They said I was too skinny,” he remembers. After successfully gaining 5 pounds and barely meeting the 130-pound requirement, Guntermann was crestfallen to learn that he missed the mark on another front: He was colorblind.

In particular, he still has trouble with the color blue.

“They told me, ‘If you’re in a plane over the ocean, you won’t know if you are upside down or rightside up.’ "

Guntermann found a way to contribute to the war effort. He went to work in the Los Angeles area as a production engineer at Santa Monica-based Douglas Aircraft, which built bomber-dive fighter planes.{mosimage}

After the war, he decided to move to Buellton, so he could work at the same place he returned to every summer during college: Pea Soup Andersen’s. They gave him the title of manager, but the job was eclectic. While his duties included bookkeeping and customer service, it also occasionally involved some heavy-duty plumbing that required throwing a stick of dynamite into an overflowing cesspool of sewage to open up the ground, so the overworked septic tank could do its job.

“Those things are good for you,” he said.

Eventually, Guntermann decided it was time to put his bookkeeping skills to good entrepreneurial use. In the 1950s, he opened up an accounting practice in downtown Santa Barbara called, simply, Anthony Guntermann.

A jet-setting acquaintance who owned an office allowed Guntermann to stay there rent-free. Still, it was a slow start.

“I had an office and a telephone,” he said. “That phone didn’t ring, and didn’t ring.”

Eventually, he obtained his CPA and business picked up. Through it all, Guntermann married and had three children, two of whom attended Laguna Blanca.

Guntermann, who served on the school’s board of directors for nearly 20 years ending in 1982, looks back on his high school experience with fondness.

“I’m convinced that having small classes makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “I learned to study and to accept some responsibility — that’s even more important.”

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