Brian Smith wasn’t a particularly good student when he attended
John Burroughs High School in the 1970s. He ditched classes and was
prone to self-destructive behavior until he met Barney Gantz, the
school’s auto-mechanics instructor.
“That’s when Barney had all of his hair and most of his patience,”
Smith credits Gantz with turning around his life and pointing him
in a positive direction.
“The fact that he seemed to be concerned about me and how I was
doing, made me listen to him,” Smith said. “In my opinion, he kind of
took me under his wing ... and taught me that I really could make a
living and take care of myself.”
For 12 years, Smith worked in automotive repair, and although he’s
no longer in the field, he still restores classic vehicles.
Greg Thomas, a 1973 Burroughs graduate, said that tinkering with
autos was a teen hobby that turned into a life-long career after
taking auto shop with Gantz. Today, Thomas owns Greg’s Tuneup on
Gantz, who has taught auto shop for 35 years to high school
students and for 30 years to adult students, is retiring in June.
After that, when he and his wife are not traveling, he will be
working on his house.
“I have a ‘honey-do’ list that is longer than my list,” he said.
His career at Burroughs began in 1968.
He and fellow Cal State L.A. student David Goodlaw began their
teaching careers at Burroughs. The men had 10 periods of auto shop
with a waiting list to get into the classes.
In recent years, however, the district’s philosophy was changed to
“everybody goes to college,” and many industrial arts classes were
discontinued, he said.
“It’s a shame because [so many] do not finish college,” Gantz
said. “In automotives, there’s a career right there.”
He also keeps in touch with some of his former students when he
stops in at places where they work.
“Gantz comes into the shop every now and then to say hello and to
get parts,” said former student Reggie Roy Huitink, 50, who is a
service manager at Burbank Fuel Injection Corp.
“If not for Gantz, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Huitink