Class of 1955 Bob Penfield Shares His Story About Being “The Last Original Disneylander”

Class of ’55 graduate Bob Penfield is convinced his life has been charmed. During his 42 years with Disneyland, he always seemed to find himself in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Bob shares his journey, and the story of the world famous theme park he grew up with, in his new book “The Last Original Disneylander – Stories & Secrets from the Last of Retire of the First to be Hired.”

Similar to Walt Disney’s humble beginnings, Bob was raised in a small Midwestern town, then headed for the sunshine and opportunity out West. Blessed with an insatiable curiosity, days after graduating from Anaheim High School he went looking for summer work at the strange new amusement park being built down the road. He lucked into a job days before it opened, starting in July of 1955 as a ride operator on Disneyland’s Carrousel.

Three days later, he was named foreman of the Snow White ride and, as soon as he turned 21, was promoted to management. He later transferred into the Facilities Division, where he got the opportunity to explore and examine every square inch of the park. Along the way, he also enjoyed side trips to help open Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, and the New York World’s Fair.

After working in a variety of positions that gave him the opportunity to explore every square inch of the park, he retired in July of 1997, as the last of the original employees. His intimate knowledge of the park, its history, and its amazing cast of characters provides a unique, up-close look at the creation and operation of the world’s most beloved vacation destination.

He continues to be actively involved with Disney, regularly participating in promotional events for the Company, organizing a monthly breakfast club for retirees, and serving as “keeper of the flame” for “Club 55,” the group comprised of fellow longtime cast members who started in 1955.

Today, much of his efforts go into promoting the Walt Disney Birthplace Museum in Marceline, Missouri. Proceeds from his book sale will, in fact, go toward the restoration of a Midget Autopia ride, which Walt donated to the city in 1966. His book may be purchased at

Tom Nabbe ’61- Disney’s Original Tom Sawyer


Photo from an article in the Saturday Evening Post, June 28, 1958 issue.

Life’s been one big adventure for Anaheim High’s Class of ’61 graduate Tom Nabbe. The fun really started when his family moved to Anaheim just down the road from where Disneyland was being built. 

A 12-year-old red-headed, freckle-faced boy, Nabbe was selling newspapers at Disneyland when he heard that Walt needed someone to play the role of Tom Sawyer. Tom pestered Walt until he got the job. Nearly fifty years later,  Tom retired as a Disney Legend.

The story of his amazing career, which began as a fantasy and ended as the embodiment of the American dream,  is now available in his book:  “From Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer to Disney Legend: The Adventures of Tom Nabbe.” 
The book is available via his website or via in paperback or Kindle Edition.




Oct. 21 – 7th Annual AHSAA Colonist Classic Car Show – Save the Date!

Save the date of Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 for the 7th Annual AHSAA Colony Classic Car Show.

The family-friendly event is a chance to view more than 100 unique vehicles and tour the historical Anaheim High campus.

Click here for more information.


2017 Golf Tournament & Auction – A Classic Colonist Day

Despite recent heavy rains, the 8th Annual AHSAA Golf Classic drew a large crowd of golfers and dinners. After a day of golf under a cloudy sky, attendees enjoyed dinner and bidding on an array of silent and live auction gifts.

Thank you to sponsors who helped underwrite the event and to the many volunteers who assisted on and off the course, including the AHS Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Team members.

Proceeds will help fund $16,000 in scholarships for the 2016-2017 school year.

Football + Fassel = New Fitness Center at AHS

Jim Fassel with Colonist athletes who will benefit from new fitness equipment.

What do you get when you add an alumnus who grew up on Anaheim High’s athletic fields with access to Grade A exercise and training equipment? Happily, for AHS, the answer is a new fitness center, a first for the Colony campus.

Three semi-trucks filled with state-of-the art weight room, training equipment, furniture and more has been donated to Anaheim High by alumnus Jim Fassel (’67). Ultimately, the donation will fill two refurbished rooms remembered by some alumni as the auto and machine shops. These large workspaces will house equipment valued at more than $100,000 to create a fitness center and a top-notch training room. Fassel has also funded new flooring for the facility that will be named the “Fassel Family Fitness Center” once approval is received by the AUHSD.

Bud Fassel working on a pair of shoulder pads.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Anaheim athletes were shaped and guided by Jim’s father, Bud Fassel (‘39), who served as right-hand man to Clare Van Hoorebeke in his role as equipment manager. But Bud did much more than care for athletic equipment, according to Gerald “Woody” Woodward from Class of ’59, who serves as AHS Alumni Association president.

“Bud counseled, guided and supported the young men who were part of the Anaheim High athletic program,” said Woodward. “He cared for the kids and was a father figure to us all.“

Woodward said there were many occasions when Bud asked his wife to pack extra sandwiches in his lunch that he shared with students too poor to afford lunch.  He also hired students to work in the equipment room so that they could afford to buy lunch or pay for the medical insurance that the student-athletes had to purchase. “He was one of the most caring and generous people I have ever known.”

AHSAA President Gerald Woodward congratulates Luis Amaya, recipient of the Bud Fassel Memorial Scholarship.

Bud’s impact was evident when, in 1992, hundreds of former students and athletes attended his funeral to honor him for his more than 25 years at Anaheim High. His contribution to Anaheim High continues today through an annual Bud Fassel Memorial Scholarship.

Bud’s son was among the outstanding athletes produced by Anaheim High. From the days of playing football at AHS, Jim went on to a successful career in the world of football. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1997, and he took the New York Giants to Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001. Most recently, he served as head coach, manager and president of the Las Vegas Locomotives in the United Football League, winning several UFL titles during the league’s existence. He also works as an ESPN sports announcer.

Jim’s son, John Fassel, is also walking in his grandfather and fathers’ footsteps. Once a ball boy for his father at the University of Utah in 1976, John was recently named interim head coach for the LA Rams, taking a break from his usual position of special teams coordinator.

Once the new fitness and training centers are complete, the Colony community will be invited to the grand opening in 2017 to celebrate this outstanding donation by one of Anaheim’s favorite sons.

Football Players from the 1956 CIF Championship Team Unite for 60th Anniversary Celebration

wp_000805Anaheim Colonists celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the historic 1956 CIF Championship game –  ranked #6 of the top 100 events in CIF’s last 100 years – by inviting former players back to the campus on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

The players were feted by the Varsity Football Team and fans who haven’t forgotten the celebrated game that ended in a 13-13 tie between Anaheim and Downey. Both teams were undefeated with record-setting runningbacks known as the touch-down twins, Mickey Flynn from Anaheim and Downey’s Randy Meadows.

Friday’s celebration started with players and others connected with “The Big Game” being interviewed by “The Last Hurrah” documentary filmmaker Paul Molina.

The film will illustrate how a game of such magnitude could not – and would not – ever happen again due to the changing economics and infrastructure of the southland that would transform the small towns of Anaheim and  Downey into entertainment and aerospace capitols. High school football would continue to be popular – but it would never again be king. (Click here for a preview of “The Last Hurrah” documentary.)wp_000771

The players who returned to the Anaheim High campus, and those who could not, are still kings in the eyes of the the Colony Community.

The anniversary celebration carried over to the cafeteria, where the Varsity Football Team, former players, family and friends, gathered for a meal, to watch the restored film of the 1956 game, and to hear a pep talk from legendary runningback Mickey Flynn, whose #25 is one of only four retired by Anaheim High.

wp_000812Haller of Famer Jim Fassel (’67) was also on hand to support the team. Fassel is a former NY Giants Super Bowl coach who has been a life-long Colonist supporter, like his father Bud Fassel (’38), AHS equipment manager and right-hand man to Coach Clare Van Hoorebeke.

After a group photo, the Varsity Team left to suit-up, and the alumni contingency toured the newly remodeled campus fitness center (what’s been known as the weight room) featuring equipment donated by Fassel from his two-time UFL champions Las Vegas Locomotives. Fassel served as head coach, president and general manager.

After a refreshment break, the group’s next stop was Glover Stadium for the game and half-time ceremony to honor the former players. Anaheim won the game 38-27 against Savanna. Escorted by student ambassadors, the crowd embraced the 1956 CIF Championship players with applause and adoration.

It was a perfect ending for a special day celebrating a game for the ages, the players who played it, and the fans who still talk about “The Big Game.”

A more indepth article about “The Big Game” is available via this link. Click here to view related photos from the 1957 yearbook.

Following are more photos from the day:



6th Annual Colony Classic Car Show – A Great Day for the Colony!

img_0911It was a Car Show of the most spirited kind when more than 100 cool classics cruised onto the Anaheim High campus, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2016.

The Colony gathering included Pep Stage performances by the choir, cheer squad and Anaheim Performing Arts Conservatory students who created a high-energy atmosphere at the 6th annual event headed by Clint Stark from Class of 1959.

Clint’s hand-crafts trophies from salvaged car parts are becoming legendary in the SoCal car culture. Click here to view a gallery of trophy winners and see a list of winners.

Attendees also were able to enjoy and explore the historic art deco campus, view memorabilia, dance to classic tunes, dine on food from local restaurants. And another big plus . . . the weather was perfect! For “Around the Campus” event photos click here.

Thank you to our event sponsors, including: City of Anaheim Public Utilities Department, ART, the Anaheim Resort Transportation system, Reon Howard Boydstun ’74 – Boydstun Realty and Property Management, Jack McGreevy ’63 – M & J Plastics, Joe and Jeanne Wright of Hot Rods Unlimited, Jerry Woodward ’59, Barbara Pavek, and Danny Doller.

Thanks also to the great students groups who made the event possible: Associated Student Body (ASB), B.R.O.S., and Project Say. Anaheim High administrator and staff also provided amazing support of this AHS Alumni Association fund raiser.

A video of the Car Show is under production and will be availble for sale for $10. To reserve a copy, email

Anaheim High Celebrated During Homecoming 2016

The Colony community celebrated Homecoming 2016 over Sept. 23 and 24 with several gatherings, including a varsity football game, an on-campus rally and several class reunions.

A full stadium of fans cheered as the Colonists defeated the Loara Saxons 28-0 at La Palma Park’s Glover Stadium. A performance by the Anaheim Band and Flags, as well as the crowning of the 2016-17 homecoming court, provided crowd pleasing  homecoming half-time entertainment. The eveninng ended with the traditional singing of the alma mater and photos under the Big A.

Some 1,500 students, parents, alumni and community members, triple the number anticipated, came to Anaheim HS on Saturday to celebrate our local public schools. The event included a neighborhood walk, entertainment, campus tours and more.

Anaheim High Celebrates Its Olympic Athletes

With USA athletes earning a record number of medals in the 2016 Summer Olympics, the AHSAA thought it was time to highlight Anaheim High’s own Olympic athletes.

Anaheim High’s legendary swim and water polo coach Jon Urbanchek, himself an Olympic swimmer, is in Rio now as a special assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team, a position he also held in 2012.

He was head coach to the 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams. In total, Urbanchek has coached 44 USA Olympians with 11 Gold medals including four world record holders.

Inducted into the Anaheim Hall of Fame in 2011, Urbanchek served as Anaheim High’s swim and water polo coach between 1963 and 1978, an era when his Colonist teams achieved CIF championships and All American honors.

After leaving
his native country of Hungary following his participation in the 1956 Olympic Games, Jon received a scholarship to the University of Michigan where he contributed to three NCAA Championships in 1958, 1959 and 1961.

A true legend among swimming coaches, Urbanchek was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame on July 6, 2008.

Barbara McAlister - Diver July 23, 1962 X 8550 credit: John G. Zimmerman - staff

Barbara Ellen (McAlister) Talmage on the cover of a 1962 Sports Illustrated

Barbara Ellen (McAlister) Talmage from AUHS Class of 1959 became a championship diver who won seven Senior National Titles, took a gold medal in springboard diving at the 1963 Pan American Games and represented the U.S.A. as a diver in the 1964 and 1968 Olympics. Her image has graced the covers of both Sports Illustration and Life magazines.

Sowder_Sid001Sid Sowder Freudenstein from the Class of 1963 carried the flag in the 1968 Olympics as co-captain of the Men’s Gymnastics Team in Mexico City. As a UC Berkeley student, Freudenstein won many invitationals, PAC 8, regional titles and national and international awards. In his senior year in 1968, he tied for first on floor exercise, and his team won the NCAA Championship.

At Anaheim High, he won many competitions, mostly on tumbling, floor and vault. In his senior year, he was the High Point Man (closest to All-Around) at the Southern California State Championships.

After ending his competitive career, Freudenstein returned to school at the University of Colorado (CU), earning a PhD in physics. While finishing his degree and raising a young family, he became head gymnastics coach at CU in the fall of 1976. Later he became chairman of the physics department at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

Track and field athlete Rick Sloan from Class of 1964 competed in the 1968 Olympics, placing 7th in the decathlon and becoming the fourth American in the sport to exceed 8,000 points. Rick Sloan senior photo class of 64

At UCLA, he became the first Bruin to exceed 7-feet in the high jump when he vaulted 7-1. An injury prevented him from competing in the high jump and vault in the Olympics, but his fate was sealed when a coach talked him into competing in the decathlon. Afraid to high jump on his bad leg, Sloan had only one practice jump before the Olympic tryouts, but he somehow cleared 6-11 ¾ to set a world record decathlon high jump record and make the U.S. team.


Kit Salness-Howser – Class of 1972

He parlayed his experience as a decathlete into a life-long career as a track and field coach. His career culminated as the men’s and women’s track and field head coach and the dean of Washington State University’s coaches. He retired from WSU in 2014 but said he had more coaching in him.

While he never returned to the Olympics as an athlete, Sloan is well known internationally in the multi-events circuits because of his 14 years as coach for four-time world decathlon champion, Olympic champion and former world record-holder Dan O’Brien and because of his mentoring of Olympic heptathlete Diana Pickler. He’s also coached the late Gabriel Tiacoh, the quarter-miler from Ivory Coast who won an Olympic silver medal in 1984.

Kit Salness-Howser from Class of 1972 was a nationally ranked platform diver and a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic diving team that was supposed to go to Moscow in 1980, but didn’t because of the U.S. boycott. Kit was inducted into the Anaheim Hall of Fame in 2004.Do you know of any other Anaheim High alumni who have participated in the Olympics? Let us know by emailing
Once A Colonist, Always A Colonist!

Sid Sowder Freudenstein – Class of 1963

Sowder_Sid002It was a long walk f0r a boy from Anaheim, who used to dive off the garage rafters on to an old couch, to carrying the flag in the ’68 Olympics as co-captain of the Men’s Gymnastics Team in Mexico City.

But Class of 1963’s Sid Sowder Freudenstein’s transition to a world champion, from that 6th grader whose grandfather found him alone doing dangerous diving stunts, started when he was enrolled him in Sammy Lee’s swim & dive club.

It was in junior high where he discovered some bars and rings outside in a sandpit and he taught himself kips and giant swings (with straps). “I didn’t know the names of the skills then; I just saw other kids doing them,” he wrote in his autobiography.

Sowder_Sid001Freudenstein started formal gymnastics as a sophomore in 1960 under Ron Amster at Anaheim High. He credits his coach as being responsible for his initial success. He won many competitions, mostly on tumbling, floor and vault. In his senior year, he was the High Point Man (closest to All-Around) at the Southern California State Championships.

He wasn’t able to attend his first choice, UC Berkeley (Cal), because his grades weren’t quite good enough. He was awarded a scholarship to USC and was excited to attend there since many of his friends were also at USC. Unfortunately, when went to matriculate, he was told his scholarship went to someone else.

He was devastated, but kept up his studies at Santa Ana Junior College and continued to train at Anaheim High. He finally made it to Cal in 1964 and graduated in 1968 with a degree in physics. As a UC Berkeley student, Freudenstein won many invitationals, PAC 8, regional titles, and national and international awards.

In the summer of 1966, he was chosen to attend an Olympic training camp at Penn State, and most importantly, as a U.S. Gymnastics Federation alternate to the World Championships in Dortmund Germany.

In the summer of 1967, he was chosen to compete in the World University Games in Tokyo. He placed second in floor exercise against some of the best in the world.

freud1In his senior year in 1968, at the NCAA Championships he tied for first on floor exercise, and his team won the title in a thrilling ending.

He was on the way to the Olympics after placing 19th out of 20 selected in first trials. While he did well in the 1968 games, he was sick for several training days and the compulsory floor finals were held first thing in the morning when scoring was generally low.

Freudenstein continued to stay involved in his sport, even after returning to school at the University of Colorado (CU), earning a Ph.D. in physics in 1976-77. He occasionally judged high school gymnastics meets, announced CU’s home meets, and took the job of head gymnastics couch a year before he started to teach physics at Metropolitan State College of Denver in the spring of 1977.

He taught and coached until CU dropped seven sports, including gymnastics in 1980. During his coaching tenure at CU, he brought the team from shambles to a top-10 preseason ranking.

In 1980 and 1982, he was chosen by the State of Colorado to be the exchange coach of a sister-state program in Brazil. In 1982, he started and directed a not-for-profit private club called Colorado Academy of Artistic Gymnastics (CAAG). It grew to its maximum of 417 students right after the ’84 Olympics.

Freudenstein has published and given talks on the biomechanics of gymnastics and authored a teaching manual for major textbook in physics. He has also published several papers in plasma physics and teacher education. He has chaired Denver’s Metropolitan State University Physics Department since 1995. In 2005, he was inducted into the University of California Athletic Hall of Fame.

For a more complete look at his Olympic career, visit: