Anaheim High’s Connection to Jerry Lewis

A bit of fun trivia has come to light with the recent death of Jerry Lewis. Did you know that Anaheim High has a connection to this comedy great through Class of 1933 graduate Marie Wilson?

Katherine Elizabeth “Maybelle” Wilson – a.k.a. Marie Wilson –grew up in Anaheim. An inheritance helped her fullfill her dream of becoming a Hollywood starlit. Maybelle dropped her family nickname and transformed herself into radio, TV and film star Marie Wilson, a voluptuous blonde bombshell who earned three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Marie earned national recognition for her role in “My Friend Irma,” the title role of a radio series that became one of the most popular shows of the late 1940s. The radio show evolved into a TV series from 1952 to 1954, which then led to two movies titled, “My Friend Irma” and “My Friend Irma Goes West” featuring the comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

More about this famous Anaheim High graduate is available via this link.

Small Town Girl Makes a Name in Hollywood as Singer, Actress

Joy (Wurgaft) Lane – AUHS Class of 1945

LACE 1Anaheim High’s performing arts program gained a talented performer when Joy (Wurgaft) Lane, moved to Anaheim from Fullerton in 1942 at age 15. Joy was already a recognized dancer and singer who had appeared at the Golden State Theater in San Francisco, the Orpheum Theater and the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Born in 1927 in Santa Monica, to Robert and Irene Wurgaft, Joy was brought up in a household full of music and singing. Her mother had been a stage performer in her younger years and her father played the ukulele. They recognized a talent in their daughter and in 1934 took Joy to Hal Roach Studios for an audition.

She was cast as one of the child characters in the “Our Gang” comedies and, during her early years continued to appear in a number of movies, including “Hollywood on Parade” and the notable Laurel and Hardy’s “Babes in Toyland.”

Joy Wurgaft 1945family homeWhile at Anaheim High, Joy performed in plays and talent shows and was president of the Drama Club.  Her family lived in a two-story Spanish Mediterranean home at 319 N. Harbor Blvd., across from what is now Pearson Park. She said there was a rumpus room in the basement of the home and she often invited school mates over for parties. The family owned the home until the mid-60s, when it was sold to the Catholic Byzantine Church.

Her father was in the citrus business and was the sales manager for a large juice company and used his daughter’s image for crate labels. Mr. Wurgraft was also a member of the City of Anaheim Planning Commission and was among local businessmen who petitioned Walt Disney to building his Magic Kingdom to Anaheim.

A few years after graduating from AUHS in 1945, she took the stage name of Joy Lane.  She toured the country as a singer with band leader Ted Fio Rito and regularly appeared on television.

In the 1950’s, she had her own television show called “The Joy Lane Show.”  Over the next twenty years she continued with a successful singing career, performing throughout the United States and doing radio commercials.

Joy, who was often mistaken for Angie Dickenson, socialized with Hollywood’s elite and was friends with Lucille Ball. She recalls a time when she and her manager visited Lucille’s home in Palm Springs when she and Desi Arnaz were in the midst of divorcing. They played cards for entertainment, then travelled the next day to Lucille’s home in Beverly Hills, first stopping in Anaheim to pick up her son from her parent’s home.

She was also in New York when Lucille Ball opened on Broadway and visited her dressing room after her performance. Joy said she was always giving Lucy encouragement and helping boost her confidence because the comedic actress was nervous about singing on stage. The next day, Joy accompanied Lucy to a famous New York department store that was closed to the public while the two women shopped.

Joy currently lives in Southern Orange County and will be 87 years old on Sept. 19. She’s in a wheelchair due to MS, but still uses the computer every day and lives a full life filled with many memories of growing up in Anaheim and living the life of a singer and performer.

One of her many memories is singing “LBJ will make everything rosy for you and for me” to the tune of “Everything Is Coming Up Roses”  at a fund-raising party the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles for Lyndon Johnson who was running against Jack Kennedy for the Presidential nomination. The party was given by the incomparable Pearl Mesta, an American socialite, political hostess, and U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg (1949–1953).  Joy remembered that her dress was made of 2,000 fresh rose petals and she couldn’t sit down all day or the roses would turn brown.sc00002d95

From the small agricultural community of Anaheim to the Silver Screen, Joy is another Anaheim High graduate who can be traced to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Wilhelmina G. Van Hunnick – July 27, 1936 – April 29, 2009

One of Anaheim High’s exemplary graduates was Wilhelmina Grace Van Hunnick from Class of 1954.

After graduating 15th in her class at Anaheim High, Willi (as she was known by her friends and family), she attended USC, where she was a business major and member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She also served as a USC Associate and on the Humanities Committee for Letters, Arts, and Science.

Anaheim was to continue benefitting from this pioneer daughter who returned to her hometown to teach for 32 years in the Anaheim Union High School District. She became a renowned business teacher at John F. Kennedy High School, earning Teacher of the Year three times and Orange County Teacher of the Year.

She served as chairman of Kennedy High Business Department and as an advisor for Future Business Leaders of America, a program with Wilhelmina G. Van Hunnick_NEW_0001which she was involved throughout her high school years. Her service as a student adviser, as well as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors at the state and national level, earned her a place in the FBLA Wall of Fame and the title of California Business Person of the Year.

Along with her passion for teaching, Ms. Van Hunnick loved the performing arts and chaired the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Foundation, helping establish a state-of-the-art auditorium at high school.

Wilhelmina and Elizabeth Van HunnickHer sister, Elizabeth Van Hunnick from Class of 1956, taught at Fremont Junior High School and is a Lifetime Member of the Anaheim High School Alumni Association and has donated many of her and her sister’s AUHS memorabilia items to the Alumni Association’s for preservation.

More about Wilhelmina’s life can be read at: