Charles Heaton “Chuck” Allen ’68, MS ’69, doesn’t see the need for a bucket list because, as he puts it, “I don’t think of things in terms of what I should do to be happy. I’ve pretty much done the things I’m meant to do.”
Those things include teaching, coaching, serving in the Air Force, writing, disc-jockeying, and loving all things Baylor. He and his wife, Joyce, even moved back to Waco in 2001 after several decades in other Texas cities but then decided to make one more move – to Hot Springs Village, AR.
“We weren’t as happy in Waco as we thought we would be,” Allen chuckles, “so we decided to live in the beautiful hills and woods of Arkansas. But we constantly watch Baylor things – you’d be amazed at how many Baylor sports are on TV!”
Allen’s Baylor experience started in 1966 when, after being stationed at James Connally Air Force Base (now TSTC Waco Airport), Allen began taking night classes at Baylor and fell in love with the university. He was already married to Joyce Merle Rummel ’63 and was a 24-year-old sophomore when he transferred from the University of Texas. Then, a graduate assistant coaching position under Baylor head football coach John Bridgers, along with mentorship from history professors Robert Reid and James Vardaman, inspired Allen’s passion for influencing young minds.
“The professors at Baylor are special people,” Allen says. “I got two degrees – my bachelor’s and my master’s – and [the fact that my professors cared about me] was true throughout [my experience]. They inspired me on how to teach.”
Allen graduated and moved to Freeport, TX, where he was a history professor and coach at Brazosport High School and later, Brazosport College. His students asked him to write historical fiction for their entertainment, and so began his career as an author.
“I’d tell my students, ‘That’s not a textbook… It’s a time machine!’” Allen laughs. “I really tried to get them to get the history bug and they learned I could write fairly well.”
Several of his published titles include “Ace Rivals,” a World War II story about two friends who fly fighter jets and love the same woman, and “Snow Stackers,” a dystopian-society novel set in the 24th century. “Snow Stackers” and another novel, titled “Johnny June’s ‘Stuff’”, will soon be made into Netflix original films. Here’s a link to Chuck’s website.
Allen’s love of writing grew and he continued to produce novels, screenplays, and even short stories. He has now written more than 20 books, with six published titles. The students he taught and coached not only gave him an audience – they occasionally provided Allen with some of his characters.
“I wrote a thing called ‘This Pan of Milk’ about John Hill Westbrook [the first black student to play football in the Southwestern Conference],” Allen explains. “John said to me, ‘I’m so tired of being a fly in this pan of milk,’ and that led to me writing about him. John Hill helped me open up my heart.”
Coaching connected Allen’s love of sports with his desire to impart a love of learning to his students. He coached football, basketball, and baseball at the junior college and high school levels in Freeport, Uvalde, Austin, and other towns throughout Texas. Baylor was always in his heart, however.
“The thrill was when [Brazosport] got to come up and play the junior varsity Baylor team in the Heart of Texas Coliseum [in 1976] and they beat us 100 to 96,” Allen remembers.
Allen’s contributions to Baylor left a lasting impression, not only as a coach in the early days of his career, but also as someone who saw a major need and helped meet it.
“After leaving BU I was glad to help Coach Teaff recruit players in the south-of-Houston area for 17 years, he says. “When the 1974 and 1980 SWC titles were won by the Bears I was so very happy, but there were several very fine teams during his years as our coach.”
The Baylor Family sees what Chuck Allen views as HIS Baylor legacy whenever they travel on University Parks Drive toward the university’s athletic facilities.
“Joyce and I built a 3D model of what ended up being the Baylor marina,” Allen says. “One day in 1968 I overheard a couple of professors talking about [the university’s plans for] building a marina. I went home and told Joyce, and we went to a ladies’ sewing shop and bought a whole bunch of felt, and then on this big 4’ by 4’ board, we made a 3D model. I took it to Ted Powers, the head of the P.E. department, and he took it to Dr. McCall. Dr. McCall used that model with the Board of Regents to build the marina.”
- What should everyone read? Obviously the Bible. And well, I think people are not as aware of the true history of the United States as they should be. If you don’t know history very much, I don’t see how a person can function. You don’t know what people are thinking! I feel like we need to read real history. History writing is done in a way that’s more entertaining than people think.
- What’s your favorite Bible verse? “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.” John 3:16. The basis for me of Christianity is two concepts: life after death and the concept of forgiveness.
- What do you collect? [My wife and I] run the “be-boppers” dance club here in the village, and we do a show business act together. We lip-sync funny songs together. We’ve performed all the way from San Antonio to Pigeon Forge, TN, and we run the dances. We put in the ‘50s and ‘60s hits and add some Texas and Cajun songs, and the people have a real good time. So that’s what we collect is music.
- What is a piece of advice you would give to young graduates? Be justifiably proud of your degree, but work hard and reliably. Just having that degree doesn’t guarantee success.
- What’s the one place you’ve visited to which you could return over and over? Cortina D’Empezzo in northern Italy. The 1956 Winter Olympics were held there and the original “Pink Panther” movie (with the hilarious Peter Sellers) was filmed there. Amazingly beautiful village in the Dolomite Mountains!
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? My Air Force sergeant told me: “Pay for this marriage license, young man.” Joyce and I have been married 52 years and she’s the only reason I’m still alive, I think. They took us on a blind date and we were engaged three days after we met. I only had a dollar! We went to the drive-in movie in Lacy Lakeview so I bought one big coke and two straws.
By M. Elizabeth Starr ‘16