When Bruce Allen came to the islands to attend the University of Hawaii 40 years ago this summer on a whim, he decided to change his name to Chris. Over the next decade, Chris Allen worked in both radio and television sports, becoming a regular fixture on the local sports broadcasting scene. Allen recently looked back on his time in Hawaii where he was an important voice of sports in Hawaii during the 1970’s.
Allen graduated from Vandercook High School in Jackson, Mich., in 1970. When filling out his paperwork for college scholarships, he put down "Hawaii State" as one of his preferences and ended up in the islands at the correct school, the University of Hawaii. In 1972 he got a job at KGU radio as a traffic reporter, and that led to him doing news for the afternoon news drive show.
"It was a fun time for me," Allen said. While working in radio for KGU and K108, he was mentored by some legends in local radio, including Bernie Armstrong, Sam Sanford and Dick Cook. "Sanford taught me how to write for radio," he said.
His talented voice led him to various public-address announcing gigs including the Hawaiians of the World Football League, the Hawaii Leis pro tennis team, Hawaii Islanders pro baseball and the Hawaii Volcanoes pro basketball team. Allen covered local high school and UH events, including being the final PA voice for the old Honolulu Stadium and the first PA voice for the new Aloha Stadium in 1975. He was the PA announcer for six Hula Bowls, NFL exhibitions and the first NFL Pro Bowl, held at the stadium in 1980.
ALLEN ALSO DID play-by-play work for Chaminade, UH football and baseball road games, high school games of the week and state championships during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. His peers voted him "Hawaii Sportscaster of the Year" in 1978 and 1979.
"They wanted to give it to someone that wasn’t named a Leahey," laughed Allen, who was mentored by both Chuck and Jim Leahey.
"The Leahey family, I learned so much from them. Jim Leahey is the best," Allen said.
In December 1976 he graduated from UH with a degree in human resources development and was working at KGU on the "Sports Huddle" radio show. When Ken Wilson left for an announcing gig on the mainland, the weekend sports anchor position opened up at KHON. "Dick Cook told me, ‘If they offer the job to you, don’t turn it down,’" Allen said. He went on to run the weekend sports beat for KHON, working with Ray Lovell and Melanie Granfors, and also served as the assistant sports director to the legendary Les Keiter.
"I remember my very first TV shot: George Cabral Jr. and I covered a canoe race together," he said.
In 1978 he left KHON but landed a new gig at KITV. Paul Guanzon was sports director and sports anchor for the station at the time. He suggested the station hire Allen to do weekend sports anchoring.
"I’ve worked with a lot of talented people in this business, but when it came to Chris, he was the most naturally gifted announcer and play-by-play man I ever had the privilege of working with," Guanzon said. "We spent weeks together on the road covering Chaminade University basketball in the late 1970s, and Chris always maintained a relaxed and happy working environment. He had a great sense of humor and was full of laughs."
While at KITV, Allen worked the weekend sports with Susan Hutchison, Bill Browning, Diane Ryan and Jim Scoutten.
In May 1980, after 10 years in the islands working in both radio and television, Allen decided to give the mainland a try, placing an ad in Broadcast Magazine. WRTV in Indianapolis, the ABC affiliate, was looking for a weekday sports anchor, and Allen jumped at the chance to cover an NBA team and one of the city’s biggest claims to fame, the annual Indianapolis 500. Then-Gov. George Ariyoshi sent Allen a congratulatory letter on his new gig.
"It must have been the Michigan connection," Allen said, as Ariyoshi is a graduate of both Michigan State and the University of Michigan.
In 1984 Allen wanted to move to a warmer climate and landed a sports anchor job with WCIV in Charleston, S.C. In 1986 he went to WYFF, an NBC affiliate that covers the Greenville and Spartanburg markets in South Carolina and Asheville, N.C.
In 1989, after more than a decade in television sports, Allen decided to go back to his earlier roots in radio, working for WPEK and WORD in the Greenville market. He was the PA announcer for the Greenville Braves minor league baseball team, where he had a chance to watch future Atlanta Braves stars Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones and many others. He was also the PA announcer for the Carolina Panthers in their first NFL season in 1994.
In 1997 Allen was hired by Voice of America in Washington, D.C.
Now working as supervisory editor for VOA, Allen said he welcomed the change to covering world events and reaching out to countries that have no free source of news. "I love my job. We do straightforward news and give you the facts," he said.
Next year is Allen’s 25th wedding anniversary, and he said he would love to celebrate it in Hawaii. "Everyone was so nice. Out of all the places I worked, it was very special. I remember the good folks there," Allen said.
A.J. McWhorter, a collector of film and videotape cataloging Hawaii’s TV history, has worked as a producer, writer and researcher for both local and national media. His columns run on the first Monday of each month. E-mail him at email@example.com.