Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

40 years later, Temple Terrace man reunites with Big Brother

TAMPA — Music blared over the speakers at the Pin Chasers Midtown bowling alley as hundreds of Big Brothers and Big Sisters bonded with their littles.

But in an enclosed room to the side, a quieter exchange was taking place Sunday afternoon.

More than 40 years had passed since Christopher Allen met Harry McAlister, the man he credits with helping him turn his life around.

Allen, a high school student back then, had been arrested for stealing and spent time in jail. A judge recommended he take part in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

And there, he met McAlister.

McAlister, a communications officer for the U.S. Air Force, had already mentored other boys through the program, including one who wound up as best man in McAlister's wedding.

Their time together was brief, consisting mostly of motorcycle rides and trips to the park. But the impact changed the trajectory of Allen's life.

Allen, who said his father was a mostly absent figure, couldn't imagine a life of success ahead of him. McAlister changed that, helping the youth put faith in himself and his future.

McAlister's knowledge of electronics piqued Allen's interest. Maybe, he thought, there was something in that field for him.

With McAlister's guidance and with financial help from the government and his mother, Allen enrolled in electronics courses at Tampa Technical Institute. Within two years, he landed a job that had him building computers for the Pentagon.

"His initial investment in my life was what changed my life forever," said Allen, now 59, from Temple Terrace.

After seeing an advertisement for Big Brothers Big Sisters on TV during the Super Bowl, Allen did a little investigative work and started calling all the McAlisters in the area.

A week later, he got a call back. He had found his Big Brother.

As the two sat together for the first time in decades, McAlister told stories about Allen sneaking away and trying on McAlister's contact lenses and commandeering a pair of boots McAlister brought back from Turkey.

"I hope those stories aren't embarrassing for you," joked McAlister, now 70, from Town 'N Country.

Shortly after the two sat down together Sunday, McAlister pulled out the card he received when Big Brothers assigned Allen as his little brother. He had tucked it away with the cards from the six other boys he mentored, and kept them in a keepsake box in his home.

"I can't wait to get my first card," Allen said when he saw it.

Reconnecting with McAlister was the first step. Now Allen hopes to influence the life of another young boy. He handed a donation and his completed Big Brother application form to one of the organization's leaders.

"All of these things made a difference in my life," Allen said. "If you invest a little time in these kids, you can make a big difference in their lives."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at (813) 661-2443 or cjohnston@tampabay.com.

40 years later, Temple Terrace man reunites with Big Brother 03/24/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 7:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hillary Clinton said her 'skin crawled' when Donald Trump stood behind her on debate stage

    National

    In her most detailed public comments about what happened during the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said her "skin crawled" as Donald Trump loomed behind her on the stage in St. Louis last October.

    Hillary Clinton speaks as Donald Trump listens during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016. In her upcoming book, Clinton says "It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled." [Pool photo by Rick T. Wilking via AP]
  2. After 17 years, Pasco-Hernando State College attorney steps away

    College

    The longtime attorney for Pasco-Hernando State College has resigned for what he says are "purely personal reasons."

    Steve Schroeder, the general council for Pasco-Hernando State College, resigned last week. His last day will be Sept. 8.
  3. Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car

    Autos

    SAN FRANCISCO — As new employees were brought into Apple's secret effort to create a self-driving car a few years ago, managers told them that they were working on the company's next big thing: A product that would take on Detroit and disrupt the automobile industry.

     In this Monday, April 10, 2017 file photo, Luminar CEO Austin Russell monitors a 3D lidar map on a demonstration drive in San Francisco. Russell, now 22, was barely old enough to drive when he set out to create a safer navigation system for robot-controlled cars. His ambitions are about to be tested five years after he co-founded Luminar Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup trying to steer the rapidly expanding self-driving car industry in a new direction. Apple says it will scale back its amitions to build a self-driving car.  [AP Photo/Ben Margot]
  4. Studies: Automated safety systems are preventing car crashes

    Autos

    WASHINGTON — Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or that warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday.

    A side mirror warning signal is shown in a Ford Taurus at an automobile testing area in Oxon Hill, Md., in 2012. Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. [Associated Press]
  5. Pet Vet: Why a cat's color can make it more susceptible to skin cancer

    Pets

    Snowball is a fluffy female cat 10 years of age. Can you guess what color she might be? I ask the question because it is relevant to what might be causing her problem.

    White fluffy cat  [Dreamstime | TNS]