Chuck Sipes the real bodybuilding hero: Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. World. He was not only a bodybuilder, Chuck Sipes was also a role model. He changed, helped, and shaped lives of troubled men and youngster.
Here’s Chuck Sipes’ story.
He was born on August 22, 1932 in Sterling, Illinois. As a youngster Chuck wanted to gain weight for football. Thus everyday he did basic exercises – squats, bench presses, deadlifts and military presses. He made rapid progress and he decided to buy some strength magazines.
He saw the photos of Steve Reeves, Jack Dellinger and Reg Park. These legends inspired Chuck to train harder and become better. He had the idea to build his own gym but in his living room was not enough space left to place the equipment. Thus he had to ask his father to turn the garage into a gym.
Luckily he was allowed to realise his plan. His first step was to build some rugged benches out of heavy timber. Chuck’s gym consisted of an incline bench, sit-up board, press bench and some basic iron.
He had no fancy stuff and was not sponsored for his effort. He even used the parallel bars and horizontal bars at school to train his upper body.
He was bitten by the iron bug. Early in the morning Chuck used to bike to school. It was around 7 a.m. and he trained on the horizontal and parallel bars. He was also disciplined during lunch hour. When other students were eating junk food, smoking and wasting time, Chuck used to run down to the local stores and buy bread and milk for power!
Time passed and Chuck made the varsity football squad and he gained many honors.
Chuck Sipes’ Home Gym
Norm Komich was a friend of Chuck Sipes and he wrote some great stories:
“We were very anxious to see the famous home gym of Chuck and we headed for the garage. I cannot tell you the shock we experienced when we saw the basic and actually crude setup he had. The primary piece was a wooded power rack. He explained that he had learned of the overload method up in Montreal and he did a lot of partial movements on the rack. He had a no name Olympic bar and he went to the local train yard and got some old train car wheels to use for the extra weight in the overloads. I’m sorry I did not ever ask exactly what poundages he used. He had a solid bench, and a couple of big solid dumbbells, I’d guess over 50 pounds and folks THAT WAS IT!!!! No lat machine, no squat racks (he used the power rack), no dumbbell rack no NOTHING. The only other piece he had was two nylon straps set wide apart on the rafters he would hang from and stretch his lats, but that was it. It was the ultimate example of making the most of what you have. This was 1969 so he had trained for the 68 Mr. World in this gym. He did have some friends who trained with him but none were big names, just local people. Consider the equipment and atmosphere with other nationally ranked competitors at the original Gold’s or Vince’s or Bill Pearl’s and then look at what Chuck achieved in this Spartan facility and his uniqueness is even further verified.”
United States Army
After highschool, he didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life, but he was looking for adventure, so he enlisted as a paratrooper. For three years, he was a member of the 82nd Airbone, an elite division noted for hard physical training and which at that time, was also the President’s honor guard. This is when he met Mary, still the love of his life.
Norm Komich: “Regarding Chuck’s military service, he told me that as a paratrooper in the Army, he was doing a jump one day in which he and a bunch of other guys jumped out together like they do in the movies and his chute got tangled up and he was descending far faster than normal (he didn’t comment on whether or not he had a reserve chute) and as he descended, he literally “ran into” one of his buddies who grabbed hold of him. Now there were two men under the one good chute and they were coming down much faster than normal plus they couldn’t perform the normal “landing” so they hit hard and Chuck got some injuries for which he was receiving some sort of “disability” pay. Now remember he was in his late teens or early twenties and he had been training since his young teens. So he described going into this military medical facility for a “check up” on his injuries and when he took his shirt off, the doctor freaked out and hollered “You’re DISABLED???” and they quit paying him. Today, Arnold has made a great build a household concept but back in the 50’s there weren’t a lot of men with that kind of physique so one can only imagine what that doctor thought.”
After discharging from the service he went to school at Modesto Junior College, where he played a couple more years of football before deciding to open his own gym in town. At that time his friend Bill Pearl lived in Sacramento. Since he always trained some outstanding talent and had been succesful in the gym business. Bill helped Chuck to make a living with his gym.
Chuck raised three daughters: Daphne, born July 19, 1954, Kathy, December 22, 1955 and Patricia 1962. During this time he decided to get into youth work. He left the gym business and began working in the toughest institution in the state: Preston.
It was an uphill battle for Chuck to get anything done in the California Youth Authority. In 1969 he was struggling just to get permission from the CYA to start a bodybuilding “club” where he would provide the equipment for the kids to work out with. He was not getting a lot of support so he asked his friend Norm Komich if he would put his Air Force uniform on and come with him to meet with the director to pitch Chuck’s suggestion for the club.
His friend listened to Chuck’s enthusiastic presentation and then the director’s laundry list of why he could NOT support it ( money and liablity ). So at this point Norm chimed and told the director that there were literally thousands of young men around the world who were eagerly looking forward to each month’s bodybuilding magazine just so they could read about Chuck Sipes and what he had to offer them in suggestions for training and that Chuck had travelled around the world as an ambassador of bodybuilding and here he, as director, had him “LIVE” and anxious to provide this same knowledge for free.
The director responding “Well, I guess it WOULD be like having Willie Mays as the grounds keeper for the local Little League.” But he still would not back Chuck. Norm was ready to explode but Chuck was always a humble and patient man and he accepted the lack of support.
But he kept trying and eventually someone came along willing to acknowledge what a resource he was and he achieved his dream of having a bodybuilding club and “300#” bench T shirt for those achieving that.
Norm Komich: “Awhile ago I received an email from a man in Oakland, California who told me the following story. He was an avid mountain climber and he had just finished a climb to the top of a mountain in the Sierra Nevada range and he was sitting there exhilerated at the completion of the climb and taking in the beautiful view. He was also enjoying the solitiude of just he and nature and so he was a little disappointed when he saw two figures below approaching the summit he was on.
The two eventually made it to the top where he was; the first to arrive was Chuck Sipes wearing a red cap and the writer described him as the most muscular man he had ever seen.
The second was a young man, just out of adolescence. They introduced themselves to the writer and then the young man said “Don’t you remember me Judge?” The writer was a Judge in the juvenile courts and he had sentenced this young man to the California Youth Authority for some major infraction.
The young man was fortunate enough to get into Chuck’s Outward Bound type rehab program in which Chuck took juveline delinquents into the mountains for a month. After taking this program, every one of the youths was eventually released and never committed a repeat offense. It was a commendable record.
So on this mountain top, fate had brought together a Judge, a juvenile and Chuck. When the youth asked him that question, the Judge looked at him closely and eventually remembered him. The Judge was thoroughly impressed at his change into this clean cut, fit, nature appreciating youth and when he asked about the transformation, he was told about Chuck Sipes and his work with wayward young people. The Judge never saw Chuck again; they exchanged some correspondence but then lost touch. However, the Judge never forgot how impressed he was with Chuck and so many years later he Googled Chuck’s name and my email came up and that was how he contacted me. Chuck was so humble and yet he had such an impact on every person he ever met. What a GREAT legacy.”
The above picture is Chuck Sipes in his 50s. He never stopped working out and being active. He trained continually because he loved it and the results of looking and feeling good are benefits. He is a true Mr. America. He was always in great shape. He had many outdoor activities: hiking, back-packing and moutains climbing. But he also used to painting, scuba diving, black powder shooting, trapping, hand crafting leather goods, fly fishing and banjo.
He also built a maervelous library for himself over the years. He never entered any new hobby without first reading up on it and once inti it he learned as much about it as he could.
Chuck had pursued a number of careers including gym owner and lumber jack (he and Clint Walker’s brother did actually hit the weights on their lunch hour from cutting logs) but he eventually settled into a career with the California Youth Authority.
His life was dedicated to teach the health of iron to youth. Chuck changed hundreds lives.
Chuck had problems with depression, which resulted in an unsuccessful suicide attempt and then a successful one. Chuck was buried on Feb 27, 1993 in Jackson, California.
Bodybuilding Contest results
|Mr. Northern California 1958, 1st Place|
|A.A.U. Mr. America 1958, 9th Place Tie (with 2 other competitors)|
|9th Place “Most Muscular Man” at A.A.U. Mr. America 1958|
|I.F.B.B. Mr. America 1959, 1st Place|
|I.F.B.B. Amateur Mr. Universe 1960, 1st Place (Tall Class & Overall)|
|Did Not Place at I.F.B.B. Mr. Olympia 1966, 1967|
|I.F.B.B. Mr. World 1968, 1st Place (Medium Class & Overall)|
|I.F.B.B. Amateur Mr. Universe 1970, 2nd Place (Medium Class)|
|Mr. Pacific Coast (Past-40) 1974, 1st Place|
Editor’s note: Use the tag system below and click “Mr. America” or “Chuck Sipes” for more informations!
Ironage.us, 2006 thread by Norm Komich
Flex Magazine 1990
Iron Man 1982