Chuck Milhem, founder of the VNEA “Valley League” and president of Valley Manufacturing Co., is among those leaders inducted into the first Amusement Industry Hall of Fame class. Milhem was among the HOF’s Legacy inductees, having died in July 2022 at age 92.
Born Charles Phillip Milhem back in 1929, he was simply known as “Chuck” to his many friends in coin-op, as well as to countless pool players here and abroad whose lives have been enriched by the annual 8-ball on-location competition he (with operator Dick Hawkins) launched in 1980.
He was very much the consummate businessman, and the VNEA league was very much a business decision. After viewing the success route operator Dick Hawkins had enjoyed with a local pool league in his town of Rochester, Minn., Chuck made the decision to bring the concept national at a time when coin-operated pool table sales were down in the face of the rush to buy the new video games that were all the rage beginning at the end of the 1970s.
As a prior veteran of the Brunswick Corp., he’d been instrumental in promoting bowling league play at a time when that sport had been losing steam. League play brought the finances of the bowling proprietor up, and Chuck thought the same thing could help with pool. The enduring success of the VNEA enterprise, in its 43rd year in business, proved his vision was spot on.
Milhem’s career in coin-op was celebrated by both the AMOA operator association and the AAMA manufacturer group as man-of-the-year during past conventions. The operating community, especially, has benefitted from his vision and devotion to league play. Along with dart leagues like the BullShooter, league play has become one of the route business’ most profitable assets.
In retirement for years at his McKinney, Texas, home after serving as president of the Valley Mfg. Co., Chuck had survived the passing of his devoted wife Florence as well as three rounds of cancer before finally succumbing to the disease.