What’s the best way to celebrate Ohio State/Michigan week?
For Steve Carpenter of Plain City, it’s remembering a man who was part of the OSU team that first defeated That Team Up North. Carpenter, a self-professed “Buckeye for life,” showed his support for his favorite team and player at Tuttle Mall in Dublin Monday by setting up a table dedicated to that man, Charles “Chic” Harley.
Carpenter joined Ohio State’s official historian, Jack Park, who was also there signing his book, Buckeye Reflections: Legendary Moments from Ohio State Football.
“I wanted to do something to draw interest and support for Michigan week,” Carpenter said. “Not many people know about Chic Harley and his contribution to OSU football and this is a great way to talk about him.”
Carpenter had a table at Sports Possessions, a memorabilia store in the mall, decorated with photos of Harley and the rest of the team.
Who is Chic Harley?
Prior to walking into the famed Horseshoe of Ohio Stadium in the mid 1920s, the Buckeyes played at Ohio Field. However, because of the growing success of a Chicago-born, three-time All American player named Chic Harley, the university started a fund drive to build the $1.3 million, 66,210-seat Ohio Stadium in 1920. This led to the stadium being referred to as the “house that Harley built.”
Harley, a half-back for OSU at the time, helped the team to their first Big Ten Conference championship and was part of the 1919 football team that beat Michigan for the first time since they began playing in the late 1890s.
“Most people would refer to the Buckeyes’ golden era as 1920-1930,” Carpenter said. “But because of Chic, I would back that up to 1919-1930.” He said that Harley helped build a team and program that would go on to define what Ohio State and professional football would become.
“Not only was he an outstanding player that helped develop the Michigan rivalry but his work with other players moved the sport forward,” Carpenter said. After playing college ball, Harley was asked by George Halas of Chicago to join a team that would eventually become the Chicago Bears. “Harley really worked with those players and made the Bears what they eventually became.”
Harley was also a veteran of World War I and years after his time in combat, was diagnosed with dementia. He was taken to a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Illinois for the remainder of his life. He did return to Columbus in 1949 for a tribute in his name at Ohio Stadium.
He eventually passed away in 1974 from pneumonia and was buried in Columbus at Union Cemetery.
Telling Chic’s story
“His story is such a great one. He had this awful illness after a successful career but was never abandoned by his friends,” Carpenter said. “The story of Chic Harley is really the story of friendship.”
That story so inspired Carpenter, that he has worked for years on a screenplay that will hopefully make a feature film of Harley’s life.
“I just don’t think it’s a story Buckeye fans — let alone other people — know and it should be told,” he said. “This man holds such a significant place in Ohio sports history and yet it was so long ago, most people don’t know it.”
Carpenter wrote the script based on two books about Harley’s life, Chic: The Extraordinary Rise of Ohio State Football and the Tragic Schoolboy Athlete Who Made it Happen by Bob Hunter and The One and Only by Harley relative, Todd Wessell.
“With the blessing of Chic’s family, I think his story would make a great film,” Carpenter said. He added that the current draft of the script, titled Chic, is his twenty-fifth revision. He added it was inspired by a combination of Rudy and It’s a Wonderful Life.
“Hopefully this helps to get Chic’s name and life’s story out there. It’s an especially good one to look at for Michigan week,” Carpenter said. “And, of course, go Bucks.”