From the Friends of Gryphon Football newsletter article on featured alumnus, Class of ’50 Ontario Agricultural College grad Harley Deeks …
We are so pleased to celebrate Harley Deeks as our Featured Alumni for the month of March. Harley graduated from the University of Guelph in 1950, and will be celebrating his 91st birthday in June. Harley started at right tackle or “middle” for every game throughout his four-year career.
His favourite memory from his time as a Gryphon took place on October 2nd 1948, after their exhibition game against McGill at Molson Stadium in Montreal. On the way home, the bus stopped at a local store where the players all purchased beer for the trip home. Once they got back into Ontario, the bus was stopped by three police cars who confiscated all of the beer and escorted the players to the Justice of Peace who fined the team with $100 for the alcohol. The boys created a collection system which consisted of $3 for the guys who were drinking, and $1 for the non-drinkers.
The coach at the time, Bill Mitchell, was driving home in a separate car and the team managed to keep this incident a secret from him for about a week. “I think we won every game after that for the coach. It was kept quiet from the rest of the students that year”.
This story of playing at Molson stadium, as well as purchasing beer is a little bit ironic for Harley as he moved on to work in the beer industry after his time at Guelph. Harley ended his business career as the Vice President for all of Western Canada for Molson Breweries Ltd.
He has attended at least 25 Grey Cup games in Canada. During his time as President for Saskatchewan and Alberta, Molson Breweries sponsored the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, the Edmonton Eskimos and the Calgary Stampeders. Harley personally worked with the Edmonton Eskimos to start the Coach of the Year in the Canadian Football League, which allowed him to shake the hands of many coaches over the years. When Harley retired in 1990, the Molson Breweries started a scholarship in his name. He used to go on convocation day and personally give out the $1000 reward. Now, he always receives a letter from the recipient.
Harley has 7 kids (2 girls and 5 boys), as well as 18 grandchildren, and 24 great grandchildren. He married Barbara Herring, a cheerleader at the University of Guelph. Barbara passed away six months ago. They would have been married 70 years this March. In August, Harley is planning on travelling back to Ontario with his kids to visit the OAC and Mac Hall, where he lived and played football. He is very excited to view Alumni Stadium, as they played on Johnston Green, as well as our new Pavilion.