When Harland Morley arrived in St. Helena in the mid-1940’s as a young boy, his life was heading in the wrong direction.
Prior to his move from Middletown to the Napa Valley, his father had been killed in a car accident and his older brother, Albert “Hacky” Lillquist, had become a quadriplegic after falling out of a tree.
Wanting to be closer to his brother, who was under care at St. Helena Hospital, Morley’s mother uprooted the only life he had ever known – on his family’s quicksilver mine in Lake County – and moved down the hill to St. Helena.
Morley, in a foreign town with no guidance or support, promptly flunked the second grade. But not long after, his brother was released from the hospital.
“One of the first things (my brother) saw was a little guy going wrong,” Morley recounted recently. “So he put me in touch with Al Carpy, and at that point my life changed. Al Carpy did everything for me.”
Like he did for many other kids in St. Helena over his decades of service, Carpy became a father figure to Morley. He introduced him to sports and taught him important life skills that Morley has carried with him.
In a little over a month, Morley will join the man who helped turn his life around when the St. Helena High School Athletic Hall of Fame inducts him as a member of its seventh annual class.
Morley, who graduated from St. Helena High in 1954, will be inducted with Terry O’Rourke (Class of 1977), Fred Miller (coach honoree), Bob “Bimmer” Sculatti (Class of 1946 and a Distinguished Service Honoree), Adam Beattie (Class of 1999) and Beci Ivanoff (Class of 1987) at a ceremony on Oct. 19 at Native Sons Hall in St. Helena.
Morley was a three-sport athlete for the Saints, but he excelled at baseball above all else. Even more than 60 years later, his name is still peppered in St. Helena’s all-time record book. His 20 doubles, 4 home runs and .681 slugging percentage all rank in career Top 10 lists among other Saints.
Still, the announcement that he was going to join former mentor Carpy – a member of the inaugural class in 2013 – in the Hall this October came as a surprise to the now-retired 83-year-old, who has lived in Woodland for the past 50-plus years.
“Well, when I got up off the floor it was a total surprise,” Morley said in a recent phone interview. “I had no idea that this was going on in St. Helena. I am remiss in keeping in contact with what’s happening in my old hometown. If I had known this was going on, I would’ve been participating as an active supporter of it long ago. I believe in this kind of thing. … It just knocked my socks right off.”
Carpy founded the still-thriving Carpy Gang football and cheer program in 1936, and its positive impact on St. Helena’s community has been felt by generations.
Look no further than Morley as proof.
“He actually changed my life completely,” Morley said. “There’s no question in my mind what that man did. He introduced me to every sport there is and everyone he had. We boxed, we wrestled, we lifted weights … He even did a class one day at the old gym at St. Helena High School on a rainy day about how to treat a young lady.”
Carpy even employed young Morley doing landscaping work in his orange fields for 25 cents an hour. Morley said it strengthened and toned his hands and arms for his future athletic endeavors.
Morley began playing football with his cousins and in Carpy’s Gang before he branched out into basketball and baseball. He had thick legs and a strong upper body, attributes that lent themselves to football and baseball more than to basketball.
He jokes now that he probably could’ve played professional baseball had he not been such a slow runner.
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In football, he helped lead the Saints to a league title in 1953 as a team captain. He finished his career on varsity with 709 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, one interception, two fumble recoveries and one blocked kick.
He was an all-league baseball player from his sophomore year until he graduated, leading the Saints to league championships in 1952 and 1953. In 1954, his senior year, he was selected to play in the San Francisco Examiner Northern California All-Star Game at Seals Stadium, between San Francisco and Northern California All-Stars.
While baseball seemed to be his sport, Morley was always more fond of football. He stuck with the former only because of Carpy.
“He took me down and I caught batting practice before games for the San Francisco Seals,” Morley said.
Morley said Carpy arranged for college scouts to come watch St. Helena baseball games, which nearly led to several exciting opportunities.
UC Berkeley offered him a spot on its team, but Morley didn’t quite excel in the classroom like he did on the diamond. So after graduation, he packed up his 1946 Ford Coupe with his baseball gear, gave his mother a hug, and told her “I’m heading north to play baseball.”
Morley made it as far as Coos Bay, Oregon before returning to California, where he played a handful of games for a team in Alturas. It wasn’t long before he returned to the Napa Valley, where he stayed for the next two years working on a cattle ranch and playing football at Napa Junior College.
After his second college football season, the 19-year-old Morley joined the baseball team at Chico State and spent the remainder of his college eligibility playing for the Wildcats.
Even 150 miles away, Morley could not escape Carpy.
“As I played on through different teams and left St. Helena, oftentimes I would hear in the stands ‘OK, Harland, I’m pulling for you,’ and he would always say that when I stepped up to bat,” Morley said. “I’d think, ‘Oh Lord, Al Carpy is up in Chico. What’s he doing up here?’
“He came up to see me play.”
Morley eventually graduated with a lifetime teaching credential from Chico State, and spent the next 60 years of his life in and around the education world. He moved to Woodland in 1964 and hasn’t left since. He’s taught, run athletic programs, coached nearly every sport under the sun, and opened a swim school that was a popular summer destination for 45 years.
He even crossed paths with Dan Boyett when the two were part of the same coaching staff for the Woodland High football team.
“When he left here and was going to St. Helena, I told him ‘Dan, you’re going to heaven, baby. That’s a nice place to be,’” Morley recalled with a laugh.
When Morley returns to St. Helena for the induction ceremony in October, it will be the first time in six years he’s been in what he still considers his hometown. His mother and brother are buried there and the valley still holds a special place in his heart, mostly because of Al Carpy.
“Just a great, great, great guy. I can’t say enough about him,” Morley said. “Had he not been in my life, I’m sure I would not have become a teacher, a coach, an athletic director, all of that stuff. It would not have happened.”