The world is a vast place when looking through the lens of a 13 year old. With the future possibilities abounding, it is a time that thrives with branching out. Dave Tucker 1961 was this age when he made the Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA) his new home in 1957. This campus was a well-known residential high school in his farming area of Angus, Minn., as many people he knew, including his brother and uncles, were once students there. Outside of his family, there were also 20 people he knew within five miles of his farm who attended the NWSA. Those individuals talked highly of their time there, but Tucker still found moving away from home was more of an adjustment than he first anticipated. “It was kind of a rude awakening for a young guy,” he explained. In a new academic environment without parents around, there was a need to grow up quickly. He mentioned moving away from his family taught him how to make his own decisions, forming him into a young adult.
His previous connections to the school helped prepare him for many of the experiences he would encounter during his time on campus. Tucker remembers one of his teachers, Charlie Whiting, who was a favorite educator at the time. Whiting was a social science teacher who fought in World War II as captain. The students marveled at his stories of his time in the war, but when it came time for his impromptu tests on Fridays, everyone but Tucker would feel nerves creep in. Because his brother had already taken classes with Whiting and passed this secret along, Tucker used his two-hour enforced study time to read the corresponding chapter to prepare for the exam. It was NWSA teachers like Whiting who made it easy for students to enjoy their classes and focus on the course material. “The teachers were just phenomenal,” Tucker raved.
Tucker was not afraid to test out different activities and attend events while at the NWSA. Wrestling and football were two sports he partook in during his freshman year, but his smaller size better fit his time in the mixed choirs and playing the trombone in the band. His band teacher, Mr. Harris, was a mentor to Tucker as he was remarkable at playing brass instruments. With his guidance, the band had many opportunities to perform from playing on the radio at noon to playing the National Anthem at basketball games.
Early on in his time at the NWSA, Tucker was introduced to Myrna Anderson 1961, who would soon become his high school sweetheart. They began dating during their junior year of high school after knowing each other for two years. During some of the staple events of high school, including Homecoming in the fall and Prom in the spring, the two accompanied each other to the dances. Tucker recalls the tradition of the junior class setting up the Lysaker Gymnasium for Prom to accompany the theme of the year. His junior class used crepe paper to decorate the ceiling of the gym which would spin when the fans came on.
NWSA students gained a lot of autonomy while living away from home, but there was one yearly event that allowed them to reconnect with their parents. Those who lived close to campus, like Tucker who was only 25 miles away from home, were able to visit home most weekends. Some of his classmates who came from Illinois and Montana, however, were not able to make it home as often. Therefore, Parent’s Day, an event right around Thanksgiving break, was a way for every student to catch up with their parents and show them the hard work they have been putting into their assignments. Every summer, students were tasked with a project for credits applied to their graduation requirements. These projects were showcased at Parent’s Day and were judged by the teachers for awards. Tucker received full credit for these projects, which pushed him to graduate in the spring of 1961.
Looking back, Tucker valued his time at the Northwest School of Agriculture. “My folks thought I enjoyed it too much,” he joked. His next step: a college degree. A barber college in Fargo, N.D., caught Tucker’s eye after his time at the NWSA where he learned how to properly cut and style hair. This led to an 11-year career in the barber business in the Grand Forks, N.D., area. As a barber, he got close to the clients he worked with, one of whom suggested he would be the perfect advertising salesperson for his business. Tucker decided it was worth a try, began working for their company, and eventually became a partner in the company for the next 11 years. From there, he worked at an advertising agency fully committing to this occupation. Taking the next step as he found great interest in this industry, he opened his own agency, Dave Tucker Advertising, in 1985. For the next 20 years in this role, he met many locals who became his longtime friends.
The television magic you see on the screen during advertisements made up Tucker’s most memorable moments from his time in the business. A General Electric dealer was one of his clients, and he participated in the filming of their commercials. For their “Smashing Success” campaign, Tucker pushed a refrigerator off a roof with a watermelon inside. They filmed slow motion clips of the watermelon and refrigerator crashing to the ground to go along with the campaign theme. In another one of their campaign commercials, “Burnt Offerings,” a smoke bomb was placed in one of the ovens. Tucker’s job was to pull a fishing line attached to the oven door to release the smoke into the air. These special effects were completed in a stealthy manner, and the customers were amazed at the final product. “I got to do a lot of things in advertising that you wouldn’t normally get to do unless you’re the boss,” admitted Tucker.
Tucker’s advertising endeavors caught the eyes of a local radio station, KSNR Radio out of Thief River Falls, Minn., who confided in him to help choose a new color commentator for the high school football games in the area. After showing him the list of potential candidates for the job, Tucker expressed he could do better than all of the names on the list. The radio station was drawn to Tucker’s brief elevator pitch, and he was hired for this position. Within this role, Tucker covered games in Minnesota for East Grand Forks, Sacred Heart, Hallock, and Red Lake Falls. While his children were in high school, he also worked as the announcer of the girls’ basketball games. Having a daughter playing on the court and being able to announce the games was a fun way to spend time supporting his daughter and utilizing his public address skills.
Being on the air was nothing short of a hobby as Tucker also filled in for John Reitmeier at KNOX Radio when he went on vacation. In Reitmeier’s place, Tucker would host a talk show while interviewing authors on their books. Similar to how he would prepare for Mr. Whiting’s pop tests, Tucker would read the book the night preceding the interview. This would alleviate any apprehension about being live and make the interview process run as smoothly as possible. Another segment he hosted connected him with Brandy (Lietz) Chaffee 2000, the current chief development officer at UMN Crookston. At the time, Chaffee worked at the Grand Forks Park District who would call into the radio station to promote their upcoming activities. Years later, as they reconnected at alumni events, they recalled the conversations they shared on the air. Adding to his radio experience, Tucker hosted his own show on KNOX stationed in Grand Forks. Within his fifteen minute segment, he delved into his agricultural background and spoke about the cotton and wheat farming where he winters in Arizona.
In his retired days, Tucker keeps himself busy in the Northern Pullers club. This group travels within a 200 mile radius around Grand Forks, N.D., and attends tractor pulls. Tucker continues his passion of announcing as he works as the public address announcer during these events. Arizona welcomes Tucker and his wife in the winter as they move to an RV park to enjoy the warm weather of the south. Tucker volunteers at the shop in the park where he changes the other residents’ golf cart tires. It is quite a difficult process with the small size of the tires as Tucker says, “You haven’t lived until you changed golf cart tires.” Although he doesn’t charge any money for his work, any brownies made by the residents are always accepted. Another couple who have remained friends with Tucker and his wife, alumni Ray 1958 and Elaine (Wold) Anderson 1957, spend their winters in the same area about a half-mile from the Tuckers. It is great company for the four classmates to live in close proximity decades after their high school experience.
Even after all these years, the NWSA lives on throughout Tucker’s life. Sixteen years ago, he was named Top Aggie which was a “real honor” for him. He also served on the alumni board for six years and attends most of the reunions to catch up with old friends. Dave and Myrna are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, a large milestone that can be attributed to their introduction at the Northwest School of Agriculture. Setting a great example for his family, Tucker shows great pride in his past and the formative place he spent his high school years. Even though the world seemed so large at 13 years old, it is the continued interactions Tucker has experienced with those from this campus that prove it truly is a small world when you go to Crookston.
Written for the Summer 2022 Torchlight e-Newsletter.