On the night of the Bartlesville Boys and Girls Club’s Harley Party, I wanted to reminisce about my time at the Boys and Girls Club, and what the BGC meant and still means to me as an adult.
It was 1996, my hair was in a bowl cut, and the City of Bartlesville was on the eve of turning 100 years old in the upcoming year. This was the year that my father, Clyde, coached myself and a group of young boys to a perfect season in Flag Football at the Boys and Girls Club in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Back then I was coined the nickname, “Touchdown Tucker.” My biggest life worries were centered around if I was going to get a slushy drink after each game at Artunoff Field.
The Boys and Girls Club served then and continues now to serve as the center of the westside community in Bartlesville. Having grown up in the westside of Bartlesville with my family of six, its halls and playing fields became a staple during my elementary years. Back then the westside had two elementary schools, and you’d battle with other youth on which school was the best. Of course, I was representing the now dormant, Oak Park Elementary. However, the Boys and Girls Club provided comfort, sport, entertainment, and hope for many youth seeking an outlet in an economically impoverished area of the city. For me, it provided a neutral grounds for my father and I to get to know each other better. In addition, the club provided me with lifelong friends and it helped shape my character as a young man.
I was not the first Tucker to grow up in the Boys and Girls Club system, my father had grown up in the same halls and playing fields that I had. The club allowed my father, who at the time was working 13 hour shifts at Wonder Bread as a route driver, a breath of fresh air from the stresses of a mentally and physically taxing job. It allowed him to reminisce about the his days at the club and the lifelong friends that the club helped grant him. My father, a former Dewey High Bulldogger football player, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer his spare time to work with not only his son, but other young boys at the club. Through these many years of him coaching and me being his go to player, I got to learn about my dad’s heart for other people and his emphasis that race is irrelevant when judging someone. He taught me to judge one by their character and their actions, not by the color of their skin.
It was lessons like the ones my father taught me and the other elders at the BGC that helped mold me into a believer in equality for all and on the path to represent the voice of the people. These years at the BGC are cherished years and ones that I still reminisce often with former BGC teammates and family members. I owe a great deal to the BGC for helping me shift my narrow views on what I could become in life and turning me into an eternal optimist. Money was not the end all, it was the drive and ambition of one that mattered.
So, on the night of the BGC’s biggest fundraiser of the year, I still can remember back in 1996 at Artunoff Field in the BGC’s Flag Football Championship game. We had the ball on our own goal line, I was playing quarterback, and my dad called for a pass play. The other team, who were coached by an old high school rival of my dad, brought a blitz and as I scrambled in our own end zone in fear of sacrificing a crucial two points (Safety), I threw the ball as far as I could off of one foot in the corner of the end zone and launched a prayer to the football Gods. As I laid on the ground toppled by defenders, I could hear my mother screaming on the sideline for Derrick Saxton to keep running. The ball I threw landed half way down the field in the hands of fellow Oak Park Panther and dear friend, Derrick Saxton. I rose from the ground to see my father sprinting down the field to celebrate with Derrick in the end zone. We won that game, but it was the moment of pure jubilation that sent my father into a sprint after 13 hours of work that was so special to me. I would never see my father sprint like that again in my life.
Thank you Bartlesville Boys and Girls Club for providing me and the rest of the westside community in Bartlesville with moments like these and the new found ability to dream to be something not only bigger, but to become someone that helped others.
Tonight I will attend the Harley Party with my father, as the first college graduate in my family and a candidate for Oklahoma House District 10. By the way, the 1996 Flag Football trophy still claims a place on my father’s coffee table at his residence.