Faces: Wallin marks 50th year teaching firearm safety
Calvin Wallin has taught firearm safety in Pequot Lakes since Lyndon B. Johnson was president. He has taught nearly 2,000 students, including his children and grandchildren.
Now they can celebrate with him as he conducts his 50th year as an instructor.
"We have had a lot of good students," Wallin said. "It is great to see these young people taking part and becoming safe hunters. That's an important part of this whole program."
Wallin has lived in the area since 1939, and is a 1957 graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. He also taught in the school district for 13 of his 18-year career, teaching primarily life science.
Wallin operates the Wallin Berry Farm east of Nisswa, which began in 1979. While the main crop is strawberries - which Wallin says is well-suited to the lakes area's fluctuating climate and sandy soil - the farm also grows a variety of berries, and its sweet corn has become increasingly popular.
"People appreciate it," he said. "It's not really a money-making operation, especially the last two years. It is rewarding though, because people really appreciate having fresh berries."
He has been married to his wife, Shirley, for roughly 52 years. They have four children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Wallin was asked to help with firearm safety in the 1960s and was leading the program one year later. In his time, he can recall just one firearm-related accident from any of his students.
"It's a good program," Wallin said. "I would like to see it required of all students in the state of Minnesota. There are so many homes with firearms. Even if they never hunt or do trap shooting or anything - just to understand the dangers involved and how to handle a firearm - it is important that if if they come across a firearm, they know what to do and how to respond."
What makes this golden anniversary sweeter for him is the fact that his brother, John, has been by his side as a fellow instructor for the past 49 years.
"It has been great," he said. "It's fun to have him here. Without him ... one person would have a hard time doing it by themselves."
Once the two began working together, the idea of them each reaching the half-century mark seemed attainable.
"I think that was my goal, especially when John started helping," Wallin said. "I plan at least one more year if my health holds up - and I thank God for my health and ability to do what I can do. One more year, and John and I will have 101 (combined) years of experience. Of course, 99 years isn't too bad."
Though he definitely plans to teach firearm safety for one more year, Wallin would not rule out teaching the course for as long as he can.
"It's just fun to get to know these young people," he said. "They are interested in learning how to handle a firearm. As a result, I think it has greatly reduced the number of accidents over the years. I think Minnesota is one of the lead states in teaching firearm safety. It's a good program that promotes safety."