Clearly, there's nothing that sparks President Reagan's interest more than a personal anecdote, uplifting or heart-tugging.

And so it was with Travis Tucker, a sixth grade pupil at the Virginia Avenue School in Petersburg, Va., south of Richmond. Preparing a paper about the Depression, Tucker wrote the White House soliciting the president's reminiscences.

Though there was no reply before Tucker's deadline, he won first prize. But, after winning, he got a reply from Reagan.

"My most vivid memory," the president wrote, "was the spirit of neighbor helping neighbor, which became more intense as peoples' needs grew . . . .

"My family had very little in the way of material things before the Depression, and because of that, we already knew what it was like to do without. Many of our neighbors and friends became dependent upon governmment programs for their subsistence, and my father eventually had a job with the WPA," the Works Progress Administration, Reagan wrote.

The steps taken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to deal with the problem were "appropriate for the time and the situation," Reagan concluded.

Tucker, who said he "never expected a personal reply" from the president, next competes in a National History Day competition at College Park.