Lots of memories in old newspaper building

Word came last week that the building where I spent a good portion of my youth was finally about to be repurposed. Soon, the Portales News-Tribune building will be home to an insurance company.

Once we moved to town in 1970 I figured I needed a job and the only thing available to a young man was newspaper carrier or paperboy. The only problem was a paperboy had to be 12 to get on at the Portales News-Tribune. I applied anyway.

I talked to a bespeckled man named Lewis Toland who gave me his time, then pointed out I wasn’t old enough for a route. Some time later, but still well before my birthday, I got a call from Mr. Toland wanting to know if I were still interested in a route. I jumped all over it.

Soon I figured out Route 27 was not the pick of the litter. All the way on the west end of town past the university, the clientele was young and mobile and a slippery lot when it came to paying their bill. I learned quickly and got routes closer to home with customers who tipped better and I ended up reporting to the alley door at the PNT every afternoon after school and eventually on Saturday nights.

There were a bunch of boys there every afternoon and only a modest amount of supervision. New kids were initiated with what was known as a “pink belly.” You chased down the new guy, threw him like a calf at branding time and pulled up his shirt. Each participant got 10 slaps and your belly was very pink when done.

One “pink belly” day we chased a guy right into J.C. Penny on the square. My grandmother and another guy’s mom worked there and they were neither one too happy with us for disrupting business. The custom came to an end soon after we initiated the first papergirl.

We rolled our papers up with rubber bands and had rubber band fights. If someone stepped out of line they got stuffed into a No. 2 mail sack.

We drank ice cold pop out of a machine where the bottles dangled in rows inside the cooler and you moved them around inside until you got your selection to the mechanism.

One day on a dare I bet a coke that I could drink a gallon of water in 15 minutes. I managed to get about two-thirds of it down before I spewed all over the little bathroom.

Later I was a mailroom worker and I learned to answer phones in the evening and on early Sunday morning, taking what we termed trouble calls. Basically you had to listen to someone tell you how long they had been taking the newspaper and ranting about getting missed. It was good training for life.

Saturday nights in the mailroom weren’t exactly choir practice. We managed to stay ahead of the trouble for the most part and didn’t fall off the night we climbed the water tower.

We pulled plenty of pranks like the night we borrowed the stuffed badger from the office up front and posted him in the dim light of the hallway by the timeclock. Then we told the new guy to go ahead and clock out.

Lots of memories in that old building.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]