We learned last week that the building where I spent a good part of my youth was finally about to be refurbished. Soon, the Portales News-Tribune building will house an insurance company.

Once we moved to town in 1970, I figured I needed a job, and the only thing available for a young man was a paperboy or paperboy. The only problem was that a newspaper boy had to be 12 years old to enter the Portales News-Tribune. I applied anyway.

I spoke to a spotty guy named Lewis Toland who gave me his time and then pointed out that I wasn’t old enough for a route. Sometime later, but still well before my birthday, I received a call from Mr. Toland wanting to know if I was still interested in an itinerary. I jumped on it.

Soon I realized that Route 27 was not the litter’s choice. Up to the west end of town, after college, the clientele was young and mobile and slippery when it came to paying their bills. I learned quickly and got routes closer to home with customers who tipped better and ended up showing up at the door of the TNP alley every afternoon after school and possibly on Saturday evening.

There was a group of boys there every afternoon and only a modest amount of supervision. New children were initiated with what was called a “pink belly”. You chased the new guy, dumped him like a calf at tagging time, and pulled up his shirt. Each participant received 10 slaps and your belly was very pink when you were done.

On a ‘pink belly’ day, we chased a guy down to JC Penny in the plaza. My grandmother and another guy’s mother worked there and they were neither too happy that we were disrupting business. The custom ended shortly after we launched the first papergirl.

We wrapped our papers with rubber bands and fought with rubber bands. If anyone got out of line, they were stuffed into a #2 courier bag.

We drank ice cold pop from a machine where the bottles hung in rows inside the cooler and you moved them inside until you got your selection for 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 knock out about two-thirds of it before throwing up all over the tiny bathroom.

Later, I worked as a mailroom worker and learned to answer the phone in the evenings and early Sunday mornings, taking what we called problem calls. Basically, you had to listen to someone tell you how long they had been picking up the newspaper and declaiming that it had been missed. It was good training for life.

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

We pulled a lot of pranks like the night we borrowed the stuffed badger from the front office and posted it in the dim light of the hallway by the clock. Then we told the new guy to go ahead and point.

Lots of memories in this old building.

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

[email protected]