Karl Terry: PNT Mananging Editor
How has Portales changed? Let me count the ways
There’s one question I’m constantly asked since I returned to my hometown of Portales a little over a month ago.
“Does Portales seem like it’s changed much since you left?”
I get that question about once a day and at first it was a little hard to answer. But now that I’ve been back for a month I think I can begin to quantify what’s changed since 1979 and what probably never will change.
l First, there are those signs at the edge of town referencing about the 12,000 some odd happy campers and the two or three old grouches. The sign hadn’t been conceived when I left but as I recall the grouches were already in residence.
l The newspaper has changed a lot, as have community papers all over the country. The news room is now where the composing room once was and it seems no one here is old enough to even know what a composing room was. My office is where the break room was located before the building was remodeled. Some might think that is appropriate.
l The jail is no longer above the courthouse. We have a modern law-enforcement complex. There was a time when the more gymnastically inclined prisoners could hang on the window bars and yell down to passersby on the square for bail.
l The hospital where I was born is now a nursing home and we have a new facility. I guess there’s still a distinct possibility that I could begin and end my life in the same building.
l The Portales High School band is continuing its tradition of rousting teens from bed on frosty fall mornings for band practice. I can hear them from my house as I take my morning walks. They still sound great.
l The area’s numerous family dairies had gone the way of the plow horse by the time I left Portales. The dairies are back but they’re nothing like the small family dairies. The flies are the same though.
l Eastern New Mexico University hit its peak enrollment just before I passed through its hallowed halls. With Clovis opening a community college and vo-tech schools springing up everywhere, ENMU went into decline. But I’m back and so is the enrollment, the best it’s been since the mid-1970s.
l Traffic on the main drag in Portales seems to be back as well. Traffic was pretty heavy when I was in high school making the drag on weekends and before and after school. There were some pretty quiet years there for a while, though, when I would come home and the streets would be pretty deserted.
l The number of stop lights downtown hasn’t changed, though there is a new one out by Wal-Mart. Oh yeah, Wal-Mart wasn’t here when I left. I don’t even think Alco had come in by 1979 and they’re gone now, but it’s good to see C&S in that location.
l While we’re talking about retailers I’ll mention that Trader Horn’s True Value has moved to the other side of the street. That fact really screwed me up the other day as my mom sketched a map on how to get somewhere else from Trader Horn’s. I got back and informed her there was a Dollar Store there now.
l The Methodist Church is new, and that corner sure looks naked to me with the parking lot out front. Nice looking building though.
l Globe Street got wider while I was gone. A new elementary school (Valencia) sprouted up along it as well. Speaking of new schools, that’s definitely not the same rickety old junior high either.
l The old Mounted Patrol Arena on Spruce is gone. So is the house my great-grandfather and grandfather built across the road from the arena. Mom sent me a clipping a few years ago of the old house being burned in a firefighter training session. I’m glad I wasn’t here to take that photo.
As I’ve compiled this list the thing that seems to stand out to me the most is how things have cycled back around for this community. I thought for a while Portales was dying; maybe it was just asleep for a while.