Helena Rodriguez: Times have changed for Portales


By Helena Rodriguez

Quest Columnist

Many of the long, hot, summer days of my childhood in Portales were not so much about north vs. south as much as they were about north meets south.

Our childhood home was on North Avenue B, considered the barrio or, as we residents ourselves call it, “Taco Town.” My Grandma Emma happened to live on South Avenue B — just a hop and skip to the railroad tracks and then over the railroad tracks, past East First Street (the only main crossing), and then about 10 more blocks to her house, which was only a block from West 18th Street and on a side of town where nicer homes lined the streets.

The Portales Public Library, almost but not quite the halfway mark, was one of our major landmarks along the way. And many a times, we’d go walking through those library doors, sometimes hailing from the north, sometimes blowing in from the south (while staying with grandma), and always sure to leave with armfuls of now-classic titles, like “The Boxcar Children” and “The Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew” mysteries.

Our relief from the hot summer nights were the downpours we were sure to get in July or August. And when it rained, it poured.

On the north side, the road to the left of our corner home was dirt and turned into a river of singing frogs, as I wrote about a few weeks ago. And on the opposite end of town, on South Avenue B, the major road at the end of Grandma Emma’s block, West 18th Street was also flood prone in the 1970s and would turn into a swelled river where neighborhood kids would be floating on intertubes.

I remember one summer wading in nearly knee-deep water with Paul and Becky.

In the 1970s, before Portales schools were desegregated in 1978, north meets south was not always a pretty sight. But for us, north meets south made for plenty of summer fun.

When we were on the northside, the gang consisted of neighborhood friends who lived down our block on North Avenue B. And when we were on South Avenue B, well, we had enough kids in our Madrid-Rodriguez clan to have our own little neighborhood.

Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: Helena-Rodriguez@hotmail.com

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