Rodriguez: Good times at old community center
As a child, I remember blowing up balloons and sticking pasty strips of newspaper around them. After our papier mache projects dried, we added festive paper and streamers and they became piñatas.
We weaved colorful yarn around popsicle sticks to create bright, ornamental ojos de dios. We also painted murals of Emiliano Zapata, Cesar Chavez, and the Aztec eagle, as I have shared before. It was there at that summer youth program, at the North Portales Community Center at Lindsey Park in the 1970s, that I wrote my first short story, “La Llorona Goes to the Carnival.”
These were the memorable summers of my primary school years.
For lunch, we packed potted meat or bologna sandwiches, small bags of chips, apples, bananas and, when it was pay week for Mom and Dad, Little Debbie snacks. We often took generic canned sodas or juice, except when it was pay week, when we got brand name soda. When it was between pay weeks, our lunches were tortilla peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or homemade egg and potato burritos. Mom and Dad worked, so my sisters made our lunches, then wewalked to Lindsey Park. At the end of the day we walked home.
It was sad when they knocked down the North Portales Community Building, a long white mess hall-looking structure, in the early 1980s. I learned a lot of about myself and my Mexican American culture in that barracks-like structure with the three ascending steps which was also host to wedding dances, meetings, reunions and other events.
That summer youth program provided the structure, busy-ness and artistic opportunities that nourished my sisters and I. As I wrote in a previous column, we also participated in theater, dancing and singing at that center and went on field trips, including a particularly memorable one in the green “pickle bus,” visiting Carlsbad Caverns and President’s Park.
When my daughter, Laura, was in elementary school, we lived in Hobbs, and she attended a great Title I program. They did educational activities and went to the Science Spectrum Museum in Lubbock, a water park in Midland, Texas, and attended a Midland Angels game.
Now my grandson, Giovanni, 5, is attending a summer library reading program in Hobbs. It is only twice a week for a couple of hours, nothing like the long hot summer days we spent at the North Portales Community Center which really didn’t feel that long.
So far, Giovanni has met Tall Paul, a juggling, puppeteering musician and has enjoyed seeing a “singing scientist” who showed children last week how to make elephant toothpaste. This past Thursday, children were treated to the music of Andy Mason. It was nothing like us sitting under the shaded oak trees at Lindsey Park, singing along to a guitar, “Yo tengo mi carro Ford, que le falta la transmission …,” but that’s not to say I can’t show Giovanni how to make piñatas and ojos de dios at home.
Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: