Portales, New Mexico’s Multi-Phased Personality Test

I found out the other day there’s another occasional reader here shared classrooms and the seven-year drought with me in the 1950s.  Surprising, the people of that town and that vintage clicking to remember.

Every kid in Portales, New Mexico, believed Gene Brown and Bobby Thomas were lower trash than they, themselves were.  Including me.  I can’t recall now why they believed it, though both started smoking before they learned to masturbate, most likely.

But maybe the fact both kids were considered such lowlifes explained the reason I ran around with them a while, caught those freight trains to Clovis with them.  [Riding the Rap]. 

Bobby Thomas quit school, lied about his age and joined the army when we were 9th graders.  The next time I saw him he was a different person from the buzzard-necked, shunned youngster he’d been.  I’ve often thought quitting school, for him, must have been a cheap price to pay for an opportunity to be out from under the pall of scorn the town piled on him for being whatever they thought he was.

Gene Brown, on the other hand, was still vilified as one of the historical lowlifes 30 years later when I went back for a visit.  Never saw him, but I was surely impressed with how the sign the town stamped on his back stayed through the decades.  Likely he came by it honestly.  Certainly early.

On the other hand, a lot of the higher society folk who shunned those two managed to make lousy enough choices in life to earn their later reputations as lowlifes.   And some of the kicked around, not-quite lowlifes did impressive, though maybe meaningless things with their lives.

My old friend, Fred Stevens, who spent early years as a hotshot savings and loan president, went down with the ship in the mid-80s crash, was as solid a citizen as I’ve ever known.  But he assured me I’d have thought differently if I’d known him as an S&L president.

I’m sorry I didn’t get up to Seattle for a chance to reacquaint myself with the other banker from our kidship, but after he’d chosen to live under a bridge instead of running a financial institution.  [Could you choose to live on the street?]

But I think the one I’d like most to know before I die is the one walked around the corner from a class reunion at the Cal Boykin Hotel in the early 1990s.  Reunion for the grad classes 1960-1970.  Fred Stevens told me about it.  One of the attendees walked into a bank branch a block from the Cal Boykin Hotel and stuck it up.  Walked clean away with $1500 and a well-deserved place in local legend.

I hope he’s remembered.  Wish I’d thought of it and had the brass to do it.

Old Jules

4 responses to “Portales, New Mexico’s Multi-Phased Personality Test

  1. I was robbed when I was a teller at a bank, not much of a haul.
    I always figured the liquor store would be the place to rob but nobody uses cash much anymore so the risk wouldn’t be worth the potential profit.
    There’s a lot of stuff I wish I had the brass to do.

    • elroyjones: Fred and I figured he didn’t do it for the money. Couldn’t think he’d get much of a haul. More likely did it as some sort of statement. Went in there dressed in his reunion suit and tie and went back to where everyone was wearing the same costume. A person wants to stick someone up for money probably needs to pick someone 1] needs killing, and 2] has enough money in his possession to make it worth the trouble. I figures there are probably more candidates in the illicit drug industry than in the financial institutions, but I’m just guessing. In any case, a bank and a liquor store probably wouldn’t provide enough cash between them to pay for the firearm needed for the job. And the cops would get all pissed if someone horned in on the suitcases full of money or illicit drugs. Probably just no place in the world for an honest stick-up man to do bidness anymore. Gracias, J

  2. Except for Fred Stevens those were names I didn’t know. Small towns do have interesting histories and interesting characters. What year was the 1960-1970 reunion? Maybe I was there as I attended a reunion of the 60’s classes.

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