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Truth or Consequences  



The area around Truth or Consequences was known for its hot springs long before the arrival of Europeans. According to legend, the Indians treated it as neutral ground. They laid aside tribal differences when they came to soak their wounds in the magic waters which flowed from earth. After the establishment of Fort McRae in 1863, U S Soldiers came to bask in the curative waters and plaster their aching muscles and wounds with the thick white mud.

In 1884 Fort McRae was abandoned and Sierra County was established. The county commissioners appropriated $400 to build a shelter over a spring which was known as Geronimo Spring. Water bubbled up from sand into a rock-lined pool, overflowed, and formed a slough on its way to the Rio Grande. At that time, the river ran down what is now Main Street as far as the post office before turning southwest. In 1907 a cloudburst in the north part of town deposited enough debris to change the river to its present course.

By 1895, the John Cross Cattle Company had acquired the land west of what is now Broadway and built a room over a spring for the benefit of the cowboys. The community was known as Palomas Hot Springs or Palomas Springs, after thousands of doves that lived in the cottonwoods along the river. By the time Elephant Butte Dam was completed in 1916, the community had adopted the name Hot Springs and was ready to capitalize upon both the mineral baths and the nearby recreational facility provided by Elephant Butte Lake. In the 1930's, with the increase in automobile travel, Hot Springs became a small resort city.

In 1950 Ralph Edwards, entrepreneur of popular radio program "Truth or Consequences", put out a call for a town that would agree to officially change its name to Truth or Consequences. In return, the production crew would go to that community to stage a live coast-to-coast broadcast. The New Mexico tourist bureau relayed the news to Burton Roach-local cattleman, state senator, and manager of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. "Here's a chance to get your mineral baths advertized all over the United States every Saturday night for free."

Roach viewed the opportunity as a bonanza. After all, the community was indistinguishable from the many other towns named Hot Springs. He organized local bathhouse owners and business people to back a city election. The proposition passed, but not without opposition. Some thought the name-change plain foolish; others thought it made cupidity and veneration of show-business personalities too visible. However, a series of elections challenging the change failed. Hot Springs became Truth or Consequences.

True to his word, Ralph Edwards brought his show to town on April 1, 1950, establishing the precedent for and annual Fiesta attended by Ralph Edwards and an assortment of show-business personalities. On the Saturday afternoon of the first Fiesta, the two-mile parade route was lined by 10,000 people. Ralph Edwards commemorated the occasion by breaking a bottle of mineral water over the head of Senator Burton Roach.

If Ralph Edwards visualized his show as being advertised by frequent use of "Truth or Consequences" in newspaper headlines, the exercise was somewhat abortive. Reference to Truth or Consequences is customarily abbreviated to "T or C." Nevertheless, the community is a popular haven for wintering senior citizens and fishermen, and the Ralph Edwards Fiesta in early May continues to highlight the community calendar. Ralph Edwards continued to appear at the Fiesta through 1999. His health has prevented him from attending the past two years.