How Hot Springs Became Truth or Consequences
Courtesy of Herald Publishing, The Chaparral Guide, January 2000
Just off Interstate-25, midway between the thriving metropolitan cities of El Paso and Albuquerque, is one of the most publicized and unique health resorts in the United States. Originally named
"Hot Springs" and now called "Truth or Consequences," this city has received more national publicity via television and radio than any city of its size in the United States. So naturally, one of
the first things people who come here ask is, "How did the town get its name?"
In 1950, Hot Springs, New Mexico, was plodding along slowly and fairly comfortably, much the same as hundreds of other small resort cities. Tourist trade, practically speaking, was the city's
only industry. The majority of visitors here sought the town's health facilities and found the little community offered more for their money than they found almost anywhere else under the sun. The
cost of living was, and still is, extremely reasonable, and visitors and residents alike did, and still do, relax in the healing, naturally hot mineral baths, bask in the almost ever present
sunshine, fill their lungs with the fresh, pure air that envelops the city and surrounding areas, fish a little, and play dominoes and shuffleboard at the Senior Citizens Recreation Center.
Another pastime years ago was sitting in groups on the sidewalk benches to watch a few travelers as they passed on the highway, usually without stopping. Recreation then was undeveloped to
its full potential and the town was lost among hundreds of other "Hot Springs" scattered all over the United States; the name indicating nothing more significant than the likelihood that some hot
springs were located in the area.
Then in 1950, NBC television and radio producer Ralph Edwards, on the 10th anniversary of the Truth or Consequences radio program, called his staff together and said, "I wish that some town in the
United States liked and respected our show so much that it would like to change its name to 'Truth or Consequences.' Upon hearing the proposition, the New Mexico State Tourist Bureau relayed the
news to the manager of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and the news spread like wildfire.
Here was an opportunity to advertise the city and its resources free of charge! Better still, no longer was our city to be confused with that "other one" in Arkansas and the others throughout the
nation (California alone has more than 30 towns called "Hot Springs").
So, in a special city election, 1,294 of the town's residents voted for the change to "Truth or Consequences." On the other hand, 295 area residents opposed the change and a protest was filed. So
the city returned to the polls and again voted - by a margin greater than four to one to go ahead with the name change.
Almost 14 years later, in January 1964, the question went to the people again and they voted to keep the city's unique name. A fourth election was held on August 18, 1967, and once more a majority
voted to keep the name Truth or Consequences.
Ralph Edwards and his entire NBC production, acting and show crew came here in 1950, aired the first live, coast-to-coast broadcast of Truth or Consequences from the city of Truth or Consequences.
The residents of his adopted home were very pleased to say he came back every year for 50 years with his Hollywood friends to celebrate the anniversary of the name change. He helped spread the news
about this oasis of hot springs, two of the state's best lakes, and many other recreational opportunities throughout Sierra County.
Because of the hot mineral springs which issued from the ground, the site of the present Truth or Consequences was considered "neutral grounds" by the Southwestern Indians long before white
settlement of the area. Here they gathered without conflict for inter-tribal exchange and to bathe their wounds and other ailments. During the latter half of the 1800s, two great ranches were
established across the southern part of the area now covered by Sierra County. Cowboys from one of these ranches, the John Cross Ranch, built the first adobe bath house over Geronimo Spring.
The first homestead entry in what is now known as Truth or Consequences was filed in 1910. With the beginning of the construction of Elephant Butte Dam in 1911, the settlement of Palomas Hot
Springs (now Truth or Consequences) began to grow. It was incorporated as a town in 1916, the year of the completion of the Dam. It developed as a health resort and trading center for nearby
mining, farming, and stock raising areas. It was made the county seat in 1936.