Truth or Consequences — City of Three Names

Postmarks from three cities
Postmarks from three cities 

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, universally called T or C, is the third name for that city. When it was first settled it was called Palomas Springs, so named because of the large number of doves (palomas) residing in the cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande.

In the early 1800s the area west of the river was considered a neutral place where all Indian tribes could bring their sick or wounded to soak in the healing springs. At that time, the springs were actually mud bogs. The original springs are located next to the Geronimo Springs Museum, named for the famed Apache leader who visited. Bath houses are located in several places within the community for those who want to test the healing waters now.

The post office was opened in 1911 as Palomas Springs but was changed to Hot Springs in 1914. That name was kept until Ralph Edwards, the master of ceremonies of the radio show “Truth or Consequences,” offered to host an annual celebration and nationwide broadcast to any city willing to change its name to Truth or Consequences. The Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce spread the news of the offer to advertise the city free of charge. No longer would it be confused with Hot Springs, Arkansas, or all the others throughout the United States.

A special city election was held, and the vote was to change the name to Truth or Consequences. However, a protest was filed by 295 area residents, so there was another election. This time the “yes” vote won by an even greater margin. The town became Truth or Consequences on March 31, 1950, although the post office was not changed until a year later.

Ralph Edwards kept his promise and aired the first live, coast-to-coast broadcast of “Truth or Consequences” from the city of Truth or Consequences.

But 1950 was not the end of elections regarding the name change. In January, 1964, the question went before the people again. The “yes “vote majority once more retained the unusual name.

Yet again on August 18, 1967, another majority voted to keep the name Truth or Consequences. Now there is a Ralph Edwards Park and a Ralph Edwards room in the Geronimo Museum.

Each year the city honors Ralph Edwards, and he honors them with a return visit to the city that accepted his challenge.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks