Truth or Consequences, NM, is indeed one of the odd names in American Geography. The story of the name’s origin is odder still. I thought I had it nailed back in the early 70’s, long before the founders of this blog were even born. I drove through Truth or Consequences on a cross country trip. As I passed beyond the city limits heading north towards Albequerque, I saw a huge sign on the interstate proclaiming “NEXT SERVICES 100 MILES.” Aha! That has to be it, I thought, as I looked down at my dashboard. My gas gauge had better be telling me the truth, or I would pay the consequences!
Wrong. Well, sort of right; my observation about being screwed if my gas gauge was inaccurate probably was true. But the true story of how the former Hot Springs, NM changed its name is more unlikely than that. It came about in 1950 when Ralph Edwards, host of the popular radio quiz show Truth or Consequences announced he would host the show from the first town that renamed itself after the program.
Hot Springs won. I guess; if you call that a prize. It is certainly a more memorable name than Hot Springs. And the fact that it is right near Elephant Butte–I won’t even speculate on where that name came from–makes it a blog worthy piece of Americana.
As for the show Truth or Consequences, it was one of the longest running quiz shows ever. After 15+ years on radio, it made the transition to the small screen. The inimitable Bob Barker hosted the lion’s share of the TV run; he was emcee from 1957-1975. OK, his name isn’t funny, but he’s almost 90 so we have to go easy on him. I don’t know if he ever hosted the TV show from Truth or Consequences, but if he did, that dry desert air certainly helped preserve him.