“Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You!”
Ralph Edwards’ popular game show, “Truth or Consequences,” opened every week with these words.
Truth or Consequences aired on the radio from 1940-57 and on television beginning in 1950 – the same year that “Hot Springs, New Mexico” changed its name to “Truth or Consequences.”
As the radio show’s tenth anniversary approached, Edwards asked his staff for ideas on how to celebrate the occasion. Al Simon had this suggestion: “Why not find a town or city somewhere in America that would be willing to change its name to that of the show, and do the anniversary broadcast from that city?”
The word went out. A number of cities responded. But one stood out from the rest: Hot Springs, New Mexico.
Why? Because it seemed to embody the same philosophy as Ralph Edwards and his show…namely, “A real friendliness for people and a desire to help mankind.” The city had the means to carry out this creed due to numerous local resources: its healing hot springs, the Carrie Tingley Hospital for Crippled Children, a pleasant climate, a near proximity to Elephant Butte Lake, and the genuine western hospitality of the people.
Subsequent developments occurred rapid-fire. Ed Bailey, the show’s producer, visited Hot Springs to work out the details with the town’s mayor, the manager of the Chamber of Commerce, and others. A special election was held on March 31, 1950, and the citizens voted 1294 to 295 in favor of the name change.
The very next day, on April 1, 1950, Ralph Edwards flew in with his wife Barbara, members of his staff, and press crews to conduct the 10 year anniversary broadcast of the game show “Truth or Consequences” from the City of Truth or Consequences. The event and the city received an avalanche of nationwide publicity. Since the event occurred on April Fool’s Day, many assumed it was a practical joke!
Since the first celebration, an annual observance known as Truth or Consequences Fiesta has been held in Truth or Consequences (known to locals as T or C ). Edwards promised to come back for the first Fiesta but ended up returning year after year. To help celebrate the occasion, Ralph and Barbara Edwards also brought Hollywood stars with them as their guests. Hence each FIESTA offered an exciting lineup of Hollywood talent including Richard Dawson, James Drury, Jayne Mansfield, Denver Pyle, Anne B. Davis, Amanda Blake, Jamie Farr, Jeannie C. Riley, and Peter Blake.
Ralph Edwards died in November of 2005, but his spirit lives on as TorC celebrates “Ralph Edwards Day” every April 1st, and continues to hold its annual Fiesta the first weekend in May. An array of memorabilia from the days when Ralph came to town is available for viewing at the Ralph Edwards Room inside the Geronimo Springs Museum on Main in downtown T or C.
Much of the information above was found in “Fiesta Memories: Truth or Consequences New Mexico, 1950-1992, A Ride Through Our Past,” edited by Charlotte Bacon with caricatures by Patrick Trujillo.