Our Town: Las Cruces Making Memories

June 12, 2018 pixelmark

Memories | collage of Las Cruces memories images

Interviews by Mike Cook, Daniel Gonzales, Jessica Muncrief
Historic photos courtesy New Mexico State University Library, Archives
and Special Collections

As part of our Past, Present, and Future series continuing throughout 2018, more Las Crucens share their memorable experiences and their hopes for our great city.

“I moved to Las Cruces in February 1965 and, with the exception of four years in Dallas going to graduate school and 20 months in Los Angeles going to The City of Broken Dreams Academy, I’ve been here ever since.

Memories | Actors and videographers on the setMy first impression of Las Cruces was that it was hot. My family was vacationing in Sacramento near Cloudcroft and, while making a side trip to Juarez, we stopped for gas in our un-air conditioned Ford Falcon. I thought I’d never been so hot. The next year we moved here. My initial dismay at leaving Clovis soon disappeared. Las Cruces is my home.

I attended Hermosa Heights Elementary for the remainder of sixth grade, went to Lynn Junior High—not Middle School at that time—Las Cruces High School, and got a bachelor of science in secondary education from New Mexico State University. It was a nice, safe place to grow up. My father worked for the Boy Scouts and my mom worked at the Central Office of Las Cruces Public Schools.

There was not a lot to do—I was in Scouts, Key Club, and tried to play golf. It wasn’t until I discovered theatre at NMSU that my life had any shape. Hershel Zohn, Arlene Belkin, James and Mercedes Gilbert, and Mark Medoff were my influences. I was always impressed with the quality of artistic talent in Las Cruces, much of which we owe to the presence of the university.

There is still some of the sleepy, little town attitude—not necessarily a bad thing—and a resistance to change and growth, which can be both frustrating and endearing at the same time. People, particularly the young ones, seem to still feel there isn’t much to do but I often don’t have enough days and nights during the week to do or see everything I want.

I do wish that we, as a community, would develop a bit more progressive attitude toward the arts and leisure activities. I would like to see us support more venues for entertainment, restaurants, pubs, and clubs. I think we let too many locally owned businesses die on the vine while the number of chain stores continues to grow. I hope that over the next five to 10 years we can find a balance that will allow a diversity of contributors to our economic as well as the art and culture scene. Selfishly, I have hopes that film production will become a cog in the economic wheel.

The seventies were an important decade to me as my life and future were forming. Graduating high school, discovering the artistic endeavor that would drive me forward, and getting my first real job as a drama and English teacher were the foundation of who I was. Las Cruces was finding itself as well, at least in my view. The city was expanding out and the center was slowly dying. Buildings were knocked down and streets choked off. It has taken 50 years for some of the damage done in those years to be repaired. We have struggled to resuscitate Main Street but I still have hopes it will continue to get its heartbeat back.

What do I see in our future? I hope that we maintain that safe atmosphere, that we continue to be a caring community, and that our creative energy continues to grow and be supported by all, and for all, segments of the population. Let’s foster our uniqueness and not be stifled by the uniqueness of others and other places but embrace the qualities that will make us a better and more attractive place.

P.S. Keep the chile flowing! That’s key.”
David Edwards, Instructor at NMSU Creative Media Institute

Memories | Las Cruces Symphony

The Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra has been going strong for almost four decades. Under the directorship of Maestro Lonnie Klein, the LCSO performs a popular classics series, as well as popular Music Under the Stars events.

I grew up seeing my father run O’Ryan’s in the Mesilla Valley Mall, Pancho Villa Cantina, and Billy the Kid Saloon, both located in the Holiday Inn (now Ramada Inn), as well as B.R. Piano Bar, (named after my grandmother Billy Ruth), and of course, The Double Eagle. I remember seeing a lot of the same faces and hearing the same laughs. The community, and thus the restaurant community, was smaller, so it wasn’t rare to see the same guests multiple times a week. After the Aggie games everyone would meet at O’Ryan’s or the Holiday Inn to celebrate, win or lose!Win Ritter, Restaurant and Bar Consultant

Memories | The Hummer FamilyThe Hummer Family has been celebrating Christmas Eve at Double Eagle for 12 years now. Restauranteur Win Ritter says, “I love when someone tells me they got married here 20 years and are now back for their anniversary. I love that people come here to celebrate, and come back time and time again to relive those moments of celebration.”

Memories | No Strings Theatre CompanyLive performances by the No Strings Theatre Company can be seen at the Black Box Theatre downtown. The Las Cruces Community Theatre is also downtown and in 2018 is hosting a one-act play festival.

Memories | Broadway CafeIn 1971, the Broadway Café ran an ad in the Sun-News that read: “Message to the President Richard M. Nixon. We at the Broadway Café are doing our part to help you fight inflation.” As proof, the ad cites their Working Man’s Lunch, a full meal for 99 cents, and their all-you-can-eat jumbo shrimp Fridays for $1.98. The ad also invites President Nixon to stop in if he’s ever in town, “coffee is still 5 cents a cup.”

Memories | Mountain View Regional Medical Center
In the year 2000, when we were considering whether or not to develop and build Mountain View Regional Medical Center (MVRMC), we evaluated published governmental data and, with the Gallup Organization, surveyed the community on their desire for a second hospital. We identified a very large out migration of patients to El Paso and the number one reason for a new hospital was “choice.” In the absence of choice, people will drive to get a new choice. Increasing competition via a second hospital was the catalyst to increase the supply of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers, as well as to improve service. When you compete for employee, patient, and physician satisfaction, you raise the bar of service.Memories | MVRMC DonationToday we are witnessing phenomenal growth in our community’s healthcare services. When I talk to Denten Park, the CEO of MVRMC, and John Harris, the CEO of MMC, we reflect on how much more mature, developed, and expansive the entire healthcare community is today. Capital investment, along with the number of facilities, physicians, specialties, and services has increased at both hospitals. Both hospitals have also increased employment among nursing and other healthcare professions. Now, with the opening of the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine we hope to bring additional, complementary benefits to the entire healthcare community.”John Hummer,President & Co-Founder Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine; Founding CEO of MountainView Regional Medical Center Medical Center.
The Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine has an additional seven acres reserved for phases two and three of the campus’ expansion. President Hummer says, “We eventually want to create a full health science center versus just a medical school. This wouldn’t be something that would compete with NMSU, but something that would add value to both our college and NMSU.”
Studies show that one in five hip fracture patients die within a year of their injury.
Southwest Sport & Spine is partnering with the physical therapy franchise Fyzical to offer high-tech balance centers which will benefit the growing number of senior citizens in our community. They have already implemented the overhead harness support system that allows patients to perform exercises that were previously too risky to engage in, and in 2018, they’ll have the Balance Advantage Computerized Dynamic Posturography (CDP) system (shown here). This futuristic-looking machine helps pinpoint the specific sensory or motor impairment to balance control.

“I came to Las Cruces in 1964 at the age of five. Las Cruces has always been an interesting mix of diverse cultures and communities, and I think that is a real benefit to any town. A big plus is that you can find really fine Mexican food just about every few blocks!Las Cruces will continue to grow thanks to the many people who retire here, or come to Las Cruces to find a nicer climate, or to study or teach at NMSU. The “new” and “old” Las Cruceses are starting to blend at the edges, and often the “newcomers” become active in our cultural and political life, bringing fresh perspectives and energy. Yet we retain many of the qualities of a small town. And, being a small town kid, I find that comforting.You can still walk into your favorite eatery and the server remembers your order, or be known by name at your hardware store. I think we’ll continue working to keep things in balance for all Las Crucens as we keep growing.”
– Bob Diven, Local Artist and Innovator
“I’ve been in the local healthcare field as an athletic trainer and worked collaboratively with physical therapists and the sports medicine community for more than 25 years now. With the expansion of Medicaid, we’ve seen a lot more government assisted facilities open up, like Ben Archer and La Clinica de Familia. There’s been more partnering with schools; we now have on-site clinics at all the high schools. The unity of schools and healthcare facilities has improved access to healthcare for students and allowed more opportunity for preventative services.There’s also been a shift in healthcare in that more practices are affiliating and aligning with the hospitals and major healthcare entities. It’s a system that will take some getting used to, but hopefully we will see more effectiveness and efficiency in the healthcare system in the long run. Demonstration of quality services will be more valued as we move forward. I am excited about the change that has come as a result of the cost of health care and national policy.”
– David Gallegos, MA, ATC, Cert. MDT
Deputy CEO Southwest Sport & Spine Center


Memories | Chopes Town Cafe“My first introduction to Las Cruces was in the late 60s as a journalism major at the University of Texas at El Paso. We’d drive up the ‘back road’ and either stop at Chope’s or continue through the pecan orchards to eat at La Posta.”
– Barbara Reasoner, President Dona Ana Arts CouncilMemories | Organ Mountain productsShops like Patina Home, Mew & Co., Organ Mountain Outfitters, and Zia Comics are bringing some retail therapy to downtown Las Cruces.

Memories | city hall exterior shotThis three-story adobe served as City Hall until 1968 when it moved to 200 N. Church Street. It remained there for 50 years until the modern City Hall building at 700 N. Main Street opened in 2010.

Memories | race cars on the fieldSOUTHERN NEW MEXICO SPEEDWAY will be moving to the brand new Vado Speedway Park. We’ll be able to hold bigger and better events. We’ll have more amenities like suites, a full concession stand with six windows to cut down on the long lines, TVs, and a concrete concourse that will be easier for people to access the park. We’ll also have an area for events and parties.”
– Rue Stone, Manager of Southern New Mexico Speedway
Memories | kids enjoying in Splash PadIN THE HEART of the revitalized Downtown area, Plaza de Las Cruces’ splash pad offers a fun way to cool down and enjoy a show on the nearby performance stage.

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