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.
My 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
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.
The 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.”
Live 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.
In 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.”
In the year 2000, when we were considering whether or not to develop and build MountainView 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.Today 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.
Studies show that one in five hip fracture patients die within a year of their injury.
“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
– David Gallegos, MA, ATC, Cert. MDT
Deputy CEO Southwest Sport & Spine Center
– Barbara Reasoner, President Dona Ana Arts CouncilShops like Patina Home, Mew & Co., Organ Mountain Outfitters, and Zia Comics are bringing some retail therapy to downtown Las Cruces.
– Rue Stone, Manager of Southern New Mexico Speedway