How towns promoted themselves back in the day

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By Sherry Robinson

When a friend gave me a stack of old New Mexico Magazines, I dove in.
The articles were entertaining enough, but the ads were the real attention grabbers. After World War II, communities didn’t have many ways to promote themselves, so they touted their charms in the pages of the state’s magazine.
Some wanted tourists: “Ruidoso, where outdoor fun follows the seasons around the year.”
Others wanted residents: “Roswell, New Mexico, A Good Place to Visit – A Better Place to Live” and “Hobbs, The City with an Assured Future.”
And they all wanted new business: “Those seeking a future personal home or industrial location make no mistake in selecting such a far-sighted city as Raton, one of New Mexico’s finest.”
The biggest advertiser was Artesia, which called itself the “Oil Center of New Mexico” and later the “City of Opportunity.”
In 1944, the Oil Center prided itself on production at the city’s three refineries to “meet the war’s demand for petroleum products.” The all-out effort had “given Artesia a definitely industrial character, which will not disappear at the end of the war.”
One ad promised, prophetically, “New Mexico will need more (petroleum products) in the postwar period of expansion than was ever dreamed possible in the past.”
“The City with an Assured Future” announced in 1954, “Through Hobbs pass the material and men to operate the greatest concentrated petroleum industry in the state and one of the largest in the entire southwest.”
Neither city was sitting on its laurels – or its barrels. Both talked up their new construction – homes, hospitals, shopping. Farmington, “in the heart of the sun-kissed San Juan Valley,” was enjoying its own boom but purchased just one lonesome ad to promote its airport. New Mexico was still close to its agricultural roots.
“Espanola Valley… Where the Sun Shines Bright on the Valley of Opportunity” was “one of the most prosperous farming and fruit growing sections of New Mexico” in 1952.    
In a full-page ad featuring a Hereford bull, was this 1946 message: “When you think of Roswell as a possible business location, remember that the community is soundly founded on agricultural production in five counties.”
In 1944, Roswell trumpeted its Sweet Spanish and Yellow Denia onions: “The Army Goes for Onions Like These!” If the onions don’t bring a tear to your eye, this will. Roswell promised, “The farmers of Pecos Valley (are) assured of irrigation water from artesian wells,” and Artesia was proud of its namesake “dependable artesian wells.”
Grants talked up its agriculture and mining. “Lava City” in 1947 was an “Important Shipping Point for Vegetables, Cattle, Grain, Sheep, Lumber, Beans, Pumice and Fluorspar.” During the war, New Mexico was the fourth largest producer of fluorspar and much of it came from the Zuni Mountains.
Raton was not only “rich in high quality bituminous coal resources,” it was the “doorway to some of the finest scenery in the West,” such as Mount Capulin, Cimarron Canyon, and Eagle Nest Lake – all connected by paved roads.
Raton also used its ads to editorialize. A “certain distinguished citizen of New Mexico” had the nerve to speak “not too highly of the travel industry” during a local talk, but Raton “has never deserted the travel industry.”
Española also called attention to northern New Mexico’s “magnificent scenery, old Spanish villages, Indian pueblos,” although its announcement of the Don Juan de Oñate fiesta wouldn’t pass today’s PC censor. The event was “to honor the intrepid Spanish colonizer who planted the first seeds of white civilization in what is now the United States.”
Los Alamos, kept secret for years, simply wanted the world to know it was there. In 1950, “the world’s most important small town” said: “There is never a dull moment here – and the working day provides association with some of the finest people in the world as well as some of the ablest scientists.”
Understanding what was important to us 60-plus years ago sheds some light on our priorities today.

Sherry Robinson
© New Mexico News Services 2011