Roswell, New Mexico
The “All-American City” or so it is branded by themselves, Roswell was a hometown to me from the 3rd grade until senior year of High School. Oh the fond memories of this dust-bowl of a town who’s prime entertainment for the high school youth was “dragging’ main street” every weekend to see who was “out and about” and hanging out in the Sonic drive-in. Of course many shenanigans went on making out at the Lover’s lane hill overlooking the city, or making love in the rocks at Bottomless Lakes State Park when our parents thought we were at the library or prom. Of course those mischievous few of us spent many days (and evenings) partying or exploring the Missile silos on the outskirts of town. Bonfires in the control room was a special kind of ambiance. Of course, we all heard the legends and rumors of the “UFO crash”, alien abductions, alien autopsies, and secret military bases – but that’s all they were … legends. Now these green or gray skinned aliens don the cities light-posts and is a theme park attraction to every gift shop, fast food joint, hotel, and wal-mart. The downtown theater we once partied to “Rocky Horror” has mutated to its own science fiction picture show as one of the world’s magnets for UFO experts, enthusiasts, and crazies as the International UFO Museum.
Roswell represents and is in the county seat of Chaves County fluctuating annually in population growth as business boom, close, die, diminish or become reborn. It now boasts a population of 48,000 inhabitants in 2012 celebrating its standing as being New Mexico’s fifth largest city. Outside of UFO’s and aliens, Roswell’ites make their living with irrigation farming, dairy farms, ranching, petroleum, manufacture, and distribution. It was never really a tourist trap, UNTIL … the aliens arrived. It was however home of Bottomless Lakes State Park, Bitter Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and the New Mexico Military Institute (1891). The 1947 UFO crash made it the most popular, other than that it was a central point for some very famous people including Robert H. Goddard who invented the Rocket. No wonder those “hush-hush” secret military bases set up shop in this small hick town of tumbleweeds. Other famous inhabitants were Patrick Garrett the Sheriff, John Chisum the Pioneer, Demi Moore the Actress, John Denver the folk singer, Nancy Lopez the LPGA golf pro, Austin St. John the first Red Power Ranger, UFO Phil the singer, and Tom Brookshier the Pro Football player.
The UFO crash has much lore, legend, and news stories surrounding it – taking place just outside of town to upwards of 75 miles away near Corona. Whatever crashed there, was hauled into the local Roswell Army Air Field, the “then” secret military base for much dark mysteries … or so they say. On July 8, 1947 the Roswell Daily Record reported the “capture” of a “flying saucer” by the U.S. Government, hauling the ship and its inhabitants to the Walker Air Force Base. the U.S. Government to this day maintains it was debris from an “experimental” high-altitude helium weather and surveillance balloon. A high level military official from the base apparently came on to record to state it was actually a spaceship crash with alien bodies captured. It has been believed to be one of the U.S. Government’s most infamous cover-ups.
Roswell was first inhabited by Native Americans who were pushed out by Euro-American Aliens – a group of pioneers from Missouri who started up the first Euro-American settlement 15 miles southwest of present day Roswell in 1865. They ran out of water however, so had to abandon this “Missouri Plaza”. Hispanics moved in from Lincoln, New Mexico as did John Chisum with his famous Jingle Bob Ranch 5 miles from Roswell’s current downtown. In 1869 two business-men from Omaha, Nebraska named Van C. Smith and Aaron Wilburn set up shop in what is now downtown Roswell building two adobe buildings – the general store, post office, and make-shift hotel. This gave birth to the “True” Roswell. Van’s father was Roswell Smith, whom he named the town after. By 1877, Captain Joseph Calloway Lea and his family bought out Smith and Wilburn, becoming the largest land-holders of the area. The town survived the Lincoln County War from 1877-1879 and by 1890 local merchant Nathan Jaffa struck clear gold when he sprung water tapping a major aquifer while digging a well in his back yard giving major growth and development opportunities for the area. The Railroad came through town by 1893. When World War II struck the country, the military set up a prisoner of war camp near Orchard Park holding Germans forcing labor on them to build Roswell’s infrastructure, especially paving the banks of the North Spring River. A iron cross can be found on the north bank built by the Germans in the Roswell Spring River Zoo. By the 1930’s, Robert H. Goddard popularized Roswell with his early rocketry work bringing in the military heavier from 1941 to 1967. Ruined by alien autopsy conspiracies and economic down-turn, the Walker Air Force base was finally DE-commissioned as were the 22 missile silos surrounding the city.
Located on the high plains, Roswell experiences the four seasons with cold winters, mild warm springs, very hot summers. Monsoons are common during the summer months with torrential downpours, thunderstorms, high winds, hail, and tornadoes.