The Lost Cities
Published by CCA Media
Cape Cod, U.S.A.
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The second installment in a series of short works about places in North America that made dramatic changes to the names of their cities.
Part One, titled ‘Getting Rid of Swillings Mills’, can be found elsewhere on Shakespir. Here now is
Pile of Bones
Though some communities may have acquired a genteel name through debate and perhaps voting, there was no choice for the residents of Pile-Of-Bones, Canada. The name was quickly and summarily changed shortly before the year 1900.
Pile-Of-Bones literally sprouted up from an 1882 map. It showed that the route of the great and powerful Canadian Pacific Railroad would pass by a certain parcel of arid and featureless grassland; which had but one distinguishing characteristic – a mountain of buffalo bones that glistened when the sun shined.
The Lieutenant Governor of the North-West territories just happened to own that land which quickly birthed a sleepy village. In a national scandal, the collection of shacks and shanties therein, were designated as the seat of territorial government. By the middle of the 20th century, the ragged little village of Pile-of=Bones mushroomed into a major city.
The First House Built in Pile-of-Bones
Today it is a capital city and the seventh largest metropolitan area in Canada. What about the name Pile-of-Bones? Apparently that handle didn’t sit well with Princess Louise, the Dutchess of Argyll. She told her hubby, the Governor General of Canada, that she wanted to name the community after her Mother, Queen Victoria of England. And thus was born the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
In 1900 the town had about a thousand residents. By 1916, some 30,000 people called it home, and a hundred years later in 2016 Pile-o-Bones/Regina had a population of over 216,000 making it the second largest city in Saskatchewan.
What’s in a name? I think the good people of Regina would say, ‘a lot’; for it is hard to imagine that Pile-of-Bones would have grown so big without its new name.
Hot Springs, New Mexico had no pressing reason to change its name. The town is the site of many hot springs which are said to have healing properties. In the early days of its settlement around 1916, the village quickly developed into a spa resort town with a robust economy.
What changed? Why would the good citizens of Hot Springs take such a fine name and run it out of town?
It was radio. That new fangled radio set in the living room did it. In 1950 there was a high rated radio show that wanted to celebrate its tenth anniversary on the airwaves in a big way. It was announced that the first city in the 48 United States to change its name to the name of the show would be honored by having the program broadcast from its town.
In truth, to us in the years of the 21st century this does not seem like much of a prize. But to the simpler folks of a simpler time like 1950 a live radio show coming from your town was a huge deal.
The 4755 residents of Hot Springs, after listening to the broadcast, quickly voted to rename the town in honor of the radio program.
And the very next night some 30 million listeners tuned into radio’s number one program, on the CBS radio network and heard the announcer say, “This is Ralph Edwards bringing you your Saturday night radio party Truth or Consequences, live from the city of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Truth or Consequences was always in radio’s top ten during the years from 1940 to 1950 and it continued on radio until 1956. It also had a healthy run on television. It was a skit program in which the host, the slick talking Ralph Edwards, asked specially selected contestants to answer a question – usually a silly question. When they failed to say the truth and gave an incorrect answer they had to pay a consequence which was generally an interesting and funny stunt.
One consequence in 1944 involved Edwards giving a man a half of a thousand dollar bill. He said the other half could be found in a book. The program then had 18,000 books sent to the poor fellow. He had to thumb through each one to find the other half of the bill. Luckily it was found and the books were donated to servicemen and veterans hospitals.
During the seven war bond drives held by the United States during the Second World War, Truth or Consequences went on personal appearance tours and sold over $259 million worth of bonds – an all time record verified by the U. S. Treasury.
So Truth or Consequences was a big deal in 1950 when Ralph Edwards broadcast the show live from the newly named community of Truth or Consequences.
The program visited its namesake city several more times during its run and Mr. Edwards himself visited Truth or Consequences in the first week of May every single year from 1950 to the year 2000. He passed away at the age of 92 in 2005 leaving behind a legacy of having the only radio show with a city named for it.
T or C, as it is known among the locals, has a population today of over 6,000. The town came to fame because of the radio show as mentioned, but has recently found new fame due to radio’s successor – television.
T or C is featured prominently as a location for the ‘Zygon Invasion’ which is a 2015 of the wildly popular cult TV series, Doctor Who.
It’s also the fictional home of Cactus Jack, a persona of exhibition wrestler Mick Foley.
Watch for Part Three in this series, coming soon.
About the Author:
Bill Russo is the author of The Creature from the Bridgewater Triangle and Other Odd Tales from New England; in which he recounts his meeting with a swamp creature called a Puckwudgie. His blog about that scary encounter led to an appearance in the award winning documentary, The Bridgewater Triangle. He also was also featured on national television in ‘Monsters and Mysteries in America’ and ‘America’s Bermuda Triangle’.
A number of his fictional works are centered in the Bridgewater Triangle, where he says “Fanatasy and reality are crowded together into a haunted 200 square mile area of Massachusetts – where they share an uneasy truce”.
Parts of this story are adapted from “Cape Cod’s Figure in Black” which introduces John Deer and the Russo Brothers, as well as the little girl from Provincetown who becomes the new ‘seer’ of the Cape.
‘Swamp Tales’ and its prequel, ‘Jimmy Catfish’ take readers deep into Southeastern Massachusetts and neighboring Cape Cod for various adventures involving ghosts, monsters, and a strange amphibious boy who swims with, and leads, a school of shark-like, killer catfish.
In ‘Ghosts of Cape Cod’, Russo does not write the typical tale of people waking up and seeing spectral beings at the foot of their bed; rather, he probes into the fascinating lives of the real people who became the legendary ‘haunts’ of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
Many of the ‘Ghosts’ are well known such as the real ‘Pirate of the Caribbean’, Sam Bellamy. He was Captain of the Whidah – the richest prize ship in history. Others are lesser known but no less fascinating, like the Reverend Joseph Metcalf who owned the first of the once ubiquitous Cape Cod Flower Boats. The story of the Ghost of the 13 Churches is told in detail for the first time. It’s an odd yarn of a peculiar doctor who amassed one of the biggest fortunes in Colonial Massachusetts. He gave it away to the 13 churches of Cape Cod when he died; but then returned from the grave to take it all back!
The Ghosts of Cape Cod audio book is available at all major retailers. The narration is by Scott R. Pollak of National Public Radio.
Bill Russo, retired on Cape Cod, was educated in Boston at the Huntington School and at Grahm College in Kenmore Square. He was editor of several newspapers in Massachusetts as well as a former disc jockey, news writer/presenter, and broadcaster for various outlets in New England.
His other employment included management positions in logistics and warehousing as well as a stint as an ironworker and President of Boston Local 501 of the Shopmen’s Ironworkers Union.
Contact Bill at All e-mails are personally answered
Bill’s Blog is called Adventures in Type and Space:
He also shares news and videos on his Youtube Channel:
Actually it was the names of Pile-of-Bones and Hot Springs that were lost, not the communities themselves. They were among a number of places in North America with names that were not considered proper. In the case of Pile-of-Bones, a group of citizens threatened to leave town if the name was not changed. In Hot Springs, the townspeople decided on a new name because of a radio program. Get the story behind the story in this second installment of Bill Russo's series of tales of Lost Cities - it's the followup to the short book "Getting Rid of Swillings Mills", also available for free.