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Episode 23 - From Glenn Strange to Hatch Chile Delights
Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is brought to you from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World.
A happy birthday in heaven is in order for the man who played Sam Noonan, the bartender on the CBS Western, Gunsmoke for 206 episodes. He also played Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1944 film, House of Frankenstein. Also, he was in House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein. Why is he in this podcast about New Mexico? Well, Glenn Strange, full name George Glenn Strange was born in Weed, New Mexico at this time in 1899.
From his birth in Territorial New Mexico before statehood Glenn Strange by his 30s was in about 300 movies and 500 television episodes in his forty years of show business. Because this is a podcast it is just me speaking but if you look up Glenn Strange, I bet you will say, I remember him. He was a who is who of Westerns appearing in the Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Cheyenne, Rawhide, Wagon Train, The Cisco Kid, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Judge Roy Bean, Maverick and many more.
Glenn Strange was of Irish and Cherokee heritage and spoke Cherokee with his mother early in life but lacked anyone to speak to after age 13 so he confessed that he lost the ability to speak Cherokee later in life. He was a large man, same height as John Wayne, six foot four inches. He left school in Weed New Mexico after the eighth grade because his father, an area rancher said he had enough education to work cattle. But he had some other callings.
When he was twelve years old, he started playing music at local dances there in the Sacramento Mountains. He had a good mastery of fiddle and guitar. In 1928 while still doing some cattle work in the El Paso area, he started doing music on an El Paso radio station. He had two other bits of notoriety: He was a heavyweight boxer for a while, so his right ear was a bit damaged which helped his movie and television career because he played outlaws most of the time. His career took off because he competed in the rodeo sponsored by Hoot Gibson. He had a lucky, perhaps injury when a horse fell on him. He could not rodeo any longer and Hoot Gibson who was a rodeo star and Hollywood cowboy star hired Glenn to be in his movies playing outlaws. And the rest, as they say, is history. With about 800 roles in the movies and television he was very smooth in his acting and passed away in 1973. Again, a happy birthday to Weed, New Mexico’s Glenn Strange. So why is it named Weed? The town was founded in 1884 and was named after William Weed who had a store in the town. It has had a Post Office since 1885 and a public Elementary and High School at that time. With an elevation of 7200 feet, the town’s population is less than a hundred and it no longer has a school, so the kids have a long bus trip to Cloudcroft each day. Now the Fresh Chile Company’s owner, Randy McMillan knows Weed since he and Carol have a cabin there.
At this time in 1952, the first drive-in movie theatre was opened in Las Cruces. According to a David Thomas Book, “Screen with a voice: a history of moving pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico,” the first drive-in theatre opened off Highway 70 on the eastern side of Las Cruces.
In the David Thomas book he notes that there have been 21 movie theatres in all, but most people today only know three of which there is only two still in business.
From the book: In May 1952, Hugh Cane, owner of a chain of drive-in theatres announced that the drive-in theatre he was building on highway 70 on the eastern edge of Las Cruces was nearly complete. The new theatre, to be called the Rocket Drive in would have spaces to accommodate 500 cars. The viewing screen would be 68 by 43 feet in size. On July 21, 1952 The Rocket Drive-in opened to a capacity crowd including some people seated on a nearby hillside. The first film was Too Young to Kiss with June Allyson and Van Johnson.
Again, an interesting book full of Las Cruces Movie theatre history by David Thomas, someone I’ve been friends with for decades. His father Gerald Thomas was, In my opinion, the best president of New Mexico State University.
David Thomas has seven other history books that I highly recommend. He was a Chess grandmaster who traveled the world playing chess right out of college and he uses that chess focus to research southwestern history.
I was talking about Drive-In theatres the other day and found many people younger than about 40 years old never went to one and often do not recognize what one was. So you drove your car and parked where shown and there was a post with a speaker and a flexible cord that you clipped to the driver side window that provided the audio to the people inside the car in the comfort of their car seats while watching the large screen. There was a concession stand with bathrooms conveniently, but most people just brought their snack with them. It was something my parents really enjoyed and when us kids got tired, we could just lean back and go to sleep until we got back home. Would I go to a drive in now? Oh yes, but I am sure that the audio would be Wi-Fi to your car radio. Used to be one of those Drive-ins in the upper canyon road of Ruidoso where the Albertson’s market is now. It was Wi-Fi in the 1980s.
A little New Mexico history: In October 1985 the National Park Service notified the Department of the Army at what is Now White Sands Missile Range that Launch Complex 33 known as LC33 had been designated a National Historic Landmark. It was based on the launch complex being the country’s first major rocket launch facility. The missile range was established July of 1945 and extended a hundred miles up the Tularosa Basin and over the San Andres Mountains and the Oscuro Mountains.
The launch complex was started at that time. The building was completed in September 1945 for 95 thousand of those dollars which is equivalent to 1.6 million dollars today. Literally thousands upon thousands of rockets were fired over the next 70 years.
There are replicas of the Nike Missile program with a 20 foot rocket. Nothing to do with shoes, real military rockets. It was a ground to air missile designed to attack high speed high altitude aircraft. It burned a mixture of nitric acid and aniline. The explosion would send lots of shrapnel and knock the target down. The first test firing was September 17, 1946. The missile successfully intercepted a B-17 remotely flown and brought it down to the desert floor as was intended.
For us who work with Green and Red Chile, this is the best time of the year. Why Michael? Because we are in the harvest season of Hatch Chile, and we are heading for the 51st Hatch Chile Festival September first to the third this year. I’ll tell you more about this festival in a few minutes. Know this about me and my special relationship with Green and Red Chile.
For much of the time over the years I was one of those people to which Chile was essential all year long so that I made sure my freezer had lots of frozen Chile that I got fire-roasted and then put in my freezer so that in the cold winds of winter I could make Green Chile Stew that would make everyone in my family’s eyes water with delight.
However, I enjoy the Fresh Chile Company jars of Chile so much. How much? I don’t put up frozen Chile like I did all those many years ago. No, over the last few years I put the Fresh Chile Company jars in my pantry and when the desire for Green or Red Chile comes there is that happy sound of the jar opening that makes me smile. Something else is set to make me smile.
At the Hatch Chile Festival which starts the first three days of September over the Labor Day weekend. I am looking forward to seeing the renowned Cowboy Chef, Kent Rollins, making delicious things and telling lots of stories. I am looking forward to seeing Kent in person. I have watched him on television show so long… how long… so long I think I know him personally and his lovey wife. They not only tell about Cowboy delicious cooking, they show how it is done and lots and lots of great cooking tips like how to make the fried chicken really crispy. And, this is important, it doesn’t just work for him. When I use his cooking methods, it even work for me. Come see him.
Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.
A little Chile news: Both Big Jim and Sandia Select Chile is being roasted at this time and will be available. They come in 16-ounce jars that cause a smile when you open them. One thing is for sure: all Chile Peppers are not the same. Some have more or less taste heat than others, some taste a bit more sweet. Well now, the same is true with onions. Those are onions that are not as strong, not as pungent as other onions.
They are also used in the development of a new product at the Fresh Chile Company.
It is Hatch Sweet Onion Dressing. Great on Mashed Potatoes and on steaks. About ten percent of the onions grown in our area are Sweet in nature meaning they are not as strong which is what some people like. This Hatch Sweet Onion Dressing is so very good, words are not enough, you must try it. Use checkout code Podcast15 to get 15% off your order this week.
Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico. One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces or happen to be in our little slice of paradise. They can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Now I need to tell you about some new products at the Fresh Chile Company that I find wonderful. There is a Local Honey with Hatch Red Chile that is great on biscuits. French fries are so much more with the Fresh Chile Company’s Hatchup which is ketchup and Hatch Red Chile. Come browse and there are many more surprises and also, there are some frozen surprises that I assure you are wonderful. Again, from Monday to Saturday, the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This is Michael Swickard with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts, If you have something or someone you want me to talk about, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better.” Bye for now.