AlamogordoTownNews.com Railroad History Park Evolving on White Sands and 10th Street

The Tularosa Basin Museum in partnership with the merchants and partnership of Alamogordo MainStreet and the City of Alamogordo have come together to create a new park at the corner of 10th Street and White Sands. Just across from the Tularosa Basin Museum and Walgreen’s within eyeshot of the New York Avenue Cultural Arts and History District is the corner lot owned by the City of Alamogordo. 

Thanks to the leadership of Joe Lewandoski of the Tularosa Basin Historic Society in the leadership role of this project, working in collaboration with Brian Cesar, the City Manager for the City of Alamogordo, a dream of a City of Alamogordo Railroad Park is coming to life. A $20,000 grant facilitated by Alamogordo MainStreet granted by the Union Pacific Foundation was a kickstart for the new city park.

The park design at the Southeast corner of Alameda Park is in the near location of the water tower, view of the tracks but a safe distance and has the advantage of parking within the zoo parking so no need to cross street or railroad tracks. This portion of the park is historical, going all the way back to the founding of Alamogordo by the Eddy brothers.  This property is adjacent to the zoo which is the oldest continuing operating zoo in the southwest.

As people enter the park on the newly created concrete walkways, they will first view a semaphore (track switch/signal.) The signal to be on display was located at Alamogordo’s second railway depot. The unit was donated to the Tularosa Basin Museum from a donor from Belen who had acquired it. The unit is complete with all parts for installation. 

A park visitor to their right will eventually observe an excursion car similar to what was used on the rails going to Cloudcroft. The plan is to acquire one from the salvage yard of Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. It is an 80% replica of what once ran on this line but not an exact. The plan is to modify it replicate the photo below…

Continuing on the newly created pathways of the park will be historical pillars with photographs and story boards telling the history of the railroad and photographs of the buildings and support history of the railroad areas of Alamogordo as seen in the early 1900s. Each pillar along the pathway will take the park goer back in time with a photo and history lesson of the past specific to the railroad.

During the years of the early railroad another historic structure that no longer exists is a water fountain that was an attraction for passengers in the early 1900’s that had a layover. The fountain of the early 1900’s represented an oasis in the desert and passengers in the early 1900’s saw Alamogordo as a modern and bustling oasis in the middle of the city. A replica of that fountain will be part of the new park.

Another feature of the park is a beautiful piece of metal work created by Larry Berry, a local business owner (Basin Pipe and Metal.) In the work are components and events from the Tularosa Basin, the railroad, the Mexican Trestle, the Avis Building etc. It is 16 feet long and 9 feet high and will serve as a beautiful display of public art on the site.

Landscaping and benches will enhance the park. The park is under construction under the leadership and project management of Joe Lewandowski with great assistance from Debra Lewandowski and a host of community partners.

Alamogordo is fortunate to have the talents of these individuals that can bring together a variety of community interest in the name of community to tell the history of Alamogordo and to further enhance the quest of developing the New York Avenue 10th Street corridor into the New York Avenue Cultural Arts and History District. 

Stay turned for a story later in the week on the Tularosa Basin Museum, an update on the Dudley restoration project also under the leadership of the Lewandowski’s and to learn more about these two passionate individuals that are driving the preservation of Alamogordo’s history forward with concrete action. 

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AlamogordoTownNews.com: 100 Years AGO, in Alamogordo Sports History – Coach L R “Peanuts” Robins picks principle and ethics over a State Title.

The Founding of the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA)

In 1921 The New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) was formed as a nonprofit organization that regulates interscholastic programs for junior and senior high schools in New Mexico. It became the official host and record keeper for the statewide sports championship games each year thereafter and collaborated with the University of New Mexico to continue to host events. keeping and leading interscholastic events within New Mexico today.

NMAA was organized in 1921 by John Milne, James Bickley, F. H. Lynn, and J.D. Shinkle as the New Mexico High School Athletic Association.

Alamogordo High School joined the association in 1921 and proceeded to send athletes to its events.

The 1920’s has been called the Golden Age of American Sports. It also has been called the Age of the Spectator.

The United States had a strong economy for most of that decade with extensive growth on the west coast with the formation of New Mexico and new cities and school systems. Organized sports were at a pinnacle many workers had more leisure time. New and bigger stadiums and gymnasiums were built, interest and pride in local High School and College Teams became America’s pastime.

The introduction of radio made it easier for fans to keep up with their favorite teams. Radio and local newspapers increased their coverage of sports building local community support of their hometown teams. High School interscholastic sports gained significant traction and community pride via local media.

Alamogordo High School had a very limited sports program in 1922 but the Boys Basketball team was a bright spot for the citizens of Alamogordo that provided much community pride.

The citizens of Alamogordo had significant pride in their Boys Basketball Team that season of 1922 under Coach & Professor L. R. “Peanuts” Robins. Coach Robin’s was a disciplined athlete that took education seriously. The coach expected his boys to perform well academically and athletically. Citizenship and good stewardship of their reputation and that of the Alamogordo High School was a paramount lesson he intended to instill upon his student athletes.

The 1922/23 season was a strong one for the the Alamogordo Tiger Boys which were picked to win the district tournament and carry that victory forward to the state championships hosted by the NMAA in Albuquerque.

According to the Alamogordo News at the time, “Close performance of the teams that were to participate in the high school tournament for the basketball teams of the southern district of New Mexico, agreed that Alamogordo would give a good account of its team at the tournament. And winning the tournament it was conceded that the Alamogordo high schools’ boys would mix it up pretty strong at the state contest in Albuquerque. The Alamogordo boys had already won from the Albuquerque team, winner of the central tournament. But Alamogordo did not win the Las Cruces district tournament.”

Alamogordo did not win the Las Cruces district tournament.

The why of the matter was very nicely told in the El Paso Times by Gene Fromme.

“Why Alamogordo Withdrew…

Alamogordo High School’s failure to enter the district basketball tournament for the state title for the 1922/23 school year had everyone wondering.

Every fan in the southwest knew Alamogordo High packed probably the classiest crew of cage performers in the entire state. Their slashing victory over the strong Albuquerque High School boosted them to a lofty standing and a championship for the team seemed almost assured.

Coach “Peanuts” Robins had molded a masterful quintet from the rawest kind of material. All of his backers had expressed their willingness to bet their boots Alamogordo would march off with the state title.

Then came the time for them to show their basket of wares and they failed to make an appearance.

Here is the mystery unreeled by one the shrewdest and fairest athletic followers, who is more than merely interested in the welfare of the Alamogordo High school basketball team:

It takes downright courage for a successful young athletic coach who has toiled night and day with his team to refuse to enter a tournament he would most probably have won, for sheer sake of principle. And that is exactly what Coach “Peanuts” Robbins of Alamogordo High did. This is the kind of coaching that places athletics on a plane worthwhile.

Without entering into a full discussion of the cause of the young coach’s commendable action, suffice it to say a small number only of the boys on the team who, after riding over the rough bumps of the Alamo trails, took of the cars and said they wished to take a ride around town. They feel victims to the smooth El Paso-Las Cruces Road, and before they knew it they were doing things not consistent with the best athletic conditions. 

While this kind of a lark is not a legal crime, it showed poor judgement on the part of the boys, and certainly could not be tolerated by the coach. 

Upon the boys’ return from their adventure the Alamogordo, Coach Robins promptly removed them from the team.

This naturally incapacitated the club for such as contest as was before them, and in which, considering all former “dope” they no doubt would have won. With crushed hearts the other boys who had remained true to their teachings and colors, along with their comrades, who would willingly have given anything to undo the wrong which they had done, moved our for the long night ride to their home. Thus, Alamogordo went unheralded for the season.”

Other accounts of the events around the district tournament report that Coach L R Robinson had every intention of entering the boys into the competition and believed strongly that they could carry the banner for a state title. According to the coach, “ the Alamogordo Boys took the trip entirely too lightly. The boys broke training and went joy riding.”

The public was confused. From the viewpoint of the chances of Alamogordo gaining basketball fame in the state tournament, the incident from some was considered deplorable. But from the angle of what sport in the schools stands for, cleanliness and training of the body and mind, the development of discipline and sportsmanship. Coach Robbins was eminently correct.

Coach “Peanuts” Robin’s goes down in New Mexico High School sports history and Alamogordo Sports History as the coach that placed principle and discipline over the accolades of winning a state championship.

The question of course is what kind of pressure did the coach face upon his return without a district or state title in hand?

Mr. Robins had the full support of the faculty and of the directors or school board of Alamogordo. He well deserved it. According to a statement from a school administrator at the time; “Coach R L “Peanuts” Robins proved himself a thorough sportsman and a man fit to be given the direction of young athletes.”

One wonders. if that same level of ethics and stamina exists within the coaching staff and administration to take on the public scrutiny of such a decision today. Would the same decision be made by the coach to pull the team in our modern times of today? Thoughts to ponder from lessons of the history of the Alamogordo Sports Program dating back over 120 years.

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