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Celebrating Las Cruces’ place for celebrations


Some of you may be too young to remember Sam Donaldson, the longtime ABC TV newsman with the wandering eyebrows.

Some of you may be too young to remember ABC TV news.

Some years back, Donaldson was the keynote speaker at the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce banquet. At one point he began talking about the Double Eagle restaurant, which turns 50 years old this year. And the building itself is way older than that.

“I’ve played basketball on the bartop at the Double Eagle,” Donaldson said, drawing more than a few perplexed looks.

Donaldson, who grew up south of Las Cruces and went to Gadsden High School, went on to explain he played basketball for the Panthers as a youngster, and they periodically traveled to Deming to play the Wildcats. According to Donaldson, wood from the former Deming High gymnasium floor was later used in crafting that Double Eagle bartop.

The Double Eagle is unique in its construction, with the dining rooms and ballroom on the perimeter and another separate restaurant, Peppers, smack dab in the middle. And, of course, that legendary bar. It’s also unique in its location, right there on land that used to be in old Mexico, surrounded by stories about Billy the Kid aka the boy bandit king, and, of course, the ghosts some say still hang out in the Double Eagle.

You probably haven’t danced on the bartop, but if you’ve lived in the Mesilla Valley for very long, you probably have your own story or two about the unique restaurant on the Mesilla Plaza.

Proposals are a common occurrence at the Double Eagle as are, almost certainly, breakups. Life’s occasions are celebrated there: birthdays, proms, graduations, job promotions, anniversaries. Sometimes going to the Double Eagle is a celebration in itself.

I’ve dined there with some of my favorite people in the world, and my oldest daughter got married in the ballroom in 2015. The place was packed with friends and loved ones, some of whom are no longer with us. Every time I hear the Rev. Al Green sing “Let’s Stay Together” on the radio, I think of Jessica and Tyler’s first dance there on the chessboard floor.

Buddy Ritter, who’s owned the restaurant for the last 40 of its 50 years, told our reporter Mike Cook, in a story that appears on page 28, “A lot of multi-million dollar deals have been negotiated” in the Double Eagle. I don’t doubt that for a second. The first time I ever visited the Double Eagle, in 2001 when I still lived in Alamogordo, the event was hosted by one of those million-dollar business people.

A lot of smaller deals have been made, too, and sometimes those can actually be more important. When a family gathers to discuss college options with their high school senior. Or when a family dines with an older relative for what might be the last time. Or when a newly pregnant couple discusses plans for the future.

 For a number of years, the Bulletin held its annual Christmas party at the Double Eagle, and those memories are quite fond.

As you may have, I’ve had a lot of great times at the Double Eagle, and had even more green chile wontons there.