My turn: Comet didn’t cause panic

If eastern New Mexico residents were concerned they would die when the earth passed through the tail of Halley’s comet 100 years ago this week, the mood was not reflected in the pages of the Roosevelt County Herald.

The comet that appears once every 75 to 76 years was clearly visible in Portales’ skies, according to a newspaper story that appeared May 12, 1910. But it hardly caused any panic, as it did in some cities where entrepreneurs sold gas masks and “anti-comet pills” said to counter the effects of poisonous gases allegedly contained in comets.

If Portales Drug Co. sold anti-comet pills, they weren’t mentioned in newspaper advertising. Instead, the day Earth encountered the tip of the comet’s 24-million mile tail, Portales Drug was promoting only its soda fountain, Douglass line of fine chocolates, livestock dip and baseball mitts.

The Herald recommended its readers set their alarm clocks for 4 a.m. if they wanted to catch a good view of the comet. The story’s headline reported “the tail has been over advertised,” but the story made no reference to doomsayers’ predictions of death to earthlings.

The Herald told its readers the comet would not appear again for 76 years. It was back in 1986, and expected again in mid-2061.