- Associated Press - Saturday, May 10, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Perhaps it’s true you can’t really go home again, but former and current Muncie residents searching for memories of their childhood can always find familiar glimpses of them on Lost Muncie.

And an ever-increasing number of people are looking for those memories on the Facebook page, which early this year passed the 10,000-member mark and has just continued to grow.

The rate at which members of the open group share and comment on photos of local buildings — some gone and some still standing — or mementos from long-ago local businesses, or simple queries of the “Hey, who else remembers …?” variety is dizzying.

“Remember coming to Muncie and shopping at Grants department store, later to become Hills and Hobby Lobby, was it also Kings and something else? I remember a nightclub called Kings Corner that shared the parking lot with a movie theater and ice cream store also.”

Lost Muncie actually got its start elsewhere on the Internet, well before the rise of Facebook.

Larry Broadwater, the site’s creator, had always been interested in history (note his day job as a history teacher in West Lebanon, Indiana), but local history and genealogy are particular loves of his. As is Muncie itself; when he was a kid growing up in Yorktown, “going to Muncie was such a big deal,” he told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/1fUPTbd ) in a recent phone interview. “It was so exciting; there was so much going on.”

Broadwater’s fascination with Muncie continued into adulthood, when he attended computer programming classes at Ball State University during the early days of the Internet in the 1990s. Initially, he started a web page on which he posted old pictures of Muncie. After The Star Press started a website and began offering message boards on it, Broadwater started a Lost Muncie page there, figuring “This is even better,” he said.

Through that medium, Broadwater met Jeff Koenker, a fellow fan of Muncie history, if possible even a bigger one, whose collection of Muncie photos, reference materials and memorabilia Broadwater notes appears to be endless. In the world of Lost Muncie, Broadwater said of Koenker, “He is the Smithsonian.”

Broadwater got onto Facebook in its early days, and realized Lost Muncie could do even more there than as a message board, so he made the switch and recruited frequent-poster Koenker to serve as an administrator for the group with him. Though Lost Muncie drew followers in its earlier forms, “It’s just taken off” on Facebook, Broadwater said.

The ease of posting photos or written items and then responding to what others post on Facebook seems to suit Lost Muncie well, Broadwater said.

“I was telling some of my students at work today how much Ball State has changed over the years. Most don’t even remember Irving Gym (Men’s Gym to us oldies). They have no idea that at one time there were no buildings north of Riverside.” (from a recent post by Koenker)

Broadwater and Koenker each check in on the site at least once a day, and periodically post photos and/or text about some bit of local history. Broadwater acknowledged he’s run through much of his own collection of Muncie memorabilia by now, but he added that Koenker’s store of local history is so vast — and his interest in researching it so consuming — that “I think Jeff’s just scratched the surface.”

Koenker in particular posts regular photos of once-familiar sites or artifacts from local schools and businesses, along with information about them he’s researched carefully using resources such as old phone books and directories he keeps close at hand. Noting he’s also interested in regional history outside of the immediate Muncie area, Koenker said the further back you go, the fewer photos you find, which makes those glimpses of the past particularly interesting to him.

A lifelong Muncie resident who is now Bracken Library book stacks supervisor at his alma mater, Ball State, Koenker calls his own interest in Muncie history “an addiction.” The old photographs and postcards and other pieces of local history he seeks out and displays in his office and at his home are often exactly the sort of things that make good Lost Muncie posts.

The keepers of the Lost Muncie site make a point of monitoring it carefully, checking on new member requests to make sure they’re real people before approving them, and trying to keep postings on topic. Posts about political or otherwise divisive issues are discouraged, as are those focused on personal family history such as old family photos that wouldn’t be of general public interest. “The Internet’s got a million places to do that stuff,” Broadwater said.

Story Continues →