Wednesday, January 4, 2006
FALLS CITY -- Rick Zunk first put the Falls City web site online moire than five years ago, in December 2000.
He has updated it three or four times a week ever since.
Zunk never took a computer class. When he first started learning HTML (the computer code used in web design), he says, he called the keyboard a "typewriter thing" and the monitor "a TV thingy."
"And this thing ...," Zunk says, picking up the mouse. "This thing baffled me. I mean, come on -- double click? That was impossible," he added with a deep chuckle.
He has since learned his terminology and has built quite an avocation for himself.
Formerly a professional musician, he semi-retired to Falls City in the late 1990s. He fell for the place after playing a gig at Boondocks (the restaurant/bar in the tiny town).
"I grew up in Salem and I had never even heard of this place ... but I fell in love with it. I'll breathe my last breath here," he says.
It is unusual for a town as small as Falls City to have a web site -- mostly because it can get expensive to keep a web designer on retainer to maintain it. But Zunk volunteered to do it. He figured it was a good way to hone his skills and promote the town and its history.
Since it went online in 2000, it has received 56,160 hits -- more than 58 times the population of the town itself.
Granted, many of those hits are by the same people visiting the site again and again to reconnect with the town they grew up in, or to get important phone numbers or other links.
Zunk is also an amateur historian. He actively collects old photos and information about Falls City. He asks people who have any historical photos from the town's glory days to let him borrow them. He wants to create a digital library to go with the old newspaper he has been transcribing.
From 1909 to 1918, residents of the town published the "Falls City Logger." Zunk has been copying these old issues from microfiche archives at the Dallas Public Library, then painstakingly retyping each issue to post on the web site.
He is also photographically tracking the new community center's construction progression, and various community events as they occur.
It's a one-man operation and a labor of love. Zunk said it's important for Falls City and its residents, current and past, to have a place to come and learn about their town and its history.
And come they do, Zunk has made a guest book available for visitors to sign. He regularly updates and archives old posts, but in December a variety of former residents posted comments.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Lisa Castleberry said:
"It is so great to be able to watch the progress of our town! Even though we are living in Virginia right now, we still consider Falls City our home, and we can't wait for the day we move back!"
On Friday, Dec.2 Matthew Fleming said, "wazzup falls city i've lived there for many years and then i moved hello to all my friends ..."
Connie Holgate remembered taking a dare to jump from the cliffs into the pool below the Falls City falls.
"...It has been wonderful looking at the changes over the years ... some great times were had ,.." she wrote on Thursday, Dec. 1.
People from all over the country use the site to touch a piece of their past. Zunk said that's exactly what he was hoping for when he started five years ago.
For more information: www.fallscity.org.