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History now: Popular Facebook group chronicles a changing Idaho

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Bryan Lee McKee has found himself as an accidental Boise media mogul.

 The Boise Depot from 1979 in the Boise & The Treasure Valley History group
The Boise Depot from 1979 in the Boise & The Treasure Valley History group

He runs the Boise & The Treasure Valley History Facebook group – the largest of its kind in SW Idaho.  With favorable help from Facebook’s pivot toward “quality conversations,” McKee’s corner of the social media giant’s ecosystem is thriving.

With more than 35,000 members and a steady stream of content – the discussions reveal a fascination with where Boise has been and how the area is changing.

“When I started the group on August 14, 2014  I would have never imagined the group getting as big as it is now,” McKee said. “Taking on such a big group has its challenges.”

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The posts paint a broad and nostalgic view of where the Boise area has been.

The Idanha Hotel in 1905. The 1996 Western US blackout.  An old Red Steer Drive-In.   Senator William E. Borah from 1921. The rapidly changing Downtown Boise area (from 1963!).

 McKee and his wife Daniela
McKee and his wife Daniela

Each post generates scads of comments from people who remember the bit of history (or don’t) and others reliving fond memories.

McKee is the only moderator of the group, and has to take a bit of a velvet hammer approach to keeping things flowing.

“I came up with some great rules for the group. Basically no swearing, no attacking members’ comments. But most of all, if you can’t say something nice int he comments, you will be deleted.”

And a simple premise.

“Zero tolerance for mean people,” he said with a digital smile.

McKee is currently living in Austria, a long way from the town he grew up in and loves so much.

His wife’s mother has been ill for some time and the McKees travelled to Europe to care for her. She passed away on February 5th – just a few weeks after they arrived.

McKee is battling his own set of challenges. In October he says he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

“A lot of members have been there for me showing great support.”  

His post about the diagnosis last fall had more than 800 comments and more than 1,300 reactions. The outpouring was immense – and genuine.

The kind words keep him going and engaged with posting a steady stream of historic facts and tidbits.

“I get messages daily,” he said. “(Like) ‘You have brought back so many great memories I’ve forgotten about till you posted,’ or ‘thank you for starting this amazing group. Because you did, I’ve found several friends I lost contact with.’”

McKee says there is one story he still wants to tell.  The legend of the Downtown Boise tunnels.

 A  post  about tunnels in Boise with a clip from an old Idaho Statesman story
A post about tunnels in Boise with a clip from an old Idaho Statesman story

“I saw them unearth a tunnel across from the Egyptian Theater,” he said. “From that point on I made it a challenge in my life to prove that they did in-fact exist.”

The groups lively dynamic continues to roll along each day. And McKee will keep working to uncover Idaho history.

“You just never know what might be posted next, stay tuned for more. It’s my motto.”

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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