State Championship Sign Returns to Muncie Central High School Alumni Association Memorabilia Room After 60 Years
Writer / Sheryl Swingley
Photographer / ???
A sign that celebrates the 1963 Muncie Central boys basketball state championship has made its way home, after 60 years and traveling more than 4,200 miles. As one of the Muncie Central High School Alumni Association Memorabilia Room’s most recent acquisitions, the sign now has a permanent home and will travel no more.
The Memorabilia Room, founded and curated by the Muncie Central High School Alumni Association and supported by donations from Muncie Central alumni, supporters of Muncie Central and area organizations, is located in the southeast corner of the North Walnut Street Fieldhouse. Some visitors to the Memorabilia Room remember the space it occupies as the location of the cafeteria for students attending McKinley Junior High School, later McKinley Middle School, back in the day.
The Memorabilia Room is open to the public prior to Muncie Central boys basketball games, and by appointment. To arrange an individual or small-group tour, or a Muncie Central reunion open house, contact Steve Cartwright, a 1966 graduate of Muncie Central and vice president of the Alumni Association, as well as chairman of the Alumni Association Memorabilia Room, at email@example.com, or 765-228-1505.
Now, where has this celebratory sign been for more than a half century?
The recovered navy blue sign – not purple, the school color of Muncie Central – measures about 4 feet by 3 feet and was originally installed at 5500 West Kilgore Avenue, which was across from what was then the Muncie Drive-In theater. The sign celebrated Central’s fifth basketball state championship. It reads, “Welcome to Muncie – Basket Ball [sic] Capital of Indiana.”
The sign caught the eye of Don May, a 1927 graduate of Muncie Central, who had moved to California many years before the 1963 championship was won. He never forgot his Hoosier roots, however, or his Bearcat spirit. Timothy Perry, a 1964 graduate of Muncie Central, believes May was a regular subscriber to The Muncie Star, and learned about the sign as a result of a photo and story in the newspaper. May also had frequent conversations with Perry’s family and numerous other friends in the Muncie and Anderson areas.
According to Perry, May wanted a duplicate sign to display at his bar and restaurant, the Leilani Hut, on Belmont Shore in Long Beach, California. Whoever was in charge of signs for the city at that time, however, said he couldn’t make a sign for May. But, if the sign went missing, he could replace it.
The sign went missing.
To the knowledge of members at the Alumni Association board meeting in March when Perry and Perry’s friend, Bob Hartley, also a 1964 graduate of Muncie Central, delivered the sign to the Memorabilia Room, no one could remember the sign ever being replaced after it disappeared.
For the next decade, the original and one-of-a-kind sign was displayed on the facade of May’s bar and restaurant. It was part of his marketing efforts that attracted Hoosiers and Muncie Central alumni to his establishment when they visited California. Perry describes May, who also attended Ball State University and was a university cheerleader, as “quite the promoter.”
Ironically, Alumni Association Vice President Cartwright believes he visited May’s bar and restaurant in the early 1970s. He doesn’t recall noticing the sign, though.
May sold his bar and restaurant in 1974, and the name was changed to the Stock Pot. The Muncie Central sign, however, wasn’t part of the sale and went into storage.
May, who still had the sign at the time of his death in 1996, left it to his son, David May. May’s grandson, Darin May, became the next keeper of the sign. Out of curiosity, Perry took on the responsibility of tracking down the sign and retrieving it from May’s grandson.
Again, May maintained his Muncie connections, and probably the last time he was in Muncie was for his 65th Muncie Central High School reunion in 1992. May’s grandson believes the reunion was at the Roberts Hotel. He recalls that his grandfather played the piano for the nine alumni who attended the reunion.
The Muncie Central Alumni Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The Alumni Association Memorabilia Room was unveiled on February 21, 2004, during the basketball game that commemorated the 50-year anniversary of the Milan-Muncie Central state basketball championship game.
In the Memorabilia Room, visitors can explore Muncie Central Magician yearbooks and The Munsonian school newspapers – items featuring academic, music and sports achievements, historic photos, the corner stone from Muncie Central High School on South High Street, display cases full of mementos alumni have collected over the years, display cases dedicated to broadcaster Morry Mannies and super Bearcat fan, Herbie Houk, a quilt made by the class of 1958, and more.
Also in the Memorabilia Room are athletic uniforms worn by Rick Jones, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1963 and a 1963 graduate of Muncie Central, Ray McCallum, a 1979 graduate of Muncie Central who was on the 1978 and 1979 basketball championship teams and was head coach for Ball State University’s men’s basketball from 1993 to 2000, and Ryan Kerrigan, a 2007 graduate of Muncie Central who played football for Purdue University and in the NFL for 11 years.
“Alumni come by themselves, but they usually bring their families too, to relive their favorite high school memories,” Cartwright says. “Families pose for pictures next to team photos, hold trophies they were part of winning for the school, and learn more about the storied history of Muncie Central High School, which was Muncie’s first high school and opened in 1867.”
Alumni and family members of alumni may make arrangements to donate items to the Muncie Central Alumni Association Memorabilia Room by contacting Cartwright.
In addition, work is underway to create a memorabilia room for Muncie’s two other high schools, which are now closed. People with Muncie Southside High School and Muncie Northside High School memorabilia should contact Rachel Young, administrative assistant to the associate superintendent of Muncie Community Schools, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chuck Reynolds, associate superintendent of Muncie Community Schools at email@example.com.
The Muncie Central Alumni Association also supports scholarships for Muncie Central students and a Muncie Central student assistance program, as well as Muncie Central teacher grants, and its distinguished alumni awards through memberships in the Muncie Central Alumni Association and donations to the association.
To learn more about the efforts of the Muncie Central Alumni Association, visit munciecentralalumniassociation.com. The Alumni Association’s Facebook group is called Muncie Central High School Alumni Association. Retired Muncie Central teacher Kay Rankin, who also is a member of the Alumni Association board, moderates the group.
Muncie Central graduates and non-alumni interested in supporting Muncie Central may obtain a membership form from munciecentralalumniassociation.com. Membership forms and donations may be mailed to: Muncie Central Alumni Association, 6604 W. Talamore Court, Yorktown, IN 47396. Checks or money orders should be made payable to: MCHS Alumni Association.
A notable member of the Muncie Central Alumni Association is Bobby Plump, the Milan High School player who hit the basket that helped the small school defeat Muncie Central, the basketball giant, in 1954 for the state basketball championship.