Newcastle Historical Society patriarch turns 95

May 2, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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By Christina Corrales-Toy Newcastle historian Milt Swanson cuts into a piece of carrot cake at a celebration of his 95th birthday during the Newcastle Historical Society's April 4 meeting at City Hall.

By Christina Corrales-Toy
Newcastle historian Milt Swanson cuts into a piece of carrot cake at a celebration of his 95th birthday during the Newcastle Historical Society’s April 4 meeting at City Hall.

No one knows more about the history of Newcastle than Milt Swanson.

That’s because he lived it. He watched as the trains weaved in and out through the city; he worked in the mines as his father and grandfather did before him; and he understands how the coal mining industry shaped the city into what it is today.

When Swanson talks at the monthly Newcastle Historical Society meetings, people listen as he tells stories about what it was like to grow up in Old Newcastle.

“His vivid memory just makes the history come alive for the people that hear him speak,” said Pam Lee, Newcastle Historical Society member.

The group dedicated to preserving Newcastle’s history celebrated its most valuable member at its April 4 meeting, with a birthday party in Swanson’s honor.

Born March 29, 1918, in the area now occupied by the Coal Creek Family YMCA, Swanson said he distinctly remembers hearing the whistle of the trains as they traveled through town toward Seattle.

“I must’ve been only 3 or 4 years old and I vividly remember standing behind the picket fence, looking through it and seeing the steam engines running up and down on the railroad tracks,” he said.

Swanson has spent all of his 95 years living in the same area, 90 of which were in the same company house that still stands at the edge of town near the Cougar Mountain trailhead.

“Like I like to say, I couldn’t find any place better,” he said. “I’ve done quite a bit of traveling and I never found any place I’ve liked better than this.”

At 95 years old, Swanson said he doesn’t get around as easily as he used to.

“It really feels like 95 sometimes,” he joked.

The Newcastle historian is still as sharp as they come, Lee said, and his ability to remember minute details of his life and the history of the city is a marvel to Newcastle Historical Society members.

“Whether it’s about his boyhood or his great-grandmother being at the cemetery, his story is Newcastle’s story,” Lee said. “It just seems so real, and I think that’s pretty special.”

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