Notes from Newcastle — What’s in a name?

November 4, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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NEW — 5:40 p.m. Nov. 4, 2015

I’ve got a name for the new middle school. Tell me what you think.

How does Milt Swanson Middle School sound? In my book, this one has everything the Renton School District is looking for in a name.

“A nominated name will be widely known to, and significant to, the community,” the district stipulates. Who is more significant to the Newcastle community than Swanson?

For those who don’t know, Swanson, who passed away in 2014, was a Newcastle pioneer. He was born and raised in this community, spending 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.

He knew more about the city’s vast coal-mining history than anyone, because he actually lived it. He worked in the mines, as his father and grandfather did before him, and it was vital to him to tell his story, making sure the history of Newcastle never died.

So, he founded the Newcastle Historical Society. For the better part of its more than 20 years of existence, the organization was a place where passionate history junkies could get their fix by attending monthly meetings where Swanson would talk about the good old days.

Have you ever visited Newcastle City Hall? Remnants of the city’s coal-mining past line hallways in the form of historical pictures. A display case in the lobby holds a few artifacts from the city’s beginnings. They are all there because of Swanson and the Newcastle Historical Society.

In my interactions with Swanson, he was always very friendly and so willing to talk your ear off about Newcastle, even at 95. This city’s history was precious to him, and he treated it with a reverence and care not often seen today.

“It was important to him to allow as many people who were interested to understand the beginnings of the city they live in,” Newcastle City Councilman Rich Crispo told me in 2014. “He loved this community.”

When I think Newcastle, I think Swanson. This city’s history lives because he refused to let people forget. I hope committee members give Milt Swanson Middle School serious consideration.

What do you think the new school should be called? Coal Creek Middle School? What about Lake Boren Middle School? I think Newcastle Middle School is probably ruled out, since it might clash with Newcastle Elementary, which is in the Issaquah School District, not Renton.

What do you think of Newport Hills Middle School or Newport Woods Middle School? Those might cause confusion with Newport Heights, a school in the Bellevue School District.

I’m very interested in what the community thinks. Email me your name suggestions to

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