John Baima stands outside the home where he lived as a child in the gritting coal mining town of Newcastle. During a 1982 interview for a story about the preservation of Newcastle house #75, Baima (1909-1996) reminisced about life in the early 1900s.
“I can remember when there wasn’t one bathroom in town. The company washroom reserved one night a week, so the women could take showers. But some of the women refused to go – too modest, I guess.” Baima also told of a time when coal miners were paid their wages in gold and silver coin, adding, “When they started paying in paper money the miners didn’t like that.” Like his father before him, John worked the coal mines most of his life, starting in 1932 at age 23.
“I went into the mines and I stayed till 1967,” Baima recalled. “I did everything, dug coal, drove mules, ran motors.” Even after leaving the mines, Baima couldn’t stay away from coal. To heat his home Baima used a stoker supplying his furnace with coal mined in Ravensdale, which he purchased monthly at Palmer Coking Coal Co. in Black Diamond.
Shortly after this 1982 photo was taken, the historic home behind him was designated a county landmark. It still stands today. This Seattle Times photo by Vic Condiotty comes courtesy of JoAnne Matsumura, an Issaquah researcher.