Opinion

Is it time to change Federal Way's name? | Andy Hobbs

The topic of renaming Federal Way often resurfaces, if only in conversation circles.

Some reported suggestions include Redondo, Lakehaven, Evergreen and Paradise.

Recently overheard from an enthusiastic resident was Garden City, a name that could coincide with making Federal Way the gardening capital of Washington — and maybe the world, while we’re at it.

Citizens could elect a master gardener who oversees public community gardens radiating from a landmark plot in the downtown core. Never mind the expense of changing the name because the name will pay for itself, right?

There is already a Garden City in several states, but there’s only one Federal Way.

Named after the school district and the original Highway 99, Federal Way officially incorporated in 1990. At that time, a failed petition by some residents sought to rename the city.

According to one report, changing Federal Way’s name was not seen as important enough.

Federal Way’s name sounds dry and governmental. But it’s a far cry from the “Boy Named Sue” scenario, as immortalized in a song by the late Johnny Cash (who himself had a cool name). As the song goes, a boy named Sue endures a rough life because of the moniker given by his estranged father. When the boy named Sue finally meets his old man at a bar, they fight before the father concedes:

“Son, this world is rough, and if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough, and I knew I wouldn’t be there to help you along.

So I gave you that name and I said goodbye, I knew you’d have to get tough or die, and it’s the name that helped to make you strong.”

Let’s digress for a moment and consider names that are more worthy of revision.

A few years ago in Easton, Pa., a father was denied a birthday cake by a local bakery, which refused to spell 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell’s name in frosting. One article quoted the dad as saying “a name’s a name.”

That’s not the only strange naming in Pennsylvania. Two villages in Amish country are named Blue Ball and Intercourse. Signs with the latter town’s name, which is based on a road junction, are often stolen.

Thankfully, good taste tends to prevail in the strange city name market. A post office in the small Indiana town of Santa Claus receives thousands of letters from all over the world. Volunteer elves reply to every child’s letter.

Down in New Mexico, the city of Hot Springs changed its name to Truth or Consequences in 1950 to win a contest sponsored by a radio show of the same name.

Some towns make the most of their situation, like Boring, Ore., which boasts the slogan “The most exciting place to live.”

If the places mentioned above can live with these names, then Federal Way should feel at ease when wearing its given name.

There’s only one city on the map named Federal Way. To foster a sense of pride for the name within the city’s own borders, Federal Way must create a good reason for everyone else to remember the name.

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