Memories of the Covington area and changes that have occurred as recalled by a native of the area for over forty years.
It had been several years, but at the end of August my family and I finally made it. We took a hike up to the old mining town of Franklin between Black Diamond and Enumclaw by the Green River Gorge.
The sun was out that day. It was hot, but the shade of the trees and our bottles of water kept us cool. We made our way up the trail that would take us to the abandoned ghost town of Franklin. The incline wasn’t too steep, although some parts are steeper than others. Off to our left we could hear the distant sound of the Green River in the canyon far below. Birds flitted here and there and the smell of hot vegetation and grass tickled our noses.
After about 20 minutes of walking we reached a sort of “Y” in the trail. A sign there pointed us to the right into the old town of Franklin and to the left to the vertical mineshaft and the Franklin cemetery. We went right first.
There’s not much left to see in the old town. A few foundations, a large concrete structure used for something and the trail going through it all. Since it was summer, much of the vegetation covered areas we might have been better able to see, but we got the idea. We wandered around for a bit and then turned back to go in the other direction, our real destination on this summer hike.
Heading up another incline, we made our way up the narrow trail. About 10 minutes later the railings surrounding the old mine shaft loomed into view. This was our goal. Since I’d been here some thirty years ago with my family and then later with my wife when we were first married, I knew what to expect. But it’s funny how your mind remembers things differently. I didn’t remember the closeness of the hill behind the shaft or all the shale that had sloughed off of it. I thought the area surrounding the shaft was more like an open field but it was not. There was only fifteen feet or so of walking area around the shaft before it dropped steeply down the hill toward the river. No matter. We were there to check out the old mine shaft.
A plaque sits in front of the shaft describing when it was drilled, how it was used and the years in use, mainly the early 1900′s. The shaft itself is over 1200 feet straight down. Old railroad (coal car) tracks criss-cross the opening which are also covered by a more modern grid of iron rods welded and secured by a concrete border all around. This in turn is surrounded by a metal rail. And this is where it gets exciting for the daring.
We grabbed handfulls of rocks, sticks and other debris, walked out onto the metal grid and lay down staring into the shaft. This is not for the faint of heart! As you lay there and cup your eyes with your hands so they can become accustomed to the dark, you begin to see the shaft take shape underneath you. You are now looking straight down over a thousand feet into inky blackness. Cramming our rocks through the holes, we dropped them into the abyss. As they whistle into the darkness below, they disappear within seconds as the darkness envelops them. Another five or six seconds later you hear them hit the bottom. Occasionally a larger roar emanates from the shaft as rocks shift or the rock you dropped bounces off the side of the shaft dislodging a large chunk of rock and dirt far below. (Warning: Remove anything you have from your pockets that you don’t want to inadvertantly lose. If it slips between the grid, it’s gone!)
After an hour or more of dropping things into this hole in the earth’s crust, we decided to head back home. We had planned on walking further down the trail to look at the old cemetary, but the overgrowth was more than we’d expected. Next time we’ll have to hike earlier in the season before the vegetation takes over. Gathering up our stuff we walk the half hour or so back to our vehicle. It was a fun and relaxing day. The plan is to do it again, but to explore more.
We have a friend in her eighties who lived in Franklin as a little girl. She remembers well the town and what went on there. We mentioned we were there and she fondly comments on life back then. Maybe next time we should take her along to tell us the “real” history of the town as she remembers it.
(Note: There is a guide that occasionally takes groups up to Franklin and shares the history of the area with them. If you want to go alone, you need to get a free pass from Palmer Coking and Coal located in Black Diamond.)
I ran into a fellow graduate today. I hadn’t see them in almost 30 years. It made me wonder, “How many of those I graduated with in 1982 still live in the area?”
Even though I live in Covington, when I was in school I went to Kent-Meridian high school. I rode the bus there which took about 30 to 40 minutes each way. Kentwood was still being built when I was a junior and when it opened my senior year we were allowed to finish our schooling at Kent-Meridian which I was thankful for. Kentlake didn’t exist yet and Kentridge was too far away to attend. So I went to the coolest of the four Kent high schools. (I know some of you are vehemently saying it isn’t so, but I stand my ground, especially since my wife and two kids both graduated from Kentwood.)
It’s hard to believe that next year I’ll have been out of school 30 years. The time flew by. And when you run into others from your graduating class, it makes you realize how quickly time moves.
When was the last time you perused your annual and found some of those peers still living in your area?
I still remember that day. My family and I were driving on Covington-Sawyer road. The sunshine was out. We were laughing and talking with each other heading home. We’d just crossed the railroad tracks near the Covington substation and were headed up the hill toward Lake Sawyer. As we neared Crest Airpark passing underneath the power lines overhead, one of my brothers said ‘hey, look at that! What happened?’
Looking to the left in the open area underneath the power lines we saw a small fire burning and a few people standing around staring and talking. At first we thought it was just someone burning some old brush or something, but within seconds our minds grasped the enormity of what we were seeing. It was a small airplane that had clipped the power lines while trying to land and had crashed into the field bursting into flames. The people standing around had heard or seen what had happened, but because of the heat were unable to pull the pilot free. He died in the crash.
The joyous ride home suddenly turned somber and sickening. My stomach churned realizing that just a minute or so before another human had been alive and was suddenly dead in a field. An unfortunate accident. To realize that what you are seeing is not on TV but is the real thing makes your mind reel with thoughts about the fragility of life. To know that a person was burning up inside that plane as we passed made me sick.
Sadly, others have perished in plane crashes near Covington in years past too. I remember the plane that crashed below Crest Airpark along Thomas road around 1997. It hit a house and burned up. I remember going by that house days after the accident and having that same gut-wrenching feeling of a loss of life again. Then, near the scene of this plane crash, in 2008 another plane hit a house while the occupants were inside. Only the pilot died. Still, a tragic loss of life.
It’s always sobering to contemplate the loss of life so near your home. These incidents stick in your mind forever. I just pray another plane doesn’t go down again around Covington. Life is too precious to be cut short.
I just saw the article about the new church off of Kent-Kangley which will be finished in the fall; the Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship. It made me think back to my youth. The only churches I remember as a youngster in Covington was the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses which sat where Applebee’s is for some 30 plus years and is now on SE 256th St. near the fire station and the Covington Community Church (which I believe had a different name when I was young) across from McDonald’s. Other than that, I don’t remember any churches in the area.
Of course as the years passed, other church buildings were constructed. I clearly remember the Faith Tabernacle, now call Faith Academy on wax road by the highway 18 overpass being built. And then later the Cornerstone United Methodist church near the top of the hill going toward Maple Valley on Kent-Kangley was constructed. Eventually the Hope Fellowship church at the top of hill on Kent-Kangley near the Pla-Mor tavern and the new Chevron gas station came on the scene. There is also the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints near Four Corners and a plethora of other churches either in rented facilities or their own buildings within a five-mile radius of Covington. I did an online search of “churches in Covington” and was amazed how many there really are.
Now the new Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship will be added to the tally of churches in Covington. It’s amazing how many people have an interest in the Bible in our own backyard. If more people in the world read and applied what it said we’d have a much nicer world to live in. I wonder how many more religious structures will be erected in the next few years in Covington. With continued growth and more people, I’m sure we’ll see a few more buildings for worship popping up on the landscape. In fact, if more churches are built along Kent-Kangley, (also known as SR 516 and SE 272nd St.) maybe we should add a fourth name for this road, Worship Way!
The big change is happening at Four Corners. The new Fred Meyer shopping mall construction is under way. For decades those trees around TRM Lumber have grown and grown. But now the wooded areas in Maple Valley are once again slowly disappearing.
Although the shopping center will be wonderful for residents in the area, the loss of nature is always heartrending. It always saddens me to see nature disappear to make way for city growth. But what can you do?
For as long as I can remember, the forests at Four Corners have been there. Over the last few years with the increase in housing developments and businesses, these areas are slowly disappearing. Four Corners is still rural enough that elk and deer can be seen wandering across the fields at the Tahoma Junior High School as well as along the roads heading toward Ravensdale and Hobart. I’m sure it will be awhile before the forests that far out are gone, but given a couple of decades I’m sure huge changes will be clearly visible.
It’s either my imagination or as a child I looked at the positive side of things more, but it sure seems to me that this year has had less sun, more rain, more cold and more clouds for a longer period of time than I can recall in years if not ever.
As I kid I remember the summer being hot, sunny and bright. When June arrived and school was out so was the sun. We played day after day in sunshine and never seemed to lack for warmth and long days. When I got home from playing, the sun was going down, the cool summer air was present and the purples of twilight were radiant. It was a fun day and we were ready for bed only to be awakened by shafts of sunshine piercing the window pane at 6:00 a.m.
Now, it seems that man and all his technological advances, ecological interference and disregard for our planet has been a major factor in the demise of summer. If things continue to go the way they are, it won’t be long before we have no summer at all. I prefer to remember the good-ol’-days when the sun greeted me every summer day and I sucked up the rays for full days of play. If I keep that positive feeling and memory intact, I’ll be happy too even when the skies are gray.
Round and round we go. If you don’t make the right turn, you’ll go round and round again. What are they? Roundabouts. Or as I’ve nicknamed them, “roundies.” What do you think? Do you like them or hate them?
When the roundabouts started showing up in Covington and Maple Valley, at first I hated them. They were a nuisance and irritating. But as they’ve appeared in more places, my loathing for them has diminished. They’re actually not so bad. Once you get the hang of navigating the circles, you can really keep a good flow from point A to point B.
The newest roundabout next to the Maple Valley library is just about complete. Anyone who has driven that stretch of road can attest to the fact that sitting at that intersection trying to get out on a busy day was frustrating. I sat many minutes more than once waiting to take my chances at getting on to Witte road. And the potential for an accident increased with the upswing in traffic. But try it now. Even though you may still have to stop for a moment or so while the traffic flows through the circular road control, you do get out and moving much quicker than at an intersection.
My biggest problem is those drivers who don’t navigate the roundabout correctly. Once your in the roundabout, you have the right-of-way to flow around the circle until you disembark at the street you want. The traffic flowing in from the adjoining streets have to merge! For some reason, more than once I’ve had people entering the roundabout as I was coming around it and they just pulled in front of me as if I had to stop and treat it as a four-way stop. Think people! There are big signs that say MERGE! Plus there are markings on the pavement that indicate the need to slow down and merge.
If everyone uses the roundabouts correctly, they work like a charm. When people ignore the rules either because they don’t care, don’t know or are upset with another roundabout to navigate, then these traffic control circles can become dangerous. So, whether you go round and round or round and through, roundabouts will keep you going in the direction you want with minimal interruption to your driving. And I don’t think they’ll go away any time soon.
Spinning dough. Old-time movies. Windows to watch the food artists at work. An old brick oven. The aroma of freshly baked dough filling the air. A myriad toppings sprinkled liberally across the surface of the round disc. A hot fireplace. Twenty minutes of waiting and then piping hot pizza served to your table. Those are memories of my youth at one of my favorite pizza places, Shakey’s.
As a kid, going to Shakey’s was always a highlight. I remember stepping up on the steps inside the parlor and peering through the windows at the pizza makers creating our food. The atmosphere was wonderful. A big fireplace burning in the parlor. Old-time silent comedies playing on the movie screen and delicious pizza and laughter to pass the time.
As I got older, Shakey’s slowly disappeared from the scene. The old pizza parlor in Auburn gone. The one near Benson and Kent-Meridian high school gone. And now the one in Maple Valley, almost gone. My family and I went out to have dinner there Friday night and were very saddened to see the letter on the door stating that after some 30 years, Shakey’s in Maple Valley would be closing. We ate and laughed but behind a slight cloud of sadness. To know that in only a few more days on May 31st, Shakey’s would be gone. Now, the only one left will be in Fairwood. We may patronize this at some time, but being so much farther away, it will probably be few and far between.
Sometimes I wish things wouldn’t change. A small piece of my childhood disappears every time. All that’s left is a memory in my mind which only I can retrieve. I know that the closing of the Maple Valley Shakey’s is probably for a good reason, but it still is sad. I will miss my Shakey’s special, the Mojo’s and chicken and the friendly staff. I guess I’ll have to delete their phone number from my memory. I didn’t even have to look it up when I called.
Before it’s gone, I’ll have to enjoy a pizza there with my family one more time. So sometime between now and May 31st, you’ll see us there adding one more memory to my Shakey’s mental file before archiving it forever.
You can’t legally do this now, but there was a time when walking the railroad tracks was free from prosecution.
I remember one year my dad decided to walk the train tracks from the crossing by Lake Sawyer on 216thto the crossing in Covington near the substation. He wanted me to walk with him. Cool!, I thought. But I’m afraid of getting hit by a train. That was my biggest worry. I’d heard horror stories of people getting hit by trains, things flying out from the wheels of trains, wires that sometimes got tangled or were loose on trains and could kill as they went by you if you were you to stand too close to the tracks, getting sucked underneath a train and more. Besides, I was a little guy, probably about ten years old or so. So I was scared. Needless to say, we took the walk.
My dad arranged for my mom to pick us up later in the day. She dropped us off at the Lake Sawyer crossing and met us later in Covington. And we walked. It really wasn’t all that bad, in fact kind of fun. Walking along the tracks I was able to see an area in my own neighborhood that I would normally never see. Railroad lines travel through country and neighborhoods in areas most people never know exist. Walking this line was really neat. Quiet. Peaceful. Scenery unseen to most people. Walkingwith my dad. And the best part, no scary trains, although deep down inside I really wanted to see one go by.
I don’t remember how long the walk took, maybe an hour or so, but I do remember the walk. When we arrived at the other end, my mom was there to pick us up. Timing and trust were the elements for arrival since cell phones didn’t exist. If no one had been there, we would have waited. That’s just the way it was.
It was a memorable experience and I’ve often wanted to take my kids on the same or a similar walk along the rail lines. But with the no trespassing laws in place by the railroads and the inherent dangers, I won’t. Too many people are killed are injured by disobeying the laws that have been put there for our protection. Still all is not lost.
Think about the old railway beds in Renton and Maple Valley and surrounding areas. The Rails-to-Trails project that has been in place for years has actually taken advantage of the unseen world where only trains used to travel by transforming old railway lines into walking/biking trails. Complete withbeautiful wooded areas, rivers and streams, animals, old and new railway bridges and the nostalgia of what the old rail lines were used for decades ago hangs silently in the air. These old rail lines criss-cross the United States. You could actually hike all over the U.S. on these abandoned rail lines. Do a little research at the library or the Maple Valley Historical Society about the old mining operations and other industry that debuted in this area before you take a hike and you’ll find yourself gazing and pondering life as it was up to a century ago as you walk these gentle trails. Walk some of these trails in other states and your knowledge of history will increase exponentially.
I’ve walked a few of these trails in our area very few times, but maybe it’s time to get out in the sunshine and spend a day hiking close to home. Incorporating the history behind the rail lines and pondering the way life was back then would be fascinating. The trails are easy to navigate, it’s great for keeping your family close and it’s great exercise. And best of all it’s legal!
Up until ten plus years ago or more, the road just underneath Highway 18 known as 152nd Ave. SE which connects to the Kent-Black Diamond Road SE connected at an angle thus creating a “Y”.
I can remember many times travelling down the Kent-Black Diamond Road at 35 to 40 mph and making a slight turn to the right just underneath the highway and veering onto 152nd Ave. SE and zipping on up the hill which is a back way into what used to be known as S.I.R. or Seattle International Raceway. (Now it is known by the name Pacific Raceway)
Then one day several years ago I passed this same point and noticed a lot of construction going on. The road was being changed. I’m not sure why this was done, but when you travel to that point now, a drainage pond filled with marshy plants and surrounded by a fence sits where the “Y” used to be. In order to turn onto 152nd Ave SE now, you have to go just beyond the highway 18 overpass, slow down, and make a right turn onto this road. Then the road turns sharply to the left and you’re on your way as before.
I don’t know if it was to prevent speeding, because of the construction to change highway 18 or other factors, but the road has been forever changed. I can’t help but remember the old “Y” every time I pass by there. Another small change in the vicinity of Covington that only long time residents would remember.