Memories of the Covington area and changes that have occurred as recalled by a native of the area for over forty years.
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.
Covering several acres, large mounds of manicured dirt speckled with vents for the release of methane gas fill the landscape. Surrounded by fences and a locked gate, no one is allowed admittance except the owners, presumably the county. Occasionally I’ll see a vehicle inside the confines of this area and maybe a person now and then, but it is usually quiet. I’m talking about the old Hobart landfill on the Ravensdale/Hobart road.
For many years my dad would haul our garbage out to that landfill. I vividly remember driving out there in his pickup and being directed out to some point in the middle of constantly changing garbage mountains and being told to throw our trash in a particular place. Bulldozers were continually pushing and shoving garbage around as they crushed and aerated the debris much like a mole or earthworm. Each time we would arrive to dump garbage, the landscape had changed and we were directed to a new area down a new garbage lane.
As the years went by, changes in the arrangement for paying occurred. I don’t remember everything about that since I wasn’t the one paying the bill, but I do remember when we arrived one day and they had erected a booth for taking money and more security and signs. Eventually we weren’t even allowed to walk any distance from our vehicle. We had to dump and go. In years prior to that, I would wander around while my dad dumped garbage and marvel at all the other treasures other people had dumped. I always wanted to pick up something else that I thought was cool and take it home, but of course pa wouldn’t allow that, nor would the landfill personnel.
At times part of the garbage we dumped contained remnants of my old toys that were broken or didn’t work anymore. I was sad to see them go, but as I’ve learned now, you can’t save everything, especially things that don’t work. So I’d stand in the back of the pickup and watch bags of trash, part of which was my old toys, get thrown over the edge and underneath the crushing tracks of some diesel caterpillar.
Today, whenever I drive by the closed landfill, which by the way was open some twenty to thirty years if I recall correctly, I think about how much of my history and probably DNA lies buried in those mounds. It looks so peaceful now. The days of loud machinery, myriads of people dumping garbage out of their vehicles and the smell of garbage filling the air are gone. To the average person today, it’s just a closed landfill which emits some methane as the earth absorbs and decays the years of garbage that were dumped there. I wonder if some day an archaeologist will discover one of my toys and wonder what it was used for?
It was a clear night. The sky was speckled with stars and was as black as velvet. A solar storm was bombarding the earth’s magnetosphere and the aurora borealis was visible. Maybe not as brightly here as in other places farther north, but visible nonetheless. That was 25 years ago.
My wife and I decided to see if we could view this rare phenomenon in our area. So, we drove out past Ravensdale and stopped along the long stretch of road just past the Ravensdale post office. Twenty-five years ago there were few houses in that area, especially in the housing development on the north side that exists now. It was just roads, no houses.
The thing that made viewing along this stretch of road perfect was the lack of height of the fir trees. That entire area had recently been logged and replanted, so the trees only stood about five feet high or less. Thus, there was a grand view across the expanse toward the north that was clear and open.
My wife had never seen the Northern Lights before. I had seen them a few times when I was younger and on vacation in Canada with my parents. We sat quietly and as our eyes grew accustomed to the dark, the ethereal, wavering, ribbon-like colors of the aurora borealis could be seen in the sky. Greens and reds shimmered against a backdrop of star-studded black velvet. It was an amazing and awe-inspiring sight.
I haven’t seen any Northern Lights since then. I hope that one day my children will enjoy this show of nature as it is something you don’t forget. Beauty in all it’s splendor!
It happened last week. The new traffic signals at the intersection of Kent-Kangley (SE 272nd St. or SR 516) and Wax Rd. became operational. It’s not as if there weren’t signals there before. Now we have SIGNALS! I’m talking about a signal system that reminds me on a small scale of the signal setup in Des Moines. Two large metal poles connected by a crossbeam of steel crossing all five lanes of traffic in a diagonal direction. Lights attached. New signals installed with new controls and a nifty new blinking yellow turn signal to control flow better by yielding to cross traffic without waiting for another entire signal cycle.
Decades ago there were no signals there. When I was young it was just Wax Rd. and Kent-Kangley. Two lanes on both roads crossing each other. For a long time only Wax Rd. had stop signs. Bad news. Because traffic on Kent-Kangley traveled at a higher rate of speed, those trying to cross often misjudged this and accidents were numerous including some fatalities.
Another reason for accidents was the angle of this intersection. This is especially noticeable when traveling west on Kent-Kangley. If you are sitting in the turn lane facing downtown Covington and are preparing to turn left onto Wax Rd., the angle is such that the speed and distance of the oncoming traffic is skewed. You think you have plenty of time until you start to turn and then you realize it is much farther than you anticipated. More than once I did this and almost got hit. It’s an optical illusion.
Eventually, stop signs were placed at all four points of intersection and accidents diminished greatly. Later, signals were put in, first temporary ones on wires, then permanent signals with poles. In the last few months, the poles were removed as U-turn lanes were created widening Kent-Kangley and so once again wires were used for the temporary signals. Now the permanent signals are installed. Spanning the entire intersection these new control lights will minimize accidents and control flow through an ever busier Covington.
I just wonder how many more years until this isn’t enough and expansion and new lights are once again under construction as Covington makes itself known on the maps of the world.
Last week I was chatting with a hair stylist at Sport Clips in Covington. We were reminiscing about all the changes in the Covington and Maple Valley area over the last 30 years. We both remembered different things which jogged the others memory.
We were talking about Maple Valley when the name Caruso’s came up. Wow! That got me thinking. The original restaurant was located along the Maple Valley highway about where Starbucks and Papa John’s is now. Of course, the highway was only two lanes and the turn into the restaurant was into a dirt parking lot. A ramp led up to the restaurant and as we both remembered, the restaurant reminded us of a modular home due to its construction.
I had a friend that loved to go there and always ordered a Patty Melt. That always stuck in my mind since a Patty Melt contains a hamburger patty, cheese and grilled onions. I don’t care for onions, so I couldn’t imagine why he’d like this item. But he did. Every time I see Patty Melt on the menu, I think of him, and Caruso’s.
We also talked about how many trees there were in Covington and Maple Valley. Businesses were minimal and trees aplenty. Behind Caruso’s and some of the few other businesses it was nothing but forests. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, most of the businesses in Covington didn’t exist and trees covered the land. How it’s changed now!
If you get a chance, talk with a native of the area. You might be surprised what you learn or what memories are conjured up from the depths of your mind about Covington and Maple Valley.
Back in the late sixties and early seventies, the only phone number prefix I knew of in the Covington area was 631. But what a difference a few decades makes. Today there are numerous prefixes used for people in Covington and the surrounding areas. 216, 220, 234, 308, 373, 395, 398, 478, 479, 487, 499, 630, 631, 638, 639, 656, 657, 685, not to mention the increase in prefixes due to the widespread use of cell phones. And these prefixes cover just the Covington and Kent areas. Check out this list for those within the 98042 zip code area. (Prefixes)
And that’s another story. Zip codes have changed too. It used to be 98031 when I was young. Now you have 98030, 98031, 98032, 98035, 98042, 98064 and 98089. Just think how many phone prefixes you’d find within all of those zip codes!
As the population grows, you can be sure that the phone prefixes and zip codes will increase too. That’s what happens when a country town turns into a growing city.
Think about Covington today and how many different courses there are within a ten mile radius.
Druids Glen- Covington; Meridian Valley Country Club – Kent; Lake Wilderness – Maple Valley; Elk Run – Maple Valley; Washington National – Auburn; Jade Greens – Auburn; Auburn – Auburn; Fairwood Golf and Country Club- Fairwood; Riverbend – Kent; Maplewood- Renton.
Go beyond ten miles and the list grows exponentially. (Click to see.) The game of golf is addictive and relaxing. The scenery is beautiful, the air fresh and the challenge high. If you haven’t visited any of the nearby golf courses lately, check one out and have some fun. Covington isn’t far from a game of golf!
I graduated from Kent-Meridian (KM) high school in 1982. Wow, almost 30 years ago! I remember my senior year was the same year that Kentwood opened. Since I was a senior, I was allowed to finish my schooling at KM instead of going to KW. (Their first year had no seniors).
Living near Lake Morton I was bussed to KM daily. That was quite a ride. On the trip to and from home I saw a lot of scenery. I remember riding along Kent-Kangley when they were widening it down between 132nd and Kent. The road was very rough and dusty and it took several months to complete.
KM was built in 1951. (It’s on the building.) I’m not sure when Kentridge was built, but they were our rivals throughout the time I was in school. But those were the only two high schools for the Kent school district at the time. Then, it 1982 KW opened. Of course, that wasn’t enough. Several years later Kentlake was erected and now serves many of the people in the Lake Sawyer and surrounding areas.
Thinking about school starting soon I wonder if another high school is in the works for the Kent school district. Growth continues and Covington and the surrounding areas continue to expand. And another school year starts.
Next door to Cedar Heights Middle School on Kent-Kangley the landscape is changing…again. Years ago, all that existed along that stretch of road were trees and a few houses in the woods. As time progressed, things changed.
Eventually a large mobile home park was constructed and filled by people living there. I think to myself about those families that grew up there. Maybe they were raised in that park from infants. Others may have moved in at some point and were either raised there or raised their own children there. Whoever they might be, when they talk about their past, memories of that trailer park are embedded in their minds and hearts. Many probably have pictures of the fun times they had there. An entire chunk of life occurred within the confines of that park at some point in the past. Real lives existed in that area. Today, only memories drift inside the minds of hundreds of people who once inhabited that park.
As time went on, the park was closed. I remember driving by one day and noticing signs indicating that the park would be shut down soon to make way for other “things.” I figured it was businesses or something big and that construction would begin soon after the last resident was relocated elsewhere. It has been many, many years since anything happened. Now, in August 2010, something is beginning to come to life. I don’t know what, but time will certainly tell.
I wonder how those people felt when they were asked to find lodging elsewhere, to move out? What if they were older folks on fixed incomes? Where did they end up? How about those families who were living life like we all do and one day are handed a notice that they have to move? How would I have felt to have my roots ripped out and my life in an uproar? I don’t know. Now I wonder if any of those people might still live in the area and if so are they wondering what’s going to be built and why it took so long to do any building after they had been asked to move.
The next several months should prove to be interesting as yet another change occurs in Covington where hundreds of people once lived.