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Memories of the Covington area and changes that have occurred as recalled by a native of the area for over forty years.

When the Lights Go Out

May 23rd, 2010 at 10:01 pm by Rick Bergum
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Storm clouds building on the horizon.  Warnings on the radio and TV about an impending storm.  The possibility of power outages in the region.  How does that make you feel?  Scared?  Excited?  Apprehensive? 

To many, the loss of power is frightening.  To others exciting!  I remember as a kid when the power would go out.  It was a bit scary, especially if the wind was howling outside the house, the windows rattled and every board and nail in the house would creak and groan as it strained against the onslaught of wind and rain.  Going down a dark hall to my bedroom or to use the bathroom was enough to give me goose-flesh.  Those were the times when I would do what I had to quickly so I could get back to the light and other people.

People tend to gravitate toward the light.  Think about it.  When the sun sets and darkness envelops the land, we all turn on lights to see.  We don’t like being in total darkness because we can’t see what’s going on and we feel helpless.  Light pulls us toward it. 

As a kid in Covington, there were the occasional street lamp and porch lights as well as a few lights on businesses to light the night.  So, when the power went out, the loss of that bit of light was bad enough.  However, today, there are so many lights on businesses, homes, street lights, signals at intersections, headlights on cars and more that when the lights go out it is REALLY dark!  Or so it seems. We are so accustomed to the light that a lack of such is instant and foreboding.  The darkness immediately covers the land light tar poured from the heavens. 

Without thinking, we immediately try to turn on light switches, use the microwave or oven, watch TV or anything else that requires electricity.  And then we remember that those things don’t work.  So, we pull out flashlights and candles and do the best we can whether it be playing games, reading a book or sitting around talking.  And if the power stays off into the night, it’s always shocking when at 3 a.m. the light switch we left on in the bedroom comes to life blinding us and reminding us of the storm that has passed. 

The next time the power goes out, think about our dependance on electricity and lumens.  And if it stays off into the night, go outside and look around.  You’ll soon realize how dark our planet can be as you gaze into the inky blackness of space and ponder your insignificance when compared to all creation around us.


May 3rd, 2010 at 10:10 pm by Rick Bergum
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Today I was reminded how much the world depends on electricity and computers.  During our unusual wind storm in May, the power went out in several areas.  As I entered Fred Meyer in Covington, the lights flickered.  They appeared to dim a bit and I figured the back-up generator came on.  It did.  Then I noticed several of the registers screens were blank.  Hmm.  Power glitch got them too.  They’ll reboot shortly, so I thought. 

I did my shopping, ten minutes worth, and arrived at the front of the store to see line after line of people waiting.  The registers had not rebooted.  I got in line and patiently waited.  After about 15 minutes several store managers and other “in charge” personnel appeared.  We were told that the server was not rebooting and the problem was being examined.  Eventually we were offered cookies and coffee while we waited.  Then we were told it could be another 30 minutes or more before the computer registers were back online.  Several people decided to leave.  I stayed. 

By now I had moved from fourth in line to the front of the now short line.  The cashier and I chatted for another 20 minutes while the computers rebooted and finally I was on my way. 

It made me think though how vulnerable the world is.  If such a minor glitch caused such havoc in making the entire store to come to a dead standstill, what would happen if it were major?  Almost everything depends on electricity and especially on computers.  If they go down then what? 

At least a few decades ago had such a thing happened, the cashiers would have easily pulled out a calculator or pen and paper and simply added up the cost of the price-tagged items.  Of course today, with everything labeled with UPC symbols, this would be a difficult, if not impossible, task.  And for all those who use debit or credit cards, how can you run these when the computers are down?  Back to good old cash or checks, which many don’t carry anymore. 

A vulnerable world?  You bet.  Will it happen again.  Absolutely!  Will the world crash someday because of our dependence on electricity and computers?  Undoubtedly.  It’s something to ponder.

A Lonely Whistle on a Dark Night

April 15th, 2010 at 8:30 pm by Rick Bergum
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Railroad Tracks

I wonder when the lonely sounds of the steam locomotive faded from the ears of the residents of Covington and the surrounding areas.  And when did the first blast of a diesel locomotive’s horn echo through the hills and valleys of Covington?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve heard the raucous blast of many a diesel-electric locomotive as it passed through Covington next to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) substation.  When I was young I heard them often.  Not just the cacophony of sound from Covington, but also from the tracks that cross 216th near Rooter’s at Lake Sawyer.  As time when on, the tracks were used less and less and for quite some time they weren’t used at all. 

Eventually, upgrades were made and the tracks were once again in use, but not as often as before.  Even today, on occasion I hear the distant whistle of a train passing through Covington. 

Back when signals and semaphores were used by the railroad more extensively than they are now (most are controlled by satellite today), my family would play a game when we crossed the tracks by the BPA.  The signal several hundred feet down the tracks would change from red to yellow to green or vice-versa.  Our game was always to guess what color it would be when we crossed.  I don’t remember what the winner or loser got, but it was always a highlight when we crossed that train crossing.

At one time, before the “no trespassing” signs were posted along the tracks and before the media highlighted the dangers and deaths due to people walking along railroad tracks, my dad and I did walk those very tracks in Covington.  We started at the intersection by Rooters and ended by the BPA.  I remember fearing a train coming down the tracks while we walked, but found the scenery and quietness exhilarating.  As a matter of fact, I believe a train did come by and I made sure I was completely away from the tracks as it passed.  Exciting, fear-inspiring and mind-imprinting, that short afternoon jaunt has stuck with me for years. 

The family that lives in the house next to the tracks in Covington has been there for years.  My dad has known them for many, many years.  I can only imagine what it must sound like when those long freight trains or other trains pass by that home on a dark, quiet night. 

I wonder for how long the trains will continue to pass through Covington on their way to the mountains?  Will those tracks be removed someday to leave a path that can be used as a trail?  Will more railroad traffic someday ply the rails?  Who really knows?

Power for the People, but Not for Me

March 14th, 2010 at 8:38 pm by Rick Bergum
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Giant Insulators

Sitting like a silent citadel surrounded by an ever-changing landscape, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) substation in Covington pumps out power ceaselessly day after day, year after year.

It has been a permanent fixture in Covington for as long as I can remember.  As a little kid, when trains plied the tracks next to the substation on a regular basis several times a day, I remember driving by the behemoth wondering what lurked inside.  The huge windows wherein you could see a monstrous crane, the myriad of cable, wire and steel pulsing with electricity, the helicopter that flew the skies  daily to check the status of the hundreds of miles of high tension wires, mammoth transformers sitting like giants in a pen of security, insulators bigger than a man that kept the electricity at bay like a lion tamer’s whip, a barbed wire fence surrounding the grounds with signs hung at varying intervals all gave indication of something massive, something intriguing, something dangerous and mysterious.  But there, day after day, calling to me, beckoning me to look inside sat the BPA substation. 

Then one day, I drove through the gate at the end of Wax road into the complex.  (Today that gate is sealed shut, blocked by huge blocks of concrete; no admittance.)  As a child, my parents took me on several tours of facilities to see how they worked.  The Rainier Beer Brewery, now gone.  The Sunny Jim Peanut Butter Factory, gone.  Weyerhaeuser sawmill, gone and many more.  So, here, in Covington, I wanted to tour something grand, something that had piqued my curiosity for years.  I drove to the front of the building and stepped inside. 

It was like stepping into an old monster movie.  Dials reading electrical output, wattage, amperage and other power related information.  Huge transformers, switches and machines.  Dazzling lights on display boards.  A room housing these items so vast it felt like you were inside a football stadium.  And, like every dam I’ve ever visited, a pristine environment housing it all.  A few workers sat around reading and monitoring machines and a man met me to talk.  I asked about taking a tour and he informed me that wasn’t possible.  I was disappointed.  I really wanted to learn more and see how this beast worked.  Electricity is fascinating and I wanted to ingest more information.  I left, still yearning for more. 

Today, those hopes are dashed due to the threat of terrorism and the like.  I don’t even think you can get into the complex anymore.  The gates are shut.  Access denied to non-employees. 

Yet, the substation continues to work, a vital link keeping Covington and many other cities running.  I wonder how much the inside of the substation has been updated with computers and other modern technology.  Does it still look “monstrous”?  Have they filled more of the open space with other instruments?  What has changed in the forty some years I’ve lived here?  If only I knew and had the power to change the forbidden zone of fascination into a learning experience.

Check Out Some History

March 4th, 2010 at 10:06 pm by Rick Bergum
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Long before the Covington library was built, the land on which it now stands was covered by some houses, trees, bushes and yards. 

For several years I worked for my father in his cleaning business and I distinctly remember cleaning one of those houses that sat about where the middle of the library parking lot now sits.  I remember driving by that area and seeing children playing, people going about their daily lives, cars parked in dirt driveways and life just happening.  When news that a library would be built there reached my ears, it was both exciting and disheartening. 

To see homes removed and progress taking over harkened the onset of an approaching city.  Eventually the homes were gone and the library stood in its place.  A few years ago it was completely remodeled. 

I must say it is a beautiful library and very convenient.  But to think back in time when Covington was just a dot on the map is always sobering.  Things will continue to change, but the memories will always live on.

Sunshine Memories and Bright Blue Skies

February 20th, 2010 at 10:32 am by Rick Bergum
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The rain may come and the rain may go.  The skies may be gray and overcast days at a time.  But when the sun comes out, those are the days I remember the best!

For as long as I’ve lived here, I always remember the beautiful days in Covington.  The brilliant blue sky, the fresh air, the sounds of birds and small animals scurrying around, the smell of freshly cut grass, warmth from the sun; these are what I remember and enjoy. 

It’s no different today.  As I look out my window, the bright blue sky and warm February temperatures remind me of the beauty and enjoyment of living here.  It takes me back to a time when I was about ten years old.  It was summer.  I woke up to the sun streaming through my window.  My mom had the radio on and the song Leaving On a Jet Plane was playing.  I got up and the day was beautiful.  I played all day and enjoyed that summer sunshine.  That’s how I picture Covington, Washington.  I don’t think much about the rain and dreary days, it’s those bright sunny days that stick in my mind. 

And it seems we’ll have more just like today as our mild, warm winter continues.  Woo-hoo!  Sunshine in Covington!  Awesome!

From Lawn Mower Blades to Urgent Help in Minutes

February 5th, 2010 at 10:04 pm by Rick Bergum
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I vividly remember a man who lived next door when I was a child who passed out at the sight of blood.  One day, his wife, if I remember correctly, called my dad for help.  Her husband had cut his hand trying to change the blade on his lawn mower.  I remember is was bleeding badly and he was about to faint at the sight of the blood.  It was wrapped tightly,  although the blood was oozing through the material and he needed medical attention quickly.

I don’t remember why, but my dad had me ride with him and the neighbor to the hospital. Maybe it was for company.  I can’t recall.  I don’t remember much about the ride there and back either, but I’m sure we went to either Auburn hospital or Valley General.  (Now called Valley Medical)  Thinking about that made me consider how far Covington has come with regard to medical help.

Back then, those two hospitals were the closest medical facilities in the area.  Since Covington was a rural area there was not a demand for medical clinics or hospitals.  But as the population grew, so did the need for medical help nearby.

I remember when the Covington Multicare Clinic and Surgery Center was built almost two decades ago.  That was exciting!  A medical facility close, very close to home.  It became and still is a very busy place seven days a week.  With surgeries performed there, clinics of varying specialities, an Urgent Care clinic for after hours use and more, it is a very necessary part of Covington.  But it doesn’t stop there. 

Just down the street is the Valley Medical clinic.  Then by city hall there are specialty offices.  Next to Walgreens are more doctors offices and dental offices.  In Maple Valley at Four Corners are medical facilities.  And it keeps growing.  Now, Valley Medical and Multicare have applied for and sent in plans to build more.  Valley Medical wants to build a 24 hour emergency center and Multicare a larger hospital with emergency services and other specialties.  As time goes on and Covington continues to grow, I’m sure more medical clinics and emergency services with arise.

It’s a long way from when we took our neighbor 15 to 30 minutes away to get medical help.  Now, should someone have an unfortunate accident or need, medical help is just minutes away, maybe even seconds depending where in Covington you live!

Click here for a little history of Multicare including in Covington.

Run and Hit

January 17th, 2010 at 12:03 am by Rick Bergum
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It was a summer day.  Warm.  Bright.  Perfect.  And then the sirens came.  I remember hearing them in the distance.  Approaching.  Coming closer.  Did something happen nearby?  Was there another bad accident on highway 18?  Did something happen in Covington? 

At that time, Kent-Kangley was a two-lane road.  It was lined on both sides by forests.  A few houses lined the road here and there either right on the shoulder of Kent-Kangley or perpendicular to the road and down a short dirt driveway.  Other than the grocery store and a few small businesses, Covington was very rural.  The sound of sirens always made me perk up. 

Somewhere around Walgreen’s or the complex by The Rock stood a few houses.  That’s where the sirens were headed.  For some reason, in my mind, the house was orange and white.  Maybe it was.  Maybe it wasn’t.  But that’s what I remember.  A few trees stood in front of it with a short sidewalk that ended at the shoulder along Kent-Kangley.  There might have been a small fence. 

My stomach churned and my heart beat faster as I heard the commotion of emergency vehicles converge in the area by the home.  I didn’t walk down there due to fear and being so young, but the flashing lights and the urgency of it all told me something was wrong.  Although the day was still light and warm, the sun set on my heart and mind as I wondered what terrible thing was going on.  A feeling of depression and sadness filled my soul and my wish to play waned. 

In an age before the Internet, instant news and the ability to find out in minutes what was going on, it wasn’t until a day or two later that I heard what had happened.  A young boy or teenager had left that home and crossed the street only to be hit by a car.  There were no crosswalks or lights.  To cross was a free-for-all.  You took your chances. 

The story I heard was that his body was thrown several feet through the air landing on the pavement nearby.  The mental images that formed in my mind and my imagination of the scene chilled me.  To hear those warnings from your parents from the time you can walk about not crossing a busy road and then seeing the consequences of their warnings is indescribable.  I don’t remember if the boy died, but something tells me he did.  For a long time, every time we drove past that house my mind conjured up images of the deadly scene.

To this day, when I read of stories of people crossing the street and getting hit and killed, I think of that boy and his family. Right here in Covington.  Years ago when the traffic was minimal.  A rural town.  Yet it happened.  I’ve been stupid enough to cross a road without using the crosswalk a few times, and my heart pounds when I think of how easily I could have gotten hit myself.  No matter how hard you look both ways, there’s always that car your mind and eyes didn’t see.  To imagine hearing the screeching of tires and the blare of a horn before that numbing crunch of your body against the grille is chilling.  May it never happen!

McDonald’s Resurrected

January 5th, 2010 at 11:48 pm by Rick Bergum
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Many years ago, Covington became home to McDonald’s.  What an exciting day that was!  We were moving up in the world.  If you have a McDonald’s, your city is important. 

Some businesses and stores seem to identify or create a city’s importance or emergence on the map.  When McDonald’s arrived, I felt like we were somebody.  Covington was cool!  Of course, over the years, McDonald’s sitting on the corner of Wax Road and Kent-Kangley (SR 516 or SE 272nd St.) became a well-known and common establishment.  As the area grew and more people moved in, McDonald’s also showed up in Maple Valley by Wilderness Village and at Four Corners.  Now, once again, McDonald’s is re-emerging as “new and improved.” 

According to the sign, the new McDonald’s in Covington should open in the spring.  It will be all new except for a couple of walls from the old building that were left and built into the new building. It will be bigger, have a newer more modern look and will continue to be an icon on the corner of that busy intersection. 

I am waiting and excited.  When it opens, I’ll return once again to a fast-food chain that has been part of Covington for many years and probably will for decades to come! 

“Let’s Have A Drink in Covington!”

December 17th, 2009 at 7:54 am by Rick Bergum
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Stand where Taco Time is today, go back 30 years and look across Kent-Kangley to the other side.  Today you see Walgreen’s.  Thirty-some years ago you would have seen a tavern.  In Covington?  Yup.

A friend of our family did many things in her life.  She was the type of person that didn’t sit still.  She was always moving, doing something, trying something new.  At one point in her life she built a tavern where Walgreen’s sits today.  I don’t remember how long it stood there providing liquor for customers, maybe five to ten years, but eventually it burned down. 

I remember it was basically a rectangular building constructed of bricks.  It was pretty simple, but it was definitely a drinking establishment.  Like many cities of the past, Covington had a grocery store, a few churches, a pharmacy and gas station and a tavern.  Those days are long gone, but pondering what was and now is makes one appreciate how quickly things can change in just a few short decades. 

Today if one wants a drink at a tavern, they would need to travel toward Maple Valley and stop by the Pla-Mor tavern across from Cherokee Bay.  Or, if you’re just looking for a Friday night spot to have a drink with friends that’s not a tavern-type establishment, there are several restaurants in the area that offer liquor.  Wherever one might go, truth be told things change!

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About Rick Bergum

I've lived in Covington for over 50 years. I've seen a lot of changes in Covington during that time and hope to share a few of these periodically. I enjoy writing and also write a blog for those in the custodial field. (The link is included on this blog page.) You can also find information on Facebook under the name Custodial Soupçon.

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