Memories of the Covington area and changes that have occurred as recalled by a native of the area for over forty years.
The clouds hung in green curtains over our house on 168th Pl. SE. The year was 1969. I was six. I was awed. I was scared. A tremendous hailstorm broke loose along with thunder and lightning. My dad said it looked like tornado clouds. I’ve always had a respectful fear and awe of tornadoes, but those words scared me. I thought for sure we were going to get sucked up.
No tornado touched down in Covington that day, but one did come down the hill on the west side of Kent by the Boeing plant. We had a friend that lived by the river. She said the tornado came down the road in front of her house and she hid in the bathroom. The roar was deafening. She was unharmed, but scared.
I’ve seen some strange storms and bizarre cloud formations over the years here in Covington, but never a tornado. The one that destroyed structures and uprooted trees in Enumclaw last Sunday was the first in a long time.
I was sitting with my family in the Los Cabos restaurant by Fred Meyer and watched the rain pour and the clouds turn an eerie green. Once again, over the exact same spot as in 1969, the curtain effect and green hue became evident. Forty years later. Within a few hundred feet of my old house. Weird. No harm done. Just that strange feeling of awe and trepidation once again.
At the intersection of Wax Road and Kent-Kangley (also known as SE 272nd St. or SR 516) you’ll find a complex of businesses surrounding QFC. Before it was a QFC there were other stores and businesses there.
Way back in the day the only businesses there were Johnny’s, Doug’s barber shop (now located in Maple Valley) the Covington Rexall (pharmacy – now a QFC pharmacy inside the store) and maybe a couple other small businesses. The building that houses QFC wasn’t there. All the above-mentioned businesses occuped the building where Sports Cuts and the other stores are now. The rest of the area was just woods.
Later, Johnny’s built a new store where QFC is now. The Covington Pharmacy expanded into part of what used to be the old Johnny’s and other businesses moved around. Later still, Johnny’s became Johnny’s PX and today it is QFC.
More businesses began to emerge on the landscape including Les Schwab, Taco Time, and all the other businesses in the Safeway complex. Across the street the dental clinic was built next to a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses which was one of the first buildings in the Covington area. It was built around 1965 and was demolished to make way for the current businesses in the area. The Kingdom Hall moved to 240th St around 2005.
Where Walgreen’s stands there used to be a tavern. Yes, that’s right! A tavern in Covington. Of course, over the years everything changed. Now there are apartments, businesses, restaurants, gas stations and more. As time goes on, what other changes will we see? Time will tell.
The power lines that cross Covington have been there for decades. Even though the landscape below them has changed over the years, the power lines and towers have remained the same. Imagine what they would say if they could talk? What changes have they seen?
The area underneath the power lines where Applebee’s, Kohls, apartments and other businesses now reside was once a large field filled with Scotch Broom, trees, small hills and valleys and a dirt access road. In years past motorcycles, trucks, bicycles and wanderers made their way through this natural setting.
As the years passed, however, things began to change. Apartments were built. Then businesses, parking lots, utilities and more. Today, the natural setting underneath those lines is gone.
Across the street from Applebee’s where Safeway, Fred Meyer and all the other businesses are now a large forest of fir trees resided. Hidden amongst their branches and trunks were a few houses sparsely spread out. Driveways, some long, some short, meandered through the woods.
Kent-Kangley was two lanes. Driving through Covington was quiet. Trees and a few houses lined both sides of the road. And yet, overhead, the power lines carrying power to people around Washington hung sullenly observing life on the forest floor below and watching the world slowly change.
Do you remember Johnny’s PX? Check out my next upcoming blog about changes in the QFC business area.
Believe it or not, right across from the field discussed in a previous post was another set of trails for bikes. These trails were actually higher than the road whereas the field was lower. The trails and subsequent hills from the trails to road level were located where the Starbucks and other businesses across from the Valley Medical building is now. In fact, the trails were between 168th and 167th streets. Petco and the other small businesses are located where 167th was. It was a dead end road and had 10 to 15 houses lining both sides and paralleled Highway 18.
At the time, there was no overpass. Highway 18 was simply a two- lane highway which intersected a two-lane Kent-Kangley. Kent-Kangley had stop signs and later a signal. That didn’t prevent some deadly accidents though. Eventually, the overpass was built for two lanes and years later a second overpass completed the four-lane highway.
Anyway, the hill and trails. Like the field, these trails also snaked through tall Scotch Broom bushes making for a great maze to ride through. We could race through the field, across the street (168th) and up the small hills into the upper trails just mentioned. A few small trees lined the top of the hill in different places.
One day we took a family ride and rode our bikes on these trails with my dad carrying my brother on his bike. When he started down one hill, my brother got scared and jammed his feet into the front spokes of the bike tearing up his feet and legs and subsequently stopping the bike and our fun for the day.
Racing around these trails and up and down the road was always great fun, especially in the summer. Long days, sunshine, a quiet neighborhood and good friends. Those are things to reminisce about!
In the cool evenings of summer and fall, wispy tendrils of fog would drift lazily over the trails and hills in the field. It would drift just high enough overhead that it would be about the same height as the Scotch Broom which made for great bike riding underneath this ethereal ceiling. Since the field had small hills and valleys throughout, riding bikes up and over them was fantastic. Plus, the Scotch Broom plants that lined the edges of the trails made for a maze-like atmosphere in which to ride. Playing hide-and-go-seek or follow the leader was a challenge and exciting as you never knew where the other player might pop out.
The field once existed where the Valley Medical building across from Jack-in-the-Box and Fred Meyer now sits. It was between 168th and 169th streets. For an evening of fun or just plain fun any time of day or night, all the neighborhood kids loved playing in the field. During those years, we would run down the street and spend hours in the field without fear of crime or kidnappers. When we heard the distant call of our mothers, we knew it was time to run home. They didn’t worry and we didn’t fear. Those days are gone. But the memories of the field and the days filled with fun outside in the sunshine will never set. Whenever I drive by that medical building and the surrounding parking lot, I reminisce about the field that once was. Those were the days!
44 years ago, I lived where the new Southlake Clinic and Valley Orthopedics building now sits in Covington, Washington. The house where my childhood friends lived still sits across the street from this building on 168th Place SE. I lived in the house that would now exist inside the lobby area of this new building, if it was still standing, from around 1964 to 1974. We had raspberry vines out back (the area is now the parking lot for the City Hall building), tall fir trees in front of the house which my dad planted, a cool backyard, a shed, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats, a tree fort build on four legs underneath which was a sand box, a garden, a split-rail fence I used as a freeway for my Matchbox cars and a root cellar.
I loved the root cellar, although it was a scary place, especially if I had to go down in it to get home canned goods or vegetables at night. The temperature was always cool. I don’t think there was a light, I can’t remember. I do remember using a flash light to find things and digging through the bins of sand feeling for vegetables. The only negative thing about the veggies was that after awhile they tasted like creosote since the root cellar I helped my dad dig was built out of railroad ties. When I pass by that building now, I wonder if the construction crews found the old root cellar when they began to build or if it was filled in or removed after we moved. I’ll probably never know.
168th Place SE was a quiet street. Facing our house, there were three houses, if memory serves me right, to the left and several to the right which still exist. The neighborhood was built on a horseshoe street with houses lining both sides. Both roads, 168th and 169th, intersected with a two-lane Kent-Kangley (272nd) road. Where the Valley Medical building next to Kent-Kangley and sitting between 168th and 169th streets is, there used to be a big field we played in. That was cool! (More on that in a later post.)
As I reminisce as to whether or not the old creosote-walled, sand-filled bins root cellar has recently disappeared or not, the memories that were made still exist in the cellar of my mind!