Memories of the Covington area and changes that have occurred as recalled by a native of the area for over forty years.
One by one they disappear. Dilapidated. Empty. Destroyed. Only air drifts through their shells like wisps of smoke from a dying fire. Only memories race inside my head of what used to be.
I watch the houses of friends in the neighborhood by city hall slowly go away. I noticed today a house across from Office Depot is now boarded up, part of the roof missing and gone, the home ready for destruction. I played there. I was in that house hundreds of times. I had dinner there, swam in a pool in the back yard where I heard horror stories of children drowning in larger pools. I was probably eight or nine.
One family I knew lived there. They moved and another moved in. We knew them too. I grew up with their children. That house was on the back side of some other friends house which sat across from city hall where our house used to be. We would climb the fence in the back yard into the other yard and get yelled at by parents. Or we could walk around the U-shaped street and spend an extra four minutes walking.
As these homes disappear to make way for progress, memories of days past flash through my mind. Only I will remember what happened in those empty lots when I was young. At some point in the future, perhaps I’ll stand at such-and-such longitude and latitude which corresponds to the location of those old homes and find myself inside a mall, a restaurant, a parking lot or a business. Who knows?
The strange thing is the sensation of knowing what used to be and what will be in the future.
Rumor has it that the Covington Elementary school will soon disappear making way for expanded businesses and a growing Covington. The exact time is unknown. I, however, attended that school for four years between 1969 and 1973. Interestingly, although the school looks very similar today, a few changes have taken place.
When I attended, the outside halls didn’t have locking doors on them as they do now. Instead they were blocked off by large gates that you could peer through. The gates didn’t go all the way to the roof though. There was a gap of about three feet above those gates and it wasn’t unusual for mischievous youngsters and teens to climb over them to run the halls when no one was around.
I also remember somewhere around fourth grade a new nature trail was constructed behind the school gym in the woods. I don’t know if it still exists. The classes would take mini field trips on this trail to enjoy the forest and learn. Of course going on this trail alone was forbidden and it was pounded into our heads that strangers or other misfits of society could be lurking there just waiting to attack or kidnap us.
The field out back was huge, or so it seemed when I was small, and climbing the banks in the far corners of the field which butted up against the forest was also forbidden. Again, the same reasoning; the potential for children to disappear. At least once for me and many times for others I remember the playground teacher yelling at us to get off the hill and back on the field. To this day I can still feel the haze of fear instilled in us if we dared venture into the forbidden zones.
In the near future when this school disappears from the map, those memories will remain within the confines of my mind only to be accessed by the synapses and neurons that control my brain. Until that time comes, enjoy the school that has been there some forty years or more. If your children have the privilege of attending there now, what kind of stories or memories will they take with them and recall when they are adults?
Ever since I was a little kid I remember getting medicine at the pharmacy in Covington. After I moved away from home I still purchased my prescriptions there. When the Covington Rexall moved into QFC to become part of that chain, I remained loyal to them. Now, this patronage will end.
In December, QFC is closing. That means the pharmacy will be gone too. All those years of friendship with the owner, Jim and his many employees such as Wanda, Mary, Melanie, Connie and others will remain, but their physical presence will fade as they go their separate ways to work elsewhere. I will miss them all but wish them the best.
It is sad to see a piece of Covington disappear, a piece that has been part of my life for some 40 years. Although the building will be empty, quiet, dark; the memories that remain within those few hundred square feet of building will always swirl within my mind. Future generations will never know about the people and businesses that resided there unless they hear the stories from people who lived in Covington at some point during the past 40 plus years. Eventually, all that history will be found only in books or online.
Preservation of such pleasant memories is a must because these are what Covington is made of.
I can hear the funny cars, the smaller cars and the cars with jet engines. (A quick spurt of energy and sound and the quarter-mile is done in a few seconds.) Whether it be rain or shine, the races go on.
I’ve heard these sounds for over forty years. The sounds cascading off trees and hills and reaching my ears in Covington. And where do they originate? Why from Pacific Raceways. Of course if you’ve lived here any length of time you still say S.I.R. (Seattle International Raceways) It’s a hard change to use the new name when you grew up with S.I.R. Friends that live there still refer to it as S.I.R.
I wonder. If people have moved into that development or even into Covington in the last ten years or so and hear the term S.I.R. or even use that term, do they know what it stands for?
The next time you hear that cacophony of sound emanating from the track in the trees, think S.I.R., or Pacific Raceway.
Every time a new housing development is built it is given a name. Coho Creek, Kate’s Ridge, Lake Wilderness Country Club Estates, Maple Heights, Lake Forest Estates, Foxwood and the list goes on.
Now the question is, do you know where these housing developments are? They’ve been around for a long time and some don’t even have a sign to identify them. But if you’re an old-timer in Covington or Maple Valley, I bet you know.
Timberlane, Suncrest, Winterwood, Burwood, Waldheim Acres, Horseshoe Lake, 101 Pines, Heather Highlands, Highlands of Cedar River, Tall Timbers, Cherokee Bay, Arcadia, Fernwood or others.
If you are a long-time resident others will know what you are talking about because most likely you refer to landmarks and housing developments by some of the names mentioned above thereby leaving others to wonder what in the world you are referring to.
Just a little west of Covington lies a housing development called Suncrest. It has been there for several decades. The roads that meander through Suncrest take you from 164th St. which passes the Covington library and lead you out of the development right next to the bridge on Wax road that crosses highway 18.
Up until a few years ago, there was an area next to Suncrest and behind Kentwood high school that was all trees, fields and the Little Soos Creek. That all changed when a large development called Coho Creek went in. Although only partially complete, the development covers several acres.
In the past this area was a beautiful area of forests and fields. Only a few houses were located on this property. I remember one of the houses had a large pond which was filled by the Little Soos and full of fish. It was very picturesque and lined by trees. Farther back was a bridge that crossed the creek and a beautiful log cabin.
About three years ago, I watched with sadness as the log cabin was torn down, the trees removed, the pond filled in and roads and utilities put in place of them to make way for several hundred houses over the next several years.
I know that progress will always continue no matter what city you live in, but to see it go from a scenic wonder to asphalt and buildings is always sad. The creek still meanders through the area, but the rest is history.
Can you believe it? Once upon a time there was a goat farm in Covington! Where? Look at the new roundabout near Fred Meyer. That’s about where the goat farm used to be. My dad remembers it better than I, but I vaguely remember goats and animals on that side of Kent-Kangley.
The driveway into the farm was about where the entrance to Fred Meyer is now. At that time, the road was a little higher so the driveway dropped down into the home and farm. Trees filled what is now a parking lot and shopping center. A small white house and lots of goats filled the woods. I don’t remember when, but eventually the goats disappeared.
And speaking of animals, did you know there used to be a Mink farm on the Covington-Sawyer road just past the entrance to Crest Air park? I can remember coming home many a night in the cool summer evening when the fog swirled low across the fields and the aroma of dead fish filled the air as this was the food given to the Mink. That farm was there for a long time. Then it became a field of old dilapidated buildings. Now there’s nothing left.
The scene changes, the smells fade, but the memories remain alive.
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.