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Photographer Charles Berg to be honored by city of Enumclaw July 4
Photography has always been a part of Charles Berg’s life.
On the Fourth of July, the city of Enumclaw will welcome him into its Walk of Fame for his work as a photographer, Plateau historian and preservationist.
The city will honor Berg at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. A reception with a display of photographs begins at 1 p.m. at the Enumclaw Public Library. Berg will also serve as grand marshal for the parade which begins at noon on Cole Street.
“My involvement with the Enumclaw Plateau Historical Society has to do with my interest in local history,” Berg said. “Living here for over 90 years has made me a living history book of this town. I hope my historical prints, and the slide show derived from my extensive collection of antique dry-glass negatives, will help advance the knowledge of local history.”
Born in Enumclaw in 1920, Berg’s father was a carpenter and contractor who later raised black silver fox for their pelts. His mother, a housewife, was a founding member of the Enumclaw Garden Club.
When Berg was 8, his father bought a coal mine in Alberta, Canada, and moved there. After his dad became ill they moved to Minnesota to live with his mother’s family, eventually heading back to their Enumclaw home. Berg’s father died when he was 11 and his mother remarried.
Berg graduated from Enumclaw High School in 1938. It was there he was introduced to photography.
“My first business was Berg’s Photo Service in Enumclaw,” he said. “I had a small darkroom in the basement of my home. I picked up exposed film at the drug store late in the day and delivered the finished pictures the next morning.”
A family friend, who was the steward for the construction company building the U.S. Naval Base in Kodiak, Alaska, hired Berg to be a waiter in 1940. Not long after he arrived, the photographer for the project gave notice and Berg stepped up.
After two years, he returned home and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a public relations photographer. He was transferred to the island of Guam. In 1945, he returned to Enumclaw on furlough and married Edel Jensen.
After the war ended, Berg again returned to his hometown. He went to work for Gunderson’s Home Furnishings, now Allen’s Furniture, and worked his way up to manager, purchased an interest in the business and later became president of the corporation.
After 15 years in the furniture business, Berg needed a change. He sold his interests and went into the real estate business, opening Enumclaw Realty, and, like his father, developed and built around town.
His interest in photography never waned. Side-by-side with Enumclaw’s historical snapshots in his office are photographs of his travels around the world.
Many of the photographs in his historical collection were from his father-in-law Karl Jensen, who documented commercial and residential sites in Enumclaw between 1906 and 1911.
“There are a lot of stories I could tell about him,” Berg said of his father-in-law. “He was a brilliant man.”
When Jensen died, Edel inherited the cameras and negatives.
“I didn’t start working with the negatives until 30 years ago after I retired and had more time,” Berg said. “I realized these were important historical media and needed to be shown and appreciated. I began showing the collection to the public in 1980 and interest in them has grown over the years.”
Of the nearly 800 dry-plate negatives of Jensen’s photographs, Berg has printed nearly 250.
“These prints are a superb depiction of life in and around the town as it grew into a prosperous community, centered on the railroads that allowed logging and other rural industries to thrive,” Berg said. “It has been an honor to be the preservationist of this collection.”
Many of the photographs were used in a documentary of local history shown on Enumclaw City Television. A number of prints and collections hang in professional offices in the area.
“I’m happy to share them,” he said. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of this.
“Although I didn’t always make a living by being a photographer, my other careers financed my photography as a hobby,” Berg said. “I gave up my dark room a few years ago in favor of digital cameras and printing, I enjoy the process just as much.”
Berg said he plans to scan as many of the historical images as possible to disk and use technology to improve the slide show. His son Paul will become the guardian of the collection in the future.