Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Interesting story found during visit to dentist

By Wally DuChateau

My scrambled life leads me to believe you should always keep your breath fresh and kissable because you never know who you’ll meet around the next corner. That being the case, I frequently pop a Breathsaver mint in my mouth.

Unfortunately, the other day I was a bit stressed over one damn thing or another and I chomped down on the mint long before it had dissolved. It was quite hard, but I managed to crack it into a few pieces and then grind it into powder, after which it quickly melted. About 45 minutes later, I noticed something unusual. More specifically, there was some kind of crater back there. A crater that seemed large enough to cover half my mouth, yet a crater my tongue could isolate to one tooth. (Do you know the feeling?)

This isn’t good, I thought. But I tolerated the irritation for the next couple days. Finally, one afternoon while driving into Enumclaw on Highway 164 (Griffin Avenue) a dental office sign snagged my attention and I turned into the parking lot.

I’d stumbled upon the bailiwick of Dr. Neil Bergstrom. A perfectly delightful receptionist welcomed me.

“What can we do for you today?” she asked.

“I’ve got a screwed up tooth,” I said.

To make a long story short, a couple of hours later I found myself upside down in the dental chair, while Bergstrom checked my complaint.

“You lost a filling and part of a tooth,” he explained. “But we’ll put you back together.”

He injected some Novo-cain in the inside of my cheek and, while waiting for that drug to take effect, we shot the breeze about our lives. He was raised in the Wallingford district of Seattle, back when that area was a middle-class, blue-collar neighborhood. He attended the University of Washington and, consequently – as was true of Dr. Clark a few columns ago – spent his formative years in that despicable but holy shrine called the Blue Moon Tavern. As was true with Dr. Clark, there’s a distinct possibility Bergstrom and I crossed paths in that rebellious haunt long before he had me upside down in the dental chair.

We walked about the various rooms in his clinic. He showed me some 2-foot square, black and white, historic photographs taken early in the last century by Karl Jensen. (Who else took such pictures?) They were large, sweeping vistas of the entire town, with certain landmarks distinctly visible; for example, the original White River sawmill beside the railroad tracks (today’s Railroad Street), the Catholic church, the Lafromboise Hotel, etc. There was a picture of Cole Street when it had wooden sidewalks and a dirt road full of wagon wheel ruts.

Bergstrom came to Enumclaw and started his practice 34 years ago. That’s long before the Crystal, Yella Beak, Seeders, Panini, the new Rainier and the new Mint opened. It was also early enough to remember when the Lee Lounge was the favorite watering hole for many of the town’s prominent businessmen. That’s where he met Art Gamblin, Phil Biege, Doctor Adams, “Hap” and Art Lafromboise and a host of other deceased entrepreneurs. Bergstrom feels such early “movers and shakers” were much more colorful and gregarious than the sedate leaders we have today.

He thinks Enumclaw has changed quite a lot over the years. It used to be a more isolated, very provincial, small town, but today it’s becoming a bedroom community; that is, just another suburban blip in the Greater Seattle sprawl.

Once my mouth was numb, Bergstrom and his staff repaired my damaged tooth in less than 15 minutes. (Well, maybe 20 minutes.) That delightful receptionist greeted me again when I returned to the lobby.

Considering the apprehensive purpose behind my visit, I’d have to say it was quite an interesting and even pleasant afternoon.

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