Every weekday at 7:20 a.m. just after the traffic report on 590 KUGN’s morning news show the “Man About Town” comes on and informs listeners of what is happening around Eugene. Minutes later he is gone. Today he mentions, among others, the Prefontaine Classic this weekend and the Free Park walk happening this Saturday. His time on the air is short but he gives locals valued information about what is happening around town. The “Man About Town” is Dale Berg, 71, a native of Eugene and the owner of Berg’s Ski and Snowboard Shop on 13th and Lawrence.
Berg is the epitome of the “Man About Town” doing so much more than just informing listeners of local events. Between helping out at the store from September to May, volunteering with the Coast Guard and the Olympic Trials during the summer, hosting his KUGN radio show every morning, and working with the Police Department and Oregon Track Club, Berg is an active member in the community. “He’s willing to help out people he may not even know that well“ says TJ Vandervelde, an employee at the Ski and Snowboard shop and family friend of Berg.
Since his youth Berg has always kept busy. He grew up washing windows, vacuuming out cars, and cleaning up around his father’s gas station. Berg’s father, Al, moved to Eugene after emigrating from Norway to the United States, where he first opened the gas station on 13th and Lawrence in 1940. Since then the gas station has shut down and been replaced by Berg’s Ski and Snowboard Shop, where Berg has been the owner since 1955.
Despite that the shop is named Berg’s and the family has owned it for almost 60 years, no one in the family has ever managed it. Berg’s primary job is paying the bills, but that doesn’t contain him to a desk all day. He does many odd jobs around the store and spends his time interacting with customers. “I can’t really give them advice,” he says with a chuckle, “because I don’t know anything. I usually just usher them over to the other employees in the store.”
Even during the ski and snowboarding season, where Berg works full time, he finds time to volunteer his time with various people and organizations. He helps out in the Whiteaker neighborhood for the annual Thanksgiving dinner and works alongside with the Eugene Police Department as part of the Huckleberry Patrol removing graffiti from the downtown area.
Berg also spends a week every summer volunteering with the Coast Guard, which he joined in 1966 for the sole reason of joining the band he says, at Seafair in Seattle. “The team I work with up there is a lot of fun to be with,” he says. “I just love working with the people and having them enjoy a safe time.” As a member of the Oregon Track Club board Berg works the finish line at Hayward Track and Field meets and is an escort walking the finishers to his or her drug and urine test for the Olympic Trials.
Berg thrives on interacting with others and claims that he has always been a people person. “It’s people, people, people for me, you know. That’s what I have fun with,” he says. Berg likes to believe he is a positive influence and says that he aims to always leave the person he is interacting with smiling. Berg is rarely seen with a frown on his face, “He is very positive,” says Lauren Pershner, who was practically raised in the Ski Shop, “he makes other people want to smile and have a good time.”
Berg has a few philosophies he lives by, but they all are similar in the fact that they involve improving others’ days. “Treat others how you want to be treated,” he says. And he tries to live up to this in every interaction he has. This philosophy ties in with his other, “Make someone’s life better.” He believes that sometimes it is best to just listen and sometimes people just need to speak for the sake of getting it off his or her chest.
Berg plays many roles in the Eugene community and many of those he does with little or no credit, but that doesn’t stop him from doing them. “He’s the guy who does the little things in the community,” says Vandervelde.
It is 7:25 a.m. and the “Man About Town” is off the air but his message resides with his listeners. Just like his radio personnel, Berg sneaks in, betters the community, and then disappears; all the while leaving things better than they once were.