Charburger auction Saturday ends a roadside era

Charburger closed Sept. 6, bringing about the passing of the popular Westcliff Drive eatery, with its dining area packed with memorabilia and grounds filled with old farm equipment, all up for auction on Saturday.

“A lot of history in the Gorge.”

Ken Bausch said the end of an era is at hand as Charburger Restaurant’s equipment, signs, fixtures, and large collection of old farm and orchard implements goes on auction.

Bausch said he might attend the auction Saturday at the restaurant and grounds, on Westcliff Drive. Chamness Auctions will start the bidding at 9 a.m.

Auction preview is Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Charburger, the cozy cafeteria style eatery and Hood River dining fixture since 1967, sold its last plate of food on Sept. 6. So ends the Charburger chapter of local history; the Bausch family sold its Cascade Locks restaurant, now Bridgeside, a few years ago.

The wagons, wheels, spades, plows, orchard sprayers and other farm machines and tools are tagged and ready to go. So are the phone booth and carving of an old pioneer couple, long-familiar sights at he restaurant entrance, and the benches, signs, photos, and dishware and other relics of Charburger’s long history satisfying appetites along the interstate.

The building will be demolished and a new structure built by the buyer, Susan Sorenson, for the new home of Columbia Gorge Dance Academy.

Ken’s grandfather, Les Bausch, left a management job with the Mannings restaurant chain he worked for in the 1940s and 1950s and with his wife, Pearl, and opened the Cascade Locks restaurant in 1957.

“He wasn’t sure it was a good idea at the time, there was concern Cascade Locks would die with the freeway coming in and bypassing the town, but he went ahead,” Ken said.

In 1967 the family took over a popular Westcliff Drive eatery, Hessler’s Broiler, and Charburger Hood River was born. Over the years, Les gradually turned the grounds of both restaurants into outdoor museums of farm tools, many of which have rotted away. A sign on the embankment next to the parking lot cautions “Farm Equipment Can Be Dangerous. Do Not Sit or Play on Farm Equipment.”

“There used to be wagons all around the Cascade Locks restaurant,” Ken said. Inside the Bridgeside is a photo of the original restaurant building, just east of Bridge of the Gods.

Ken, who bought the Charburger business in 1999, said that with the sale this month, “I’ll take some time, see what’s next, maybe early retirement.

“I’ll miss the people, the employees. It was like family to me,” he said. In the final weeks of the restaurant, “it was good to see some of the regulars passing through.”

“Three generations of families and a least that many generations of customers,” he said.

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