Dining out with 'Hamburger Gladys'
Proprietor of a 1970s diner near 99W and Springbrook tantalized customers with burgers and homemade pies
By George Edmonston Jr.
This column started back on Feb. 17 when Graphic Managing Editor Gary Allen received an email from Denny and Connie Taylor of Chehalis, Wash.
The Taylors told Gary they had lived in Newberg from 1973 to 1984 and that one of their fondest memories had been of a small diner located near the intersection of Portland Road (Highway 99W) and Springbrook Road, about where cars today access the parking lot to Little Cooperstown and several other businesses.
It was operated by Gladys Auld, also known as Hamburger Gladys, who they described as a unique lady serving handcrafted burgers with rare customer service. They wondered if Gary might do a tribute story about Gladys.
Gary remembered hearing of the woman from longtime Newberg residents and decided a feature might tickle some memories in the community. So he called me. Tickling, after all, is what I try to do with this column. I agreed to give it a go. Not only that, Im a self-proclaimed hamburger connoisseur.
Right up front, I was told by some of my best go-to sources, long-time residents who remembered Gladys eats so well you could smell meat frying when they talked to you, that the story was going to be a tough nut to crack. Gladys hated publicity. Documentation, they agreed, was going to be hard to find.
Undaunted, I visited the Newberg Public Library, a resource that had never let me down. This time the library let me down. I found no stories, no obituaries, almost nothing in print about Gladys except a few entries in old business directories from the 1970s. Suddenly this project began to feel like Hansel and Gretel looking for the witchs house without the trail of bread crumbs.
As a result, Im still a bit fuzzy on exactly when Gladys and George Auld came to Newberg, where they were from, when they started the business or when everything finally closed.
It was time for Plan B.
Phone calls to folks who knew her revealed she had died in Salem in 1992, that George had operated a gas station attached to the diner, and that he had died and left her alone to run both businesses. No one ever remembered the two having employees and no one was able to talk about George with any certainty. Gladys rarely mentioned him.
They were pretty sure the couple had a son named Durran and that they lived on Portland Road within walking distance of the diner, in a house hidden today behind tall shrubbery and situated next to the entrance to the 99W Drive-In.
Thanks to the Taylors, retired Newberg fire chief Al Blodgett, Verne Martin of the Newberg Historical Society and reference librarian Denise Reilly, plus a host of others who responded to a Facebook query looking for Newbergians who remembered Gladys, I was able to cobble together enough to write a column.
Many recalled she had a limited menu: hamburgers, potato chips (she heated on her grill), grilled cheese sandwiches (with or without ham) and homemade pie. It was her pies and burgers that especially made mouths water.
The place had no tables; everyone sat on stools at a long lunch counter. A copy of the current newspaper was always around. On the back wall hung the tea and coffee cups brought in by regular customers she would grab to serve their beverages.
The gas station attached to the diner never had more than one location. Many knew it as Aulds Mobile Service Station. The diner operated under three names: Corner Cupboard, The Aulds and Aulds Snack Bar. As well see in a minute, it operated at several different spots.
Denny Taylor: (Gladys) was a careful and quiet observer of people. She had opinions and was rather formal but very gracious, which could make her seem distant, but never rude. If she did not know you she was cautious until she knew you better. Most of the time she sported a red wig and wore a housecoat. She loved flowers and had a large yard.
About her hamburgers and pies (via Facebook from William Rosacker): The best hamburgers I ever ate. What a treat.
Randy Hohnstein: To this day, I still use Gladys hamburger patty making technique. Smashing it and tightening it up around the edges. My family watches me and pokes fun at me.
Jon Cox: It didnt matter if you walked in with 10 people, she made and served each order one at a time.
Grace Pitts: You ate there, she would not make food to go.
Rose Marugg: She used to save my father-in-law the last slice of chocolate cream pie. Told us she was out but produced a slice when he walked in.
Sharon Moore: Dad said the meringue on the pie was huge.
Jenny Crackenberg: Cream for the pies was individually whipped by hand with a whisk.
More than one former customer recalled Gladys hated being tipped. She would either return your money or throw it at you, even if she had to follow you out to your car. She liked verbal praise, though.
She hated publicity. She always turned down offers from reporters for interviews.
Locations: The first was across from Gumms Market. The 99W/Springbrook intersection was known for years as Gumms Corner. The market was where Sharis is today, Blodgett said. In those days, 99W was a two-lane highway. Gladys was along the road where US Bank is.
Gladys place in history: Even in the early 80s the world around her was accelerating exponentially, with fast and faster food prep. Real customer service was fading and the blur of life was dizzying, said Denny Taylor. At Gladys place you could leave your watch in the car, take a deep breath, enjoy chatting with friends, reading the local paper and eating a delicious burger and a slice of homemade heaven with fresh whipped cream.
One could go out there and face the blur again with renewed hope! We miss the refuge she offered us in her little diner.