Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.

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The doors have closed forever on Sellwood-Westmoreland's last family fast food restaurant

ERIC NORBERG - As twilight approached, on the last day of the Westmoreland Dairy Queen, there was a farewell message on the elevated signpost outside.We knew it was coming; the story was in THE BEE earlier this year: The land under the Westmoreland Dairy Queen had been sold; a Chase Bank would replace it on the corner of S.E. Tolman and Milwaukie Avenue. But we had hoped it would not come quite this soon.

But come it did, at closing time on Monday, September 30, as the note posted on the door that day revealed.

ERIC NORBERG - As night fell on closing day - September 30 - customers flocked to the Westmoreland Dairy Queen, gathering inside, and standing in a long ordering line extending out the door. Shortly after 6 p.m., families and customers began to accumulate, and shortly the ordering line extended out the door into the patio dining area – and those in that line waited patiently for a half hour or more, despite the cold temperature – the coolest evening since last April – for the chance to order at the counter one last time.

When customers reached the counter, some of the menu options had run out. If what someone wanted to order was no longer available, they'd order something else. It was a chance to enjoy one last time the only remaining traditional family fast-food restaurant in the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood, after the closing of the Sellwood's "Mike's Drive-In" a couple of years ago. And after that night, there would be none at all. Some said the neighborhood was the poorer for it. Operations Manager Mike Caravatta posted the staff's goodbye in a sign on the door. Customers chatted with each other in that line, remembering details and experiences from the past in this family restaurant that had been on that spot for over half a century. One remembered that as late as the 1980s there had been limited dining area, and customers had to order at a window while standing outside. The drive-through lane – in which many cars extending down south down Milwaukie Avenue were also waiting – was added later.

COURTESY OF OLIVIA ROCKWOOD - Expressing the sentiments felt by everyone arriving on DQs closing night, a small group gathered in front of the restaurant with lit candles, while Olivia Rockwood read her eulogy and tribute to the 50+ year old family fast food restaurant. At one point in midevening a small group gathered with lit candles, while one of their group, Olivia Rockwood, read a tribute she had prepared:

Eulogy / Ode to Dairy Queen

Thank you all for coming. We're here to celebrate a life tonight – the life of the 1610 S.E. Tolman Dairy Queen.

For some, this was our place of teenage employment.

For some, it was the reward of a "hot eat and cool treat" after a winning baseball game, or the promise of comfort after a particularly bad school test.

For some, it was chocolate Xtreme Blizzard and hot fudge sundae, symbolizing precious time spent with grandpa.

For all, it was a safe haven of adolescence, and the best soft-serve in all of Portland.

We hear that our beloved DQ has been bought by a bank and that today is her last day. . . Life is full of uncertainties.

But what we do know is that no new building could ever take away the humming nostalgia of Blizzard machine, or the faded thank-you posters from the second-grade field trips of yesteryear. But especially, nothing could ever take away our memories of this Portland gem.

It is still possible to visit Mike's Drive-In of course, and THE BEE stops by there every week: But it's in Milwaukie, over two miles away, at Harrison Street and Highway 224. And it's still possible to visit a Dairy Queen, too – there's one on S.E. Duke Street, six blocks east of 52nd Avenue; and another on S.E. Division Street across from Atkinson Elementary School and north of Franklin High. When Westmorelanders feel like a Blizzard or a Flame Burger or D.Q. chicken strips, they'll now just have to drive over to other neighborhoods.

But, within Sellwood and Westmoreland, for all its rising trendiness, it is no longer possible to grab a burger and visit with a cross section of the community at a casual family fast-food restaurant. For many, that's a real loss for the neighborhood.

Don't miss Dana Beck's retrospective on the Westmoreland Dairy Queen elsewhere in this issue of THE BEE.


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