Every small town should have a tavern where people can collect with as much identify as they choose to reveal. They come with names like Bo, who is currently banned for unruly behavior, or Bo Bo, who lives in the old button factory. Some of us are distinguished by being known as the Wild Women of Waldoboro; others, who come only in the warmer months, got dubbed the Dixie Chicks. The Narrow’s Tavern is where musicians of all kinds frequently jam. Don’t like the music, pull out your own instrument. Got some motion going, get up and dance.
Here is where a cross-section of local personalities are on display. Our mid-coast peninsula juts off Route 1 a nick above Boothbay and a stretch below Rockland, runs southeast through Waldoboro straight to Friendship. Narrow’s Tavern is the only place on this somewhat off-the-beaten-path swath of Maine coastal life. Clamming is the main industry in the shallower flats along Waldoboro’s shore; lobstering takes over once the water deepens into the Atlantic Ocean in Friendship.
Many artists have tried to capture the essence of the Narrow’s Tavern, and some have done it well. There’s an oil painting by a notable NYC via Waldoboro’s Dutch Neck painter that provides a long view of the shiny wood bar, with only one patron sitting there, head nearly in his cup. The sunlight streams in on the hanging plants, hanging mugs, and hanging essence of rural Maine rock bottom.
But often there are more crowds inside here than there are people along the Main Street. There aren’t many places to go in this town; so when you pull up, you’re probably ready for a beer.
It’s a place where one former Wall Street investment firm CEO could sit down at the bar totally unrecognized and order a plain burger with fries. He’s this town’s largest taxpayer, since his estate covers one of the most beautiful coastal points and is criss-crossed by walking paths planned and executed by the Maine trail service. I made the mistake that night of asking a WWW (Wild Woman of Waldoboro) a somewhat personal female question, to which she responded with loud glee about items that included tingly petroleum jelly. Upshot: our man who has seen every side of Wall Street found himself unusually, but delightfully, entertained that night.
One reason for the success of the Narrow’s is the Boss. She runs the place, though it’s owned by her boyfriend (who owns most of the real estate in Waldoboro). Boss doesn’t let anything go past her. Ten people may come into the Tavern and sit down at a table, which frequently happens in the summer. She’ll take everyone’s order simply by nodding at them, takes it in and relays it to the kitchen, all through word of mouth. Some of us like a glass of water when we’re ready to pay our bill; others like a glass of water before they pick out a brew on tap. She knows who we are, and she hears a lot. But none of the ex-CIA types that retire in these parts could ever get anything out of her.
What happens in the Narrows stays in the Narrows.