Thursday, August 25, 2011

Goodbye Reef, So Long Bill

From Dave Brigham:

To Be Demolished?

Just a few years ago, this little strip was home to a dive bar called The Reef, as well as a chiropractor's office and some other small business. I went to this corner of Waltham, MA, near city hall, to take pictures of a different old building near the commuter train tracks that is likely to be torn down soon and replaced with housing. I didn't find that building all that interesting, however.

As I walked by this old brick building, it spoke to me. Although I drive and jog by this place regularly, I'd never been this close to it before (except when I parked nearby last winter when taking the picture for my January 7, 2011, post, "Trash Guitar").

I love the simplicity of the bar's entrance. I picture lots of skinny, old guys wearing tank tops and smoking in and around the door. I hear old country music leaking out the grimy windows. I smell pickled eggs on the bar.

The Reef

I got closer to the door and saw a dried rose hanging there, with a note attached, reading,

Still missing you.
Your wife & Michael"

Rose for a drunk

My first thought was that it was a tongue-in-cheek message to some guy who used to spend too much time at The Reef. But then the thought occurred to me that perhaps Bill had died and this note might actually be truly heartbreaking. Either way, I was amazed to find it there, and touched by its simplicity and grace.


  1. what an amazing find. I love stuff like this.

  2. I was pretty psyched to stumble upon this little scene.

  3. This was an amazing place...all one big family... Bill was the owner....

  4. Oh...and by the way it wasn't "lots of skinny, old guys wearing tank tops and smoking in and around the door." More like a lot of great people big and small with a bunch of Harleys around the door...smoking was out back, if you know what I mean... RM

    1. Centaurs M/C home away from home!

  5. Thanks for the info, RM. Always good to get the real story. So are you saying I'm right about the country music and pickled eggs?

  6. my parents hung out there back in the day. I could go into this bar at any time and get free soda and chips all day , it might have looked scarey but there where alot of awesome people who hung out inside. Rip Billy !

  7. This was a hang out for lots of French Acadians from New Brunswick who hung out and watched hockey and had a few brews after work also playing pool and interrogating with the locals then along came the Haley's and all was well Billy was the owner and Marylin his lovely wife we all have many memories of our REEF DAYS and it will be said not to see it there any more
    Debra LeBlanc-Doiron

  8. Wow, this is great finding out about the Reef. Sounds like a friendly, funky place with a lot of life and love. Sorry I never got the chance to hang out there.

  9. Bill was the proprietor as was his father before him.

    Bill passed away around the time he closed the doors to the Reef. Call it what you want, but it was a second home to many of us. We were all family and always will be. The bar may be gone but the memories will live on..

  10. The Reef was a great place! Billy was a great man. Believe it or not...after our wedding reception we went to the reef. We all knew each other and the memories will never be forgotten. The place to meet our family of friends was the reef...and music and sometimes light food from the kitchen. The small bar was always crowded with friends. It wasn't too often you would see someone new to the area come in. The harleys were a great addition to Billy's Reef...he welcomed everyone with a smile and sometimes a joke. The memories I have are stored in me forever! RIP Billy

  11. It's so cool to hear so much about this place. Sounds like the Reef was a real home for a lot of good people. As I said, sorry I missed a chance to go there. I'm curious how so many of you stumbled across this blog posting. Anyone care to share?

  12. thanks laura,it brought tears to my eyes to hear such great comments about bill & the reef. bill's spirt still walks the grounds. thats why it still standing! I remember those memories like it was life with Bill is the best time of my life(good&bad)I think of my reef family all the time thanks to face book I keep up with most of them. we lost a lot of them but they will always be remembered! love you guy's marilyn

  13. this was the first bar i drank in

  14. It was me. I stumbled upon the blog researching for a website I am creating for Waltham and it's Residents, and I posted this blog on Facebook so many of our Waltham friends and family from the Reef could see it.

    I had so many great memorable years here. I am so glad and very proud to have been a part of the Reef family through the years. The parties, the gatherings, the trips, the bikes, the laughs and best of all...the people.

  15. Laura -- glad you found the blog and brought so many people in to share their memories. Let us know when the Waltham site goes up.