Prayers for my favorite bartender

Sylvia Caron – diehard Red Sox fan, best bartender around, and beloved by so many- not the least of which are  Chelby’s regulars.

I say this with neither pride nor shame, rather I’m just stating a simple fact: I’ve spent a lot of time in bars. 

While the adult beverage is a big part of the allure, there are other qualities—such as people and conversation and laughter and music—that draw us into a bar’s orbit. And while the bar scene is certainly not for everyone, it has always had a particularly strong gravitational pull on me.

Everywhere I’ve lived in my adult life, in multiple states throughout the country, I’ve found a place nearby where—to use the phrase from the “Cheers” theme song—“everybody knows [my] name.” 

When my wife, Liz, and I bought our first house together and moved to Manchester in 2003, it took us some time until we found a place where we felt welcomed and comfortable. We lived on Porter Street on the Southside where there were a number of restaurants within walking distance of our house. 

But Chelbys Pizza on Mammoth Road was the one place where we kept returning. In a world of impersonal corporate chain restaurants, Chelbys was a throw-back to the concept of the neighborhood bar, a unicorn of sorts. 

What made Chelbys so compelling was not a dizzying array of televisions, or a menu brimming with niche items, rather it was the people, starting with the bartenders, many of whom had worked at Chelbys for decades through multiple owners and renovations.

And my favorite bartender is a French-Canadian woman named Sylvia Caron. Sylvia has worked at Chelbys Pizza for more than 40 years and has not lost a step. Like all fine bartenders, Sylvia is personable and kind and patient. 

A fellow diehard Red Sox fan—she is also a Canadians fan, but being a native of Canada, it is somewhat forgivable—Sylvia and I saw “The Curse of the Bambino” broken and watched games together in 2007, 2013 and 2018 as well. We’ll still spend Saturday afternoons watching the boys of summer.

Sometimes my own “French” will turn vulgar following an error, or any game against the Yankees, but Sylvia won’t throw me out, rather she’ll lift her index finger to her lips and grin. 

Sylvia Caron, center, with husband Marcel, left, and son Bobby, right.

Sylvia has also watched all three of our kids grow up—two of them from birth—and anytime Liz and I would bring the brood out for pizza while Sylvia was working, she’d come from behind the bar and into the dining room just to say hello to the kids. 

For Liz and me—and countless other regulars at Chelbys Pizza—Sylvia is far more than a bartender; she is our friend. 

Last weekend, Syliva wasn’t feeling well during her shift, and on Sunday, she went to the emergency room where it was determined that she would need to go in for surgery on Thursday.     

As I’m writing this, Sylvia is at CMC, and all of her family—which I think Sylvia would agree extends to many of her customers—are all pulling for her right now. She will have a long road to recovery, and she will miss six to eight weeks of work, but it is important that she knows that she is loved and appreciated. 

It just so happens that I have the means, through this column, to publicly tell her this. Every person, regardless of what they do, should know—to paraphrase Raymond Carver—that they are beloved on this earth.

So get well, Sylvia. We miss you. And Go Sox. 

If you would like contribute to Sylvia’s Go Fund Me page, please visit here.