In the early 1970’s the town of Kent, CT was the very model of a sleepy New England village. There was one traffic light and, as they say, the sidewalks used to get rolled up after 6 pm. By Connecticut law, women were not allowed to sit at a bar. The towns large general store and lumber yard, Watson & Co., was still a fixture on the west side of Route 7, right across from an old hotel called the Golden Falcon Inn. Families still lived in most of the older Victorian and Colonial houses on Main Street, and it was still politely observed that it took at least 25 years of residency in Kent before a newcomer could stop being referred to as no longer"an out-of-towner."
Imagine, if you will, a 50 year old Italian pianist from New York entering into this scene with an eye toward turning the tiny Kent Restaurant into a fine dining establishment - complete with a Croatian Maitre d’ and a custom built piano bar. As Dolph Traymon’s former employer, Peggy Lee, said “Dolph, you've lost your mind!” With all of this, the Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant first opened its doors for business on January 20, 1973. The first paying customer was Mr. Eugene Bull, Kent’s Postmaster, and a member of the family who first built the local covered bridge, Bulls Bridge, south of town.
Pretty soon the Fife started receiving regular mentions on the radio in New York. Pegeen and Ed Fitzgerald, who had a show on WOR-AM and were old friends of Dolph's and his wife Audrey, kept talking about their “little cabin in Kent, Connecticut” and how their listeners should drive up and “go see my friend Dolph” for lunch. Additionally, a number of celebrity-studded dinners hosted by another longtime friend, famed artist and writer Eric Sloane, helped cement the Fife ‘n Drum’s reputation as the place to eat in Kent.
Now in its fourth decade of operation, the Fife ‘n Drum is known as the local place where customers from near and far can rub elbows with one another. Dolph still plays the piano, and the menu still offers its famous Duck Flambé, Filet au Poivre and Caesar Salad for Two prepared tableside, but now they are alongside more innovative items. Over the years, a Gift Shop and a comfortable Inn for overnight guests have been added to the business. And, like the Fife, the town of Kent has also grown. In addition to the three boarding schools here in town, Kent has become a seasonal destination spot for weekend visitors, outdoor enthusiasts and art lovers.
Watson's may be long gone, but at least women can now sit at the bar...and in case you're wondering, the answer is yes, the village still has only one traffic light.