The People of Georgetown
I have known (of) Alan Walters for many, many years. My husband grew up with two of his brothers, Tommy and Barry, and like all of his childhood friends, I’ve heard about the Walters over the years. A friend of mine introduced me to Alan when he was working as an investigator. Since then, our paths have crossed on several occasions and I’ve always greeted him and he the same.
I ran into him again at the Harborside Restaurant in the old Fogel Mall. He was there with the Rotary Club having their weekly meeting/lunch. We spoke as he was coming out.
“I’ve read some of your articles through GAB News,” he said when asked if he would be interested in being interviewed. “And sure, I’d be glad to sit down with you and talk.”
He’s been married with Susan Walters for 29 years. That’s an amazing feat these days. His wife was working at Department of Social Services at the time they met. Alan was with the sheriff’s department. They were going to check out a case together when he had received another call and because it was of higher priority, he had to drop Susan off somewhere and go.
“I left her at the old jail on Merriman Road,” he said with a laugh. “I came back later and asked her to lunch and we just went from there.”
These days, Alan works in Risk, Safety, and Management for the Georgetown County School District. He started working with them after Sandy Hook.
“Do you like this job?” I asked knowing he’s always been somewhere in law enforcement.
“I love it,” he answered. “I love my job. Right now, it is where I want to be.”
We spoke about his law enforcement career and Alan shared with me that his grandfather was also a policeman. He pulled out his phone and showed me pictures of a man dressed in an old police uniform standing next to his police motorcycle.
“I started off at the sheriff’s department in 1985,” he said of his own career. “I was a road deputy and eventually moved up to investigator. I was a lieutenant back then. After the Sheriff’s department, I went to Andrews Police for a few months before coming back to Georgetown. I worked as a police officer here before I became the Magistrate. I stayed there until I came to work here in Risk, Safety, and Management for the schools.”
“I can’t believe you gave up being the Magistrate,” I joked. “That is a really good job to have.”
“Well, I’m still the Magistrate in Pawley’s Island,” Alan confessed, “But here is good for me. Dr. Dozier (Georgetown County’s School Superintendent) usually takes into consideration many of my ideas and implements them. He always makes the children his number one priority.”
We talked a little more in depth about mutual acquaintances, his job with the sheriff’s department, and the Carters. Alan said he’d worked for Michael when he first started, which got us talking about Woodrow Carter and the Sunset Lodge.
I told Alan I always wanted to write a book about the Carters, especially about the lodge. “I can’t believe what I’ve heard about that place.
Alan knew what I meant and explained, “Woodrow always said that you can’t enforce any more law than the people want.”
I thought about that and he’s right.
For those that may remember, Alan is very intelligent. He was even on Jeopardy for heaven’s sake! I told him how I was at work one night and the CNAs came to get me and asked if I knew him. They said a Georgetown man was a contestant on the popular game show and I did know who he was. It turned out to be Alan Walters.
“My wife is the one who filled out the application for me and several months later, we received the notice that I was accepted,” he said of his 15 minutes of fame. “There were about 300 people who applied. We had to take these tests to see how well we did. After which, only 25 people made it. The hardest thing was learning the buzzard. During the first part of the game, I couldn’t answer anything because my button wasn’t working so, when the make-up crew came out, I mentioned it to them, and they showed me how to buzz in correctly. After that, it was all good.”
Ha! That’s what he says. I would have flubbed every question (or answer) given.
“How far did you get? Did you win?” I asked, staying on point.
Alan nodded, “Yes, I did win one round and brought home about $12,000, which is about half of what you’d win today. We had to pay for our way out there, all of our accommodations, and, of course, taxes. It was the only time I ever had to file taxes in California, too.
Before I ended our meeting and in light of current events and Alan’s professional position, I had to ask about gun control. “Are you in support of the 2nd Amendment?” I asked.
“Yes, I am,” Alan answered without hesitation. “I’m a card carrying member of the NRA, too.”
I made some notes and then asked, “How do the recent school shootings affect the teacher’s desires to carry concealed weapons?”
“Well, there are already laws in place that we should enforce,” he stated evenly. “Besides, teachers are already allowed to carry in the school as long as they have permits, but you know, it’s easy to shoot at a paper target than it is to shoot a human being. When you shoot at a person, you know that you could take their life and many teachers are not comfortable with the idea of shooting their student so, I can understand both sides of the argument.
“As for what we’re doing to provide safety for our children: we have resource officers at the schools with the exception of elementary schools, for now. We are putting some off duty police officers in the elementary schools as well,” he explained. “Again, the teachers have shared with me their feelings so, I’ve heard both sides. Some think it’s a good idea and want to enforce it, but there are a lot of teachers who say they’d feel more comfortable with someone more experienced with guns on the premises.”
I like Alan’s attitude about things as well as his demeanor. He’s pretty laid back and easy going. Alan doesn’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, for guns, against guns, or whatever you’re for. He has his own thoughts and ideas, too. The bottom line is he’s for the benefit of the children and for the improvement of Georgetown.
Oh what a night! Jenna-Grace Welch (17) and Brook Thomas (16) stopped in to have their prom pictures taken on Front Street and detoured for a bite to eat before heading to Johnsonville's prom.
Jenna's gown caught my eye as she walked in. The skirt has a stunning artistic pattern with a three foot train while Brook's gown is perfected in sheer white elegance. Both of these beauties stopped to pose for a picture while Mom stood close by.
I’ve had to go to the Social Security Office a couple of times for various reasons. Each time I go, I see the Protective Service Officer (PSO) sitting at his desk. Without being told, I know that he’s there for security purposes.
During a previous visit, I have asked him, “Do you work for the Social Security Administration or are you contracted out by another company?”
“I work for the federal government,” he answered, “And since this office falls under government jurisdiction, we’re here (other federal buildings and offices) as federal officers.”
I had to get to know this man. One thing I’ve learned doing interviews is that not everyone is as they seem. Suffice to say, when I sat down to speak with Ernest Cole, PSO of the Social Security Administration, I knew I was right about he being an interesting person.
Ernest shared with me that is married. He met his wife, Celeste, in Charlotte where he was a police officer. She lived in a gated community where the school bus would have to drop off children at the gate. Since there were several buses at one time, they had to have on duty police officer there to prevent the children from fighting between themselves.
“She and some of her friends would razz us a little telling us to quit picking on the kids until one day, another student pulled out a gun and pointed it in her son’s face. I tackled the boy and disarmed him. After that, she would always have coffee for me whenever I worked and from there, we started dating.”
“So you were a police officer? How long on the force?” I asked.
“Twenty-two years and before that, I was in the military – the Marine Corp for twelve years,” he answered, beaming with pride. “I left, then was reactivated for two more years...so a total of fourteen years.”
I was pleased I had another military personnel to write about. “What did you do in the military?”
“I fought combat in several places,” he said with a smile. “I was in Marine Recon, Special Forces.”
Ernest shared with me that he was from Brooklyn, Crown Heights area (not the ghetto, but thee Ghet-To; the real McCoy). His father was on the police force there, as well. Obviously he set a good example for his son because he followed in his footsteps.
We spoke about his influences from a police family, New York, and ghetto life to how he made his way to South Carolina. After the military, he went back to New York, but decided he needed to get away from the big city life. A friend of his, James Cole, got him on the Charlotte Police Department. Ernest did a lot of patrolling as well as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) until he finally retired.
He and his wife wanted to come back to her roots and raise their daughter, here in Georgetown. She wanted to return to the nice quiet hometown Celeste grew up in as opposed to the blaring lights and noisy city sounds of New York or Charlotte. Their daughter, now grown, has gone on to college and now works for the Port Authorities. Like his father before him, they used positive influences to raise their daughter.
“How do you feel about gun control and the current events surrounding it?” I asked.
“I fully, without question, support our 2nd Amendment rights,” he answered with conviction. “We have the right to bear arms, to protect ourselves from those intent to harm us, including our own government; especially our own government.”
“What is gun control?” I asked, agreeing with his take on the 2nd Amendment.
I could tell I got him going. “Gun control is when the government has all of the guns, all of the power, which means then they can control all of the people.”
“Hitler,” I said unceremoniously.
“Yes, Hitler!” he declared. “The first thing to do is take everyone’s ability to protect themselves, disarm the citizens.”
We talked about how the gun ban in New York failed back in the 1970s (buy-back-guns as current events in LA are doing). The government took all of the guns, especially Uzi’s, and filled them with lead so they couldn’t work anymore. The result was the Mafia, Organized Crime Syndicates, was the one who had all of the machine guns. I know this from my own father, being affiliated with Organized Crime, actually having an Uzi in our house (we knew never to touch it).
Ernest added, “The ban didn’t work then, except to make things worse and the same thing will happen again. What we need to do is follow the laws that we already have in place which no one seems to be interested in doing. The other thing is to spend time with our children instead of depending on TV and technology to entertain them.”
“Yes,” I said nodding my head. “Get out and spend time with them, be interactive.”
I spent an hour with him and didn’t realize how much time flew by. We talked like old friends, as he was so easy to communicate with. We laughed about how we don’t need to visit our neighbors, just go to Walmart; it seems to be the meeting place to see everyone. We even discovered we had mutual acquaintances (who knew in a small town?).
I explained to Ernest, “This is exactly why I write about the different people in Georgetown: to show how we’re a small town and yet all interconnected with each other in the community.”
As our visit came to an end and I began mulling over in my head how to write this piece, I have decided one thing: I will not end this column without discussing his experience at Food Lion in August of 2015. It truly amazed me. Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m still flabbergasted it ever happened.
“My wife and I were shopping in Food Lion in Maryville,” he began. “I always carry a weapon on me...I have credentials, concealed weapons permit and so forth…anyway, I reached up to get something off the shelf and someone saw my gun. Instead of asking me about it, they called the police.”
“Did the police come?”
Ernest nodded, “Oh yes, they came. We saw them coming up the aisle toward us and when they stopped next to me, they asked if I was carrying. I told them I was and they asked me why was I carrying a gun.”
“They did not!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, they did,” he responded laughing. “I told them because I’m an American and I’m exercising my 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. They did not ask me for my ID, instead, they kept wanting to know why I needed to carry a gun at all, so I said, ‘let me just straighten everything out right now...someone saw my gun and called the police and said that there was a black man with a gun, and you came.’ The other officer confirmed that was exactly what happened…I was racially profiled.
“I told them that I knew the first thing they should have done was to ask for my ID, not question me on why I wanted to carry a gun. If they had asked for my ID, they would have seen that I was a retired police officer, a former military officer, and I had my concealed weapons permit. It would have answered all of their questions. I was so mad, I told them I was going to call their police chief and turn them in.”
“And did you?” I asked (seriously, I was shocked).
“Yes, I did,” Ernest answered. “I understand the officer who questioned me got suspended without pay for two weeks.”
I thought about this for several days, I thought about our right to bear arms, and I’ve thought about Hitler and how he convinced so many ignorant people to lay down their arms and give him total control. Then I thought about the Revolutionary War.
King George and his military were the only ones allowed to have guns. When we migrated to America and took up arms, it stopped his tyranny. If not for our weapons, we would not be a free nation. If not for our guns, we would have never been able to overthrow Hitler and we’d all be speaking German right now.
Ernest, you are so right! We need to practice putting laws into effect that we already have in place and not disarming ourselves. I am so glad I played my hunch and took the time to speak with you. You are an amazing man and I thank you for your time!
Finally! It’s been over a year since I first approached Eddie Chacon and asked him to let me include him on my Meet Georgetown blog. He’s always so busy working and running Alfresco’s Bistro on Front Street that he never had the chance to sit down and talk to me.
We sat down in the dining room for about 30-45 minutes and just talked. We talked mostly about cooking and different dishes. With my father being a chef and having worked in some of the finest restaurants in Toledo, we had something common.
“I have been cooking since I was a kid,” Eddie said of his love for the kitchen,” And I have been working since I was 14.”
“In kitchens?” I asked.
“Yes, yes in restaurants and kitchens in New Jersey,” he answered. “I did a lot of different things like washed dishes, bus boy, prep work, and things like that.”
Some of Eddie’s wait staff came in to pick up their checks. I noticed they not only respected him, but they also had a fondness for him and he with them. I noted some of their exchanges and then went on. “So how did you make your way down here to South Carolina?”
“My last job in New Jersey was in a country club and one of the members brought me down here to work. He opened a restaurant in Garden City, From there, I went to a restaurant in the Hammock Shops. After I left the Hammock Shops, I went to a place called Rocco’s. Do you remember that place? They were very expensive, but had good food. I worked there until they closed,” Eddie Explained.
“Yes, I do remember it. I never ate there, but I do remember a place called Rocco’s up in Garden City-Surfside area.”
“When I worked in the restaurant at the Hammock Shops in Pawley’s Island, I worked
with an award-winning chef.”
“What is his name?” I asked. I quickly scribbled down everything Eddie was telling me.
Smiling brightly with apparent fond memories, he answered, “His name is Louis Osteen. Although, I learned a lot about cooking from him, my training was really in New Jersey.
“I also went to work at Frank’s, in Pawley’s Island. You know that place, too?” I nodded as Eddie continued, “I left there because they did not want to pay me so much. I don’t blame them, but if you want good help, you have to pay for it.”
For the record, I have known a couple of the past servers. They’ve confided in me that Alfresco’s is one of the better places in town to work. They have said Eddie pays better than most and the tips are pretty good so not only is he saying you have to pay for good help, he’s setting the example.
“Okay, Eddie, but I found you at Portifino’s,” I stated. “I did not know it was you, Eddie Chacon, but I did, in fact, know when you left and was later informed that you had opened Alfresco’s Bistro across the street. How did you get from there to here?”
“Well, I almost went back to New Jersey after Frank’s,” he admitted, “but then I started working at Portifino’s. When John, you know the little short guy who worked there, when he found out how much I made, he did not like it. He said he could do it for less, so I left and came here and opened this place. I started with six little tables, too. That’s all I had in here.”
For those that don’t know or remember: Eddie started out with a little tiny restaurant that was like a closet with an alleyway between the structures of buildings. Slowly, he started using the alley for outside seating and then he put a plastic covering above so even if it rained, his diners would be dry outside, and finally, he enclosed the area and made it a part of the restaurant. He’s done amazing work.
Following the enclosure, Eddie also took over the old Lands’ End restaurant, renamed it Chacon’s, and ran that successfully, as well. While those two businesses thrived, he also co-operated a little burger place two doors down from Afresco’s. That was three successful restaurants in one small town.
“If you did well with Chacon’s and with the burger place, what happened to them?”
Eddie greeted another employee who came in before answering. “Well, with Chacon’s it was doing very well, but they raised the cost of the building and even though I was still making a small profit, it just wasn’t enough so I closed it. The burger place over here...well, it did well, too. Let’s just say it was poor business handling so I closed it down. I reopened it, though, as a taco and beer restaurant.”
“What’s the name of it?” I asked as I continued to write. He said something in another language and I looked up at him. “In English, Eddie, English.”
With a laugh he answered, “Tacos and Beer.”
“Alfreso’s is an Italian restaurant, however, the name Chacon is not Italian,” I pointed out.
“No, it’s Latino; from Costa Rica. I am half Italian and half Latino.”
We talked for a few more minutes. He’s 48 years old, owns his own business(es), and has four children, two of which are here in town with him. The other two reside in New Jersey. He’s also unmarried and wishes to stay that way (sorry ladies).
Of his four children, Eddie has shared with me that one of his sons is also a cook and does very well. He’s excited that he has someone going into the family business.
“I like to teach cooking,” he says. “I teach my son and he picks it up really fast. Right now, I have Brittany Sapp helping me in the kitchen here. She’s going to be a fantastic chef, very talented. You have people who cook and then you have people who want to learn to cook. I will teach anyone who wants to learn and right now, Brittany is one of them.”
I left feeling very good about the interview. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Eddie Chacon is an amazing man. I was so excited that it was all I could talk about for the rest of the day. By the time I sat down to right this, my husband, having been bombarded with facts from my interview with Eddie, already knew what I was going to write.
The next day, we visited Taco’s and Beer. Oh yeah, Eddie’s got it going on. Deliciously so!
I have been wanting to sit down with Debby Summey for quite some time. Being a bit of a town historian, she makes a fine addition to the Meet Georgetown segment of my blog. We stopped in at Alfresco’s Bistro on Front Street for a quick bite to eat where we talked for a while.
Debby was born in Kingstree Hospital and raised in Georgetown. “At the time I was born, there wasn’t a hospital in Georgetown. You had to go all the way to Kingstree; Williamsburg County, which had the closest medical facility,” she said of her birth 68 years ago.
She does the walking tours in Georgetown and shares a lot of the history with tourist, or even the locals who are interested. I remember meeting her several years ago when she was doing tours and then her name came up again when I wrote about the Kaminski House. Many have suggested Debby as a good subject to write about.
“There’s so much to talk about,” she said with a smile. “I’ve done so much. There’s not enough time to talk about all of the things that I’ve done in my career. I’ll just give you the highlights.”
“Okay,” I conceded, “Give me the highlights.”
“Well, I love history, I love to travel, and I love my job,” she began. “I’ve been an investigator for Department of Social Services and investigated claims of child abuse and elder abuse.
“I was also the first director at the Georgetown County Museum, a director at the Winyah Auditorium, and I once owned two retail shops in Charleston.” As I was jotting notes, she added, “I did investigations in several counties, Georgetown, Richland, Charleston and even in Atlanta, Georgia.”
“Is that it? You don’t look old enough to have done much more,” I stated complimentary so.
With a little laugh, Debby said, “I do love my job. I get paid to walk around a very beautiful city and talk about the history of it. Each tour is about twelve blocks. After that a lot of people get tired out, but I love it. I love meeting new people and I don’t have a problem talking to strangers, either. Hearing about their lives, where they’re from, and other different little facts about them are fascinating to me.”
Debby also mentioned that she was a first mate for a yacht delivery service in Hilton Head. She and my son (who was hungry so he tagged along), talked a little about that job.
Debby used to deliver yachts. “Yeah, someone would call up and say bring my yacht to wherever...like Florida or someplace like that and then I would ride along with the captain and deliver the boat. I didn’t drive the boat because as I said, I was first mate, not captain.”
“Tell me about your shops?” I asked. “What kind of shops were they?”
“Oh, I sold different things, like antiques, collectibles and vintage clothing,” she answered. “I loved the vintage clothes. And, you’d be surprised at how many of the college student would come in from the College of Charleston and buy these old clothes. Too bad there’s not a market around here in Georgetown for vintage clothing.”
Debby and I talked about a lot of things. Since I did geriatric nursing for about twenty years of my nursing career, we could both relate to different stories and situations of elder abuse, Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as, other factsregarding geriatrics.
Getting back to her historical tours, I asked if she did any of the ghost tours and she does not; her tours are primarily history tours, with legendary haunted houses pointed out along the way.
We even talked about faith and how it has helped us through so much in our lives. We agreed that neither of us would be here without it. My sister once told me that a true Christian doesn’t have to announce it or tell people they are Christian.
“You can see it in their hearts,” my older sister once said.
I believe that because I can see it in Debby’s heart. I see it, not because she told me she was a member of the First Baptist Church of Georgetown, but because she has a beautiful glow about her. It fits her well.
Although she’s been many places during her life, her heart belongs to Georgetown and I believe she’s come home to settle down. Debby has a daughter and two grandsons who live here in town so it won’t be a hard thing for her do especially since she thoroughly enjoys doing the historical tours.
If you get a chance, take one of the tours. I know I enjoyed it when I did it several years back. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something new about our beautiful town of Georgetown.