Mar. 28, 2017

Al Joseph

I came into Seven Hundred Modern Grill & Bar on Front Street to meet with a 52 year old Al Joseph who is running on the democratic ticket for a seat on city council. His lovely wife, Lauren Joseph, joined him for the meeting. Lauren is the Tourism Marketing Director for Georgetown County while Al works for Palmetto Environmental Solutions doing mold, moisture, inspections, testing and remediation.

As we sat and chatted like old friends, I asked, “Tell me how you two met.”

Al laughed and said, “That’s really an interesting story, too. Both of us have traveled in almost the same circles throughout our lives yet, we had never met until we both attended the Pawley’s Pavilion Reunion. Robbie Buice introduced us and we just kind of hit it off.”

“We talked and danced,” added Lauren. “And then we danced some more.”

Both snickered a little before Al continued, “I was standing amongst Robbie and a couple of others when all of a sudden he said, ‘Come with me! I have someone I want you to meet.’ It was Lauren.”

Lauren included, “And, too, the year we got married, they asked us to dance the first dance for that year’s Pawley’s Pavilion Reunion party.”

I’ve heard of similar situations where couples have told me they mingled with the same people but never met until later in life. Knowing this propelled a common question of mine: “Do you think it was in God’s plan for the two of you to meet?”

Both Lauren and Al nodded their heads in agreement and said, “Absolutely, without a doubt.” Likewise, with the question I’ve also heard that same answer especially when both parties are deeply spiritual in their Faith.

Steering the conversation around to his political agenda and aspirations, I asked Al, “Why do you want to run for City Council?”

“I think Georgetown needs a vision for the future,” he answered. “I have a lot of goals and ambitions for Georgetown. I want to help the town with jobs, tourism, and the economy, to name a few. What we need, at least my way of thinking is, we need people who are proactive instead of reactive. We need people on the board who will help our town grow and prosper.”

“Well, Georgetown is lost in time,” I offered. “Even Melvin Huell and I talked about that; how Georgetown is in its own era.”

“That’s true,” Al agreed, “And that is not entirely a bad thing, either. But, I’m talking about different ways to help our town move forward a little. For example, the entrance gates into the city: they look terrible, except for the one by the bridges coming back from Pawley’s Island. That one is really nice. Even though it’s a small thing, it could really mean a lot for our economy so I’d like to see more of that. I’d also like to add that even though I moved away for a while, I’ve always tried to support the town and our priorities here.”

I often hear about people who are diehard Georgetonians. They’ll move away and then for one reason or another, come back home. It’s as if they just want to spread their wings for a while before settling in to roost. “When did you come back,” I asked as I remembered this fact about the townspeople.

“I came back in 2009,” he answered. “But, I’ve done things for the town even before I left and when I came back, too. Have you ever heard of Music in the Park? It started a few years ago.” When I confirmed I had, he went on, “I helped to start that. I’ve also helped with getting Mardi-Gras started, as well as, Blessing of the Fleet. I love to stimulate activity in this town and watch it grow and prosper.”

One could hear the passion in his voice as Al talked about Georgetown and his ideas and ideals for making it a better place. Curious as to where that passion came from we talked about his family.

“This is a great place to raise a family. I’ve raised my own family here,” he said, almost expectedly. What I didn’t expect was his next comment. “My family has been here for over 100 years. As a matter-of-fact, my family was the original owners of Thomas Café.”

“Thomas Café,” I asked incredulously. “You’re related to the Thomas family?”

Both he and Lauren nodded their heads. “Yes, we’ve been here for a very long time.”

(Did I mention it’s the oldest eatery in Georgetown and also one of my favorite places to eat?)

As we were finishing up, I asked, like always if he had a funny story from his youth, his job, anything he could share. Lauren nudges her husband and says, “Tell her about when you were sixteen.”

I was thinking: when he was sixteen? What is she talking about? He had a whole year to be sixteen.

When Al turned and looked at his wife, I thought for sure he would ask her to be more specific as that year in his life covered a lot of ground. Lauren nodded encouragingly and said, “Go ahead and tell her.”

He obviously understood what Lauren meant. That shows what kind of connection they have: the strength and commitment between them. She picked out something from his youth and he knew what event she was referring to.

Turning back to me and laughing a little, Al said, “It isn’t a funny story but it does show my devotion to this town. I started doing things for Georgetown when I was still in high school; I was sixteen then.

“Some of my friends and I had the idea to build the largest pizza in the world and get Georgetown into The Guinness Book of World Records. It was going to be a thirty-foot diameter pizza. However, as we were preparing the task and getting everything together, someone else did it. Then, we decided we were going to do the Biggest Pizza in the South.

“We got a lot of people involved. Georgetown Steel Mill special ordered the steel to make the pie pan as well as the grate to cook the pizza on and a special rake to spread the charcoal. We used the kitchen at Winyah High School to prepare the ingredients and set up the pizza baking in the empty lot where Atlantic House Restaurant now stands (Roz Wyndham’s place). We had decided we would donate the proceeds to Tara Hall Home for Boys. We really got a lot of the community involved and it was truly amazing!”

Nudging Al again, Lauren insisted, “Tell her what happened next.”

“Yeah, Al. Tell me what happened next,” I encouraged while writing everything down as fast as I could.

“The morning of the event, we were down on Screven Street very early to get started and saw a crane coming down Front Street with a huge fireproof tarp, so it was like a Dutch oven for the pizza. The sign on the tarp read, “The largest pizza in the south – Proceeds to benefit Tara Hall Home for Boys.”

“Who did that,” I asked thinking that was a very nice gesture.

Al spread his hands and shrugged. “I don’t know. To this day, I have no idea who did that but it was really nice. We baked our pizza that was thirty-foot and sold off the slices. Just one slice alone was about the size of a medium pizza and served more than just one person at a time.”

Now that is the kind of ingenuity and creativity we need in Georgetown. I would have loved to have seen that and maybe even written about it. As with all of my articles I write about people, this has become another favorite for me. Welcome home Al Joseph and very good luck this year in the election. We could use a breath of fresh air.