An Afternoon with Charlotte Hall
By Lani Gering
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the OTC’s longtime friend Charlotte Hall for a few minutes on one of the unseasonably warm afternoons in late February.
Most people that know Charlotte know that she is a very self-deprecating individual and it is hard to get her to talk about herself. She would rather talk about all of the characters she has met in her tenure in Alexandria than about what she has accomplished. Having been in the area myself for 31 years, she and I know quite a few of the same people and there are many – several who have been profiled in this space at one point in time.
In my attempt to keep this column “personal”…One of my favorite things about Charlotte is the nicknames she has acquired along the way and the stories behind them. A few of them are highlighted below.
The last time we really had a chance to talk about things was in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 when the 100 Block of King Street was first closed off and sidewalk/street dining was allowed. She was instrumental in making the closure of this block – and later the “0” block aka the space between Union Street and King down to the water – to vehicle traffic a permanent fixture allowing for a pedestrian mall feel. It has been a huge success. Just take a trek down to those blocks on any nice day/evening and you will see what I mean. During this discussion Bob Tagert, OTC Publisher, dubbed her the “Queen of King Street” and it caught on.
Charlotte has been an integral part of the Old Town Alexandria community for over 30 years going back to her days with Potomac River Boat Company – now owned and operated by Entertainment Cruises. This venture with water vessels wasn’t her first rodeo in the boat realm. Right out of college she worked in Richmond for their convention and visitors center and was instrumental in procuring a second vessel that could handle boat tours on the James River. She ended up spending a lot of time around the James (then referred to by many in the area as the “swamp”) and the then Richmond City Planning Director named her the “Swamp Boogie Queen”. This moniker followed her all the way up north to Alexandria. I wish I had something as cool as that as a referral.
While I think I have heard a good many of her “handles” – those old enough to know about CB radios get that – I heard a new one today and I think it has to be my favorite right now. While attending an Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s reception, she was wearing a full American Indian Chief headdress in keeping with the “Wild West” theme of the occasion and our mutual friend, Tim Geary, dubbed her as “Chief Tall Drink of Water”. This makes perfect sense since Charlotte is very tall – am guessing 6 feet. Tim may have clocked in at 5’9 – 5-10???? She has an incredible sense of humor.
With all of the nicknames she has had, I asked her what her legit title was these days at the Old Town Business Association (OTBA) where she has been doing her thing for the past several years. She told me that her Board of Directors say she is the CEO but she refers to herself and the CDSI…Chief Deck *Swabber and Instigator. It really does make sense. Check out the definition at the end of this column.
Adding another to the list…guess who is the Grand Marshall of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade here in Old Town? Yep, none other than Grand Marshall Charlotte! I talked her into letting me photograph her with some shamrock beads and a leprechaun hat so she could get in the mood for her new duties. As of this writing, she hadn’t been informed as to exactly what that entails but we all know she will be riding on the back seat of the coolest convertible in town with that Grand Marshall sash and doing her best parade wave. Erin go bragh!
When she isn’t swabbing or instigating, she spends time on the water kayaking and doing Pilates. I totally understand the love of kayaking but that dedication to Pilates has me baffled. Guess that’s why she is in great shape and me….not so much.
Charlotte is an avid lover of animals and has had many pets along the way. At this point in time she has an amazing black German Shepherd named “Chessie” and a cool rescue kitty named “Curtis”. Gotta admit that I totally get the dog’s name but I didn’t have the courage to ask if “Curtis” is named after someone. I guess the more you say it, the more it makes sense…I can imagine her saying “Here Curtis kitty, kitty, kitty”!
In all sincerity, I have met many people in the course of my 30 years here and Charlotte has been a constant in her dedication to the people and businesses that make up Old Town. She has been a champion of the underdog as well as promotor of the big dogs on the block. Be sure to give her a big wave if you go to the parade!
*One who does not consider himself too high, but washes the deck most delicately clean.