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"Rum, Radio and Rebellion"
W., Pittsburgh, PA.
(p. 317 in 2nd edition, p. 356 in
Stopped in Time
"This man faced the last ditch
when his wife's voice from 1,300 miles away sent him to
One source said of Pete
that his original date of sobriety was June 1944, but he
slipped briefly in September of 1944. However, in an update
of his story, which was printed in the A.A. Grapevine in
January 1969, he says that he came into A.A. in 1945.
Pete was fifty-three years
of age when he wrote his story, with over nine years of
A.A. behind him.
He was born in Cleveland,
Ohio (or perhaps, Cleveland, Tennessee), the only child
of a prominent dentist, and a very proud mother. He had
every advantage: private schools, dancing schools, two colleges,
coon skin coats, automobiles, a listing in the social register.
All this resulted in a very popular but spoiled brat.
He ran away from school
to join the army in World War I, but the Armistice was signed
the very day he arrived in Atlanta to sign up. (Pete wrote
an update of his story for the January 1969 issue of the
A.A. Grapevine, which indicated he was then living in Cleveland,
Tennessee. Tennessee is much closer to Atlanta than Cleveland,
Ohio. Perhaps he returned to his hometown when he retired,
which would mean that the reference to Cleveland, Ohio,
in the Big Book is inaccurate.)
He ran out of money and
wired his father for funds to come home, but his father
wired back saying he could stay there until he earned enough
to get home. It took him a year.
He went to work in Birmingham
for a newspaper at fifteen dollars a week. During Prohibition
he had his first taste of moonshine. For the next twenty-five
years he drank anything and everything at the slightest
When he made it home in
1920, he re-entered school and did a year's work in three
months, proving that he could do it when he wanted to.
During the roaring '20s,
he drank a great deal and thought he was having a grand
time. He got to Europe for a few weeks, had cards entitling
him to an entrée in the better joints between Cleveland
and New York, got married, and built a home in a fashionable
suburb of Cleveland. This high living ended with the 1929
stock market crash. In a couple of years he lost his worldly
goods, and his wife left him.
He then made a geographic
cure - to New York. He began working in the broadcasting
business. He worked for a Chicago firm that represented
several large radio stations. It was his job to sell time
on these stations to advertising agencies in New York.
Then he met a woman he wanted
to marry, but she refused him at first. He persisted. In
January 1938 he took a job managing a small radio station
in Vermont, and again proposed to the girl. She was then
working in Salt Lake City, but said, if he would curtail
his drinking she would consider marrying him. They were
married in Montreal in November 1938. But on their first
Christmas he came home drunk.
In 1940 they moved to Pittsburgh
where he managed two radio stations under the same ownership.
His wife tried everything she could to help him, but by
early spring of 1944, his drinking had become so troublesome
that she left him and moved to her parents' home in Florida.
She told him she was not leaving because she didn't love
him, but because she did love him and could not bear to
be there when he lost the respect of others and, above all,
of his own self respect.
Full of self-pity he staggered
home one day determined to kill himself. "Then, by George,
she'd be sorry!" But he passed out, and when he woke, looking
straight at him was a large oil painting of his wife, and
he remembered her words: "I'm not leaving you because I
don't love you, but because I love you." This was about
ten p.m. (He pointed out that the hour is important.)
He called AA. After a few
meetings he drove to Florida unannounced and showed his
wife the A.A. literature he had brought with him to convince
her that he was trying to change. She returned with him
In September he went to
New York alone and got drunk. It was a one-day drunk and
he didn't tell anyone. He began skipping meetings. On New
Year's Day he almost took a drink, but did not. It frightened
him and he started going back to meetings. He met an old
friend new in AA, and full of enthusiasm. This fired his
spirits again, and he started really working the program.
Then, when the group was celebrating his one years of sobriety,
he told the truth. It had only been nine months since his
last drink. He had thrown off the big lie that had been
burdening him for months. "What a wonderful relief."
His first spiritual experience
came early. While in Florida trying to convince his wife
that he was serious about A.A., she picked up a clipping
from the St. Petersburg Times about A.A. She had considered
sending it to him. She cut out that clipping at about ten
o'clock on the same night, and at the same time as he called
A.A. in Pittsburgh, some 1300 miles away.
In his 1969 update of his
story, Pete said that when he came to A.A. he believed in
God, but that was about the limit of his spiritual qualifications.
He was in the program about three years before he found
comfort and deep satisfaction in prayer. Insight came gradually
through the voices of oldtimers.
When he and his wife moved
to a new neighborhood in Pittsburgh, several ministers called
on them asking them to visit their churches. It was embarrassing
to his wife when the ministers groped around to find out
just what their religion was. One young minister came quickly
to the point by asking his wife what religion her husband
followed. Without hesitancy she said, Alcoholics Anonymous.
The minister replied that he knew of no better one. Pete
went on to say that A.A. is not a religion, but certainly
is a spiritual program.
He expressed dismay that
responsibility to our group, to A.A. as a whole, and especially
to General Services is a subject dwelt upon far too lightly
by many of our members. He said it distresses him particularly
when older members gradually drop out of the picture. We
need their good experience, and they should be grateful
enough to carry on the message as their responsibility to
the future of Alcoholics Anonymous and, in many instances,
to their very own sobriety. He hated to meet members who
consider that they have graduated from A.A. They are missing
so much! Pete knows now that sobriety is not a destination,
but an endless journey, and he hastened to add, a very beautiful
journey. (This update was written from Cleveland, Tennessee.)