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in the U.S.: How They Began and How They Grew,
East Central and Northeast Regions
Bill W. recounted his own experiences and feelings at the
St. Louis Convention, he was moved by the presence there
of the great nonalcoholic friends who had made possible
the Alcoholic Foundation and the Big Book, but he enjoyed
even more the gathering of so many of the pioneers of Alcoholics
Anonymous from many parts of the United States. He probably
knew most of them personally through his travels, through
the two previous Conventions held in Cleveland, and through
the first four General Service Conferences where some of
them served as delegates. And he obviously relished spinning
the stories of how they had received the A.A. message and
how they had carried it to others.
reminisced about how A.A. began and how it spread until,
in 1955, it had grown to 7,000 groups. He conveyed the miracle,
but he did not attempt to write history. A.A. concerns itself
with spiritual principles and pays little attention to facts
and figures, dates and numbers. However, thanks to a new
interest in archives and origins, which came later, it is
now possible to flesh out those fragmentary reminiscences
and record some of the fascinating annals.
of A.A.'s 35,000 groups in the U.S. has a history
and these histories collectively become the history of a
city, state or region. All these histories cannot be told
in a book this size, much less in a single chapter. But
perhaps we can chronicle in a general way how A.A. took
root in various parts of the country, how it branched and
Cleveland and Ohio
Bill and Dr. Bob met in Akron, Bill remained on and they
began to carry their message of recovery to others. As their
numbers slowly grew, they met together, usually as families.
Bill wrote Lois, "Scarcely an evening passed that
someone's home did not shelter a little gathering
of men and women, happy in their release and constantly
thinking how they might present their discovery to some
newcomer. In addition to these casual get togethers, it
became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting
to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual
way of life." This was the Wednesday night meeting
of the Oxford Group at T. Henry and Clarace Williams'.
alcoholic squad," as some called it in later years,
continued to meet at the Williams' for about four
years, but there was a growing sense of separateness between
the alcoholics and the other local Oxford Groupers. In late
1939, the alcoholics broke away. They met at Dr. Bob's
house for a few weeks but needed more room, so in January
1940, they began meeting at King School.
the news of hope for the alcoholic spread by word of mouth,
drunks from other places were attracted to Akron to be hospitalized
by Dr. Bob and to learn from the small group there. Among
the earliest Clevelanders were Clarence S. and his wife,
Dorothy, who soon were bringing a number of men down every
week to the Wednesday meetings. Many of them were Catholics
who were uncomfortable with the religious aspects of the
Oxford Group meetings. They began talking about having their
own meetings in Cleveland, built around the Big Book and
the Steps. The opportunity came when Abby (also known as
Al) C., a patent lawyer from Cleveland, was hospitalized
in Akron and began to attend meetings there. He and his
wife Grace offered their big house and on May 11, 1939,
the group began meeting there.
there were hard feelings over the split, a contingent of
Akronites - including Dr. Bob - traveled to Cleveland for
the first meeting and continued their support afterward.
Clarence wrote Hank P. in New York that the people in the
new group were "intensely interested and are out working"
to dig up drunks. He reported they had "an ideal hospital
setup and an alcoholic physician in attendance" (which Dr.
Bob had helped arrange). "We have the experience of New
York and Akron before us to guide us, and we feel that we
are now on a good footing."
members of the new Cleveland group were uncertain what to
call themselves and discussed several suggested names. "None
of them seemed fitting," remembered Abby C., "so
we began to refer to ourselves 'as Alcoholics Anonymous"
after the title of the Big Book.
this tenuous fact Clarence S. based a lifelong claim that
he was, in reality, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
He became perhaps the most controversial character in A.A.
He turned against Bill and aroused the Cleveland contingent
to accuse Bill and Dr. Bob of "getting rich"
off the Big Book and the generosity of Mr. Rockefeller -
which they had to disprove with a certified audit of their
financial affairs. Clarence tried to organize a nationwide
revolt against the Conference idea and threatened, unsuccessfully,
to secede. He criticized Bill and the "New York office"
vitriolically at every opportunity. Bill steadfastly refused
to hold a grudge against him and in their correspondence
"used soft words to turn away wrath." Much later,
when they met at the International Convention in Toronto,
they actually spent several hours together, reminiscing.
However, Clarence, a popular speaker on the Steps and the
recovery program, continued to raise hackles wherever he
appeared by calling press conferences in which he was photographed
full face with his full name, holding the Big Book which
he claimed he wrote, and identifying himself as the founder
of Alcoholics Anonymous. He asserted he was not bound by
A.A.'s Traditions because they were written later—and
written by Bill. Clarence S. moved to Florida in retirement,
where he remained extremely active until his death in 1984.
October, 1939, the Cleveland Plain Dealer carried a series
of five articles which, in the words of Bill, "ushered
in a new period for A.A. - the mass production of sobriety."
When the publicity hit, the Cleveland group was deluged
with calls and inquiries. The newspaper switchboard passed
along literally hundreds of pleas for help, and A.A.'s
New York office, whose address had been given in the newspaper,
forwarded still more names. Dorothy recalls, "Our
phone never quit ringing. . .People had to be seen that
day, and we had only about 13 people we could send out on
Twelfth Step calls. They would [each] start out with five
or six or eight calls to be made every evening. How they
ever did it, I don't know. But they made those calls."
Deaconess Hospital, where the A.A. arrangement had been
made, was inadequate and great numbers were put into several
other Cleveland hospitals. A scheme of personal sponsorship
had to be devised to meet the sudden flood of new people.
Brand-new A.A.'s, sober only a month or even a week,
had to sponsor alcoholics still drying up in the hospitals.
The newly published Big Book was an invaluable aid, and
Ruth H. in the New York office was shipping them out 10
or 15 at a time to Dorothy S. Other homes besides Abby G.'s
were thrown open for meetings. First, that of a nonalcoholic
financier, T.E. Borton; then one in the Lakewood section
which became the Orchard Grove Group; and a third, the Lee
Road Group. Within about two weeks, the Cleveland membership
had grown from 15 to 100.
the glare of the publicity, the new phenomenon captured
the interest of clergymen, doctors and nurses, and social
agencies. In November, Dr. Dilworth Lupton, a noted Protestant
clergyman, preached about A.A., and his sermon prompted
still more newspaper publicity.
wrote later, "We oldtimers in New York and Akron regarded
this fantastic phenomenon with deep misgivings. Had it not
taken us four whole years, littered with countless failures,
to produce even 100 good recoveries? Yet there in Cleveland
we saw about 20 members, not very experienced themselves,
suddenly confronted by hundreds of newcomers. . .How could
they possibly manage? We did not know.
"But a year later, we know,
for by then Cleveland had about 30 groups and several hundred
members. . .The Cleveland pioneers had proved three essential
things: the value of personal sponsorship; the worth of
the A.A. book in indoctrinating newcomers; and finally,
the tremendous fact that A.A., when the word really got
around, could now soundly grow to great size."
three original groups quickly outgrew members' homes.
"At the last meeting we held [at Abby G.'s house]
people were standing up all over the living room, dining
room, sitting on the stairs, standing in the kitchen,"
recalled Clarence S. The Borton Group moved to the Alcazar
Hotel, and later to Christ Church in Shaker Heights. The
parent groups also spawned others. Bill H., of the Borton
group formed the SouthEast group in '42. Dale T. left
Borton to start the Shaker group. J.T.C., Harold S. and
Stan Z., who had continued to attend the Akron meeting,
decided in '42 to form the Arcade group. And so it
February 1945, a Central Office was established, and in
June of that year Cleveland hosted a 10th Anniversary Convention,
the forerunner of the International Conventions, though
it was not called that. Actually, 2,500 attended from 36
states, Canada and Mexico. Dr. Bob and Bill were the main
speakers. Five years later, the first International Convention
was also held in Cleveland. By then Cleveland had over 60
groups and nearly 3,000 members. But Cleveland A.A.'s
did not need conventions to socialize. Events of the '40's
included A.A. boxing matches, barber shop quartet singing,
dances, picnics and minstrel shows.
Plain Dealer articles and the Cleveland phenomenon were
responsible for helping A.A. get started in many towns and
cities throughout Ohio—and even far beyond its borders.
People from Cleveland started groups in Indiana, Kentucky,
western New York State, Illinois and even California.
Ashtabula, Ohio, 45 miles from Cleveland, an alcoholic read
the articles and told his wife, "I'm going to
Cleveland to find out what this A.A. is about." He
called ahead, probably to Dorothy S., and arrived by train,
to be met by five members. They talked to him over lunch
(for which he had no appetite) and he stayed away from the
bars until he reached home again. The next day he returned
to check into Cleveland Hospital, where he was mightily
impressed by his A.A. visitors. On his release, he continued
to go to Cleveland for meetings, while his home town friends
waited expectantly for him to relapse. But he didn't,
and soon Twelve Stepped his nephew. Then they both went
to Cleveland for their A.A. until they were able to recruit
others and to start a group in Ashtabula in 1940.
P. tells of the beginning of an A.A. group in Toledo in
the same year. Duke was a star salesman for a large company,
and his boss, an extraordinarily understanding and compassionate
man, was worried about his drinking. After Duke had wrecked
a company car while drunk, he was called in with his wife
Katie for a conference. The boss had read a newspaper interview
with Rollie H., a famous baseball player, who had sobered
up in Akron and gave A.A. the credit. He told Duke about
it and said, "I think this A.A. will appeal to you
because it's psychologically sound and religiously
sane. A couple of men will come to see you. Do anything
they say. If they want you to go to Akron and spend a weekend
with them, go ahead. We'll pay the bill."
men who came were Charles "C.J." K. and Eddie
B., both of them graduates of the state insane asylum at
Toledo, the only place alcoholics could be treated in those
days. There, in the summer of 1939, they had been shown
a multilithed copy of the Big Book. They were so impressed
they got themselves released and went to live in separate
quarters in Akron. Both from wealthy families, Eddie was
the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust, and C.J.'s
father was paying his living expenses as long as he stayed
out of Toledo. When they took Duke back with them to Akron,
Katie asked herself tearfully, "What kind of sucker
are you to send your husband down to spend a weekend in
Akron with two strangers who are alumni of an insane asylum?"
Akron, Duke was admitted to City Hospital where he was called
on by a number of A.A.'s—including Dr. Bob.
"He just radiated charm, love and confidence—all
the things I didn't have. He said, 'Duke, everything's
going to be all right.' And I knew it was."
The Toledo man also went to an A.A. meeting in Akron. On
Monday, he and Katie went to Youngstown to meet Neil K.
who invited them to his home for dinner. Katie again dissolved
into tears, wailing, "What can I talk to that woman
[Neil's wife] about? We don't know these people."
"We've got to," replied her husband. "We
don't do things like that," said Katie, "We've
never been introduced." Duke said, "This is
a new way of life." And, of course, they had a delightful
dinner with several A.A. members and their wives, with whom
they were on a first-name basis within five minutes.
and Katie, along with other A.A.'s from Toledo, Youngstown
and other Ohio towns, traveled to Akron on Wednesday nights
to attend the King Street meeting. But in September 1940,
the Toledo members started their own group. Thirteen people
(eight of them alcoholics) gathered at the home of Ruth
T., a well-to-do woman who had sobered up in Akron the year
before—one of the first women in A.A. Uncertain as
to whether the separation would work, they kept in close
touch with Dr. Bob in Akron and sought his counsel when
problems arose. According to Duke, he would pray about it
and say, "Keep it on a spiritual basis. If you keep
principles above personalities and you're active and
sharing your program with other people, it will work out."
Toledo Group met at Ruth T.'s beautiful house on the
river until the following January and then hired a hall
for $10 a month. They also arranged for hospitalization
of their prospects at the Women's and Children's
Hospital! Toledo had its version of the Cleveland experience
when the Toledo Blade ran a series of three articles on
A.A. in February 1941 bearing the address of the service
office in New York. The Blade was swamped with calls which
it passed along, and lists of names were sent by New York
also. A month later the Jack Alexander article appeared
in the Saturday Evening Post and the flood of names increased.
The original group grew so big that more groups had to be
created with better geographical distribution. By 1955,
there were 16 groups.
Columbus, Ohio, Rev. Floyd Faust, nonalcoholic pastor of
the Christian Church, had an early-morning daily radio show
to "help people find a spiritual way of living. .
. and surmount problems...in their daily lives..."
A parishioner, Bob Fullerton, showed him an article in a
medical journal on. Alcoholics Anonymous. "I wrote
to all ten contacts [listed in the article], praying for
an answer from one. To my surprise, I received an answer
from all ten!" said Faust. One of them, Clarence Charles
A., drove all the way from Cleveland to meet, by appointment,
with Rev. Faust and "six individuals with alcohol
problems," at the church's booth at the Ohio
State Fair. The minister began announcing on his radio program
that there was "help for anyone who had a drinking
problem.. . if they wanted help"—and on November
13, 1941, "C.C." A. made another trip to lead
the first meeting of the Columbus group of A.A. at the YMCA.
January 1942, the group had over 20 members and was meeting
at Woodman Hall. A month later, the Central group split
off, meeting at the Odd Fellows Hall. In August, the Olentangy
group, later called the Columbus North group, was formed
in the suburbs. In the northwest area, the Tri-Village group
began. In 1947, Columbus listed 12 groups and in 1949 the
Poindexter group was established for black alcoholics. It
was to become one of the largest Columbus groups with both
black and white members.
A.A. spread from Columbus to many
other towns in that part of Ohio. Sam A. from Newark tired
of driving to attend meetings in Columbus and formed the
Moundbuilders group in October 1942. Sam G. moved from Columbus
to Zanesville in '44 and started the Y Bridge group.
These were followed by Mt. Vernon and Marion in '44
and Coshocton in '45.
started its first group in June 1941, with 15 alcoholics
meeting on Wednesday nights. Cincinnati saw its first meeting
the same year. Ruth M., a nurse in a private drying-out
facility for drunks, read the Jack Alexander article and
traveled at her own expense both the New York and to Akron
to learn more about A.A. And on May 7, 1941, she gathered
a dozen alcoholics and held a meeting in a rented parlor
at the Metropole Hotel. It is said that Ruth M. was fired
from her job because of this and left town. But the group
continued to meet. Arrangements were made for hospitalization
of drunks at the Good Samaritan Hospital. By the spring
of '42, there were 30 members who moved to space previously
occupied by a tavern in a basement on Hammond Street. As
the group continued to grow, another meeting began in an
office building downtown. The next year, clubrooms were
acquired in a building at 405 Oak Street. By 1947 there
were four groups.
the General Service Structure was established, the number
of groups in Ohio justified dividing it into four Conference
areas (two of which include parts of adjoining states).
In 1955, the state as a whole had 315 groups with 7,538
members - making it the third largest A.A. state in the
U.S. In A.A.'s and Ohio's 50th year, it had
1,684 registered groups with a membership of over 34,300—still
the fourth largest among the states.
1937, a lonely alcoholic from Chicago named Earl T. traveled
to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to visit his father. He arrived
sick, depressed and paralyzed with fears. His father had
heard reports of the strange new organization in nearby
Akron that was helping drunks recover. He took his son to
meet Dr. Bob. Earl joined the Akron group and clung to it
for several weeks before he had to return to Chicago. Before
he departed, Dr. Bob took him through his moral inventory
and asked if he would like to have these defects of character
removed. "Without much thought, I said, 'Yes,
I would,' Earl recalled. "And then he asked
me to get down on my knees at the desk with him, and we
both prayed aloud to have these defects removed."
months Earl worked tirelessly and utterly without success
to find an alcoholic who would respond to his message. Meanwhile,
he went to Akron every two months for a meeting in order
to maintain his own sobriety. He would report his lack of
success in working with others to Dr. Bob, who would tell
him that when the time was right and Earl was right, it
would work out providentially. "Which it did,"
said Earl, for in August 1938 he managed to help a prospect
get sober. A year later, another alcoholic recovered independently
in Akron and returned to Chicago. This was an attractive
woman, Sylvia K., who had caused some consternation among
the Akron A.A.'s and their wives, who were glad to
see Sylvia go back. Earl summed up, "It took two years,
without the [Big] Book, before we had six people."
But on September 20, 1939, the first Chicago A.A. meeting
was held at Sylvia's apartment on Central Street,
in Evanston. Eight people were present, four men and four
women, two of whom were nonalcoholics.
a few weeks later, Earl wrote Bill in New York that they
had four doctors and a hospital very much interested in
working with them. "At the present time," he
continued, "we have ten rummies—three women
and seven men—in the group, all working hard on eight
new prospects. Several of these have come through you from
the Liberty article." As the meetings grew, the group
had to move to downtown Chicago.
by her nonalcoholic secretary, Grace Cultice, Sylvia set
up a phone service in her home. When the Saturday Evening
Post article broke in 1941, they rented a one-room office
at 121 N. Dearborn in the downtown Loop, from which Grace
directed a stream of prospects to A.A. This is believed
to be the first organized A.A. central office anywhere.
Many groups within several hundred miles trace their origin
to the work of the Chicago Central Office. (See Chap. 20)
The deluge of newcomers caused to Tuesday night open meeting
to split up into ten neighborhood groups for more intimate
work on the recovery program. This was the origin of a distinctive
organization of A.A. in Chicago which soon spread to other
cities in the East Central states; that is, a large weekly
open speaker meeting supplemented by many small closed meetings
(sometimes called "squads") which are not allowed
to grow beyond a limited size before again splitting.
June 1941, the Tuesday night meeting was drawing 250 and
was moved to the Central YMCA. Three years later, attendance
had nearly tripled, so the meeting was again moved, this
time to the Engineering Building, 205 W. Wacker Drive; and
two years later, to 32 W. Randolph in order to accommodate
crowds now running from 1,200 to 1,500. The growth continued,
so that on Chicago A.A.'s tenth anniversary, there
were 146 groups with an estimated 3,700 members. It was
at last necessary to decentralize the Tuesday Open Meeting
into several clones.
growth also led to the need for regular communication among
the groups. This was accomplished by the publication of
a newsletter, Here's How, which soon achieved wider
circulation and has continued to the present.
the General Service Conference structure was created in
1950, Bill W. came to Chicago to help them set up their
service committee. Because of the already strong Central
Office, the service committee was combined with it—i.e.,
both entities shared the same officers, the same treasury,
etc.—a local structure which is unique in the U.S.
But it has worked.
growing pains attended the spread of A.A. almost everywhere,
they were especially severe and long lasting in Chicago.
According to Condrad 0., who lived through it, it began
when Earl T. was appointed in 1952 to a paid job as liaison
between the Chicago Central Office and the Mayor's
office and other alcoholism agencies. Despite the affection
and respect in which Earl was held, some members and groups—particularly
in the Western suburbs—viewed this move as professionalism
and a breach of anonymity. What rankled them more than anything,
according to Conrad, was that "there had been no discussion,
no reference to the groups for their consideration and approval.
In a short time, about 150 groups seceded from central Chicago
and formed their own Intergroup." This schism continued
for twenty years. The Chicago service committee, being synonymous
with the central office, excluded the 150 dissident groups
from the election of the delegate to the General Service
Conference. The Western Intergroup countered by electing
its own delegate. So the Conference Admissions Committee
voted that neither would be seated until Chicago A.A. straightened
out its problems.
time," says Conrad, "the initial problem was
lost in the mists of antiquity, but there was lots of animosity."
However, there were also people on both sides who were working
to achieve unity; Conrad singles out Rudy E. and Milton
C. A breakthrough came when downtown contingent invited
the Intergroup contingent to take part in the election of
the delegate (which was done by district chairman, not GSR'S).
And, by strange coincidence, an Intergroup man, George G.,
was elected delegate. The schism continued under its own
momentum for several more years, with each office publishing
its own directory. Finally common sense and a desire to
help the still-suffering alcoholic prevailed, and the Central
Office, without fanfare, began listing Western suburban
groups in its directory. Subsequently, the Intergroup steering
committee decided there was no more need for separation
and voted to dissolve the Intergroup. They closed out the
treasury and sent a check for $1,200 to the Central Office!
A committee from downtown then came out to Forest Park to
meet with a suburban committee. Conrad, one of the latter,
remembers Norm A., who said, "Let's consider
the things that bind us together, not the things that divide
us." The first move was to discontinue the Intergroup
directory. Later, agreement was reached on restructuring
A.A. throughout the city and its environs so it would be
easier for the newcomer to locate groups, and on cooperation
in hospital and prison work. One of the meetings to accomplish
these things was held in Conrad 0.'s house; Norm A.,
Doug D. and Bruce W. were among those present.
A.A. '5 50th year—and Chicago A.A.'s 46th—there
were 3,200 groups in the Chicago area, with an estimated
75,000 members. An All-Chicago Open Meeting held that year
at the University of Illinois Pavilion had 7,000 in attendance.
first group in Illinois outside the Chicago area was formed
in Peoria in '43. This was followed in '44 by
Bloomington, East St.Louis, Eldorado, Rockford and Sterling;
and in '45 by
Decatur and Springfield. By 1985, number of groups outside
of the Chicago totaled 1,036.
and Southern Wisconsin
Gilbert "Gib" K., a dentist, was the first alcoholic
in Milwaukee to write the service office in New York for
help. The date was October 23, 1940. He was put in touch
with the groups in Madison, Wisconsin, and Chicago. Within
three or four months, Gib had gathered three more members
and began holding meetings in his home. Spouses were usually
included, together with members from Madison and Chicago,
for support. On April 30, 1941, a meeting open to the public
was held at the Plankinton Hotel with about 50 in attendance
including out-of-towners. A visit by Bill W. and Lois, with
Bobbie B. from the New York office, gave the Milwaukee group
a shot in the arm in October 1942. By January 1943, there
were 25 members with at least one year's sobriety.
S., a man of small stature and dynamic energy, came out
of the County Hospital in November 1944 and contacted Gib
K. and Paul F. George had been active in A.A. in Dayton,
Ohio, five years earlier, but he had suffered three long
bouts with alcohol in the interim. Almost immediately, he
started another group with four or five members, and a third
group began at nearly the same time. George sums up the
situation a year later as follows. A weekly open meeting
(following the Chicago pattern) was held on Wednesdays at
8 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Hall on 10th Street, with each
group taking its turn as host. This was preceded by a Beginners'
Meeting at 7 p.m. to which Judge Harvey Neelen referred
alcoholics who came before him. An Alano Club had been formed
with an active membership of A.A.'s, and an A.A. Central
Office was opened at 1012 N. 3rd St. with a full-time secretary.
The first meeting for inmates of the Wisconsin State Prison
was arranged in December 1946. By this time, there were
about 40 groups in Milwaukee with a membership variously
estimated from 300 to 600.
W. and Lois paid a return visit to Milwaukee in November
1948, primarily to see Gib K. who was near death from cancer.
The local A.A.'s also arranged an evening open meeting
on a few hours' notice. Over 500 people turned out
for it. George S. tells of two memorable incidents during
the brief visit: "Bill visited Group 7, and no one
recognized him. The subject of the evening was the 12th
Step, and a young man in his second year of sobriety asked
how he could get into 12th Step work. Bill raised his hand
and asked him, 'Do you have a doctor? Do you go to
church? Do you have any contacts in hospitals? How about
your lawyer?' When the young man answered yes to these
questions, Bill suggested, 'Most of them knew you
as a practicing alcoholic. Why don't you go to each
one and tell them you've now found sobriety and would
be happy to help them at anytime with someone with the problem?'
And he added, "It'll add to your peace of mind
to do so, too.'"
was taken to St. Michael's Hospital, the alcoholism
unit, to visit a woman patient. Lois talked a while with
the girl—Anna May H., I believe it was—and then
started to leave. When she reached the door, she turned,
took off a small corsage from her suit jacket, and pinned
it on the girl's nightgown. 'You know, my dear,
it's as easy to kick yourself up as it is to keep
kicking yourself down!' Then she left. The girl smiled
and never looked back."
himself sought Bill's advice on a decision he was
wrestling with—whether or not to go into the field
of alcoholism on a full-time basis, as he was already heavily
involved as a volunteer. Bill, who was staying at George's
home, waited until the morning of his departure to answer.
Over breakfast, he said, "George, I don't think
there is much of a choice. Someone must begin to spearhead
the dreams we have of working with the public to make the
1lot of the alcoholic a better one." George did make
the decision and has been an outstanding figure in the field
ever since. However, he also continued active in A.A., serving
as the delegate from Southern Wisconsin on Panel 1 of the
General Service Conference.
Wisconsin/Upper Peninsula of Michigan
first contact the A.A. office in New York had with Green
Bay, Wisconsin, was a letter received in 1940 from a businessman
seeking help for one of his salesman, a Frank T. He was
referred to the brand-new service office in Chicago as the
nearest contact. A few months later, Frank T. wrote to New
York to order a Big Book. He was able to report in 1944
that Green Bay had a group of 12 members. The following
year, an open meeting was held at the Beaumont Hotel with
47 A.A.'s present. By 1955, the Green Bay groups met
at the "706 Club", a former church building,
six nights a week. Five years later, the club moved to a
new building on Oneida St. and changed its name to the "218
Club" but remained the meeting place for most of the
In Oshkosh, a nonalcoholic priest,
Father Rule, founded the first A.A. group, in 1943. First
called the Market Street Group, it later became the Otter
St. Group, and other groups formed as the Fellowship grew.
the Conference structure was established, Northern Wisconsin
was coupled with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to comprise
one area, recognizing that these territories had more in
common with each other than with the lower areas of their
respective states. They were lands of lakes and forests
and relatively sparse populations in widely scattered towns.
They were settled partly by Scandinavian immigrants who
felt at home in this kind of northland -- and who also had
a high rate of alcoholism. From many of the towns, drunks
came to Green Bay for hospitalization and were exposed to
meetings there before returning home to found local groups.
A.A. spread to other towns through conventional Twelfth
Stepping. By whatever means, A.A. began in the following
towns in the years indicated:
1945 Sheboygan, Wis.
1947 New London, Menominee and Manitowoc, Wis.
1948 Chassell, Mich., started by Art S., an A.A. from
Chicago; and Ishperning, Mich.
1949 Gillett and Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
1950 Stevens Point and Wautoma, Wis.
1951 Escanaba, Mich.
1953 Oconto, Wis., where one family had 4 members,spanning
3 generations; and Oneida, Wis., where the Hobart Group
was the first American Indian group.
1956 Chilton, Wis.
1959 Iron Mt. and Bessemer, Mich.
1960 Iron River, Wig.
1961 Algoma, Wig.
1962 Kaukauna, Wis., and Republic, Mich.
1966 Wisconsin Rapids, Wig.
since then, too many others to list.
the early '50s, George C. of Green Bay founded an
area newsletter, The Now & Then, which has continued
to the present time.
1955, the Conference area consisted of 52 groups with an
estimated 700 members. By A.A.'s 50th year - and the
area's 44th - there were over 500 groups reporting
about 7,500 members.
S. of Indianapolis had been dry on his own for three years,
but it was a lonely struggle. In the spring of 1940, he
read about A.A. in Liberty magazine and wrote to the address
given there, the A.A. office in New York. His inquiry was
passed along to Cleveland, where it was given to Irwin M.,
one of the most famous of the early traveling salesmen who
carried the Big Book and the A.A. message of recovery along
with their samples. Irwin M., who sold venetian blinds,
weighed 250 pounds and was as full of energy and gusto as
he was short on caution and discretion as he ran down his
list of A.A. prospects. He turned out to be exactly what
Doherty S. needed. Doherty started out immediately to emulate
H., another well-known A.A. salesman from Akron, said that
Doherty S. "was responsible for more groups in Indiana
than anybody. He'd get a loner from one town together
with another one for Sunday breakfast. I went up there Saturday
nights and spent half the night getting there. It was a
lousy trip, changing trains and all. [After breakfast] I'd
get out of there about noon to get home. It took about ten
or twelve hours to get 100 miles. But it was an interesting
H. moved from Akron to Evansville, Indiana, and held the
first A.A. meeting there in May, 1940. Two years later,
Earl 0. from Vincennes was hospitalized in Evansville and
contacted the A.A. group there. Returning to Vincennes,
he enlisted five other alcoholics in the program. They drove
back and forth to Evansville until August 1944, when they
got a group of their own going. Earl 0. and the Vincennes
group are credited with spawning groups in Washington and
Indianapolis, Doherty held meetings in his home until they
grew too large and had to move. In the mid - '40s,
at least four groups were formed that remain today: the
20-40 Group, the Home Group, the Speedway Group, and the
Myerson Group. Breakfast meetings which also started in
the mid-'40s at the Warner Hotel were held there until
1971. A telephone answering service started in January 1943,
and in the late '40s the Central Office began operation.
pioneer in Fort Wayne was "C.L." B., whose wife
had ordered a Big Book for him after reading the Jack Alexander
article. After being forcibly sobered up at the Keeley Institute,
he read it and tried to interest others in the program,
without success. Then, on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7,
1941, "C.L." and three of his prospects attended
the Sunday morning breakfast in Indianapolis. Returning
to Ft. Wayne, they instituted a similar gathering there,
which grew into a regular A.A. group. Many groups in northwest
Indiana trace their beginnings to the Ft.Wayne group.
in South Bend owes its start to "J.C." C., who
had gotten sober in Chicago in 1941. Two years later, a
South Bend man, Charles K., sought help, and the two of
them held the first meeting at the C.'s apartment
in August '43. Chicago members pitched in to help
the new group get started. Soon afterward, the Elkhart group
began as the result of South Bend's example; and Goshen
got organized under Elkhart sponsorship.
B., a lone member in Union City, and Bob H., a loner in
Dunkirk were put in contact with each other through the
New York office in September '46. They decided to
start a group in Muncie, a larger and mutually convenient
town. The first year, they held their meetings at the Muncie
Mission, which failed to attract any prospects other than
transients. So they moved to the YMCA, where, in about a
year the group had outgrown its space.
1955, Indiana had 116 groups with about 1,600 members. In
A.A.'s 50th year—and Indiana's 45th—the
state included two Conference areas, Northern and Southern,
which together had 685 groups with an estimated membership
of nearly 12,000.
Bill W. met Dr. Bob, and had stayed on in Akron to help
gather the first little group of recovered alcoholics, he
returned to New York on August 26, 1935. "By the time
I got home," he said, "I was endowed with a
little more humility, a little more understanding, and considerably
more experience. Very slowly a group began to take shape."
Bill sought out alcoholics in the Oxford Group, at the Calvary
Mission, and most fruitfully at Towns Hospital. The first
"success" was Hank P., who lived in Teaneck,
N.J.; the second, Fitz M. from Cumberstone, Maryland.
Bill had attended Oxford Groups meetings both before he
went to Akron and while he was there, it was only natural
he and his new recruits should continue to attend. Indeed,
their sobriety depended on their practicing the Oxford Group
principles. However, Lois had opened their house to alcoholics—as
many as five would sometimes be living there at one time—so
in the fall they began holding separate meetings for the
alcoholics at their home at 182 Clinton Street, Brooklyn
Heights. "In spite of much failure," Bill said,
"a really solid group finally developed." Besides
Hank and Fitz, who traveled in for the meetings, it included
Brooke B., Bill R., Ernest M., Herb D., Ebby T. and others.
alcoholic group continued to attend Oxford Group meetings
for nearly two years, but there were signs that a split
was inevitable. The alcoholics "would not stand for
the aggressive evangelism of the O.G.'s. They would
not accept...'team guidance' for their personal
lives. It was too authoritarian..." The "absolutes"
were too hard to swallow all at once. And because of the
stigma of their disease the alcoholics wanted to be anonymous.
The Oxford Groups, on the other hand, were increasingly
dazzled with prominent names, and were moving subtly away
from intimate group sharing and toward large, well publicized
gatherings attended by hundreds or even thousands. Furthermore,
the New York O.G.'s disapproved of the alcoholics'
concentrating on their own problem to the exclusion of other
group concerns and criticized them for meeting separately.
So, in the middle of 1937, Bill and his friends broke away,
though he acknowledged that "our debt to them is immense."
the end of April 1939, Bill and Lois were forced to move
from the Clinton Street house. For the next two years, they
were to live as vagabonds, dependent on the hospitality
and generosity of A.A. friends. This was also the end of
the meeting on Clinton Street, but by then, as Lois remembered,
"at least a dozen A.A. groups had evolved in the metropolitan
area." One of the first places where Lois and Bill
found temporary quarters was at Green Pond near Montclair
and South Orange, New Jersey, so meetings began there. The
Tuesday meeting moved from Brooklyn to Bert T.'s tailor
shop in Manhattan. Also in Manhattan, at 72nd Street and
Riverside Drive, Leonard and Helga H. had opened their apartment
to a weekly meeting. Another meeting was going in Flatbush,
Brooklyn. And soon, another meeting was held in a loft on
the West Side of Manhattan.
1939, the original group which had met at Bert T.'s
was meeting in Steinway Hall, and the following year, when
the Old 24th Street Clubhouse opened, it began meeting there.
In April 1944, it adopted the name Manhattan Group. It moved
at the end of that year to the Cosmopolitan Club, 405 West
41st Street, where, in December 1946, it organized itself
into a "clearing house" for A.A. services in
New York, the predecessor to the New York Intergroup. The
Manhattan Group met at several other locations through the
years, but since WHEN has met WHERE and is known for its
multiple meetings on WHAT NIGHT: (DESCRIBE)
living in Greenwich Village in 1941 found the Manhattan
Group meetings inconvenient, so they began meeting in members'
apartments in their own neighborhood. In 1959, the Greenwich
Village Group was so large it began meeting in a big room
at St. Luke's Church, where it has remained. West
Side A.A.'s formed the Chelsea Group in 1946 and the
Riverside Group in 1947, and the two decided to merge, becoming
the Chelsea Riverside Group. On the East Side, the Lenox
Hill Group first met in the late '40's.
were 47 groups in Manhattan by 1956, when the Gramercy Group
began. It met at St. George's Church, 207 E. 16th
Street, and from the start it claimed 60 active members,
though its meetings drew many more. In 1960, it moved to
the Church of the Epiphany on East 22nd St.( NOW?)
original Bronx Group began meeting on Wednesdays at 518
Willis Avenue in 1944. Joe H., who worked as a doorman at
a famous night club on 52nd Street, was a colorful early
member; as was Wes I., who was to become director of High
Watch Farm. The South Bronx Group was formed two years later.
Although it had only 16 members at the time, a crowd of
600 came to their 1st Anniversary celebration!
in Brooklyn—in addition to the group in Flatbush that
Lois remembered—a group had begun meeting in the early
'40's at the St. George Hotel. Sometimes called
the "Cold water Group," it was so-called because
the hotel wouldn't let them make their own coffee,
so the only refreshment was cold water. Groups followed:
Bay Ridge, '45; and an offshoot, Sunset, '49;
Stuyvesant about the same time; Brooklyn Central, '56;
and literally hundreds more.
group was started on Staten Island in 1945.
spread outward on Long Island very early. The first meeting
in Forest Hills was in 1941 with about ten persons present.
This group then helped form the first Flushing group March
4, 1943. By June '47, Flushing had 35 members meeting
at the Good Citizens League Hall. Forest Hills members also
organized the first meeting in Hempstead in '43, but
by June of the next year the group had 63 local members.
North Shore group in Manhasset was one of the largest and
most active groups on Long Island from its beginning in
February '45. Within a year, attendance at its weekly
meetings averaged 90 to 100. Today, with several meetings
a week at the Congregational Church, the level of A.A. activity
remains high. The pastor of the church observes, "The
parking lot is more crowded on A.A. meeting nights than
it is on Sunday." In Malverne, the first meeting was
April 29, '48, at the home of Lois F., with 12 present.
out in Suffolk County, the first group was in Huntington.
It began January 4, 1946. It was followed by two more the
same year: Amityville in August and Sayville in December.
The next year, groups began in Southampton (at the Red Cross
Building on Main St.) and in Riverhead, which soon merged
with Southampton. The meeting moved in '59 to the
Also during the 1940's, A.A.
spread rapidly through Westchester County to the north as
groups began in Mt. Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle, Bronxville,
Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Chappaqua, elham, Rye, Scarsdale,
Tarrytown, White Plains and Peekskill. White Plains organized
a group in 1941, and by the end of the decade had nearly
100 members meeting at the Community Church. The Mt. Vernon
group began in '44, and helped start the Yonkers group
the early '50's, A.A. continued to spread northward
to Bedford Hills, Bedford-Poundridge and Yorktown.
western New York, Rochester was an early center for A.A.
activity. The first meeting was held some time in March
1942 in the apartment of one of the members, on South Goodman
St. At the same time, Dr. Kirby Collier read about A.A.
and brought it to the attention of six of his alcoholic
patients. They met with the others and formed the Seneca
group which met for the first time on April 27 at the Seneca
Hotel. Although twelfth-step calls were hard to make in
the war years due to gas rationing, the Rochester members
persisted by bus or on foot. In the late '40's,
an old-timer practically wore out his old red Hudson car
making A.A. calls, running recruits to and from Ward 3CX
(for alcoholic men) or Ward 4CX (for alcoholic women) at
the County Hospital. The requirement for a patient to get
on these wards was that a sober member bring the patient
to the ward and take him or her from the ward. By February
'46, the Seneca group had 200 members and split into
the Cumberland, Christ Church and Academy groups. Later
that year there were meetings seven days a week in Rochester.
Rochester was the site of the first
New York State A.A. conference on January 24, 1948, with
Bill W. as the main speaker. As the members gawked at him,
Bill said, "Don't look for the halo!"
A nonalcoholic guest at that meeting was Dr. John L. "Dr.Jack"
Norris, escorted by the man he called his "A.A. sponsor,"
Burt M. Dr. Jack, associate medical director of Eastman
Kodak, had been introduced to the disease of alcoholism
when Dr. Edmond Fauver of the University of Rochester and
Dr. William Sawyer, Dr. Jack's boss, persuaded him
to accept the chairmanship of a committee called the Allied
Forces, which was trying to get a mental health, drug and
alcohol clinic off the ground. At that time, he had been
treating a valued supervisor at Kodak for a nervous condition,
stomach trouble and other complaints. Dr. Jack had no inkling
the man's real problem was alcohol until he was told
by one of his visiting nurses, followed by a phone call
from an anonymous A.A. member who had been trying to help
the man—whose name was Burt M. After some continued
difficulties, Burt became a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous
and insisted on taking the doctor to A.A. meetings, including
two at which Bill spoke.
Jack was deeply impressed with what he saw at A.A. and,
with Burt's help, began to make real progress in helping
Kodak employees with alcoholism by sending them to A.A.
"So, when people said, 'This thing is hopeless',
I knew it wasn't," he recalls. Dr. Jack also
joined with Dr. Kirby Collier and Dr. Clarence P. to form
the Medical Society on the problems of alcohol, which was
responsible for getting the County Hospital to admit alcoholics,
as described above. With this background, Dr. Jack was also
impressed to meet Bill W. And when Bill phoned him in the
fall of 1950 and asked if he would become a trustee of A.A.,
Dr. Jack agreed.
1950, A.A. in Rochester totaled at least 500 members. This
remarkable growth was due in part to awareness and knowledge
of the disease in the community. In the mid '40's.
Dr. Edwin Fauver brought Marty M. to town to speak, which
set the stage. Then Dr. Norris took the lead.
early as March 1940, the New York service office received
a letter from a woman in Binghamton asking for help for
her husband, Harold. Later, Harold wrote, saying the Big
Book had helped him when he read it at the Veterans'
Hospital at Bath, N.Y. He continued to correspond as a lone
member until November 1941, when Ted B. returned to'
Binghamton from Cleveland where he had gone to get sober
in the Cleveland group. Ruth Hock in New York put the two
men in touch with each other, and they put an ad in the
newspaper. The ad turned up three prospects, but no solid
members at first. Bobbie B. suggested by letter that Ted
look up Dr. Collier in Rochester, which he did. It was now
wartime, and Ted B. went into the army. Harold W., who now
signed himself "Harry", continued the group
and at the end of the war had 12 members.
spread to Ithaca in May 1946. The Rochester group and Dr.
Collier helped start the Syracuse group. (NEED INFO ON SYRACUSE)
In Buffalo, the first group was formed in November '41;
in Olean, February '48.
of its size and A.A. population, New York State embraces
four Conference Areas. The state as a whole had 302 groups
with nearly 7,000 members by 1955. In A.A.'s 50th
year - and New York's as well - there were 2,262 registered
groups with an estimated 45,000 members.
B., one of the first dozen members of A.A. (see story #6
in the Big Book) is best known as the person who insisted
that the word God in the Big Book be qualified with the
phrase "as we understand him." He was also the
founder of A.A. in Philadelphia. Jim had been sober about
two years in the New York group meeting at Bill and Lois's
house when he went to Philadelphia on February 13, 1940,
to start a "very good new position." He said,
"I quickly found I would need a few fellow alcoholics
around me if I was to stay sober."
began by contacting Charlie B., an Oxford Grouper whom he
had met at a New York meeting. Together they contacted George
S.1 whose letter of inquiry was forwarded from the New York
office. A desperately sick alcoholic, George had sobered
up on his own the year before after reading the article
"Alcoholics and God" in Liberty magazine The
group had its first meeting on February 28, 1940, at the
home of Mccready H. Also present, in addition to the above,
were two prospects from Charlie's Oxford Group, Bayard
B. and Edmund P.
afterward, a fateful encounter took place in a bookstore
where Jim B. was trying to place copies of the newly published
Alcoholics Anonymous. A Dr. A. Wiese Hammer happened also
to be in the store and became curious about A.A. After questioning
Jim, his curiosity turned to avid interest and he asked
to become their medical adviser. He also involved an associate,
Dr. C. Dudley Saul.
W. met the two medical men when he came to Philadelphia
to attend the next meeting of the fledgling group on March
6. And the following month, April 3, a public meeting of
A.A. was held at St. Luke's Hospital, arranged by
Drs. Hammer and Saul. Thirty people attended. The doctors
and the A.A. members also persuaded John F. Stouffer, head
of Philadelphia General Hospital that they had something
that could be of use to alcoholics. And from that time until
the hospital's closing in the late '70s, A.A.
took meetings into PCH every Saturday.
the "coincidental" encounter in the book store
was even more fateful for A.A. as a whole, for, in the words
of Bill W., "it was Dr. Hammer's friendship
with Mr. Curtis Bok, owner of the Saturday Evening Post
, that led to the publication in 1941 of Jack Alexander's
the fall of '40, Philadelphia A.A. had 75 members,
including three women, and decided to establish a clubhouse
at 2036 Samson Street. By the next spring, there were 125
members including five women—and then the floods came
with the publication of the Jack Alexander article. Within
two years, the club had taken over a fraternity house near
the University of Pennsylvania, where the A.A. meetings
were held. This, in turn, helped attract higher-bottom prospects.
And in March '46, the clubhouse moved again to still
larger quarters at 4021 Walnut St.
and suburban groups had started by 1945 in Jenkintown, Ardmore,
69th St., Frankford, Germantown, Central City, Roxborough,
and nearby Camden, N.J. Members from Philadelphia started
the Upper Darby group in '45; within a year, it had
60 members and had opened clubrooms.
in June 1945 Lieutenant Yvelin "Yev" C. (later
to become administrative head of the National Council on
Alcoholism under Marty M.; and Director on the A.A. Grapevine
Board) was sent to Allentown to terminate a war materiel
contract. He wrote back to Philadelphia, where he had been
attending A.A., and asked for an Allentown contact. He was
sent the name of Julias P., who had also attended some Philadelphia
meetings. They agreed to try to start a group. Julias contacted
several clergymen and doctors, and they advertised in the
paper and obtained a post office box. Their first recruit
was "Doc" N., a dentist; followed by Joe MacL.;
Shep, a merchandising executive; Wesley M., whom Yev found
panhandling on the street; Mark L., an executive with the
power company; and Charlie M. They began meeting at the
home of Julias' parents and soon rented a room at
the Traylor Hotel. A well-known executive of the leading
corporation in nearby Bethlehem was persuaded by Yev to
attend the Allentown meeting—but only if he could
arrive after dark, sneak up the hotel stairs, and be assured
the meeting was definitely closed. After his first meeting,
"the Colonel," as he was nicknamed, became an
enthusiastic participant. Yev arranged for Philadelphia
members to speak at the weekly Allentown meetings, which
they did throughout the winter, without fail. When Lt. G.
returned to Philadelphia at the end of the year, the Allentown
group had 17 solid members.
Colonel" then opened his home in Bethlehem for a beginners'
meeting. This developed into a regular A.A. meeting. In
the same area, the Easton group started in 1947.
Harrisburg group had a struggle getting under way. It was
founded in March 1941 by a Roger B., who had found A.A.
in Philadelphia and was moved to Harrisburg for several
months. He contacted hospitals and reached out to find other
alcoholics. His first recruit was James T., a journalist.
By the following year, the group numbered eight to ten and
had weekly meetings. In 1943 Harrisburg had a Mid-City group
which called itself "the only meeting between Philadelphia
and Pittsburgh," but it is not known if this is the
same or a successor group. In any event, the "Harrisburg
group" was flourishing in 1947 with 50 members. In
1950, it listed 100 members. Other groups were formed thereafter:
in '53, Hill group; '58, 19th St. group; '60,
Westshore group; '68, Bailey St. group; '71,
New Chance Study group; '74, Brothers & Sisters,
Lakeside Desire, and 21st St. groups.
in Reading was started after George L., who was having family
problems due to his drinking, read a letter in the lovelorn
column in the newspaper by a man who said his family problems
ended after joining A.A. George L., who commuted to Philadelphia,
began attending A.A. there twice weekly. Soon he sought
out another Reading alcoholic and began holding meetings
in his home in 1943. The following year, the group had grown
so they needed to rent a room at 613 Penn St. Public meetings
in '45 and '47 at the Rajah Temple, advertised
by newspaper and radio, brought additional members, including
the first woman. After another move, the group settled at
26 No. 6th St. where it has remained. In this location,
a bar is on the first floor, an A.A. office on the second,
and the group meeting room on the third. Growth of Reading
A.A. was helped by the opening in 1960 of Chit-Chat Farms,
which became one of the better known treatment centers.
13, 1940 was the date of the first A.A. meeting in Pittsburgh
in room 152 at the Henry Hotel. It had been arranged by
two nonalcoholics, Tim O'Leary and Attorney David
Janavitz, both of whom had alcoholic employees. Alcoholics
at the first meeting were: Si H., Howell J., Jake H., Arch
K. and Jim K. Earl Y in '41, the group moved to the
downtown YMCA on Wood St., which they soon had to be vacated
because the YMCA space was needed for servicemen in wartime.
The group had to move a half-dozen more times in its first
Mt. Lebanon and Dormont groups in Pittsburgh owed their
origins to the South Hills group, sometimes known as the
"Souse Hills" group because of its slippery
beginnings. It started in 1942 with five people and grew
to over 30 after a few months, about 20 of whom continued
to drink while attending meetings regularly. According to
Eph S., one of the founders, "On one occasion, when
none of the non-drinkers showed, the evening ended at a
bar where everyone got stinko." Eph also remembers
they arranged a trip to Akron to attend Founders'
Day, took along a bottle as it was a long trip - and never
made it. Not surprisingly, the group dwindled to four members
- four sober members, that is - before it began to grow
again on a sounder basis. It finally became so large it
split into the Mt.Lebanon and Dormont groups.
growth of Alcoholics Anonymous in Pennsylvania was aided
by the large size of the state and also, perhaps, by the
development of an unusually strong service structure in
the eastern part. Although there were only 192 groups with
3,319 members in 1955, it had increased to nearly 1,300
groups with 24,000 members by 1985.
in Baltimore started when Jim B., visiting from Philadelphia,
met Jim R. on June 16, 1940, at the latter's house
on St.Paul Street. Jim R. had been sober for two years,
after a religious recovery at Keswick Colony in New Jersey.
He had even been working with two other alcoholics without
success. Jim B. told him about A.A. and urged him to start
a local group.
first meeting as a group was held only six days later in
the office of a Mr. Penny, a lawyer who was interested in
A.A. because of an alcoholic brother. Present were Jim R.,
Jim B. from Philadelphia, Fred M., Norman B., Mac S. and
Mr. Penny. The group continued meeting weekly, often with
wives along. They moved to a basement room at the Altamont
Hotel in October and six months later to rented space at
857 N. Eutaw. Very early, they obtained the cooperation
of Baltimore judges who would hold a drunk until a member
could arrive to take over. Also, the Salvation Army cooperated
by providing beds and food for drunks while A.A. members
worked on them. And they were given help constantly by visiting
A.A.'s from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Baltimore Sun paper ran an article on the young group in
February '41, including a photo from the rear. The
next month the Jack Alexander article added its impetus
to rapid growth. The first suburban meeting was held in
'45, mainly because of gas rationing, in Towson. Radio
station WFBR began donating 15 minutes a week in 1948, in
which two or three A.A.'s would tell their stories.
The program continued until 1957, with as many as 25 calls
coming in at the end of each night's program.
Fitz M. was living in Cumberstone,
on the Chesapeake Shore of Maryland, when he came to New
York in 1936, sobered up at Towns Hospital, and met Bill
W. Returning home, he started reaching out to alcoholics.
Bill and Lois visited Fitz frequently, attracted by the
peace and quiet of the area. Bill even made some of the
notes for the Big Book there. However, the first A.A. group
in Cumberland (near Cumberstone) did not form until 1947.
1955, Maryland had 52 groups and 945 members. In 1985, it
had 766 groups with a membership of over 13,000.
B. was also instrumental in starting A.A. in Wilmington,
Delaware. And, as might be expected, its beginning was tied
in with the DuPont Company, a dominant factor in Wilmington
life. Dr. George Gehrmann, medical director, had been struggling
for 18 years to deal with alcoholism within the company
when, in 1943, he heard about A.A. and went to a meeting
in Philadelphia to observe. There he met Jim B., who spent
considerable time talking to him. When Dr. Gehrrnann returned
to Wilmington that night, he was loaded down with eight
Big Books and a supply of pamphlets.
Dave H., an employee of Remington Arms, a DuPont subsidiary
in Bridgeport, Connecticut, had attended the Oxford Group
for his alcoholism and had sobered up in A.A. He had then
worked with the Remington Arms management to help other
alcoholic employees. As the war drew to a close, the Remington
Arms work force was cut back and Dave M. was laid off. He
contacted DuPont in Wilmington to suggest that the A.A.
approach which had been successful at their subsidiary in
Bridgeport might be tried at the parent company. DuPont
replied there was no alcoholism problem there. So when Dave
heard of Dr. Gehrmann's visit to A.A. in Philadelphia,
he immediately contacted him and so impressed the doctor
with his enthusiasm that he was hired by DuPont in January1944.
the support of five members from Philadelphia, the first
A.A. meeting in Wilmington was held January 14, 1944.
first apprehensive lest its public image be affected, DuPont
eventually gave the program its full support. Dave also
visited the Episcopal Bishop, Arthur McKinstry, who put
him in touch with a Father Tucker, a Roman Catholic. Both
churchmen gave A.A. considerable help. Through Dr. Gehrmann,
the local medical profession cooperated by referring alcoholic
patients. Judge Nielson of Family Court also made referrals.
Wilmington A.A. grew. Soon there were meetings four nights
a week. The group called the roll every Friday, and if a
member was missing, the secretary sent a post card, "We
miss you. (signed) The Group." In June '44,
the first public meeting was held at the Academy of Music,
attended by 72 people. In September, the first meeting at
the Delaware State Hospital was begun. And on February 22,
1945, the group celebrated its first anniversary with a
big meeting at the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel DuPont! Marty
M. from New York, and Dr. Munz, a local clergyman who had
greatly helped A.A., were the speakers.
need was felt for an all-women's group was felt in
'49, so an advertisement was placed in the local paper
and 40 showed up for the first meeting. An A.A. group was
started by Bill H. in Dover in '46. But after five
years, as members moved away without new members being found,
it disbanded. Soon afterward, Marge N., an A.A. from Alexandria,
Virginia, moved to Dover and was dismayed to find no meeting.
She immediately went to work to get things started again,
and eventually three other groups grew from the revived
Dover group. In Lower Delaware, a group began in Laurel
in '47. Eventually, other groups started in Georgetown,
Rehobeth and Seaford.
A.A.'s 50th year, Delaware reported over 100 groups
with more than 1,600 members.
M., one of Bill W.'s earliest successes out of Towns
Hospital in 1935, lived in Cumberstone, Maryland. Strongly
religious as well as an "impractical, lovable dreamer",
he became a devoted friend of Bill and Lois. So he spent
a great deal of time in New York, always making the long
trip to attend the early A.A. meetings at their Brooklyn
house. In 1939, Fitz moved to Washington, D.C.
As the southernmost outpost of A.A.
at that time, he was sent all inquiries from the South.
One of the first of these was Hardin C., from Washington,
whom Fitz immediately contacted, and they began meeting
at Hardin's apartment. They soon recruited more "Boys
of '39", including Ned F., who also had gotten
sober in New York; a retired Navy Commander from California;
and others. Their first woman, Dorothy H. joined the next
B. from Philadelphia gave a lot of help to the Washington
A.A.'s. Since he considered the weekly meetings at
Philadelphia General Hospital to be a keystone in the success
of the group in that city, he urged the D.C. group to work
with the alcoholics at Gallinger Hospital. Jim also introduced
the custom of serving coffee and doughnuts at meetings.
And the D.C. members got a replay of the discussion that
had taken place between Jim B. and Fitz M. over the references
to God in the Big Book: Jim emphasizing the psychological
approach and Fitz emphasizing the religious.
professional community cooperated with the Washington group
from the early days. Gallinger Hospital even issued special
privilege cards to A.A. members to facilitate their Twelfth
Step work at any hour. In May 1940, The Washington Evening
Star published a favorable article about A.A. by Bob Erwin,
a non-alcoholic reporter, giving the group its first public
exposure. The article mentioned a "colored group"
in Arlington, which apparently went out of existence soon
after. (The Washington Colored Group was founded in April
'45 by Jimmy S. It later changed its name to the Cosmopolitan
Group to convey the fact that it was "a group for
all people, all races; it doesn't matter who you are.")
The Star article was a big help in bringing people to A.A.,
and by the end of the year the group numbered 70.
M. died in 1943, but Washington A.A. was firmly established
by then. They began having annual banquets that year. The
following year, 600 people crowded the auditorium at Central
High School for a large, public meeting. Shortly after the
war, new groups began forming around the D.C. area; in 1955,
there were nine groups with over 400 members. Growth gained
momentum in the succeeding decades until, in 1985, there
were 135 groups with a reported 4,500 members, representing
the full diversity of the nation's capital. As the
black population increased, many predominantly black groups
emerged, and in 1983 the first black A.A. trustee, Garrett
T., from Washington, was elected to represent the Northeast
Region. The Foxhall group became something of a high-bottom
showcase for visitors to the city. A strong segment of Hispanic
groups grew up. It is also a center for gay groups in A.A.
A.A. has benefited from strong A.A. leadership and well-known
personalities within the Fellowship. John W., a delegate
on Panel WHICH and an outstanding Northeast Regional Trustee
1975-79, was a key chairman of the A.A. World Services Board
and a wise and influential member of important Board committees
during his term. Hal M., a delegate, headed the alcoholism
program in the U.S. State Department. As such, he traveled
to embassies and consulates throughout the world to help
foreign service officers with drinking problems, and so
became one of the best known Americans to A.A.'s in
other countries. "Buck" D., a dedicated old-timer
known for his tough sponsorship, was the person to whom
the sobriety (and the anonymity) of famous government figures
was entrusted. Richard "Sandy" B. was one of
the best-known speakers in A.A., in constant demand at A.A.
get-togethers including the 45th International Convention
in New Orleans in 1980 where he spoke at the opening meeting
on Friday night. Sandy is also known for his weekly explanations
of the Twelve Steps to alcoholic patients at Washington's
Psychiatric Institute, which, in tape form, are widely used
and Eastern Massachusetts
the St. Louis Convention, Bill W. called the Boston Group
"that wonderful nucleus from which so much of A.A.
in New England later stemmed." He went on to say that,
heartbreakingly, its founder, Paddy K., "could never
get sober himself and finally died of alcoholism. He was
just too sick to make it. Slip followed slip, but he came
back each time to carry A.A.'s message, at which he
was amazingly successful..." Paddy was in touch with
Bill and Ruth Hock as early as 1939, trying to get a group
started. He held some kind of A.A. meeting Wednesday, November
13, 1940, but the first regular meeting of the Boston Group
was on the first Wednesday in March 1941 at the office of
Dr. Lawrence M. Hatlestad, 115 Newbury Street.
Hatlestad, a nonalcoholic, was assistant secretary of the
Jacoby Club of Boston. Their letterhead carries the line,
"A Club For Men To Help Themselves By Helping Others."
He wrote the A.A. office in June 1940 that he had read "your
splendid book Alcoholics Anonymous" and declared "You
have come upon something of real merit." He pointed
out that his club had similar goals and that some of the
members were alcoholics and had quit drinking. And he said
he was anxious to contact A.A.'s in Boston.
the Saturday Evening Post article appeared, Ruth Hock prepared
a list of 31 inquiries from the Boston area to be contacted.
When she couldn't locate Paddy, she sent the list
to Dr. Hatlestad. When Paddy reappeared, he found that Dr.
Hatlestad had Twelfth Stepped some of the prospects and,
incidentally, taken them on as private patients. Paddy also
wrote that the doctor was soliciting contributions and implying
a connection with A.A. On May 12, he wired New York to ask
Bill to come to Boston and straighten out the matter. Bill
did so a week or two later, and the group moved to quarters
of their own at 123 Newbury St.
D., a Federal police sergeant at the Boston Navy Yard, was
one of those who had written to New York after the Jack
Alexander article appeared. When he was told there was no
A.A. group in Boston as yet, he immediately headed down
to New York to talk with Bill, who Twelfth Stepped him and
sent him back to look up Paddy. Jack recalls being at the
first Boston Group meeting where besides himself, Paddy
and the doctor those present were Bert C., Judge Paul C.,
John M., "Mal" C., and Eric K. Shortly thereafter
came Jennie B., their first woman member.
the effect of the Jack Alexander article on A.A.'s
early growth in Boston, Jack D. mentions the publicity given
to Rollie H., the Cleveland Indians' catcher who had
recovered in A.A. and who attended meetings when his team
was in Boston. Similarly, a Boston Braves pitcher, Nate
A., got sober in '43 and attended the Boston Group.
W. returned to speak at the group's first anniversary,
when it had 40 members. Soon, offshoots were formed. When
the secretary of the Boston Group, Madeline B., moved to
Worcester in '42, the first group began there. The
following year, members living in Quincy formed the South
Shore Group. A year later, the same thing happened in Dorchester.
By 1945, informal luncheon meetings were being held to discuss
the need for a Central Office, started later that year.
The founding groups included Boston, Brookline, Cambridge,
Dorchester, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Lynn, Mattapan, Newton,
South Shore, Uphams Corner and Woburn. When the Waltham
Group began November 1, 1947, its secretary acknowledged
the help and support of groups from Weston, Brighton, Newtonville,
Watertown and Maynard whose members had more sobriety than
those in Waltham.
Boston A.A. seems to have had support from the church in
its early days. Archbishop Cushing spoke at the first anniversary
of the Dorchester Group, and Fr. John Ford, S.J., a nationally
recognized theologian at Weston College occasionally dropped
in at the Waltham meetings.
miles east of Cape Cod "as the fish swims",
on Nantucket island, a lone member in August 1947 invited
any A.A.'s visiting there to contact him. He says
he has told the police and the local newspaper about A.A.
and his presence on the island;, and hopes to start a group.
Today, there are A.A. meetings every day of the week on
Nantucket. A solid corps of members maintain their sobriety
and enjoy socializing through the winter months, and their
ranks swell with A.A. tourists in the summer.
William O'Hearn of North Adams, Mass., may have been
the first judge in the country to recognize the efficacy
of A.A. and refer drunks to meetings. In the middle '40's
he said that classifying drunkenness as a crime does nothing
to bring about rehabilitation. "I had little faith
in A.A. when it was first organized," he said, "but
I have watched the growth and know of its splendid accomplishments.
I feel that today it offers the greatest opportunity in
overcoming this terrible curse."
had the distinction of electing the very first delegate
to be chosen for the first General Service Conference in
1951. At a meeting at the Hotel Bradford on January 14,
the names of seven committeemen were placed in a hat, from
which Bill W. drew the name of Bob G. Subsequently, Eastern
Massachusetts contributed more than its share of trustees
representing the Northeast Region. They were, in succession:
Frank R., from Lowell ('66-'69); Bill C., from
Boston ('69-'72); and Junior A. from Needham
A.A.'s 50th year—and Boston's 45th—Eastern
Massachusetts had 840 groups reporting over 24,000 members!
A.A.'s 50th year, Western Massachusetts had 144 groups
reporting over 2,800 members.
per-capital consumption of alcohol in Vermont has always
been high, so it has had more than its share of alcoholics.
However, in the Green Mountain State, as in other areas
with sparse populations in widely dispersed towns, the growth
of A.A. was slow and difficult. Rev. Charles Jones, in Burlington,
had become so concerned over the problem drinkers that,
in 1940, he traveled to England with an alcoholic he was
trying to help, in order to attend the Oxford Group. He
found it "too dogmatic," but on his return,
he took another drunk, Had C. to New York to attend an A.A.
meeting. He met Bill w. either than or later, for he continued
to take sick fellows down to New York over the next several
years to be hospitalized and to talk to Bill. And at least
once, he was able to get four A.A.'s from New Jersey
to come up and put on meetings in Burlington and Montpelier.
The first group in Vermont began
meeting in 1944—at first in private homes and soon
thereafter in the Congregational Church in Burlington. It
had seven members including Had C., Dick P. and a Doc C.,
who had sent away for a Big Book and had been sober on his
own for nearly a year. The following spring, at the suggestion
of Charlie W., a newcomer, the group placed an ad about
A.A. on the comic strip page of the local paper on the theory
that "drunks will read the funnies when they can't
read anything else." Also, a public meeting was held
to which professional people were invited to hear Dr. Dudley
Saul of Philadelphia speak on alcoholism. In 1946 the group
numbered 14 and was meeting in the Old Fire House in the
North End of Burlington. Wives were invited to help with
refreshments and these were social occasions before and
after the meetings. Arrangements were made at Mary Fletcher
Hospital for two beds to be reserved to hospitalize hard-core
first woman member, Connie F., joined in 1947. By then,
other groups had started in Fairlee, Windsor, Rutland, Montpelier,
St. Johnsbury and Bethel. By 1955 there were 20 groups reporting
337 members in the state. In October 1960, Bill W. came
to Burlington to speak at a large meeting celebrating A.A.'s
20th Anniversary. Because Vermont attracts hordes or tourists,
many of its meetings include more visitors than is common
elsewhere. For example, for more than 20 years a group has
met Saturday nights at the Chapel in the Snow atop Stratton
Mountain, a famous ski resort. Although the meeting is supported
by residents from nearby Manchester, Dorset, South Londonderry,
etc., it provides an A.A. haven for numbers of sober skiers
A.A.'s 50th year, Vermont had 142 groups with 2,245
members and Burlington provided satellite housing for some
of the 50,000 attending the International Convention in
groups began meeting in Manchester and Portsmouth, N.H.,
in 1946, and a year later in Concord. By '49, there
were 12 meetings in the state; by '55, 20 groups.
The first New Hampshire Convention was held at the Eastern
Slopes Inn in North Conway in 1966. In A.A.'s 50th
year, New Hampshire groups had grown to 264 with a membership
of nearly 3,600.
M. of Newport, Maine, was drinking badly. He took a geographic
cure to Brooklyn, New York, to live with his sister, but
his drinking only got worse. In desperation, he wrote a
letter to the Kings County Hospital, and they referred him
to A.A. This was in 1942, and Jim M. attended the Fellowship
for two years in New York before returning to Newport in
1944. Meanwhile, Clint W. had written from Maine to the
New York office of A.A., who referred him to Chan R., who
had gotten sober in A.A. in Florida. Thus, four men met
on October 6, 1944, at Chan's house in Cape Elizabeth
in the first A.A. meeting in Maine.
started in both Bangor and Portland in 1946—the seeds
from which most of the other groups in Maine sprang. Jim
U. in Bangor had read the Jack Alexander article, but continued
to drink for four more years. In August 1945, he went to
Boston seeking help from A.A., and on his return, stayed
sober until New Year's Eve. He landed back in Boston,
where they stressed the importance of working with other
alcoholics. So, back in Bangor, Jim. U. Twelfth Stepped
Clarence D., and together, with the help of the Big Book,
they held Bangor's first meeting in Jim's service
station on January 7, 1946. Within a few weeks they had
five more members. Jim M. from Newport joined the group
and soon started a group in Newport as well. In July the
group, with help from A.A.s in Boston, held a dinner meeting
open to the press. By September, there were 25 members in
a rented meeting room.
Portland, Henry P. wrote the New York office for help in
December 1945. He was told of an Ed M. who had moved to
Portland from Brooklyn. They got together and started an
A.A. group in January '46. With the help of a full
page article on the group in the Portland Sunday Telegram,
they soon grew to about 30 members.
from Bangor and Portland tried to start a group in Ellsworth,
but were met with negative attitudes on the part of local
citizens. All doors were closed until they found a friend
in Father McDonough, pastor of St.Joseph's Catholic
Church, who offered them a room in the church basement as
a meeting place.
W. visited Maine on April 15, 1950, to talk at the A.A.
Conference in Brewer (CHK), when there were 30 groups with
more than 600 members. By 1985, they had grown to 261 groups
with over 4,250 members.
Q. of Providence traveled to Boston to get sober and continued
to attend meetings there. But in 1945 he began a meeting
in his own city with the help of Jack D. of Boston and a
member named John who had come to A.A. in Akron. These three
and one or two newcomers from Providence met first on March
29 in the lobby of the Hotel Biltmore and continued there
until they were asked to leave. The Round Top restaurant
then offered them a meeting place in the fall of '45,
so the group became known as the Round Top group. The Providence
Journal ran a prominent, illustrated feature article on
the group on October 7, entitled "It Takes a Drunk
to Help a Drunk."
second Providence group, the East Side group, was started
in July 1946. At about the same time, Westerly had its first
A.A. meeting. By 1955, there were 19 groups in Rhode Island
and a large Anniversay Meeting drew over 300 people. In
A.A.'s 50th year, the state had 160 groups with more
than 2,600 members.
November 1941, an Albany man whose name is not known wrote
the office in New York and was sent A.A. literature and
the names of contacts in Cohoes and Hudson Falls. However,
the first meeting of the Albany Group was held Sunday, March
7, 1943, with four members present. It had grown to 12 within
a year, and was meeting at the Dewitt Clinton Hotel. The
Albany Group also was often attended by members from Syracuse,
Fulton, Rome, Utica, Schenectady, Troy, Glens Falls and
July 1945, the group claimed 30 members. There was also
an Albany P.O. box for A.A. and a telephone answering service.
A second group began in 1946, meeting Wednesday nights at
the Joseph Henry Memorial Building. The Fellowship grew
rapidly during the '50s and afterward, and by 1985
Albany listed 42 groups, with many more meetings than that
Glens Falls, a group started in 1939, meeting in members'
homes. They soon moved to the Queensbury Hotel, followed
by the Episcopal Parish House on Glen St., which they left
to go to a room over Boxers Drug Store on Warren Street.
Today they are back at the Parish House. Glens Falls members
helped A.A. spread to Hudson Falls, Warrensburg, Chestertown
present Pot 0' Gold Group in Hudson actually originated
in the village of Valatie, New York. Several Hudson A.A.'s
on example, for more than 20 years a group has met Saturday
nights at the Chapel in the Snow atop Stratton Mountain,
a famous ski resort. Although the meeting is supported by
residents from nearby Manchester, Dorset, South Londonderry,
etc., it provides an A.A. haven for numbers of sober skiers
traveling salesman placed a early copy of the Big Book in
the Kingston public library. A high school student, son
of a minister, happened on the volume, read it, and showed
it to his father. The minister, in turn, gave it to a drunk
in his church, Cliff V., who had come to him with his drinking
problem. Cliff's wife wrote the New York office of
A.A., and Ruth Hock arranged for her husband to be Twelve
Stepped by two members of the Larchmont Group. The Kingston
alcoholic then carried the message to a local doctor and
three others, including a woman. In September 1941 they
began meeting regularly in the doctor's office in
the evening. As they acquired other members, they moved
to the Benedictine Hospital and in 1946 to the YMCA. They
became known as the Original Kingston Group when, in 1953,
the Tri-bridge Group was started.
first Schenectady meetings were held in the Van Curler Hotel
in the '40s. The Schenectady Clubhouse Group was then
formed, which eventually held several daytime and evening
meetings each week. Also in the '40s, A.A. spread
to Utica, Rome, Troy and Saratoga; in the '50s, to
New Paltz and Woodstock; in the '60s, to Cobleskill,
Middleburg, Plattsburg, Lake Placid and other towns.
of their proximity, Berkshkire County, Massachusetts, and
the extreme southern part of Vermont, are a part of this
Area. In the Berkshires are the following towns, among others:
Barrington, where a group formed in 1955 after a Ray A.
sent an inquiry to the New York office.
Stockbridge, first meeting at Alice R.'s in Rattlesnake
North Adams, first meeting at Dr. M's on Church
St., then Richmond Hotel.
Adams, First meeting in the old Plunkett mansion.
hoosick Falls, Vermont, Win R., a lone member in 1946, grew
tired of traveling to Glens Falls meetings and started a
group in his home. In Bennington, Paul B., an enthusiastic
A.A. who traveled for business, brought back new ideas and
sharing from the meetings he attended in faraway cities.
The group grew fast, with A.A.'s from Massachusetts
and New York towns attending regularly. They met first in
private homes but soon moved to a succession of larger quarters,
ending up at the McCullough Library in North Bennington.
The beginning of A.A. in Greenwich,
Connecticut, is traced back to Marty M., an attractive debutante
and young society matron in the '20s. She had attended the
best boarding schools, married and lived in London in high
style. By 32 years of age, she had slid into desperate alcoholism—though
at the time, she attributed her bizarre behavior to imagined
mental problems and was committed to Blythewood Sanitarium
in Greenwich. The medical director there was Dr. Harry Tiebout,
who had been sent an advance multilith copy of the Big Book
for review. He gave it to Marty to read.
first she refused, and then read just enough to argue with
Dr. Tiebout that these people were fanatics. She didn't
believe in God and "couldn't stand all those
capital C's" in the book. After a few weeks,
however, Marty found herself in an emotional crisis that
filled her with fury. In her rage, she literally "saw
red", but then her eyes fell on the line in the book
lying open on her bed. It read, "We cannot live with
walls crumpled and the light streamed in," Marty recalled
later. She was convinced. Shortly afterward, Dr. Tiebout
encouraged her to venture into New York by train and attend
her first A.A. meeting. She was met at Grand Central Terminal
by Horace "Popsie" M., who took her to dinner
and then escorted her by subway over to the meeting at Bill
and Lois's house in Brooklyn. When she returned home
to Blythewood late that night, she reported to her close
friend and fellow alcoholic, Grennie the now-famous statement,
"We aren't alone any more."
Almost immediately, backed by Dr.
Tiebout, Marty and Grennie began holding meetings on the
sanitarium grounds. The time was May 1939, which led Bill
to say at the St.Louis Convention that "some folks
think this [was) A.A.'s Group #3." Actually,
it seems a dead-heat tie with Clarence S.'s Cleveland
Group. Marty M. was the first woman to achieve lasting sobriety
in Alcoholics Anonymous and went on to found the National
Council on Alcoholism. She was an active member of A.A.
all her days, and only a few weeks after drawing tremendous
crowds as an honored speaker at the 45th Anniversary International
Convention in New Orleans in 1980, she died.
Greenwich Group grew slowly and numbered 15 when Bill W.
spoke at a public meeting put on by the group on October
2, 1942. By that time, the group was meeting at the Second
Congregational Church at the top of Putnam Avenue. Art.
S., sober 39 years in 1985, remembers that when he moved
to Greenwich in 1946, "In addition to [the above)
open speaker meeting on Fridays, there was a closed meeting
on Monday evening at the YMCA and another on Wednesday evening
at St.Mary's Church on Greenwich Avenue. Art also
attended a Tuesday night meeting started by Maher M. in
Greenwich A.A. differed from that
in other places in two ways. Perhaps because it was founded
by a woman, there were always a large percentage of women
there. And organizationally, it long remained a single group
with many meetings, rather than splitting into separate
groups. By the very early '60s, a meeting had begun
on Sunday afternoons at St.Paul's Episcopal Church
in Riverside; another on Saturday night at the Presbyterian
Church; still another at St.Barnabas' on Tuesdays;
and a beginners' meeting at the "Y". Among
the active members remembered from those days were Stewart
and Lil J., George B., Barbara 0., Jack C., Franklyn V.,
Polly M. and Polly S., Ad T., Charlie E., Ted B., John S.,
Harry W., Margaret B. and Mary A.
the late '60s, the number of meetings had so proliferated
that the "mother group" could no longer care
for her chicks. Reluctantly, it was decided to separate
into independent groups with a coordinating committee to
serve them, plan the annual anniversary meetings, publish
meeting lists - and man the volunteer A.A. answering service
set up in 1975. Greenwich A.A. grew explosively in the '70s,
spurred in part by the addition of an Alcoholism Recovery
Unit at the Greenwich Hospital.
A.A.'s 50th year—and Greenwich's 46th—the
town had 32 meetings a week.
in Connecticut, a group formed in New Haven in March 1941
and hatched other groups in surrounding towns. Alex P.,
who lived in Westport but attended New Haven, handled inquiries
in his vicinity. Soon a group started there. In October
1941, the New Haven sent a "team" over to Bridgeport
to start a group in that city. Folks from Fairfield, Southport,
Stratford, Milford, Shelton and Trumbull started by attending
New Haven and then began their own meetings.
in Hartford had two founding members, both of whom had their
last drinks on Memorial Day 1941 but did not meet until
the end of that year! Hal S. from the Shaker Heights, Ohio,
Group, came to Hartford to take an insurance company course.
He inquired of a doctor if he knew of any drunks, but the
doctor did not. His nurse, however, gave Hal the name of
Harold "Red" W. Hal called him that evening,
but he was "indisposed." They got together a
few days later, and Red had his last drink on May 30.
the same time, Harold H., a salesman and periodic drunk,
had read the Saturday Evening Post piece, but was put off
by the "God business" and resigned himself to
remaining a drunk. Not long afterward, he was in a hospital,
battered and facing police charges. On his release, he went
to a party on May 30, where he ran into an old drinking
Buddy, Brad P. Brad wasn't drinking, having sobered
up in the Scarsdale, New York, Group. He asked Harold if
he wanted to die a drunk. Having seen a man die in the D.T.'s,
Harold answered no. He never took another drink.
and Red met not long afterward, and by December they counted
ten recruits between them and held Hartford's first
A.A. meeting. For about nine months, they met in various
homes. In September 1942, they had a buffet supper at the
Blue Plate Restaurant in West Hartford. A Mr. and Mrs. Gengas,
who owned the restaurant, became interested in their unusual
patrons and offered a banquet room as a regular meeting
place on Monday nights. Thus, Hartford's mother group
became known as the Blue Plate Group. One of its pioneer
members was Bob M. Bill W. spoke at the group's first
public meeting celebrating its first anniversary in 1943.
there is no record, it is believed Norwalk had a small A.A.
group as early as 1940. One of them, a man named Les, got
drunk. He went into the woods with a gun, vowing to commit
suicide. His terrified wife called the A.A.'s, who
searched the woods for him and eventually rescued him. Out
of sheer relief, all except one got drunk! The one who stayed
sober was John B., who lived in New Canaan. With the Norwalk
Group temporarily dissolved, John started holding meetings
in his house—with a May S. as an early member. Eventually,
the Norwalk members, including Les, sobered up and resumed
meeting. From that point, both groups grew separately.
1955, Connecticut had 50 groups with 1,083 members. In A.A.'s
50th year - and Connecticut's 46th - it had 876 groups
reporting a membership of over 18,000.
related earlier, A.A. began very early in New Jersey, as
a result of Bill and Lois living there temporarily after
the foreclosure of their Brooklyn: home. About seven alcoholics
from the Oranges and Montclair were attending the meeting
in New York City, held at that time at Steinway Hall. The
wife of one of these members elected to invite them to gather
at their home in Montclair on weekends in the late spring
of 1939. This gave two of the members they idea of arranging
a room at the South Orange Community House for regular meetings
which began in the fall of that year. The membership was
then about 12.
of public interest was discouraging and growth was painfully
slow in the period that followed. When the group reached
about 20, they moved to a room in Newark in a dance studio
on Washington St. Then, in March 1941, the appearance of
the Saturday Evening Post article caused the membership
to jump to 80 almost overnight. Inevitably administrative
problems and bickering arose. The Newark meeting place was
too small, and a nonalcoholic friend secured the G.A.R.
Hall in Bloomfield, paid the rent for a year and presented
it to the group. They had to move again at the end of that
time, this time to the Roseville building. A second group,
called The New Men, took over the G.A.R. Hall. By the spring
of 1942, there were 125 members and growing pains were rampant.
Besides the South Orange group (meeting in Newark, Bloomfield,
etc.) other groups formed in Morristown, Englewood, Montclair,
Fairlawn and elsewhere by 1942.
In South Jersey, the first groups
were in Collingswood and Camden, about 1944, as offshoots
of nearby Philadelphia.
As the population of New Jersey
swelled in the post-war years, so did the A.A. population,
and groups proliferated. By 1955, they numbered 115 with
2,281 members. By 1985, however, the Garden State had 1,122
registered groups with 22,260 members.