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A. Weise Hammer
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., May 1957
simple account of the passing of one of America's finest
surgeons stirs memories that will always be bright in the
annals of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. A. Wiese Hammer was
one of the best friends that AA will ever have.
of Philadelphia's old-time members have written up the full
story of Dr. Hammer and his benefactions. And here is the
substance of what they had to say:
was February 1940. Jim, a New York AA, had just moved to
Philadelphia and he was trying to get a local bookstore
to carry the book "Alcoholics Anonymous". The
bookstore's manager protested that his customers could have
no possible interest in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous".
As for himself, he couldn't care less.
this turndown, a lady standing nearby got into the act.
She said she had sent "Alcoholics Anonymous" to
her alcoholic nephew in Los Angeles. To the astonishment
of the whole family, the problem boy had sobered up instantly
and he had stayed that way for some three months. This was
unheard of. Nevertheless, the bookstore manager remained
when Helen Hammer heard of Jim's attempt to start the group
at Philadelphia, her delight was boundless. She immediately
led Jim and one of his new prospects to her surgeon husband.
Hammer in all that he undertook was a huge enthusiast. This
full-blooded, ruddy-faced man had a zest for living which
poured out of him right around the clock. And his joyous
contagion he could spread to just about everybody he met.
The moment he heard Jim's story about AA his good work for
our Society began at once. As we shall see, it was not confined
to Philadelphia only; Dr. Hammer went to bat for us nationally
at a time when AA had great need for his kink of good friend.
is what Dr. Hammer did: he opened his home to all AA members;
secured the Philadelphia Group its first meeting rooms;
introduced us to Dr. Stouffer, another great friend-to-be,
who was then chief psychiatrist at the Philadelphia General
Hospital; secured us treatment and visiting privileges there;
had AAs speak befor the county medical society; along with
his good wife, Helen, attended nearly every AA meeting for
years; gave free medical and surgical aid to every AA who
wanted it; visited other cities to talk about AA and paid
the expenses of the Philadelphia members he took along;
offered to buy the Philadelphia Group its first clubhouse
(which had to be declined); saw that his friend, Judge Curtis
Bok, owner of the "Saturday Evening Post", became
interested in AA; and finally induced the judge to assign
Jack Alexander to do the famous article in 1941 that made
our Fellowship a national institution.
is only an abbreviated list of Dr. hammer's good works for
our Society. Doubtless hundreds of his benefactions will
never be known, except to those individual sufferes to whom
he was so notably kind.
too, I find it impossible to write about Dr. Hammer without
the happy recollection of Dr. Dudley Saul, another noted
Philadelphia physician who constantly vied with Dr. Hammer
in good works for us drunks.
our intense astonishment - and always to our great benefit
- these two great gentlemen fiercely competed with each
other to figure out something bigger and better they could
do for Alcoholics Anonymous. This is a great story in itself
which I'm going to tell one of these days. How could AA
in its infancy ever have survived without friends such as
these Philadelphia physicians who worked shoulder to shoulder
with Drs. Tiebout and Silkworth at New York?
Helen Hammer I send AA's deepest sympathy and gratitude.
And I often wonder what her memories of our early days must
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., May 1957
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