of Central Offices
This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
The Jack Alexander article in the Saturday Evening Post
not only began a large influx of prospective members into AA, it began
a new phenomenon. This new concept in AA was the beginning of Central
Offices and Intergroups.
On March 2, 1941 a "Clearing House Committee"
was formed in Cleveland, Ohio. This was an outgrowth of the AA Association
which was formed in the late summer or early fall of 1939. The AA
Association helped keep records of those prospects who were hospitalized
for detoxification in the Cleveland area. It also was responsible
for making sure all hospital bills were paid.
The Clearing House Committee was comprised of two (2) members from
each and every AA Group in Cuyahoga County. The motion that created
this committee stated that "This Committee to have NO AUTHORITY
to commit, involve or bind any one or all of the Groups in Cuyahoga
County in any manner whatsoever without first referring proposed ideas,
plans or prepositions to each individual Group for its acceptance
In New York City, the AA Clubhouse on 334 1/2 West 24th Street was
established in 1940. This was the hub of AA activity on the local
level. In 1942, the first New York City Central Committee was formed
to handle inquiries from new prospects. They hired two (2) secretaries
who were responsible for answering letters and phone calls.
The New Jersey meetings were also using the Clubhouse on West 24th
Street as their headquarters. Meetings in New Jersey, started by Hank
P. began in 1936. Even though these weren't officially, AA meetings,
AA grew in New Jersey until it was necessary to form their own Central
Committee in 1944.
Many Central Offices or Committees were formed around
clubhouses until they could move out and pay rent on office space.
These committees helped consolidate the "business" end of
AA work and maintain a local telephone contact number for prospective
members as well as publishing their own literature.
AA's first newsletter was the Cleveland Central Bulletin.
Its publication began in October, 1942. It was an outgrowth of the
mimeographed "Bulletin to all Groups" as a way of sending
information not only to the Cleveland, Ohio Groups, but to the Cleveland
AA members serving in the armed services. The New York headquarters
liked the Central Bulletin so much that they began publishing their
own "meeting in print" in 1944 - The Grapevine.
Throughout the 1940's, AA Central Offices sprung up around the country
as AA membership and the number of Groups grew. Each one had their
own set of rules and regulations affecting local groups. Some areas
even had rival Central Committees due to one faction not agreeing
with the other one's rules. The long heard Rule 62 story probably
came about as a result of all of these rules and regulations. If all
the rules were put into effect by AA, no alcoholic would qualify for
membership in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Progress, Not Perfection
One story has it that a group responded to some questions
posed to them by Bill W. by stating that they are all doing well.
The members of that group were no longer drinking hard liquor and
only drinking beer. They thought that this was a great accomplishment
for hard-core alcoholics. The AA Club in Springfield, Missouri was
raided by the police on August 25, 1948 and seven members were arrested,
tried and convicted for gambling. Even though there was a 10 cent
limit on bets, the police still considered it gambling.
The Central Committee, Central Office and Intergroup
are all part of AA's history and continue to be an integral part of
AA's growth. Local telephone services handle thousands of calls for
help on a daily basis all around the world. Many use AA members to
answer the phones and some use professional answering services who
either give out meeting information or refer the calls to a local
AA member. Many of these committees or offices coordinate local activities,
publish local literature and order conference-approved literature
in quantity so that they may pass along the volume discount to the
Unfortunately, many areas do not understand the importance of Central
Offices or Intergroups and financial support for them is not forthcoming.
These offices are often the lifeline for the still sick and suffering
alcoholic who reaches out for help.
More will be revealed...