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A Narrative Timeline Of AA History

Public Version vApril 04'

1935 to 1936

A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

1935

Early, Bill W worked with alcoholics at the Calvary Mission and Towns Hospital, emphasizing his "hot flash" spiritual experience. Alcoholic Oxford Group members began meeting at his home on Clinton St. Bill had no success sobering up others. (AACOA vii, AABB, BW-FH 69, PIO 131-133)

Mar/Apr, Henrietta Sieberling (nicknamed “Henri”) encouraged by her friend Delphine Weber, organized a Wednesday-night Oxford Group meeting at T Henry and Clarace Williams’ house on 676 Palisades Dr. The meeting was started specifically to help Dr Bob who later confessed openly about his drinking problem. OG meetings continued at the William’s house until 1954. (DBGO 56-59, AGAA 103 says May)

Apr, Bill W had a talk with Dr Silkworth who advised him to stop preaching about his “hot flash” and hit the alcoholics hard with the medical view. Silkworth advised Bill to break down the strong egos of alcoholics by telling them about the obsession that condemned them to drink and allergy that condemned them to go mad or die. It would then be easier to get them to accept the spiritual solution. (AACOA 13, 67-68, BW-RT 211, NG 25-26, PIO 133)

Apr, Bill W returned to Wall St and was introduced to Howard Tompkins of the firm Baer and Co. Tompkins was involved in a proxy fight to take over control of the National Rubber Machinery Co. based in Akron, OH. (BW-RT 211, NG 26, BW-FH 74, PIO 133-134, GB 33)

May, Bill W went to Akron but the proxy fight was quickly lost. He remained behind at the Mayflower Hotel very discouraged. (BW-RT 212, PIO 134-135)

May 11, (AGAA says May 10) Bill W, in poor spirits, and tempted to enter the Mayflower Hotel bar, realized he needed another alcoholic. He telephoned members of the clergy listed on the lobby directory. He reached the Rev Walter Tunks who referred him to Norman Sheppard who then referred him to Henrietta Sieberling (47 years old and an Oxford Group adherent). Bill introduced himself as “a member of the OG and a rum hound from NY.” Henrietta met with Bill at her gatehouse (Stan Hywet Hall) on the Sieberling estate. She arranged a dinner meeting the next day with Dr Bob and Anne. (AACOA 65-67, SI 21, BW-RT 212-213, DBGO 60, 63-67, NG 26-28, PIO 134-138, GB 19) Note: some stories (AACOA 67) say that when Henrietta called Anne, Dr Bob was passed out under the kitchen table. He was upstairs in bed (re Dr. Bob’s Nightmare 179 4th ed).

May 12, Mother’s Day (AGAA says Mother’s Day was May 11) Bill W (age 39) met Dr Bob (age 55) Anne and their young son Bob (age 17) at Henrietta Sieberling’s gatehouse at 5PM. Dr Bob, too hung over to eat dinner, planned to stay only 15 minutes. Privately, in the library, Bill told Bob of his alcoholism experience in the manner suggested by Dr Silkworth. Bob opened up and he and Bill talked until after 11PM. (AACOA vii, 67-70, BW-RT 214-215, DBGO 66-69, NG 28-32, BW-FH 4, GB 21)

May, Bill W wrote a letter to Lois saying that he and Dr Bob tried in vain to sober up a “once prominent surgeon” who developed into a “terrific rake and drunk.” Henrietta Sieberling arranged for Bill to stay at the Portage Country Club. (DBGO 70, 77)

Jun, Bill W moved to Dr Bob’s house at the request of Anne Smith. Bill insisted on keeping two bottles of liquor in the kitchen to prove that he and Bob could live in the presence of liquor. Both worked with alcoholics and went to Oxford Group meetings on Wednesday nights at the home of T Henry and Clarace Williams. T Henry lost his job due to the proxy fight that brought Bill to Akron. (AACOA 141, NW 68-69, 73, DBGO 70-71, 99-102, PIO 145-147, AGAA 186, NG 317) Favored Scripture readings at meetings were The Sermon on the Mount, First Corinthians Chapter 13 and the Book of James. (AAGA 193, 208-209, 253) (GTBT 95-96 says that meetings were held at Dr Bob’s house and moved to the Williams’ house in late 1936 or early 1937)

Jun 10 (more likely Jun 17)[3] after a multi-day binge on the way to, and at, an AMA convention in Atlantic City, NJ, a drunken Dr Bob was picked up at his office nurse’s house in Cuyahoga Falls. Bob went through a 3-day sobering up period with Bill W’s help. Scheduled for a surgery at City Hospital, Bob pronounced, “I am going through with this - I have placed both operation and myself in God’s hands. I’m going to do what it takes to get sober and stay that way.” Bill gave Bob his last drink (a beer) and a “goofball” [a barbiturate] to steady him prior to the surgery. (AACOA vii, 70-71, SI 22, DBGO 72-75, NG 32, PIO 147-149, AA video Bill’s Own Story)

Jun 11 (more likely Jun 18), Dr Bob suggested that he and Bill W work with other alcoholics. A local Minister, J C Wright, provided them with a prospect. They tried in vain, throughout the summer, to sober up Edgar (Eddie) R (described as an “alcoholic atheist” and “able to produce a major crisis of some sort about every other day”). Eddie missed the chance to be AA #3 but he showed up at Dr Bob’s funeral in 1950. He was sober a year and attending the Youngstown, OH group. (AACOA 72-73, DBGO 77-81, 85, NG 37, 319, PIO 151-152, AAGA 184, CH 5-6)

Jun 28, Bill W, Dr Bob and Eddie R visited Bill D (Alcoholic Anonymous Number Three) at City Hospital. A prominent attorney in Akron, Bill D had been hospitalized 8 times in 1935 because of his drinking. Bill W and Bob visited Bill D every day. It took about 5 days before Bill D would say that he could not control his drinking. He checked out of the hospital on Jul 4 and within a week, was back in court sober and arguing a case. (AACOA 71-73, AABB 184, BW-RT 219-220, DBGO 81-89, NG 37, 319, PIO 152-154, GB 42, AGAA 202-203)

Jul (?), Lois went to Akron to join Bill W at the Smith’s house for two weeks (LR 197, NG 41, BW-FH 85).

Jul, encouraged by T Henry Williams, Ernie G (AA #4, The Seven Month Slip) contacted Dr Bob and sobered up. He later married Dr Bob’s adopted daughter Sue in Sep 1941. Ernie could not stay sober and their marriage was a disaster. Tragically, on Jun 11, 1969, their daughter Bonna committed suicide after taking the life of her 6-year-old daughter Sandy. Ernie G died two years later to the day. (AACOA 7, 73, DBGO 92-95, AAGA 68, CH 72-74, PIO 154-155)

Aug 26, Bill W returned to NYC. Meetings were held at his house at 182 Clinton St on Tues. nights. His home also became a halfway house, of sorts, for drunks. (AACOA 74, BW-RT 225, PIO 160-162, GTBT 96, GB 51, AGAA 145)

Nov 19, Ebby T came to live with Bill W and Lois at Clinton St. (LR 197, EBBY 72, NG 42-44)

Winter, Henry (Hank) P (The Unbeliever) and John Henry Fitzhugh (Fitz) M (Our Southern Friend) sobered up at Towns Hospital. Hank and Fitz provided a big help to Bill W. Hank started AA in NJ at his house and Fitz started AA in Washington, DC (AACOA 16-17, 74, LR 101, BW-RT 225-226, NG 43-44) (PIO 191 says 1937)

1936

Bill W's efforts in working only with alcoholics were criticized by NY Oxford Group members. Similarly, in Akron, T Henry and Clarace Williams were criticized as well by OG members who were not supportive of their efforts being extended primarily to alcoholics. (NG 44-45, NW 73, AGAA 76)

Jun, the Oxford Group was at the height of its popularity. 10,000 people (GB 46 says 5,000) flocked to the Berkshires for a meeting at Stockbridge, MA. (PIO 170) An OG “house-party” (a cross between a convention and a retreat) in Birmingham, England drew 15,000. (GB 46, AAGA 173)

Aug 26, Frank Buchman and the Oxford Group experienced an international public relations disaster. A NY World Telegram article by William H Birnie, quoted Buchman as saying, “I thank heaven for a man like Adolph Hitler, who built a front-line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism.” Although the remark was taken out of context in its reporting, it would plague Buchman’s reputation for many years. It marked the beginning of the decline of the OG. (NW 30, 96, DBGO 155, BW-FH 96, PIO 170-171, GB 53, AGAA 161)

Sep, Lois’ father died. The house at 182 Clinton St was taken over by the mortgage company. Lois and Bill W were allowed to stay there for a small rental. (PIO 175)

Dec, Charles Towns offered Bill W a very lucrative job at his hospital as a lay alcoholism therapist. Bill wanted it. The question was presented to the NY group meeting in Bill’s home. They rejected it. This was the emergence of the principle “God speaking in the group conscience is to be our final authority.” (AACOA 100-102, LR 197, BW-RT 232-234, NG 63-64, PIO 175-177)


A Narrative Timeline Of AA History – 1774 to 2003

 
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