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Anonymous history in your area
How A.A. Came to Worcester, Massachusetts
following document came here by the way of e-mail. It was
typed into the computer from a document. It is not known
if that document was the one Frank W. wrote. This one was
received with quite a few typos, some of which were corrected.
If someone out there has the original document written by
Frank W. we would appreciate getting it so that it could
be scanned onto this page as Frank W. wrote it.
anyone has additional information about Frank W. or the
history of A.A. in Worcester, please send the information
or by snail mail to Worcester Area Intergroup, Web Site
Committee, 100 Grove Street, Suite 309, Worcester, MA 01605.
A.A. Came to Worcester, Massachusetts
MA, June 21, 1940, 2:00 p.m. I had fallen into my wifes
favorite petunia bed. I couldnt get up. Faintly, I
could hear the passioned voice of my loving daughter, Dolly.
"dont try to get up now, Daddy. Ill get
you some water." The sun was blazing hot. She was trying
to adjust a shade to spare me the torture.
my dear God, I didnt mean to do this, Dolly",
I mumbled. She spoke again. "That man in New Jersey
called again, Daddy. He wants to talk with you at your office
in the morning. He said his name is Arthur H."
cant meet a stranger in the morning", I protested.
"Ill be too sick and shaky."
can do it, Daddy. Ill help you." She always did.
Even when others wouldnt touch me with a stick. I
was a drunk, but I was her dear father.
man was a traveling sales representative for a firm in New
Jersey. Dr. Foster L. Ribber, a neurologist with City Hospital
affiliation and whom I had consulted about my drinking,
had contacted Alcoholics Anonymous Service Headquarters
in New York City to arrange a meeting for me with a recovered
alcoholic doing twelve-step work. "Then, if you can
stay sober a few days, you could start a group", he
said. The thought of helping other drunks stay sober, while
possibly saving myself, thrilled me and I vowed to do it.
But, now I was drunk again and surely, I thought, Arthur
H. would not want me on his band wagon. He would say, "Sorry,
but we cant use you."
next morning, I had told my assistant not to let anyone
in further than the waiting room. But, at 10:00 a.m., the
inner door swung open and there stood Arthur H., a dapper,
intelligent and prosperous-looking gentleman, somewhat younger
than I. With the kindliest of all the smiles I ever knew,
he called, "hi, Frank. How are you?" The after
effects of drinking booze were gnawing at my innards and
confusing my brain. I walked unsteadily to shake his hand,
radiating guilt, remorse, regret and shame. "By God,
Art, I aint so good. I been on it a week. I guess
you wont want me in your outfit now." "Oh",
he said, "it isnt that way, Frank. We want you.
I know you wanted to stay sober and you have slipped. Many
of us slipped and some of us slipped many times before we
caught on. Did you have to go to the hospital?"
had expected to be curtly rejected but this man was filled
with empathy, tenderness and brotherly love, born of similar
suffering. He spoke the language of his heart. Instead of
demeaning me, he seemed to want to gather me into his heart
and soul saying, "I love you, no matter what".
he told me of his need. He was carrying the message of hope
to other alcoholics to save himself. He called it twelve-step
work. We talked about the steps, i.e., how you turn your
will over to God as you understand that great power. And
about taking a personal inventory, admitting your faults
and making amends to persons you have harmed. And how you
ask God each morning to help you avoid that first drink.
Just for today. One day at a time.
our talk, he stood in the doorway asking me to write him.
It would give him a lift, he told me. His last words were,
"Many are called but few are chosen." The message
was loud and clear. So much was going on in my mind so fast,
I could hardly speak coherently. With a frog in my throat
I mumbled, "Its good to know a fellow like you,
Art." I looked past him through the open doorway. Parked
at the curb was his shiny automobile. In it was a happy
looking wife and three vibrant children. It was a scene
of happiness. I was overcome. I broke down and cried, much
to the consternation of my assistant. Then he was gone.
His image remained with me constantly for many moons. In
that few minutes of togetherness, I had undergone a rapid
personality adjustment. All my negative thinking was gone.
I was a free man. I felt a buoyancy I am unable to describe.
I knew that I didnt have to drink again. In religious
parlance, I was reborn.
watched the car carrying my savior go out of sight. Then,
suddenly I was struck with fear. My life was now inextricably
bound with his. What if something should happen to him?
He had said, "please write to me, Frank, I need you."
I was impelled to write at once to let him know his visit
has been a success. I told him I was a new man and would
have a group started pronto. The outgoing mail that evening
contained a letter to Arthur H. in New Jersey from Frank
W. in Massachusetts. After that, out letters were constantly
passing en route.
was chaffing at the bit to get started forming a group.
I knew nothing of the difficulties to be encountered. Drinking
alcoholics are not known for being amiable, i.e., sweettempered,
kindhearted, or agreeable. But, I was on fire. Art
had said he would come back and meet with a group when we
tried to explain A. A. to good old Bill C. "Why sure",
he said. He didnt understand it, but he said, "Maybe
itll rub off onto me too." He was loyal to the
end of his life. Together, we visited "alkies"
at City Hospital, Ward H, where they were treated. There
were always a dozen or more there.
answered letters and telephone calls and held consultations.
Our ranks rose to five, then back to three; then to seven,
and back to five; then to eleven and back to nine, etc.,
until we could boast of having 15 members all sober. We
were mightily saddened when a comrade would relapse. Each
one of us knew the suffering a slippee would have to endure,
and no stone was left unturned to get them back on the ball.
Besides the grief of having slippees, we had many growing
pains as a group. That proved to be a natural phenomenon
and, within several years, other groups were born of the
was slow. Finally, we reached 100 sober men and women from
all walks of life and professions. Because Old John Barleycorn
takes on all comers, we were lawyers, doctors, clergymen,
scientists, teachers, intellectuals, politicians, tradesmen,
menial laborers and all other occupations.
place of business at Austin Street became the first meeting
place. A room was set aside for conference. We were never
a ragtime outfit. We were likened to a busy beehive. Members
were continually coming in for conference and exchange of
ideas and general discussion about how to help certain new
recruits, sometimes humorously referred to as pigeons, alkies,
babies, etc. A sponsor was teamed up with each new arrival.
were very humble, plain, simple, down-to-earth and unpretending.
Although the general public was awed by out activity, we
were respected in all quarters. Critics were few. There
was really nothing about Alcoholics Anonymous to criticize.
We were downright serious. We knew then and we know now
we are dealing in human life. And we were and are succeeding.
Ribber gave us our first real lift. He arranged a round-the-clock
visiting privilege for us at City Hospital. We were often
called during the night if it was the right psychological
moment for the contact. We even sat with patients in delirium
tremens at Ward L. Some patients we were called upon to
contact were in state mental hospitals.
Reverend Dr. Fallon, Past of the Wesley Methodist Church,
was our greatest spiritual helpmate during infancy. Many
of us attended his church. He never failed to praise Alcoholics
Anonymous from the pulpit. He also arranged for some of
use to speak at church services.
general, medics and clergy were slow to recognize our activity.
Now, both professions give A. A. general approval and very
many churches provide meeting places.
years have slipped by since A. A. began in Worcester. It
is all very vivid.
wife, a total abstainer, joined with me heart and soul,
and our three children were quick to befriend the children
of other alcoholics. For 17 years there was no time that
we didnt have a recovering alcoholic living with us.
Often there were two, and once there were three. My wife
contributed without stint to the essential therapy. Together,
we wrestled many scalps from Old John Barleycorns
grasp. When she passed away in 1957, very many grateful
recovered alcoholics attended the funeral.
October 17, 1982, in the Worcester Sunday Telegram, Section
F, under the caption The Battle Against the Bottle, appeared
an article purporting to give the history of Worcester Alcoholics
Anonymous. Fortifying the article were head and shoulder
photographs of three worthy men it claimed to be the driving
forced behind A .A. Not one of them was a member. One was
the president of a major industry in Worcester, Philip Morgan,
a great man, a humanist and a philanthropist. Another was
and is a psychiatrist who entered the alcoholic field years
after A. A. was conceived. He is a good man. He did a lot
of good work. He made the most of his opportunity and now
has institutional responsibilities. The other was purported
to be a counselor in the Alcoholic Services Department at
St. Vincents Hospital. He is William Holmes, son of
Francis Holmes, now deceased. I have known both father and
son throughout all their service.
reading the story and noting the inaccuracies and hearsay
fabrications and the flagrant unethical violations of A.
A.s most sacred tradition, anonymity, I was aghast.
How could this thing happen? I have been a member of A.
A. for 42 years. I felt a little resentment at first, but
Easy Does It, my favorite slogan, came to my rescue. Also,
because of the 12 steps of A. A. and the 12 Traditions that
I try to live by, I am not free to avenge.
the Telegram article referred to was published, my daughter,
Dolly, called me. "But Daddy, the way that story goes
is not the way it was. I was only a little girl., but I
remember. Will you write something so we can have it straight,
when you are gone?
am called upon and my only problem is to tell it as it was
Alcoholics Anonymous grew, groups formed in all cities and
most towns. A central service committee became essential
to groups and loners scattered around the world. Many isolated
persons received help to stay sober simply by writing to
headquarters and receiving a reply in A. A. parlance. Many
were brought together into groups by correspondence. In
the far reaches were loners without a kindred soul within
Anonymous proved alcoholism to be a sickness that could
be overcome. That stimulated much research resulting in
much information for which there was great demand from scholars
and facilities concerned with treating alcoholism. A National
Committee was instituted, wholly independent of A. A., to
be a clearing house for all information relative to alcoholism
and related problems
intellectual person of high repute was chosen to head the
service. She was known to us as Marty Mann. She was in great
demand throughout the country for speaking and teaching.
The National Committee on Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous
were both highly sophisticated in their respective areas,
but they had no official connection.
of Marty Manns chores was to promote the formation
of committees in cities and towns, She had a knack for gathering
the elite, including newsmen. The local committees were
to select a person to do the footwork, raise funds and chair
in the first decade of A. As existence in Worcester,
Francis Holmes attended many A. A. meetings. He didnt
claim to be eligible for membership, although any person
is a member if he says so. But no one can speak for another
or for a group and there is not authority in A. A. except
a loving God as He may be expressed by the group conscience.
Holmes became the Executive Secretary for the Worcester
Committee on Alcoholism. His base of operation seemed to
be within the meeting places of A. A. and he was made to
feel at home. We were quite well-informed about alcoholism
40 years ago. We shared our knowledge with all who sought
our help. Except in the field of detoxification and statistics,
very little has been added. Mr. Holmes did his job well
and good. His son, William O. Holmes, followed in his footsteps.
He is known to us as Bill. According to the Sunday Telegram
article, he is now a counselor in the Alcoholic Services
Department at St. Vincents Hospital. He is a good
man and I believe he did well in a field that can be very
frustrating and discouraging.
Holmes recollection of the early days of A. A. in
Worcester, seems more like fiction than fact to one who
lived through it all.
George Deerings recollection of 1944, which I quote
from the Telegram article as follows, "Ten cars crashed
the gate at City Hospital and 30 or 40 people staggered
in drunk, sick and suffering with delirium tremens, etc.,"
is wholly false. At that point in time and place we knew
everything that went on at City Hospital that had to do
with alcoholics. And we had an ultra efficient grapevine.
Nothing of such a melee reached our headquarters. There
were less than six padded cells for delirium tremens cases
in Ward L at City Hospital. They were dismantled about 1950.
The whole story is ludicrous and demeaning, as were most
of the recollections.
after Francis Holmes began forming the Educational Committee,
he arranged with radio station WTAG to broadcast an interview
with me relative to the workings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
It was done August 11, 1951. All who heard my answers to
his questions received a good knowledge of the workings
of A. A. A record was made. Bill could have produced the
disc or borrowed mine. It was and is available for reproduction.
am grieved to witness such flagrant disregard of A. A.s
most sacred tradition as in the Sunday Telegram, October
17, 1982. The grim reaper took the good doctor, referred
to, several years ago. It would have been ethical and merciful
to his survivors if his alcoholic experience had not been
featured in newsprint. Our tradition of anonymity is to
protect the members, their families, and their surviving
kinfolk from unnecessary stigma and/or embarrassment.
doctor was one of the great men of our time in our city.
He fathered the Cerebral Palsy Clinic for children at Memorial
Hospital and gave his free time as a physician and surgeon
in that specialty. He was a good man.
had the good fortune to be associated with him on the staff
of that clinic and in Alcoholics Anonymous also.
the enlightenment of readers, I will quote part of the A.
A. Tradition. Quote: "Our relations with the general
public should be characterized by personal anonymity. We
think A. A. ought to avoid sensational advertising. Our
names and our pictures as A. A. members ought not to be
broadcast, filmed or publicly printed. Our public relations
should be guided by the principal of attraction rather than
promotion. There is never a need to praise ourselves."
night. May the overpowering spirit which motivates us in
Alcoholics Anonymous be a source of inspiration to you all,