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Aiken Central Group of Alcoholics Anonymous
S.C., incorporated on December 19th, 1835, became a health
resort at the turn of the century and was highly influenced
by the “winter colony” for the next 50 years.
The “winter colony” were wealthy people who
lived in the North during the summer but made their homes
in Aiken from Thanksgiving to Easter.
housekeeper for one of these winter residents had sobered
up in the North and when coming to Aiken for the winter
of 1946-47 sought out alcoholics who might help her stay
sober. She found a few in Aiken and with the help of an
A.A. group in Augusta, meetings were started in the parish
house of St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church on Pendleton Street.
of the earlier Aiken members, Rudolph B., had given a house
to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church several years before
for use as a parsonage. In 1948 and 1949, A.A. meetings
were held in St. Paul’s wooden educational building
on Pendleton Street.
alcoholic from Graniteville, Bill T., had heard about A.A.
from his brother, who had moved North and found sobriety.
He suggested that Bill seek out A.A. and give it a try.
went to his first A.A. meeting at St. Paul’s on March
24th, 1948, and exactly a year later became the first member
to celebrate a year of continuous sobriety. That night he
sat alone in the meeting place for some time, wondering
if there would be a meeting, for no one else appeared.
his wife Vera came in, then his children, and other relatives,
and finally, A.A. members from both Aiken and Augusta. It
was a surprise party which the family has never forgotten.
Bill never took another drink for the rest of his life.
He died in 1974 after “26 years of wonderful sobriety”,
as his family puts it.
Other members in Aiken didn’t
fare as well as Bill, as one by one they succumbed to John
Barleycorn. Meetings were discontinued late in 1949 and
Bill began meeting with A.A. members from Augusta.
In 1950, construction of
the massive Savannah River Plant began and with it came
thousands and thousands of new people to the Aiken area.
As former A.A. members sobered up and new members arrived,
A.A. meetings were again resumed at the original location
in St. Thaddeus’s parish house. Meetings have been
held continuously ever since.
Later in 1950, another member,
Bert W., offered the second floor of a building he owned
on Laurens Street for use as a meeting place for the A.A.
group. It housed the Jones Electric & Gas Company on
the first floor and basement, and had two apartments and
a large meeting room on the second floor. Weekly meetings
were continued at this location until one cold Monday night
-- January 26th, 1953, when a strong odor of gas in the
building caused the A.A. meeting to be called off.
At 8:30 the next morning
the owner’s son, Jimmy J., turned on the exhaust fan
to remove the fumes. An explosion resulted. Jimmy was thrown
from the building, but survived. Others in the building
were less fortunate, as they died in the blast and ensuing
fire. In addition to the Jones Electric building, the fire
also leveled the adjacent R.W. McCreary’s Dry Goods
Store, the W.J. Platt Drug Store, the Diana Shop, and the
Liles Drug Company. Windows were broken in buildings in
an area of four square blocks.
St. Mary’s Help of
Christians Catholic Church on Park Avenue offered its recreational
building as temporary quarters for the A.A. group. Later
in 1953 the group leased a basement area in the Bank of
Greenwood (later the State Bank and Trust Company) on Laurens
Street. The basement area was made into a club-like atmosphere
and meetings were held there until 1965.
From two meetings a week
in 1965 the number has grown to 21 meetings a week today,
including three Al Anon meetings.
In 1966, The Aiken Central
Group, as it is officially called, welcomed a new member
who had recently returned to Aiken, Frank S. He had been
the 64th member of the original members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
He remained a member until his death on November 21, 1973.
His 1965 automobile license from the state of Ohio, “AA-64”,
is still displayed in the clubhouse.
In 1995, the “Recovery
Incorporated Club,” was formed with its 9-member board
of directors, new by-laws, and club rules.