| print this
Anonymous history in your area
Anonymous in the Columbia River Basin
Our History AA in Benton & Franklin Counties
History of Washington State Alcoholics Anonymous, 1941-1966:
Everett K, 1966
A History of the Washington Area
of Alcoholics Anonymous, 1941-1986: Washington Area
Assembly of Alcoholics Anonymous, 1987
Reference 1 was the result of an almost single-handed
effort by Everett K to sketch the early years of AA
in Washington State. AA experienced significant growth
in Washington after Everett's work Area was published,
the vast majority of groups were formed in the years
following the period covered by Everett's work.
As such, the 1984 Washington Area Assembly in Pasco
voted to authorize the formation of a Committee to investigate
the viability of updating AA's history in Washington.
The 1985 Assembly in Olympia subsequently approved the
Committee to proceed with with this activity. The Committee
gathered information throughout the Washington Area
and also uncovered several letters from the G.S.O. archives
in New York. Reference 2 was published in 1987 and reflected
the results of the Committee's effort.
The history of District 4 given below was taken from
Chapter VIII of Reference 2, with permission of the
1987 Washington Area Assembly of Alcholics Anonymous.
This material is somewhat dated, and does not reflect
the growth and changes in District 4 over the past 12
years, nor does it recognize the formation of Washington
State East Area 92 in 1995. 'Our History' will be updated
as more information is written and becomes available.
the early days of the Washington Area, District 4 was
the southeastern portion of the Area. This region formed
one of the larger districts. It extended from the Oregon
border in the south to Othello in the north and from
Richland in the west to the Idaho border on the east.
The district included Lewiston, Idaho.
It is difficult to determine who first brought the message
to the region. Strangely, it appears that the oldest
group still meeting is the Pioneer Group at the Washington
State Penitentiary, now a part of District 26.
The size of District 4 has been reduced over the years
with the formation of District 20 and 26. Othello chose
to merge with District 5; when the Prosser Group got
going, it became part of District 4. Today the district
averages about eighteen registered groups and many meetings,
largely in the Tri-Cities area.
Area | Pasco
can be confirmed of the early days of A.A. in the Tri-Cities.
In talking with a number of the old-timers, there are
stories of meetings in the homes and at the Desert Inn,
the only hotel in Richland, as early as 1943 and 1944.
There is no doubt that the message was brought by some
of the more than 300,000 workers who came to build Richland
and the Hanford Project during World War II. Many of
these stayed to help operate the plant and the businesses
that started as a result of the influx of people.
There are some old-timers from Pasco who insist that
the first meetings were held by railroaders at a back
corner table in the old Past Time Cafe across from the
Pasco railroad station.
We do know that A.A. was alive and well during this
period. The first group in this area to register with
the Alcoholic Foundation in New York was the Pasco
Group. The group was registered in 1948 by
Ed W. and Bob L. Gabe L. and Jack R. were also early
members of this group. For many years this was the only
registered group in the Tri-Cities.
Richland, from 1943 to 1955, was basically a government
housing project; everyone who lived there either worked
in Richland or on the Hanford Project. A lot of the
early work around the reactors was classified and those
working had to have security clearances. This was to
create problems with anonymity.
Alcoholics were considered security risks, whether they
were practicing or not, so members guarded their anonymity
very carefully. For that reason, the group remained
quite small and did not register with the Alcoholic
Foundation for fear of an accidental breach of anonymity.
For a long time the active members of the group were
Howard J., Bob J., Paul, and Hank. Howard J. was one
of the most active members in the Tri-Cities for a number
of years. In June of 1944 he had been one of the original
founders of the Pioneer Group at the
Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla and for
years acted as the institutional representative. He
later became active in the Area structure and became
the third Washington Area Delegate, serving during 1954
Both groups remained quite small for a number of years.
There were a number of members who came, stayed for
a short time, and went back out-just as it is today.
The members tried everything they could to lend a hand
to the suffering alcoholic who made the call for help.
An old-timer describes those days:
was no detox available, only the drunk tank. There
were very few friendly doctors who would do much to
try and help a drunk. You needed their help to get
a drunk into the hospital because the hospital didn't
want them either. If you could get the person into
the hospital, they would put them in the "psycho"
ward which had only two beds. If they were full, that
was tough. You then tried to sober them up wherever
you could. If they had a place to live you took them
there. You fed them coffee, honey, fruit juice or
anything that they could hold down. If they didn't
have a place to stay, you took them to one of the
member's homes. Members took turns working with them
until they got on their feet. You cleaned them up
as best you could and tried to get them some better
clothes if the ones they were wearing were shot. You
tried to get them to eat decent food, and if they
went into D.T.'s you'd give them a little booze to
ease them back down. If you had any tranquilizers,
you tried that too. They were practicing medicine
without a license.
If the person was married, the members and their families
pitched in with food, prepared meals, cleaned the
house, baby sat the kids and did whatever it took
to get the family on its feet. Sometimes the family
got tough with the husband and had him thrown in jail
until he promised to straighten up. There were not
all the social help programs available that there
There was a lot of visiting between groups. Richland
and Pasco were constantly going back and forth, but
there were frequent trips to Walla Walla, Yakima,
and Lewiston. Visiting and working with the inmates
at the State Penitentiary was an important part of
July 1951, when Brook B. and Bob J. took Mel H. to his
first meeting, the Pasco Group had
eight active members. They included Charlotte B., Brook
B., Scotty G., Bob H., Gabe L., Bob L., Ed W., and Alvira
The group fluctuated from eight to twelve very active
members. Some of these were E. P. B., Bill C., Hank
C., Earl D., Jim D., Curley E., Earl F., Roy H., Johnnie,
Bob J., Jack R., Norm S., and Frank W.
The meetings did some moving around also. They began
at the Navy Homes Administration Building, and moved
to the old Navy Base Administration Building, occasionally
meeting at Mel H.'s house in Burbank. For about ten
years the A.A. telephone was at Mel's house. When a
twelfth-step call came in, Mel's wife would contact
some of the members and Mel, when he could, took a lot
of the calls himself. Curley E. was a favorite companion
on these calls and they spent many a night bringing
the message to suffering alcoholics.
Members socialized with others in the Fellowship. It
was wise to keep some extra items of food that could
easily be fixed because the members never knew when
they would be visited, or by how many. These visits
generally included the whole family. It seemed that
no one wanted to go home-often these meetings lasted
into the wee small hours of the morning.
There was only one formal meeting of the Pasco
Group each week; this was held on Tuesdays
and lasted anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes. It
was usually a discussion meeting on the Twelve Steps
and Twelve Traditions. The chairman would call on a
person, give him a limited time to speak, and if the
person ran over, shut him off! It was not considered
out of line for another member to offer a comment or
disagree with a speaker.
In the early days the members didn't discuss with their
families the contents of their meetings. After it was
apparent the program was doing some good they didn't
care who they discussed it with.
There was no such thing as public information as we
know it now. The members of both groups tried to inform
the public as best they could. For literature, only
the Big Book and what little that the Alcoholic Foundation
had available was used. To inform the public on what
A.A. offered, information meetings were organized much
as we do today. Before long the members were receiving
invitations to speak at the schools and many of the
In 1953 the groups had a television program on the first
local TV station in the Tri-Cities. It was located in
Richland but went out of business in a few months. The
members sat with their backs to the camera and answered
questions called in by the listeners. It was very popular
while it lasted.
The Richland and Pasco groups were not experiencing
much growth. In December 1955 the groups merged and
started meeting in an old building they rented at the
Richland 'Y'. They chose the building because it was
between towns and was cheap. The building was dirty
and run-down and required a lot of elbow grease, but
soon it was in shape. There was room to sit and talk
as well as play pinochle and poker.
With the move came such rapid growth that they had to
find still larger quarters. In the fall of 1957 they
moved to an old church in Kennewick which was later
to become the Apple Seed Gallery. As cold weather set
in the church proved too expensive to heat-in fact they
almost froze to death.
Their Higher Power must have been watching and waiting
for them, because the ideal place was found in the basement
of the old Commercial Inn in downtown Kennewick. The
place had been a club room, had a bar and facilities
to fix food, and had enough room to allow growth in
the group. There were two meetings a week now, one closed
and one open. Al-Anon started meeting there too, after
having met in members' homes since about 1953.
The rapid growth in the group became a problem that
had to be faced. A committee was chosen to find a building
that the members could buy and start an Alano Club.
Not too far from the Commercial Inn was an old church
building at 102 E. Kennewick Avenue. The building was
in tough shape, but in 1963 it looked beautiful, and
more important, affordable.
By 1963 most of the members had moved to the Alano Club.
There were a few, however, who decided to continue meeting
in the basement of the Commercial Inn and so formed
a new group. The members who moved to the Alano Club
decided to split into three groups. They were the Pasco,
Kennewick, and Richland Groups.
Each had a plaque mounted on the wall of the Alano Club.
Two of the plaques were made by Bob J.
It was tough keeping the club going. When things got
tight, a special meeting was called and members were
asked to chip in a little extra. Virgil N., during the
first year or so of his sobriety, practically lived
at the club and became an expert at spotting members
who might have an extra five or ten dollars to help
pay the bills. He became the club treasurer and served
faithfully for many years.
The club did not remain open all the time. Members who
were paid up in their dues could use their keys to come
in anytime; otherwise, just before meeting time, a member
would come down to fix coffee and unlock the doors.
The doors would again be locked after the meeting unless
something special was going on such as a dance or bingo.
In 1972 the first Washington Area Assembly to be held
in the Tri-Cities convened at the Red Lion Inn in Pasco.
It was followed by the 1974 Assembly at the Rivershore
Inn in Richland. Ten years later, the 1984 Assembly
was again held at the Pasco Red Lion Inn. Two Pacific
Northwest Conferences have been held in the Tri-Cities
area: the first in 1954 and the second in 1978. In March
1972 the Holiday Inn in Pasco was the site of the first
Pacific Region A.A. Service Assembly. (P.R.A.A.S.A.)
held in the Washington Area. In the spring of 1980 Shorty
H. chaired the first Inland Empire Roundup, an event
which has proven successful to this day.
Area | Pasco
1957 the first women's meeting was started in the back
of Berman's Jewelry store.
first meeting of the Pasco No Smoking Group
was held in December 1984. The charter members were
Hal and Elsie A., Bonnie W., and Rhodes and Hatti M.
The group has grown in attendance to about a dozen people.
The only reason, really, for the name is that the church
council asked the members not to smoke in the building.
Gil is the current G.S.R. and Bonnie W. is the secretary.
Wednesday Night Group
Pasco Wednesday Night Group of A.A.
currently meets at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, 5th
Floor. The group was started in the spring of 1974 by
Lyle S., Bud S., and Marvin L. These three were later
joined by John W. After a short wait, the group registered
with G.S.O. Since both Lyle and John already held Washington
Area service positions, Bud was unanimously voted the
G.S.R. Fran R. had joined the group by then and was
The group first met in the basement of St. Patrick's
Catholic Church Rectory in Pasco. It was a general discussion
meeting lasting ninety minutes, (or longer, according
to the whims of the chairman) but gradually became a
one-hour meeting. The group moved to the Episcopal Hall,
the K.C. Hall, and the Lutheran Church on Road 40 (they
were driven away from there because of their smoking).
The next move was to the Grange Hall and from there
to their present home at the hospital. They laughingly
nicknamed themselves the Nomad Group.
The group strictly adheres to the Twelve Traditions
and has a solid core of members with long-term sobriety.
They are very active in the Tri-Cities area and for
the past three years have sponsored the Old-Timers Meeting
in February, two dances every year, and several workshops
over the years.
The group has about a dozen home group members, but
the Wednesday night meeting room is almost always filled
to capacity. A business meeting is held regularly on
the first Wednesday of each month. A.A. birthdays are
celebrated on the last Wednesday with a birthday cake.
Area | Pasco
Women's Meeting first met on a Monday
in January 1983 in the basement of the Alano Club in
Kennewick and continues to meet there. Colleen T. and
Fran S. started the meeting and still participate. Attendance
averages about twelve to fifteen at this closed meeting.
One of the major concerns of the members is its status
as a "special interest" meeting; therefore,
the group has decided not to register as a structured
The goal of the group is to provide a meeting where
women can meet and share on a frank, honest, and totally
open basis the problems they have encountered as women
many years, off and on, members gathered in the Kennewick
Alano Club for a Sunday morning meeting. There was no
structure, and it was very difficult to find anyone
who would take responsibility for the meeting. Finally
on November 1, 1983, Frank H., along with four other
members, held their first meeting as a group. They have
been meeting regularly since. The current membership
is six, but a number of others attend on a fairly regular
basis. The discussions center on the spiritual aspects
of A.A. as an alternative to organized religion.
Grass Roots Group of Kennewick is a
closed meeting held in the Methodist Church on Wednesday
evenings. In February 1981 three persons frequenting
the Alano Club, who were having trouble with their sobriety,
said the reason they didn't attend the club meeting
was that it was too big. They wanted to start a small
group of their own and asked Shorty H. to help them.
A place was found, and notice of its first meeting was
announced around. Only one of the original three showed
up, and he never came again. Another one of the three
came back to the group four years later.
Today it is a very solid group with twenty-two calling
it their home group, with attendance ranging from eighteen
to thirty-five. If sixteen are present they count off
one-two, and the two's go to the next room. If there
are more than twenty-five, they count off one-two-three
and split to three rooms. Active, regular members range
in age from sixteen to seventy-seven. Basic A.A. as
prescribed in Chapter Five of the Big Book is strictly
adhered to. A sponsor is insisted on. It works!
the years the Alano Club in Kennewick has been in existence,
it has been customary for the Fellowship to gather there
on the last Friday of each month for a potluck and attend
a special meeting for the members who have had a birthday
during the month.
Persons new to the Fellowship during their first visits
are encouraged to put their name and their A.A. birthday
on a white 3 x 5 card and put it in a slot on the "Badger
Club" board under the appropriate month. The "Badger
Club" is a way of keeping track of those who have
birthdays and to make sure that they "keep coming
back." As time passes, the card turns increasingly
brown from the nicotine in the air. It has become possible
to tell how long a person has been in the program simply
by the shade of the card.
Friday has always been one of the toughest nights of
the week to get through for the alcoholic so it has
always been important to have meetings available. For
that reason Friday Night has always
been a popular meeting. During the WPPSS construction
days, attendance of seventy-five to one-hundred was
not uncommon and birthday nights attracted overflow
crowds. For a number of years it was basically an unstructured
In the fall of 1978 Ben B. asked Ron P. if he would
help him form a group and take responsibility for the
Friday night meeting. Ron was new to the Program and
accepted the challenge. With Ben B. as G.S.R. and Ron
P. as alternate secretary-treasurer and chief coffeemaker,
the group registered with G.S.O. For years this was
it until Lea G. showed up to take care of the birthday
cakes. Later the group got a secretary in the form of
"little" Dorothy (the club had a lot of Dorothys)
and the group again grew.
The basic theme of the group is to enjoy sobriety. They
have sponsored pie socials, box socials, sock hops,
and speaker nights. Birthday night at the club is the
main event Many members celebrated their first birthday
at the Alano Club and have found it important to return,
even from out of state. These members have joined other
groups, but an A.A. birthday isn't a birthday unless
it is shared where it all started. This is where everyone
seems to come to do the sharing.
Night Big Book Study Group
in 1983, one of the Tri-Cities' local members made a
promise to God. The deal was this: since there were
no Big Book study groups in Kennewick, Annie H. pledged
to start one when she reached five years of sobriety
Having belonged to study groups in the past and having
been involved in the starting of a group in Castle Rock
in 1979, Annie began to ask around to see how other
members felt about starting a group. After some discussion
several members decided that a Big Book study would
be helpful to their sobriety.
The search began for a meeting place in January 1984.
After checking on several meeting places in town, they
decided to meet in the basement of the Tri-Cities Alano
Club. The first meeting was held in April 1984 and consisted
mostly of setting up a meeting format, etc. The group
decided to meet each Tuesday for one hour to read a
chapter and discuss it. There were seven original members,
including Glen R., G.S.R.; Mary E., alternate G.S.R.;
Annie H., secretary; John S., Central Office Representative,
and Nena A. Hoping to follow the simplicity of A.A.,
they voted to name the group the Tuesday Night
Big Book Study Group. Of the original members,
four still regularly attend and attendance is ten to
In time the group voted to extend the meeting to an
hour and a half. A pattern was set to read for a half
hour and have discussion conclude the last hour. They
started reading the stories, which newer members really
enjoyed, but have since found the group conscience is
to read from the preface to the end of "Dr. Bob's
Nightmare." They vary this pattern by reading one
or two stories and then returning back to the beginning
of the book. The information in the forward, preface,
and The Doctors Opinion is so valuable they always include
these portions in their study.
Area | Pasco
- Prosser - Burbank
Richland Fellowship Group held its
first meetings at the Community Center in 1974. Years
before, other alcoholics who lived in Richland held
some of their meetings in the same building. Original
members of the Richland Fellowship Group were Dorothy
B., Don B., John C., Galen H., Jane J., Virgil N., and
Lee R. Of these original members John, Dorothy, and
Jane continue to participate actively with the group.
In 1975 the group moved to the old Sacajawea School.
Members met in room 130 until 1982, then in room 134,
which enabled them to install an outside entrance.
The group has continued to register as one group, but
there is at least one meeting every night and several
day meetings. The format includes Step study, Big Book
study, and open meetings on Saturday and Sunday with
open discussions. Coffeemaker and chairman rotate on
a somewhat irregular basis. Business meetings are held
on a Tuesday.
The group's focus is on basic A.A. The regular membership
is about fifty, but the meetings attract a lot of visitors
from Pasco and Kennewick as well as those who come to
Richland on business.
E. started the Prosser Group in the
fall of 1962. The first meeting was in the P.U.D. building
on Tuesday night. No others showed up except a salesman
from Denver, who came once in a while, and a few people
from other towns. Claire continued making coffee and
throwing it out for nearly a year.
In the spring of 1963 the meeting moved to the old library
on Sheridan Street. There the first men came to stay,
Leonard being one. Then a woman, Harriett W., came and
stayed. Now there were four. Don C. was also an early
member, coming to meetings when he was home on leave
from the Navy.
The Prosser Group still thrives and
continues to meet on Tuesday nights. A closed study
meeting was started in the 1970's; thus, the Tuesday
and Thursday meetings make up the Prosser Group. The
meeting place moved to the new library when it was built
in the early 1970's.
Claire worried about the first room being big enough
to hold the four members. In December, sixty people
gathered in that room for the first Prosser potluck.
Later, in the new library, the potlucks were held in
the basement. The potluck outgrew that facility and
is now held at Smith Hall in the Catholic church. This
event is attended by well over 250 and is always held
on the first Sunday of December, as the first one was.
The group has twice hosted D.C.M. quarterly meetings
and participated in district activities. Several members
have been involved in Area service.
Other than losing the money out of the treasury several
times over the years, the group has been relatively
problem-free. It has had a good sense of balance, for
the most part, and problems are solved before they become
issues. There are about twenty people that call the
Prosser Group their home group. There is now a Sunday
night Prosser Young Peoples Group,
which meets at 7:30 p.m. in the Prosser Library and
a Monday Morning Group. So with the
original group, there are now four meetings a week available.
The framed Serenity Prayer has been with the group since
the first year. An A.A. fellow at the Washington State
Penitentiary made the frame out of an apple box and
gave it to Claire on one of his visits. Claire says
"Punchy" could have gotten shot bringing it
out. Seems as though Punchy saw Claire arrive and came
running towards him. He couldn't wait for him to come
inside. We have several wooden plaques with A.A. slogans
made for the group by Shorty H. from Kennewick. He also
gave us a copy of the original manuscript of the Big
The group has a good cross section of people attending
meetings, such as the young, the court ordered, those
from treatment facilities, etc. If you are ever in the
neighborhood, plan on attending a meeting here. They
Tuesday Night Group
of the smaller, but very popular meetings, is the Burbank
Tuesday Night Group founded by Buck S. and
The members of this group currently meet in Burbank
High School and are very service oriented. The group
is always looking for ways in which to interest others
Area | Pasco
Anonymous in the Columbia River Basin