Welcome to Chilliwack AA. I am your host, Ted S, sober since October 17th, 1996, one day at a time. I am glad you can join us for our broadcast today on Chilliwack AA. Before I introduce our fabulous guests today. Let me tell you a bit about the podcast. Chilliwack AA explores the lives of people who have recovered from alcohol through Alcoholics Anonymous.
In each of my interviews, my guests will share their experience, strength, and hope with us for a lively discussion of what I was like, what happened and what it is like now. We will be talking about their struggles, successes, how they remain sober. This podcast strictly adheres to AA 12 traditions and all general service board guidelines for safeguarding anonymity.
No advertising is allowed, and no one receives financial gain from the show. Chilliwack AA and my guests do not speak for or represent AA at-large. This podcast is simply my way of giving back to AA to what was freely given to me. And now, let me introduce you my guests today for today’s show. My guest today on Chilliwack AA is Randy H. I have known Randy for quite a while now. Randy is going to talk to us today about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. Welcome Randy.
Hello, my name is Randy H. I am an alcoholic. This morning, I am going to talk a little bit about the early history of AA. First, I want to talk a little bit what got me interested in the history of Alcohol Anonymous. In 2016 and 2017, I took on the position of Archives for District 45.
And I just found that whole journey a very amazing, I found it so interesting to search out all the history of AA. I just want to say, how much I love Alcoholics Anonymous. It is amazing what the miracle on how everything aligned to happen, the way it did. What a wonderful thing that AA exist.
I sometimes wonder If I’d still be alive if AA was not in my life. I don’t think I wouldn’t be a all. Now our history is so especially important. I read an article one time by a Carl Sandberg where he stated “Whenever a society or civilization, parishes. there is always one condition present. That they forgot where they come from.” Now that really hit home with me. I can remember quite clearly where I came from. Now, before I get into the beginnings of AA, First talk a little bit about the prior history of alcoholism, building up to that special day when AA was born.
Alcoholism and problems with alcohol have been recorded in written history for over 4,000 years. I have troubles remembering that far back, but I will talk about is what motivated Bill do something about that problem. Now a big inspiration for Bill was setting the Washingtonian movement or the Washington Temperance society. Now Bill studied the three main reasons for their collapse. Number one was politics. Where if you were a member, you must support and vote for the people that they wanted voted in. And number two. They tried to be a heal all for all addictions. And number three. They never had any traditions.
In 1950, the Traditions saved AA from collapse. We will talk about that a little later.
Now, have you ever heard the term on the wagon? I am going to tell you how that came about. In the early days they used to travel from town to town, by horse and wagon and promote people to stop drinking. Now they would try to get people to join their movement. And when they joined, they would get on the wagon and go on to the next town. Hence how they came up with “on the wagon.”
Bill also studied and was involved with the first century Christian organization. That started in 1921. Who changed their name to the Oxford group in 1931. Now that was started by the Reverend Frank Buckman. An overly ambitious man. His thought was to change the world by changing individuals. His model was changing a man, change a nation, change the world.
Now that was the Oxford group. They practiced a formula out five steps. Number one. Self-inventory, number two, admitting wrongs. Number three, making amends, number four prayer and meditation, and number five carrying the message to others. The practices they utilize, were called the five Cs. Confidence, Confession, Conviction, Conversion and Continuance. The standard of morality was the four absolutes. A summary of the teachings of the sermon of the Mount. And that was based on absolute honesty, absolute purity. absolute unselfishness, and absolute love.
I am going to talk about a few people who are most inspirational to the motivation of this great program, we know today is alcoholics anonymous. Now Frank Buckman, as explained earlier, he was the one who formed the Oxford Oxford group. And then there was a Dr. Sam Shoemaker. He was a priest. Bill once wrote in AA grapevine. And I will quote “if it had not been for his ministry to us in their early years, our fellowship would not have existed today.”
Another inspiration once Rowland Hazard. Rowland Hazard was the one who rescued Abby Thatcher, the messenger behind the messenger. Now Rowland had major problems. His family was very rich. And they sent Rowland in to see Dr. Freud. He was not available. So, they ended up seeing Dr. Carl Young in Switzerland.
You know Rowland spent one year there. There is quite a story involved with Rowland Hazard. It goes. He, they sent them all over the place trying to get him sober and he could not get sober. He very much had DTs. And he was thought to be like a hopeless case. But in 1961. Bill W wrote a letter to Dr. Carl Young, thanking him for his contribution to AA. His contribution was that Rowland went to him and asked him How come, I cannot get sober.? And, and Carl Young said well, in some cases, in some ways, the only people who could recover are people who have a spiritual or religious experience, and that’s what he figured he was lacking. So, when Bill W wrote that letter to Carl Young he was thanking him for his contributions to AA for that reason. Now Jim M, he is the one who bought Oxford group to the Akron, Ohio, which Dr. Bob was involved with prior to even meeting Bill.
Henry had assigned Berg, who Bill called from the hotel. I will talk about that call here a little bit later, but Dr. Wall Walter Tunk’s who gave Bill W Norm Shepherd’s name, who then gave Bill Henrietta’s name who Bill called with his last nickel at the hotel. Again, I will talk about this a little bit later.
All the, all these people were very inspirational and in the scenario that contributed to making possible that history. The historic meeting at the gate house at the Cybers estate in Akron, Ohio. That became the birthplace of Alcohols Anonymous. Now, if it were not for these people, that meeting could never have taken place and to which we all owe our lives.
It is an absolute miracle that this all came together. I put together a little timeline, with important dates and events leading up to that special date. Now I wrote down some of the dates, so that I can be clear on them. Alcoholism and the 1930s and the post-prohibition that the prohibition was in the U S. between 1920 and 1933, there were prevented, or they tried to prevent the manufacturing and sale of alcohol. It was a common to perceive alcoholism as a moral failing and medical professional standard at the time, treated it as a condition that was not curable and lethal. Those without financial resources found help through places like the state hospitals, the Salvation Army, or other charitable or religious groups. Those who cannot afford psychiatrist or hospitals we subject to treatment with barbiturates and Belladonna. With Belladonna is what they call like purge and puke. That means you take this medication. If you were to drink, it would make you throw up. Or also they were left in long-term asylum treatment.
Now in August in 1934, the Oxford group helps Epi Thatcher gets sober. Epi was the one who bought the message to Bill. November 1934, Bill W was at the town’s hospital under the care of psychiatrists, Dr. Williams Soforth. where he overheard the doctor telling Lois he was hopeless case. Bill was laying in his bed, and he overheard Lois and doctor Soforth talking in the hallway. Dr Soforth told Lois that Bill was a hopeless case and that he was going to die, and he was not going to recover from alcoholism.
And Bill overheard this. He was, he was shocked about what he, what he heard. But Dr. Soforth was the one who wrote the doctor’s opinion in the big book. He did not take credit for it
November 1934. Eva visits Bill and tells him his story. Of the involvement with the Oxford group and that he had quit drinking. Bill could not believe that that he would not have a drink in his bathtub. Prior to that. They had many drinks together and they get they would get sloshed together. Bill used to make his own booze in the bathtub. It called bathtub gin. Now I looked up in the dictionary what bathtub gin is. And it’s a home-style spirit grown under amateur conditions. Now Bill said, what happened to you? Evi said I got religion.
In December1934. Bill ends up in the town’s hospital again but ends up having a spiritual experience. Bill recalled what Evi Thatcher had told them. You have met your elect. You get honest with yourself. You are praying to whatever God you think there is. And then as an experiment, Bill found himself crying out, If there is a God, let him show himself. I am ready to do anything. Now Bill talked about that moment too. He said, the room lit up with a great white light and was caught up in ecstasy. Which there were no words to describe. It seems that the wind, not of the air, but of spirit was blowing. And it was a burst upon him and that, and that he was a free man. Now Bill left that hospital never to have a drink again.
December 1934 to 1935. Bill worked with many alcoholics. Fails to get anyone sober and gets really discouraged. Now, this is a very crucial moment in AA future for what happened here. Being so discouraged and feeling like a failure, Bill thought he would give up trying to help others? His wife, Lois then tells Bill
Yes, no one else has been getting sober. But you have remained sober. Not that ended up being at a crucial moment. That really was a revelation to Bill.
In May in 1935, a job opportunity took Bill to Akron, Ohio. An opportunity where Bill could have made a lot of money. Which did not materialize. Down and depressed and yet another failure. Bill found himself in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel. Finding the urge to go into the bar. As he walked into the hotel lobby, he can hear the noise of the chatter of the bar room, exactly right across the hall. And it was very inviting to him and that was his solution. To be able to get drunk when he was feeling down and depressed. But instead of he remembered what the Oxford group taught him and what Lois had said to him. Help others will help you stay sober.
So, in the lobbies of hotels at that time, they used to always have a list of churches that were around in that area. So, when people came from out of town, they could look over the registry and phone different churches.
So, there is about 10 churches on the list. So, he started phoning numbers posted on that directory. And he started telling me he was a rum hound from New York asking people if they knew of an alcoholic to which he could talk. And of course, right down to the last number on the list of was Reverend Walter Tonks. who introduced him to Henry See brig was married to the founder of a Goodyear tire rubber company. And they set up a meeting which led to Dr. Bob’s last drink that led to this special day, June 10th, 1935, which is now our Founder’s Day.
Bob had agreed to talk to this guy from New York for 10 minutes. He said, I’ll give it 10 minutes. That’s it. You know but he was so amazed that Bill was talking about a lot of his own problems with alcohol. And for the first-time hearing somebody else who knew. How he had felt. Bob found it so interesting that they talked for four hours.
After meeting Bob, he asked Bill to come and stay for a few nights at their house. Bill ended up staying there three months.
Now Bob relapsed a short time later. Well, he attended a convention of physicians in Atlantic city. They had a convention there every year that Dr. Bob would go to and that Dr Bob actually had to perform surgery after he got back He got loaded when he was there. And Dr Bob had to perform surgery the next day when he got back.
And Bill could see that he was shaking, and he had tremors. And so, he gave him a couple of drinks. Prior to him going to do the surgery. And, you know that guy who did he did surgery on? It was later. tried to do research to see if He was a proctologists. So he did that surgery that day. So, people are trying to find out who that guy was to see if he maybe even squeaked when he walked that they found that he was okay. Now Bob was supposed to come home after that surgery. Where his wife and Bill were worried and waiting. They thought, okay, well he is out again. And around seven o’clock, Bob came home sober. He hadn’t been made rounds making amends. Bob was always worried about letting people know that he was a drunk.
But he was surprised to find out as he was making amends, that everybody already knew that he was a drunk. But after you made those amends and after he came back, that Bob and never had to drink since. June 26th, 1935. Dr. Bob 16 days sober call to Actions City Hospital. That is where he did a lot of his surgeries. And told the nurse Mrs. Hall, that he had met a man from New York who had a cure for alcoholism. And if they had any alcoholic customer that they could try it on. Now the nurse replied well, Doctor, I suppose you have tried this for yourself. Yes. And Dr. Bob told her that he had quit drinking and now wanting to help others to do the same.
Then she told him off a man who came in with the DT,S. He had blackened his eyes on two nurses, he was strapped down tight to a bed. She said he was a great guy when sober. Uh, but been hospitalized eight times in the last six months. Was a well-known attorney in town,
and, a city Councilman. He is known as the man on the bed. That Bill Dawson that was June 26th, 1935. And from that meeting on Bill Dotson never had a drink since, so Bill D became AA number three.
And July 1935 Bill meets a. Dr. Silkworth at Towns hospital, not a patient this time. Bill talked about not being able to hold the attention of other alcoholics. Dr. Silkworth told him to stop preaching religion and do more like what you did with Dr. Bob and talk about alcoholism as an illness. Bill later, talked about that as being a crucial moment in AA .
In the fall of 1937 a AA lifesaving meeting occurred. Bill, Dr. Bob met up with the. John D Rockefeller. He hopes to raise some funds to keep AA going. Now John told them the money would spoil the movement’s purpose and that it must be self-supporting, or it would not survive. And that’s where the term self-supporting through its own contributions came. In the spring of 1938, the big book got started. Works publishing company set up for sales 600 shares of stock at $25 per share. In our District 45 archives, we have a copy of the stock and sheriffs’ certificates that were sold at that time. Bill wanted the name of the book to be called A Way Out. Now somebody else already had that name. So, they ended up calling it Alcoholic Anonymous.
In December 1938 the 12 Steps were written. Bill was asked how he was able to come up with the 12 steps. He said I asked for guidance when he completed the first draft. He counted the number of steps that he had written and there was 12. In April 1939, Alcohols Anonymous, published its first printing, first edition. There were 4,650 copies printed. And they sold for $3. 50 cents US each. It took almost two years to sell off the first editions books. The bank foreclosed on Bill’s house in Brooklyn in 1941. Things really changed when the Saturday Evening Post published an article that was an article written by J Jack Alexander in 1941.
Now the summer of 1939 AA withdraws from the Oxford group. And the fall of 1939, the first woman of AA, Marty, A. She bought many women into the program of AA. And one of her sponsees asked? Where in the big book could I read about sex problems? And Marty told her to read page 69. When she got home, the sponsee was confused and read pages 96, which reads, do not be discouraged if any of your prospects do not respond at once, search out another alcoholic can try again. You’re sure to find someone desperate enough to accept the eagerness, what you offer. We find it a waste of time to keep chasing the man who cannot or will not work with you.
I don’t think she wrote that, but I just thought I’d throw that in. Medallion and tokens. Where did they come from? A lot of people ask and. And in August, 1939 Sister Marry Masha worked with a doctor Bob Smith at Thomas hospital in Akron, Ohio. helping alcoholics. She was often referred to as an angel of Alcoholics Anonymous. She provided each patient who left care with a sacred heart badge. Now, receiving this item was accompanied by a personal promise that they would return the badge if they ended up drinking again. As Sister used to say, you can kiss me. You can hug me. But stay out of the habit. Hmm. Tough crowd.
Canadas first a registered group was in Toronto, February, 1940. That that was the first group in Canada in Toronto, Ontario. Now in 1941, the Saturday evening post that article that I talked about by Jack Alexander. Our membership at that time, I forgot to mention was 2000 members and went to 8,000 after that article. And it just kept on growing from there. Now, we’ll talk a little bit about the history of AA in British Columbia. In 1941, Charlie W known as the Candyman because his wife was a candy maker and she ended up dying of alcoholism. Charlie, a non alcoholic himself. It was very instrumental in bringing an AA to BC through his brother-in-law Rolland Mack who was from Sacramento. November 16th, 1944, an ad was placed in the Vancouver Province and four people responded. Gordon J was the first person to respond. Now June 21st. 1945 regular meetings started at the Hollywood Sanitarium, and they had a 21 members. In 1945, the first meeting in Chilliwack at the Haas Hop farm on Prairie Central in Greendale. And Tom H was the person who started that meeting. He was a manager of the hop farm.
Now Tom got transferred back to Portland, Oregon in September, 1946. And the meeting was then moved to Abbotsford. Now how I got this information as I have a letter from Chass T Hall. And there’s a copy in Chilliwack Archives. You know, I was curious to see. Where that hop farm was. So I went to I went to the city of Chilliwack and looked at the archives and found there was a railway route where the hop farms were. And I went to, to the property where the building existed. I found it very interesting to look over that property and had some reminiscing.
In 1946, Bill w introduced to 12 Traditions in the AA Grapevine. Which saved AA from the collapse. Now the 12 steps we’re already in order and in place to help people keep their life in order. And the 12 traditions helps keep the groups together.
In 1947, a few groups opened around the Chilliwack area. One at Carmen United Church, another at the Ladies Institute on Wellingdon which then moved to the United church. The United church meeting, the Friday Night Podium was the first registered group and that was in April 1948, Chilliwack’s first registered group. When, when I took over the archives in District 45, read the articles that were the minutes of the meetings from the first meetings. And it was interesting. to read up on how they conducted the meeting, first, they had roll calls. So, so members, all the members of that group that called their names and they would say here now, And they also had the chips that are given now. Now the, be able to even go to that meeting, you had to be escorted by somebody. You couldn’t just walk in. If you wanted to go to AA meeting, you had to be invited by somebody and you had to. To go into the meetings. And after your first 30 days, they’d give you a, I can’t remember the order of the chips but I think it was a white chip. And then 90 days they give you a red chip. And then after a full year, they give you a blue chip, but your first 30 days, first 90 days, you weren’t allowed to speak until you got that red chip. And then the blue chip you ended up after one year of becoming a full member. I found that quite interesting. And I also did a lot of research of the newspaper, the Chilliwack Progress. At that time, they were all posting a lot of articles in there. So I did a lot of research on that. We have In our archives, all those documents of the early times of which they talked very openly about AA and about the people in AA.
June 25th. 1948, the first AA ladies group Vancouver on Granville street. It was the Granville Social club. November 16th, 1950. Our beloved Co-founder Dr. Bob, nicknamed the prince of the 12 steppers died of colon cancer. In 1951, Bill Wcame to Vancouver to attend a voting assembly and to elector our New York delegate.
Now January 24th, 1971, our beloved co-founder Bill W died of pneumonia at the Miami heart Institute at the age of 75. 35 years sober. He flew in to Miami, to get a new, special treatment for pneumonia, but died the day he arrived at the hospital. Is death was his and Lois 53rd wedding anniversary.
And I think. I think I’ll stop there. That goes into a lot of the history but I just, I want to say how much of a miracle it is that all those things came together to make AA what it is today. And I’m grateful for that.
Wow. Amazing Randy. Excited listening to you, sharing your, your knowledge of our history, especially here in Chilliwack.
You seem to have such a passion for, for our history, for our archives. We have an opening in our District for Archives . Would you’d be interested in taking that on again. Well, you know, there’s a couple reasons why I wouldn’t take that on, but I would, my passion is there now. I would love to assist and help anybody in doing.
But there’s a couple of reasons why one. Number one reason is in the spirit of rotation. AA encourages people to move on. give somebody else an opportunity. And that’s the second reason I wouldn’t want to rob somebody of that opportunity, you know. Yeah, it was a very big eye opening
time for me as I was the Chair for the archives. And I just, I found it absolutely fascinating. And I don’t want to take that experience away from somebody else. I totally understand that having served as Archives chair a few years ago. I was in awe of all the the material you had saved over the years and put together for us.
You know, we got that in our Alano Club now behind glass showcases. Yeah. The thought is the same as mine, you know? I’d like to go for it again, but you know, I would love to see somebody step up. So we can guide them and mentor them and. I’m sure both of us you know, definitely help out whoever runs for that position again.
Yeah. Isn’t it amazing that nobody’s taken over that position? I, I, it was the most fascinating position. I’ve had almost every position on the district, and I found that one by far the most fascinating. So maybe you and I could set up something to be of assistance to help somebody take up that position.
Absolutely. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that somebody runs forward. Again. Thank you so much for coming. Thanks for sharing your Your passion with us and I’m sure people are going to enjoy listening to this.
Thank you for the opportunity.
Well, my friends, this is it for this episode of Chilliwack AA Podcast. I want to thank my guest, Randy H for sharing the history of Alcoholics anonymous. Thank you for tuning in. This podcast can also be heard on Spotify, Anchor, Amazon Music, Google Play, and SoundCloud. Or visit our website, http://www.chilliwackaa.org. Listen to every interview, share your thoughts and comments on our website.
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