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Western Pennsylvania Area 60 is proud of its Archives collection. With the help of many involved and dedicated volunteers, our Archives have grown into an interesting and enjoyable collection of memorabilia reflecting the growth of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous in Western Pennsylvania. Many hours of labor have been invested in cataloging and preserving our history for the education and delight of members of our fellowship. We now have traveling displays that the Archives Coordinator will exhibit at Area 60 events, (Quarterly Meetings, Assemblies and Days of Sharing) and group anniversaries when asked, schedule permitting.

The Archives aim is to give the fellowship a sense of its own past, lest we forget from whence we came.

Area 60 needs you to donate to the Archives! The Area Committee welcomes a program, a tape, a booklet or a memory. The archives coordinator seeks out and maintains items and memorabilia, i.e., programs, correspondence, news clippings, etc. He/she also collects tapes and arranges taped interviews of long-timers (30 or more years of sobriety) and is responsible for the collection of histories of Area 60 groups. Whether your group was started 5 years ago or 55 years ago, it has a history. Share that information with the Archives by following the link to the Group History Form. Do you know a long-timer? I can guarantee that they have a story, or two, to tell.

To strengthen the Area 60 link to AA as a whole, the archives coordinator maintains communication with the GSO Archivist and preserves the Area 60 Archives subscription to the AA Grapevine.

For questions, comments or compliments, please contact the Archives Coordinator at archives@wpaarea60.org

Early History of Alcoholics Anonymous in Western Pennsylvania

Full History of AA in Pittsburgh

On March 18, 1951, a meeting was held in the Fort Pitt Hotel Gold Room to pick Western Pennsylvania's first delegate. Fifty-three (53) groups were represented. The Host Committee, for purpose of clarification, presented a suggestion that the Regional Committee (Area Committee) be comprised of ten members, representation of the various groups to be distributed as follows: 3 from Allegheny County; 3 from North; 2 from East; 1 from the West and 1 from the South. Motion carried unanimously.

From written ballots came the election of the ten committeemen (dcms); W.G. (Skeets) G., Pgh, as Chairman; Fred E., Pgh, as Treasurer and C.H. Daubs, Erie, as Secretary. Voting was motioned that only the delegates (gsrs) from their respected areas (districts) vote for their committeemen (dcms). Voting results as follows: Allegheny Co. – J. Q., M.D.; North – J.C. W. from Oil City and Arthur B. from Warren, Pa; East – Chas. V. from Bethlehem/Johnstown and George McG. From Pgh; West – Ben M. from Ellwood City and South – Stanton F. from Washington, Pa.

These men along with the elected Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary formed the Committee of the ten area representatives. It was motioned that the ten elected committeemen retire and elect a delegate and two alternates from that group as delegate to the first National Conference. Election of Western PA's First Delegate to the first National Conference.

Following a short recess, the committeemen announced that they had elected W.G. (Skeets) G. as our first Delegate to the National Conference. Charles H. V. was elected first alternate and Stanton F. was elected second alternate.

(Note: you'll notice that Charles H. V. and Stanton F. became delegates later on Charles in 1954 and 1955-56 and Stanton F. in 1959-60).

The date of our first General Service Conference (National Conference as it was first called) was April 20-22, 1951 at the Hotel Commodore, New York city, N.Y. It was motioned and carried that the Pittsburgh Central group be responsible for the expenses of this initial Regional meeting. This was actually Western Pennsylvania's, Area 60's first Area Assembly on March 18, 1951.

When Wm. G. came back from the first Conference in New York, he asked that he be allowed to give his report at an assembly in Cook's Forest – this continued for his 2 yr. term. So, apparently, Cooks Forest started out as a Service Assembly for the delegate to give his report from the General Service Conference.

Note: In Gratitude, here is a list of our past 30 Delegates including our present delegate, who have helped carry the A.A. Message in Western Pennsylvania Area 60 :

1951-52 Wm. G. F. *

1979-80 Ian M. *

1953- Jack G. *

1981-82 Bud T.

1954-(alt.) Charles V. *

1983-84 Carol K.

1955-56 Charles V. *       

1985-86 Ray D. *

1957-58 Jack S. *

1987-88 Rege F.

1959-60 Stanton F. *

1989- Bill S. *

1961-62 George P. *

1990-(alt.) Maxine M. *

1963-64 Glen W. *

1991-92 Maxine M. *

1965-66 Ray M.

1993-94 Lois C. *

1967-68 Rose B. *

1995-96 Matt H.

1969-70 Henry C. *

1997-98 David B.

1971-72 Bob B. *

1999-00 Arlene H.

1973-74 Fran F.

2001-02 Vaughn H.

1975- Ellis B. *

2003-04 John W.

1976-(alt.) Jane A. *

2005-06 Chuck H.

1977-78 Ken K. *

2007-08 Janet H.

* With deep sympathy we ask that you remember our past delegate, panel 17, Rose B. who recently passed away on July 3, 2007.. Rose was 93 year old and it is thought that she had 57-58 years sober.

Respectfully submitted,
Vaughn H., past delegate, panel 51

Lois W., wife of AA's co-founder, Bill, recalls the time in AA when there were few members and no Big Book. "Things were different" Lois says. And she tells how Al-Anon, which she founded, began . . .

In the early days of AA things were really very different. For five years there was no Big Book. The only way to communicate with other people was to go and tell them, so that's what we did. Of course, all of the meetings were held in people's homes, the homes of those who were lucky enough to have them. Anybody who had one made it wide open to whomever the boys brought in. Our houses, Dr. Bob's in Akron and ours in Brooklyn, were just filled with drunks, either drinking, or stopped temporarily, or well on the way to real sobriety.

Yes, AA was quite different in those days for many reasons. One was that there were no people in AA except those who had gone to the very bottom. Only those would listen to the story that one drunk was telling another. When AA first started, before there was a book, it was more anonymous than it is now, because even the Fellowship was without a name. AA didn't have a name until the book was written. Before that it was just a bunch of drunks trying to help each other, a bunch of nameless drunks. They had to be worked with over and over; families and everybody did what they could to help.

There were many, many sad things that happened, many very humorous things, and inspirational things, too.

Several are coming to mind right now. Bill, as you know, came from Vermont and someone sent him some maple syrup from there. It came in a whiskey bottle. One of the boys saw this attractive container in the kitchen and he was so drunk at the time that he gulped the whole bottle of syrup, thinking it was whiskey.

We had a rule that no one could come into the house when he was drinking. One night one of the boys came home drunk. We wouldn't let him in so he pried open the coal chute and slid into the cellar. Since he was very fat it was surprising that he could slide down it, yet somehow he made it. But this same fat man did get stuck one night in the washtubs. He lived in the basement apartment. Old city houses used to have stationary tubs in the kitchen. He thought he'd try to take a bath in one. But after getting in he couldn't get out so one of us (and I think it was I) had to pull him out.

There were many other things . . . . a man committed suicide in our house after having pawned our dress clothes, left over from more prosperous days. These included Bill's dress suit and my precious evening cape. We have never owned such articles again.

AA was always thrilling. The families were included in all of the meetings, wives and parents, (there weren't many alcoholic women then) and the children came too. The children were vitally interested in everything that went on. They would inquire about all of the members and want to know how they were. They'd learn the Twelve Steps and really try to live by them. I don't think youngsters can be too young to be thrilled by the AA program and be helped by it.

One of the first women who came in was the ex-wife of a friend of Bill's. She had been in Bellevue and had come from there to our house. At that time there was a wonderful man--I think he was the fourth or fifth AA--who was trying to start a group in Washington, D. C. This woman went down to help him and she stayed sober for quite a long time. Then she married a man they were trying to bring on to the program. He really didn't go along with the idea himself and used to say to her every once in a while, "Florence, you look so thirsty." And so she did something about that. Florence disappeared. Everybody looked for her everywhere and couldn't find her. After a couple of weeks they found her in the morgue.

At that time each group used to visit every other group. New York members would go to Jersey or Greenwich, Philadelphia or Washington or even Cleveland or Akron. Those were the groups I recall were in existence in the first five years.

If anybody had a car a bunch of us would pile in and we'd go where-ever we knew there was a meeting. Families were just as much a part of AA as the alcoholics and we did feel we belonged.

But after a while the AAs thought that they should have an occasional meeting--at least one every week--of just alcoholics so that they could really get down to business. When this occurred the Wives thought they'd meet together, too, at the same time. At first these little gatherings of wives didn't have any particular purpose. Sometimes we'd play bridge and sometimes we'd gossip about our husbands.

Then a few of us began to see that we really needed the AA program just as much as the alcoholics. The famous case of my throwing a shoe at Bill started me wondering about myself and realizing that I needed to live by the Twelve Steps just as much as he did. He was getting way ahead of me. I always thought of myself as being the moral mentor in the house, but Bill, who never was a mentor, was certainly growing spiritually while I was standing still. Or perhaps there is no standing still--if I wasn't going ahead, I must be going backwards.

I decided I'd better live by the Twelve Steps. Annie S. and a number of other people had come to the same conclusion. So, whenever we visited another group, we would tell the wives and families how we found that we, too, needed to live by the Twelve Steps of AA. Little groups of wives and families all over the country began to feel the same need for something to help overcome their frustrations and help them become integrated human beings again.

That's the way Al-Anon started. We followed the AA program in every principle. I want to thank AAs so very much for showing us the way. Without your leading us we would still be the unhappy folks we were.

In our meetings we tell our own experiences just as AAs do. We tell how we came to find that we needed Al-Anon and what Al-Anon has done for us. And we seek to help other families that were, or are, having the same sort of experience.

In 1950 Bill traveled all over Canada and the United States to see how AAs would react to the idea of a general conference for Alcoholics Anonymous, and in doing so he discovered quite a few types of groups of the families of alcoholics. He thought that they should have a Central Office here in New York, just as AA did, so that they could be unified in their use of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions--a place where inquiries could be received, literature prepared and the public informed so that those in need would know where to turn.

A good friend and I started a small office in Bedford Hills. By then AA had had eighty-seven inquiries from wives or groups who wished to register. As AA was not equipped to help the families of alcoholics it handed over this list to us and we wrote to them. Fifty groups responded and were registered with us. That was in '51. Today there are over 3000 Al-Anon groups.

The numerical potential of Al-Anon is greater than AA's because it is composed not only of mates of alcoholics, but children, parents and other relatives and friends. It is estimated that five people are seriously affected by one alcoholic.

Though we have barely scratched the surface, the future is bright, thanks to you AAs for your wonderful example and inspiration.

Copyright © The AA Grapevine, Inc. (January, 1967). Reprinted with permission.