John D.

Archives: Personal History

Name: John D.
Date of Interview: 10/30/06
Sobriety Date(s):5/9/61
Current Home Group & Location: Prince of Peace, Marlton, NJ
Locations lived in during sobriety: Commack, NY, Des Plaines, IL, Chicago, IL, Villa Park, IL & Marlton, NJ

How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
Living in NY I returned to Chicago for my father’s funeral. I met a boyhood friend, Jerry W. at my father’s wake. He had been sober 3½ years. We discussed AA. He mailed me info and I went to my 1st meeting 5/20/61 at East Northport Long Island, NY. A 3 speaker meeting.
How did you first learn about A.A.?
My father told me of 2 of his coworkers in 1946. Read about AA in college Psych class. Jerry W. told me about it in June 1960.
Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
Yes, phone calls, rode train together to Manhattan to work. Met for lunch and went to meetings.
How many groups or meetings were in existence? Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings? How were they run?
Many on Long Island & Manhattan. Most groups had 2 meetings a week. A 3 speaker meeting with a lead introducer and a second step meeting. Visitors would qualify and then discuss a step.
When was A.A. started in your town or area? How often were meetings held? Who were some of the people playing important roles in the formation of new groups? Can you explain the differences that led to new groups being formed in your area?
Only attended for 16 months and returned to Chicago area. Meetings on Long Island had been in existence since the ‘40s.
Chicago – We had home groups. We met in each other’s homes once a week and attended other meetings at clubs or churches. In Chicago, we had many meetings in hospitals to recruit newcomers. In Chicago they had a daily luncheon in a private dining room in a downtown department store “The Fair”. It dissolved in ’65 when the store was sold. Luncheon moved around for a few years and ended with the start of noon-time meetings.
What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
I moved to Philly in ’72. Noon-time lunch meetings downtown moved to Baptist church “Mustard Seed” on Tuesdays. Added additional days over the years.
In NJ, I attended Moorestown on Tues, Fri & Sat from ’72-’81. I attended Medford Wed & Fri ’81-’90. I then attended Prince of Peace Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri ever since.
What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
Chaired Tues & Sat night in Moorestown. Speaking commitments at other groups. Listed for 12 step calls. In early days, chaired Fri 1 PM meeting in Bellevue Hospital.
Helped start new meeting at Mustard Seed in Chicago & Philadelphia.
Helped start St. Mark’s meeting in 1972.
What controversies over issues addressed in the Traditions can you recall people wrestling with? (How were meeting spaces acquired? Was rent or other funding obtained by gambling sessions, Bingo games, etc? How did the membership resolve these affairs?)
Sharing time brief. Show of hands (same people always raise hands). Stick to Alcoholism.
What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety and why?
Don D. First sponsor – We are still in contact & sponsor each other.
Beaure H. Second sponsor – Spiritual tools and carrying the message.
Walt D. – Example of carrying the message.
Thousands of AA members by staying sober a day at a time.
How were new members contacted? What kinds of Twelfth Step work were going on? Are there any Twelfth Step anecdotes that stick out in your mind that you’d care to share?
We got calls from intergroup and 2 of us would go to prospect’s home and tell our stories.
We attended meetings and invited newcomers to our home group.
12 step card “Dime Therapy” – Business card with our phone numbers and sent with a dime.
Today, A.A. is well known to, and supported by police officers, judges and corrections officials. What kind of relationship did A.A. in your area have with local authorities? How has that changed since you sobered up?
People are still recommended.
Treatment facilities nowadays frequently host A.A. and other Twelve Steps meetings. Did any of them use a Twelve Step format or incorporate meetings into their structure?
Yes, Speaker meetings rather than step to identify with stories.
Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
Today, radio and television public service announcements for A.A., as well as Internet Web sites, are becoming commonplace. When you first got sober, how did A.A.s interact with the media? Have you had any profound experiences sharing your relationship with alcohol with the public? What cautions might you have for young A.A.s today regarding media exposure?
In Chicago, 4 of the first 10 members were newspaper writers. We actually had a meeting at the Wrigley Building on Wednesday evenings. Since moved to the Sheraton with most members from the media.
I worked at the Bulletin. We had many members employed and management referred employees.
During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
With understanding.
Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community? If so, how?
Many people got sober and examples of what AA could do were shown.
What do you remember of early conferences, assemblies, and conventions? Can you recall opening intergroup or central offices?
Meetings use to close with “We have a nice way of closing, would those who care to join us in the Lord’s Prayer.” Today “Who’s Father?”
Have you had any contact with G.S.O.? Please elaborate.
Today, Conference-approved literature is available to help A.A. members deal with a wide variety of challenging questions. In the early days of the Fellowship all we had was the book Alcoholics Anonymous, common sense and your compassion. How did early A.A.s treat newcomers? How did your group(s) treat constant slippers? Thirteenth steppers? How were people, wishing to talk about multiple addictions during your meetings addressed? How about nonalcoholic drug addicts walking in off the street for their first meeting?
New members were welcomed.
Slippers were encouraged to keep trying.
13 steppers – warned newcomers
Other Addictions – after a meeting or attended other 12 step groups devoted to the problem. Welcome to stay if what we have to say will help. Did not chase them out.
In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
More young people.
In most groups, more tolerance.