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By Bill Wilson

In his seventieth year, and on the twenty-first of March, my friend and sponsor “Ebby” passed beyond our sight and hearing.

On a chill November afternoon in 1934 it was Ebby who had brought me the message that saved my life. Still more importantly, he was the bearer of the Grace and of the principles that shortly afterward led to my spiritual awakening. This was truly a call to new life in the Spirit. It was the kid of rebirth that has since become the most precious possession of each and all of us.

As I looked upon him where he lay in perfect repose, I was stirred by poignant memories of all the years I had known and loved him.

There were recollections of those joyous days in a Vermont boarding school. After the war years we were sometimes together, then drinking of course. Alcohol, we thought, was the solvent for all difficulties, a veritable elixir for good living.

Then there was that absurd episode of 1929. Ebby and I were on an all-night spree in Albany. Suddenly we remembered that a new airfield had been constructed in Vermont, on a pasture near my own home town. The opening day was close at hand. Then came the intoxicating thought: If only we could hire a plane we*d beat the opening by several days, thus making aviation history ourselves! Forthwith, Ebby routed a pilot friend out of bed, and for a stiff price we engaged him and his small craft. We sent the town fathers a wire announcing the time of our arrival. In midmorning, we took to the air, greatly elated — ad very tight.

Somehow our rather tipsy pilot set us down on the field. A large crowd, including the village band and a welcoming committee, lustily cheered his feat. The pilot then deplaned. But nothing else happened, nothing at all. The onlookers stood in puzzled silence. Where were Ebby and Bill? Then the horrible discovery was made — we were both slumped in the rear cockpit of the plane, completely passed out! Kind friends lifted us down and stood us upon the ground. Whereupon we history-makers fell flat on our faces. Ignominiously, we had to be carted away. The fiasco could not have been more appalling. We spent the next day shakily writing apologies.

Over the following five years, I seldom saw Ebby. But of course our drinking went on and on. In late 1934 I got a terrific jolt when I learned that Ebby was about to be locked up, this time in a state mental hospital.

Following a serious of mad sprees, he had run his father*s new Packard off the road and into the side of a dwelling, smashing right into its kitchen, and just missing a terrified housewife. Thinking to east this rather awkward situation, Ebby summoned his brightest smile and said, *Well, my dear, how about a cup of coffee?*

Of course Ebby*s lighthearted humor was quite lost on everyone concerned. Their patience worn thin, the town fathers yanked him into court. To all appearances, Ebby*a final destination was the insane asylum. To me, this marked the end of the line for us both. Only a short time before, my physician, Dr. Silkworth, had felt obliged to tell Lois there was no hope of my recovery; that I, too would have to be confined, else risk insanity or death.

But providence would have it otherwise. It was presently learned that Ebby had been paroled into the custody of friends who (for the time being) had achieved their sobriety in the Oxford Groups. They brought Ebby to New York where he fell under the benign influence of AA*s great friend-to-be, Dr. Sam Shoemaker, the rector of Calvary Episcopal Church. Much affected by Sam and the *O.G.* Ebby promptly sobered up. Hearing of my serious condition, he had straight-way come to our house in Brooklyn.

As I continued to recollect, the vision of Ebby looking at me across our kitchen table became wonderfully vivid. As most AAs know, he spoke to me of the release from hopelessness that had come to him (through the Oxford Groups) as the result of self-survey, restitution, outgoing helpfulness to others, and prayer. In short, he was proposing the attitudes and principles that I used later in developing AA*s Twelve Steps to recovery.

It had happened. One alcoholic had effectively carried the message to another. Ebby had been enabled to bring me the gift of Grace because he could reach me at depth through the language of the heart. He had pushed ajar that great gate through which all in AA have since passed to find their freedom under God.

AA Grapevine on June 1966

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This month our selection is a look back at the first five years of A.A. as told from Lois Wilson’s perspective. This was originally published in the January 1967 AA Grapevine.

Lois Wilson, wife of AA’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, recalls the time in AA when there were few members and no Big Book. From the January 1967 AA Grapevine. In the early days of AA things were really 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 these 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 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 onto 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 New 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 wherever 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 AA’s 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 AA’s 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 AA’s 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 AA’s 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 family 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 handle 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 (1967) there are over 3,000 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 AA’s for your wonderful example and inspiration.

AA Traditions Banquet 2018

Learn More!

Tickets Available for purchase at the Harbor Area Central Office!

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In one way, taking part in the Hospitals and Institutions Committee of Alcoholics Anonymous, better known as H & I, is like everything else I do in AA. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say at a meeting, or said yourself, “I really didn’t want to come to the meeting tonight. I had a long day at work and I’m tired (or the big game is on, or whatever). But now that I’m here, I’m really glad I came. I always feel better after a meeting.” I had gone on a few panels here and there. For some of the first ones, I have to admit I wasn’t even sober. But after I got sober and was badgered into taking a panel of my own, I look forward to it every month. And in two years, I’ve never had a problem finding two or three alcoholics to join me and share their hope, strength and experience. It gives meaning to our tradition that states ours is a program of attraction rather than promotion. And we always enjoy it, and feel better afterwards.

On Behalf of the Harbor Area H&I team, we want to thank everyone who supported and attended the event Sept 22nd. We know many of you worked hard at cooking chili, decorating booths and donating Auction Items. Thanks again for your commitment to help Carry the Message of AA to those in need.

2018 Chili Cook Off Awards!

Best Chili

  • 1st Place Lucky 13- Saturday morning Sunset beach meeting
  • 2nd Place Nomads Mens Meeting Sunset Beach at Thursday
  • 3rd Place Paramount Speakers Sunday night at the Snake Pit
  • Best Alternative Chili

  • 1st Place Thursday Night at the fights- Long Beach
  • 2nd Place Bellflower Big Book
  • 3rd Place Marina Pacifica Morn Meeting
  • Best Decorated Booth

  • 1st Place Killer Chili- chili you would die for!
  • 2nd Place Bellflower Big Book Disco
  • 3rd Place MArina Pacifica – Neanderthal/Cave Man and Woman

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    EDITORIAL: On Simplicity, of Faith, of Living, of Outlook

    The A.A. program itself is simple. Why do too many of us try to read complexities and mysteries into the 12 steps? In our drinking days our lives were complex and confused. We were unable to be honest with ourselves and we rationalized our wrong position with all the tricks of evasion and equivocation.

    We added jealousy, resentment and intolerance to the tangled pattern of our lives. Our greatest longing was for relief, for deliverance from a way of living that had become too complex to endure without the treacherous aid of alcohol.

    Our introduction to A.A. at once offered that freedom, if we desired it without reservation and were willing to follow a few steps whose greatest appeal to our bewildered spirits was their simplicity.

    One of the main differences between A.A. and other programs of sound living is the ease with which a newcomer can grasp its principles, and with which the oldest member can live each day in harmony with himself and his neighbors by practicing the simply stated 12 steps.

    Kipling might have written this expressly for A.A.:

    Not as a ladder from Earth to Heaven,
    not as a witness to any creed,
    But simple service simply given to his
    own kind in their common need

    If each individual member wholeheartedly and unquestioningly accepts the program in the simple form it was given us, without straining for effects and methods of practice to elaborate it, we will have even-tempered groups with only enough organization to insure against over-organization.

    Earl T. of Chicago

    Veterans Day AA Meeting Marathon, at MWA - Flyer 2018

    MWA (Memorial West Alumni) is Hosting a Veterans Day AA Marathon.

    • Nov 9, 2018 – 6:00pm – 10:00pm
    • Nov 10, 2018 – 8:00am – 10:00pm
    • Nov 11, 2018 at 8:00am – 6:00pm

  • The Historical Documents contains the new Document — In Remembrance of Ebby. For this month’s selection, I though we’d look back to Bill Wilsons’ remembrance of a November evening 84 years ago when he sat across a kitchen table with his old drinking buddy Ebby T. That evening, Ebby brought a message that as Bill said, ‘changed his life.’ This is that story of the original ‘gift’ of sobriety.
  • We Need the help of AA Groups in our area to tell the Harbor Area Archives Committee about their group history.
    Please visit our Archives Page, for more details.
  • The June 2018 Harbor Light is published and posted to our Harbor Light Pages.
  • The Historical Documents section has been improved, to show easily accessible pdf documents.
    Please visit our Documents Page, for more details.
  • Speaker Tapes, in mp3 format, have been posted to our website.
    Please visit our AA Speaker Archives Page, for more details, including new speakers Alabam C., Anthony H., Donna E., Kip C., Norm S., Ron S., Tom B.

  • listen to aa speakers

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    Recently I spent a delightful afternoon with Flossie Lewis’ daughter, Beverly O’Neill when she graciously donated to the Harbor Area Archives some wonderful new memorabilia. For this month’s selection please enjoy an original poem from Hal Moffett, founding president of Memorial West Alumni (MWA). It is presented here in its original ‘work in progress’ form.

    Fun, Food, Fellowship!

    Many groups are donating items for the auction gift baskets gift cards or bake sale items which help to raise money for buying. Discover the high of H & I!

    • Raffles!
    • Speakers – 9am & 2pm
    • Bring your Beach Chairs, Limited Seating Provided
    • Live & Silent Auctions
    • Kids Games
    • Face Painting
    • Bounce House
    • Food
    • Entertainment

    H&I Chili Cook-Off 2018

    Fun, Food, Fellowship! Raffle! Speakers - 9am & 2pm Bring your Beach Chairs, Limited Seating Provided Live & Silent Auctions Kids Games Face Painting Bounce House Food Entertainment

    About A.A.

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    Hospitals & Institutions

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    AA Literature

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    Service Opportunities

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    Harbor Light

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    12 Step Program of Recovery from Alcoholism

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    Contact Information

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