In 1958, Bo L. came on the Orlando scene from Asheville, North Carolina, where in 1956 he came to the AA program. At the time, the Central Orlando Group was still meeting on the second floor of 6 North Court Street. Meetings were held every night of the week, one of which was a speaker’s meeting. Within two years of Bo’s arrival, noon meetings were added, bringing the number of meetings for the Central Orlando Group to 14 a week. The only other group in the area at that time was the Winter Park Group at 1000 North Orange Avenue.
In the early 1960s, while Bo was president of the Alco-An Club (where the Central Orlando Group met), the fire marshal showed concern for the single exit and the long flight of stairs. The lady who owned the building felt it was more prudent to sell than to remodel the building. She, a non-alcoholic, had been a great help to Orlando’s first group. When money was tight, she showed unusual patience in waiting for the rent. She liked us alcoholics.
The Central Group (club) moved to 610 North Orange Avenue, across the street from The Orlando Sentinel. It was here that in 1964 Don P was introduced to the AA program. Don remembers that the club lost its lease to that space because of improper use of parking spaces. The next move was to Ruth Lane, and after a couple of months, another move to Ridgewood for about two more months. Late in 1967 the group moved to 231 East Jackson Street, where it was to reside for a while.
He J. came to the program in 1965. He and Don were “spark plugs,” staring the Court program in our area. Treatment facilities per se did not exist in the area. Avon Park was the only facility known to take alcoholics. More likely, the alcoholic picked up on the streets of Orlando would be sent to the “farm.” Ask any Orlando oldtimer about the “farm” and he will grin from ear to ear. Prisoners farmed and took care of the cattle. This is where many alcoholics first learned about AA. Ed and Don, in addition to running back and forth to the farm, visited the city and county jails and approached judges to put alcoholics in their care.
The two-and-a-half story home at 231 East Jackson Street and Liberty was made to order. There were many rooms, several toilets, and a large kitchen. Newcomers to town often started with the Central Group and then moved out to neighborhood groups. The club members pledged $1 to $10 a month as dues, according to their ability to pay. Original members of the “club” signed a two-year lease, with option to buy. A couple of years later, a few club members put up their personal securities as a down payment on a mortgage to buy the house.
Up to the 1970’s, most of the community interaction, 12th-step work, public information, institution and special coordination were done by the Central Orlando Group of Alcoholics Anonymous, or by the Alco-An Club, in a rather haphazard way. There were times when it was difficult to say who was doing what.
During the late 1960’s, reading “How It Works” at the beginning of each meeting became customary.
(Thanks to Don P. and Bo L. for their input.)
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