During the mid-1960s, I attended an AA meeting at a drying-out facility in Hawaii. When the chairperson introduced himself with the usual, “My name is John, and I’m an alcoholic,” there was a roaring response from the attendees. I nearly jumped out of my chair. After regaining my composure, I asked the person next to me what that was all about. “We said, ‘Hi John!’” It sounded a little wacky to me, but so much for group custom. I was glad we didn’t do things that way at my home group in Japan.
Several years later, after my retirement from the Air Force and move to Florida, I made Magnolia my home group. One Tuesday night, immediately after the chairman introduced himself, a booming voice came from the audience, “Hi Jim!” Everyone in the room except me glared at Wes B. I knew that this was how Wes always welcomed a speaker. And shock or hostility was usually the reaction of the other meeting attendees. Some even thought Wes had flipped. However, the custom soon caught on, and today we wouldn’t think of letting an introduction go unanswered.
Some say Wes brought the custom with him from North Carolina. Others speculated that the custom originated in California and was picked up by Wes while he was stationed with the Air Force in Formosa (Taiwan). AA practice in the Pacific was greatly influenced by West Coast AA.
Another custom that was introduced and took hold in the Central Florida area was holding hands while saying the closing prayer. Heretofore we stood solemnly with our hands usually at our sides or clasped. To some, holding hands was as embarrassing as being embraced by a stranger. However, this custom took even less time to be accepted.
Then came the 1970s! Although Central Florida AA in the early 1970s was exciting, it was not Utopian. We had some of the damnedest problems. One treasurer was funneling his group’s contributions to an unrelated club located miles from the group. A change in group members put a stop to that practice. Another group treasurer kept accumulating the group’s funds without a stated purpose. When he took off with the sizable reserve, we knew his purpose. A year later, he showed up full of remorse and did a ninth step. He presented the group with a check, made out for the exact amount of the funds with which he’d absconded. Surprise! The check bounced.
Marie, our Intergroup office administrator at that time, had a way of handling any problem. The office at 205 E. Jackson was in the seamier section of Orlando. Drifters visited the office frequently, usually begging for money, a cup of coffee, or help unrelated to our primary purpose. One day a man hobbled into the office, painfully mumbling some unintelligible words. Although Marie could not understand what the poor soul was saying, she was able to fathom the problem. With the utmost poise and dignity, Marie directed the man to the nearest hospital emergency room, where he was rescued from his predicament — the poor guy’s privates had been caught in his zippered fly.
Memories of Marie bring smiles to all who knew her and her quick Irish wit. Our archives photo album has pictures of Marie. Joe H., telephone volunteer for Wednesday afternoon; Mary M., Friday mornings; and John S., Saturday mornings, all members of the Archives Committee, will be glad to bring out the album for your review.
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