Twenty-five years after the formation of Orlando’s first AA group (1944), the Central Florida directory proudly listed a dozen AA groups. They were the Central Orlando, Magnolia, Winter Park, Sanford, Maitland, Osceola (Kissimmee), St. Cloud, Lake Underhill, and West Orange (Ocoee) Groups. A Woman’s Group that met at 116 East Concord (Orlando) was the tenth group.
Though very active, the A&A Group in Winter Park (Fairbanks) held a questionable status. GSO did not list this group in the national directory, since they were affiliated with another fellowship. A&A meant alcoholics and Al-Anons.
Alcoholics in Pinecastle made up the twelfth group and were at that time trying to collect enough members to hold regular meetings. The 1968-69 schedule listed “Pinecastle Group — No regular meetings. Phone 275….”
Before the opening of Interstate 4, Kissimmee, 15 miles south of Orlando, was treated like it was another country. Many AA’s from the Orlando area motored to Kissimmee on the Interstate to help celebrate the tenth anniversary in 1970.
A retired deputy sheriff, C.K. B., was one of AA’s spark plugs in the early 1970’s. This 6’4” West Virginian had one leg, and spent much of his time at his home phone making and taking calls and directing people to meetings. He was not homebound by any means. Although he lived in Union Park, going on 12th-step calls in Apopka, Winter Garden or St. Cloud was quite normal for him. Traveling to Lowell Prison, hours to the north, or to Avon Park, hours to the south, was a monthly ritual for this alcoholic. C.K. established the first institutional meeting at the Orange County jail — it was called the Second Chance Group.
C.K. was adamant about being the driver when he traveled — that is, until an AA by the name of Joe moved into the neighborhood. Whenever these two traveled together, it was Joe who did the driving. C.K. was asked why he let only Joe drive him. He answered, “And miss the chance to have a Colonel chauffeur the corporal around?”
New Year’s Eve parties became a scheduled affair starting 1970-71. The Al-Anons put on a show of “What was it like?” Maggie, wife of Bill P., put on a convincing act of a spouse beleaguered by a practicing alcoholic.
Dining our 1971-72 New Year’s Eve party, “Hank the Yank” took over the organization and entertainment. A turntable amplifier, speakers and a whole bunch of very old records were set up for music… all to Hank’s one-dimensional preference. He entertained us with his whistling skills. His dog Whitey howled throughout the evening. After that, our New Year’s Eve parties became coordinated rather than unilateral affairs.
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