The first AA group was established in the Orlando area during 1944. Five years later, the Winter Park Group was formed. These two groups were the mainstays, though others came and went. The first change in sizable numbers occurred during 1962, when two more groups formed, each for a different reason. These were the Maitland and Magnolia Groups.
During May 1982, the Magnolia Group celebrated its 20th anniversary by sponsoring an “old-timers” meeting. Louise A. was present at this anniversary meeting as well as the group’s first meeting on May 16, 1962. As Louise tells it, she first came to the program in 1949, had a slip, and because of this, actually sent in a “resignation” to the Central Office. Two years later, she returned to the program and has been with us since. Louise was having husband trouble, which interfered with her program. She divorced her problem and later married Dave A., the person credited with starting the first AA group in the Orlando area. At the 1982 meeting, Louise passed her 70th birthday. She said she was on her next 40,000 miles. Louise is still going strong.
Jean C. said that night, “This is ROOTS for me.” She came to the fellowship in 1963, took one look at the facility on Court Street, with its tall steep steps, and decided there must be a group more attractive to the female. She found one, but much to her surprise, the Magnolia Group met on the third floor of the Presbyterian School, and she had to climb all these steps. Not until later was an elevator installed. For some, this became known as the “silk stocking” group, and to others, the “necktie” group.
Gerhard W. found the AA program in New York and attended meetings at the Magnolia Group during the mid-1960s. He relates that the school where they met was a maze of dark corridors. Gerhard had to make a “nature call,” but could not find the rest room. He left the building to solve his problem under the stars, and the door locked behind him. He completed his mission but then had to go home, since there was no way of getting back in.
Jim C. came from Virginia and settled in Clermont. He tried to find the Magnolia Group one evening during November 1964. The address was simple: 106 East Church Street. He drove east on Highway 50, south on Orange, then was to go east again on Church. There was a problem: the city of Orlando was having a Christmas parade, the police kept blocking his way. Eventually he gave up and went back to Clermont madder than hell, and acted it. His wife Mary Lyn told him, “Jim, you’re acting just like an alcoholic.” This held him in check until the next week, when he did make a meeting.
The last to speak that anniversary night was Clarence S., who was the oldest living AA member, having come to the program 44 years earlier. Dr. Bob was his sponsor. He directed special attention to two people who were there for their first meeting—Bob and his daughter, both alcoholics. These two received the greatest hand. That’s what the program is all about.
Service is ingrained in this group’s character. Early on, the Magnolia Group was very active in the Court program. Judges would turn over prospective prisoners to the AA’s “if the AA’s thought they were good prospects” (for sobriety, that is).
Jean G., who was looking for a group more attractive to a female, brought Dottie S. to her first meeting. Dottie took on the job of treasurer for Magnolia and was also active in the Nu Start and South Orlando Women’s Groups. For years, Dottie was the Wednesday morning volunteer on the hotline at the Intergroup Office. Dottie’s health now restricts her to the limits of her home.
During 1969, Basia and Joe H. came to the Magnolia Group, after having home groups in other states and countries during their military life. To this date, they are both active in the Magnolia Group and with Intergroup.
From time to time, vacationing people have found the Magnolia Group to be their home group away from home. Reg, whose home is in Petersburg, Canada, believes he attended more meetings at the Magnolia Group than any other, even in Canada.
Although the reputation of the Magnolia Group would suggest it was for snobs (i.e., silk stocking or necktie group), the origin was far from that. Actually the group was started by George and Lenore S. at the request of the church pastor, who wanted help for some of his alcoholic parishioners.
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