After-meeting activity in the 1940s was not much different than it is today. In those days, Connie R.’s house served as a post-meeting rendezvous. Today it is the Village Inn, Denny’s, Wags, etc.
Anonymity was very important to its early members. As such, they would speak of their alcoholism to one another. The group was close-knit. Strong friendships developed amongst the early members. With only a handful of AA’s in three counties (Orange, Seminole and Osceola), members depended strongly upon each other. We must keep in mind that in AA’s early days, the public considered an alcoholic to be a weak-minded tramp and a moral degenerate. Only fellow AAs understood, and there were not many of them.
For about five years, the Orlando Group was the only group in the area. The 30 steps going straight up to that meeting place became known far and wide, as did the saying that “if you made the steps, you would probably make the program.” But the alcoholics did come. There was Sam S. from Mt. Dora, Sara J. from Eustis, and Frank M. from Wildwood. Rich W. from Daytona Beach, who assembled the 24-hour book, helped Frank get sober.
However, travel to Orlando from Wildwood was easier than hitching a ride to see Rich in Daytona Beach. Having been a boozer for some time, Frank did not own much— much less a car. Frank became familiar with the schedule of the freight train that passed his home in Wildwood, and would regularly hop a freight to travel the 50 miles to an AA meeting in Orlando. Talk about going to any length!
In 1948, when Frank attended his first Orlando meeting, there were only about 15-20 people present. The longest sobriety of any individual was about one and a half years. Frank still (1986) goes to meetings, only now in his own area and in the comfort of his car.
The second home for the Orlando Group was in the same building, but was approached from 6 North Court Street and called the Alco-An Club. A Mrs. Crist, who did not charge the group rent but accepted whatever they were able to pay, owned the building.
These rooms were more comfortable. In addition to better rooms for meetings, a nice lounge provided for an informal atmosphere where one could socialize. This address is now a parking lot.
Attendance at meetings fluctuated wildly — sometimes 40, sometimes four, depending on how many were sober at that time. Members were having a hard time staying sober. In March 1948, Jack K. started the Orlando Rescue Mission. He brought many of his people to meetings, most of whom were non-alcoholic, which increased the size of the meetings but also falsely portrayed the size of the group. Jackie was the first “paid” employee; she received $15 a week to come every day and keep the place open.
Some of the Orlando members motored to Eustis to help start a group there. The meetings were held in the courthouse, where they would hear the prisoners in the background. This intimidated some of the AAs. They thought, “If we could hear them, they could hear us. What about anonymity?”
The post-meeting meetings at Connie’s house ended abruptly one day when Joe K., Bill M. and Jackie L. found her dead from an overdose of pills.
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