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Anonymous history in your area
AA History - District #59, Williams
British Columbia, Canada
of 1954 was the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous in Williams
Lake. Lionel S. who's dairy business was going downhill,
and who's family life was getting ragged at the edges, knew
alcohol had him beat. A chance meeting with an alcoholic,
John B., who knew he too, was fighting the odds, was transferred
by the Great Eastern Railway to Williams Lake. What followed
was on a parallel to Bill W. and Dr. Bob about three decades
and John naturally gravitated together, both wanting to
do something about their drinking. They fast became friends
as they fellowshipped together. When they found their sharing
helped them, they were sure it would work for others too.
They decided to form an AA group in Williams Lake.
get some help with this, Lionel and John visited an active
group in Quesnel. They were met by Ken T. who had been one
of the originators of AA in that town a couple years earlier.
Ken made several trips down during the following weeks,
and gave them the help he knew they needed. He also became
sponsor to both of them. Ken and family moved to Williams
Lake not too long after that and, with the exception of
a real whopper of a slip in his eleventh year of sobriety,
he remained active in AA until his death in 1985. His contribution
to the history of AA in Williams Lake is still acknowledged
by many today.
the meantime Lionel and John were spreading the word in
Williams Lake. It was by word of mouth that other alcoholics
got the message. The pals made it a habit to do all the
Twelve Steps together, and apparently it worked very well.
Though he wasn't able to grasp continuous sobriety himself,
Lionel brought a special gift of empathy to newcomers. John,
through his associates with the railway employees, a hard
bunch of drinking fellows, had a ready source of converts.
In fact so many railroaders came into AA that the first
group was fondly referred to as the "PGE Group"
for several years. (PGE is the old name for BC Rail. It
was the Pacific Great Eastern when it started about 1912,
named by English investors after a railway "at home".
WAC Bennett changed the name about 1955.)
1956, two other fellows joined, and can be linked with Lionel
and John as originators of AA in Williams Lake: Frank S.
and Jim W., . By the early 1960's other early members included:
John B., Jim B., Fred C., Bill C., Ray F., Frank G., Frank
K., Ed H., Harold H., Euliss B., John H., Curly M., Pat
M., Art P., Ross R., Ed S., Fred S., Matt S., Harry R.,
Frank S., Mickey S, all remembered for their different contributions
to AA and worthy of inclusion in the history of District
to the old timers, it was not all peace and harmony in the
early going. They suffered the normal throes of growth.
One said that when he came back from a seven year slip he
found service work saved him from another, but soon was
accused of trying to run the whole thing. He subsequently
started the Friday night group as it is today in 1975 so
the conflict served it purpose. Another who had been secretary
for twelve years of the original Friday night group quietly
closed down the meeting for lack of interest, only to see
non-attending promptly join other groups.
strife, conflict - call it by whatever name you like, it
seems to have been the result of placing personalities before
principle. Also, as could be expected, problems were sometimes
caused by unfamiliarity with the traditions. At a later
date for instance, some in the Wednesday Night Group tried
to introduce a system of dues in an effort to pay the high
rent it faced. The practice met with little favor fortunately,
which was probably worthwhile demonstration of the value
of group conscience.
few early members were enthusiastic about what AA was doing
for them, and what it hoped to do for other alcoholics in
the area, so were quick to respond to any community request
for enlightenment. Requests came mainly from service groups.
Ken T. was particularly adept at speaking to them. There
wasn't too much dialogue with the medical people, but the
clergy and RCMP were interested. Local AA wasn't quite so
quick to embrace one of the local priests who was interested
enough to attend all the open meetings. He wanted to have
AA members on a regular radio open line program, which members
felt might easily lead to a compromise of anonymity. The
priest was eventually asked to attend meetings only on invitation
seemed, in those days, that whoever took on the job as secretary
(also responsible for treasury) took on the job of running
the group as well. They were more or less the mainspring
of a group - the health of a group depended on them. No
one complained or interfered unless someone really got their
back up and strenuously objected to the manner in which
the group was 'run'. Only then was anyone prepared to share
the work . As now, there never seems to be a rush to fill
service jobs, so AA'ers in Williams Lake were lucky to have
those who would do the work. Though lack of exercise of
the principle of rotation did bring on some woes, if not
for those willing workers AA would not have grown as well
as it did.
early members seemed to share an intimacy that we don't
enjoy to quite the same extent now that groups are numerous
and membership large. Being few in number, they stuck close
together. Wives were encouraged to attend the meetings because
the members thought they should learn about this program
as they did themselves. While men didn't seem to sense any
stigma attached to their membership in AA, the women were
a little more wary of it. They were supportive of their
spouses, and other members, but it was still awhile before
they felt free to launch an Al-Anon group*.
there was a tight intimacy, there were many social functions
including summer picnics, winter brunches, and innumerable
coffee parties. There was much friendly visiting amongst
the new found life.
W., was the first lady to become a member of AA in Williams
Lake. She came in 1968 from fourteen months of sobriety
in Kamloops. By this time membership had grown enough to
support two groups - she chose the Saturday Night Serenity
group which met in the Cariboo Health Center at that time.
It was four years before she was joined by another female
member. There were times when she did not always feel particuarily
welcome in what had been a male domain until then. In fact
it was once suggested that she leave the group, but she
was too concerned about her sobriety to be put off by the
of the early meetings was casual and informal, but drifted
easily into change with the times. The few members met in
one another's homes and the meetings were more in the nature
of discussions. When they grew to the point where it became
necessary to "hire a hall' the meetings became more
formal, but still casual. They took it one meeting at a
time, selecting a chairperson at each meeting for the next.
Members shared from where they sat, which was likely a wise
format, since they were all so new to the program - and
everyone had a chance to share at each meeting. Though the
Lord's Prayer wasn't used, they all stood for the Serenity
Prayer at the closing. From time to time alcoholics, with
group experience immigrated with strong ideas of their own
about how meetings should conducted, which raised some hackles,
but in the end, contributed to evolvement. By the time Diane
W. joined the Sunday Night Serenity Group in 1968, it was
selecting chairpersons and secretaries for six month stints.
Somewhere along the line tenure was reduced to three and
one, respectively. Incidentally, sharers now speak from
concept of an AA Clubhouse grew in the heart of the Wednesday
Night Study group. They contracted to rent part of a former
private school, and moved to it from the mental health center
in 1977. The hope was that more groups would make use of
the facility, thus help with the rent, which was more than
one small group could handle. This didn't transpire, so
the Wednesday nighters faced an ongoing problem. From a
time it was kept going by contributions from several of
the members. The practice was discontinued , and the rent
problem persisted. In September of 1979 a couple of women
took on the responsibility for rent and maintenance of 745
Pinchbeck, and got to work. By October two of the smaller,
newer groups moved into the facility: the Friday Night Discussion
Group, and the Saturday Step and Tradition Group. In May,
1980 the Tuesday Morning Sunshine Group started up at Pinchbeck,
followed by a Thursday Big Book Study. In total five groups
made themselves self supporting in the new premises. The
Alano Club remains in healthy operation, although it hasn't
been referred to as the Alano Club for years. That was the
ambitious program when the space was rented, but it didn't
work. It is now just "The Club". There's a meeting
there every night, & some day-time meetings as well.
We have an Intergroup committee and a club committee so
Intergroup doesn't spend its time worrying about the rent
or keeping the floors clean. . The Club is, of course, the
logical place to hold the monthly GSR meetings, and the
various committee meetings. There are currently (2002) fourteen
active groups in Williams Lake.
Out Posts & Native Communities of District #59
500 miles west of Williams Lake is the AA outpost at Bella
Coola. Three groups, The Native Fellowship Group, The Western
Group, and The Sunrise Group have been active over the years.
There have been ups and downs, but AA remains alive there.
The Bella Coola folks are quick to give us due credit for
this to the dedication of member Bill P. Currently the meetings
are Mondays, 8pm, Bella Coola Hospital and Fridays, 8pm,
Airport meeting room.
Lake, another lonely AA outpost, is a mere 230 miles west
of Williams Lake. Four alcoholics meet there on Tuesday
night to share their common problem which began in 1988.
Unknown whether this meeting is still going.
seems to depend on both dedicated leadership and band support.
"Canim Lake was the first community to become interested
in the AA cause, with visits by 100 Mile House members including
Buster H. in the 1960's. Enthusiasm waned, but revived in
1973 - the first meeting started in late 1974. The Wednesday
Night meetings are still going, but sporadically.
Alkali Lake Group has been a success story. AA was first
introduced in September 1973with the formal meetings beginning
about nine months later. Evelyn S. was the first to celebrate
a one year birthday. The band whole-heartedly supports the
movement. Meetings are held Thursdays, 7:30pm, Serenity
Group at Alkali Lake Community Hall and Sunday evenings
7:30pm, Serenity Group, at Alkali Lake Community Hall. A
beautiful documentary was produced on CBC.
Sugar Cane and Soda Creek Groups started about the same
time - the fall of 1978. Meetings are held Tuesday and Wednesday
evenings. Two of the dedicated members are Virginia G. and
Frank S. Ralph P. one of the Soda Creek stalwarts. The group
is doing well, with good band support. Tuesday, 8pm, Soda
Creek Health Unit. Wednesday 8pm, Sugar Cane Band office
Creek meetings (Thursday nights) started in 1979 and continued
fairly regularly into 1981, when the group struggled and
collapsed. Other groups that had started but fizzled out
were: Anahim Lake, Stony Group and Redstone.
to their distance from fully active flourishing groups it
is very difficult for alcoholics in remote, isolated areas,
to get support. Individual subscriptions to the AA Grapevine,
Box 459, Grassroots, and taped meetings sent by other groups
may be their saving grace.
in 2002, District #59 AA continues to grow and flourish,
participating in the Area's Quaterlies and Assemblies. It
is only by the early founding members who took the time
to walk though the early growing pains that AA is alive
and well in this vast district.
/ Yukon Area 79