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Alcoholics Anonymous history in your area
A Brief History of A.A. in Detroit
by Area 33 past Archivist Cliff M.

I. The Detroit Prayer - 1945

The Detroit Prayer...

Our Heavenly Father

We ask Thy Blessings on this meeting,

Please Bless the Spirit and

Purpose of this group.

Give us strength to follow this program

According to Thy will and in all humility.

Forgive us for yesterday and grant us

Courage for today and

Hope for tomorrow.


Opening AA Meeting Prayer, Detroit, Michigan, 1945


II. Archie T. and Early Detroit History

Archie T.'s story is in the Big Book as "The Man Who Mastered Fear" in the Second and Third Edition, and as "The Fearful One" in the First Edition.

Detroit founder Archie T.'s sobriety date is September 3, 1938.

Archie T. went to Akron and spent ten and 0ne-half months living with Dr. Bob S. and his wife. He says he got his AA direct from one of the founders. Archie read Emmet Fox's Sermon on the Mount,and he said it changed his life.

In December, 1939, the first meeting of AA in Michigan was held in Arch T.'s room on Merrick Avenue in the Art Center in Detroit. Present, besides Archie, were Mike E., who became member #2 in Michigan, another alcoholic, and Sara Klein, a non-alcoholic.

By February, 1940, the group had 7 members and began meeting in the basement room of a home of a non-alcoholic couple named Benson on Taylor Avenue. This was affectionately known as the "Benson's Basement".

They then moved to 4242 Cass, which became known as the Downtown Group. In the Fall of 1941 the Detroit Group was split into 3 groups: the Downtown Group, the Eastside Group, and the North-West Group, meeting on Plymouth Rd.

III. Sarah Klein, the "Angel of AA"

Sarah Klein was called "The Angel of AA" because she helped Archie start AA meetings in Detroit and because of her dedicated service to carrying the "AA Message" to other alcoholics, especially those in hospitals and prisons.

Sarah had a phone so she was the first central office. "Central Office" had it's inception in the home of Sarah Kline (Klein) in 1941, where the first 12 Step calls were sent out at the beginning of AA in the Detroit area.

IV. Closed Meetings Begin in Detroit

In the early 1940's so many newcomers were coming into AA that the people with some sobriety were concerned about "how best to carry the message to the newcomer".

In June, 1943, a group of members proposed the idea of a seperate Discussion Meeting to more advantageously present the Twelve Steps of the Recovery Program to the new affiliate and a decision was made to hold a Closed Meeting of alcoholics only for this purpose.

The first Discussion Meeting of the North-West Group was held at 10216 Plymouth Road on Monday night, June 14th, 1943, and had been held every Monday night without exception thereafter. A plan for presentation of the Twelve Steps of the Recovery Program was developed at this meeting. This plan consisted of dividing the Twelve Steps into four categories, or phases, for easier study and the divisions were (1) Admission, (2) Spiritual, (3) Restitution and Inventory, (4) Working and Message. Each division came to be discussed on each succeeding Monday night in rotation and this method was so successful that it was adopted, first by other groups in Detroit and then throughout the United States, and finally was published in it's entirety by the Washington, D.C. groups in a pamphlet entitled " An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps". In Detroit, the pamphlet was also called the "Table Leaders Guide".

V. First Radio Broadcast on WWJ

On March 5, 1945, Time Magazine reported Detroit's WWJ Radio station's pioneer broadcasts by AA members, first such radio program in the U.S. The program was called "The Glass Crutch".

reprinted from TIME MAGAZINE, MARCH 5, 1945

One of Detroit's citizens stepped up to the microphone one night last week and told how he had "hit bottom" as an alcoholic. To underline his confession, some of the more melodramatic and sordid aspects of his past were dramatized. Then he told of his regeneration. Summed up the Announcer: "Alcoholism is a allergy..."

The man who "hit bottom" was the first in a parade of anonymous Detroiters who will describe their alcoholic pasts over WWJ every Saturday (11:15-11:30 p.m. E.W.T.). The series is the first sustained air flight of the famed organization called "Alcoholics Anonymous" (Time, Oct.23, 1944).

Detroit AA's give credit for the broadcast project to a 62-year-old William Edmund Scripps, big boss of the Detroit News and WWJ. He was so impressed by AA's reformation of a drunkard friend that he decided to do what he could to boost the organization's Detroit membership (now nearly 400).

VI. Mr. Hope TV Show

In the 1950's WWJ telecast a TV program called "MR. HOPE" in which AA members appeared wearing Lone Ranger masks who told their stories. The masks were worn to protect their identities. The program aired at noon on Sundays.

One of our current members (1998), Bill B., was on the show a couple of times along with the Police Commissioner and some Judges.

VII. More Historical Information

The first AA Club in Detroit was started in the early 1940's on Milwaukee Avenue, one block from the GM Building. A lot of guys would come in for lunch or after work and hang around and talk AA.

The club was started by Miles W. and Bill B., a current member.

On Friday , 1942, the Daily Star of Windsor, Ontario reported that over 400 AA members attended testimonial dinner in Detroit for Dr. Bob, co-founder of AA.

Dr. Bob's last major talk was in Detroit.

Before Ontario, Canada had AA meetings, recovering alcoholics from Windsor could come to the Detroit meetings. The following is a quote from an early member on going to the Detroit meeting on Plymouth Ave.

"We used to have to drive our car to the tunnel (gasoline was rationed), park the car, drop a nickel in the fare box for the tunnel bus, ride thru the tunnel, walk several blocks to the Grand River Street Car, ride the street car for an hour out to Plymouth Road, then walk about half a mile to Plymouth and Ilene."

Copyright© 1999-2006 Alcoholics Anonymous
General Services of Southeast Michigan

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