of Archie T.'s talk on the history of AA in Detroit
is a broadcast (transcript) of the AA Meeting held at
the Maccabees Building on December 25th, 1948. The speaker
whose talk we are about to hear was Archie T. , looked
upon by the AA Member of Detroit as the founder of AA
in this city.
by Mike B:
and gentlemen, in the words of that great Galilean who
lived almost two thousand years ago and who's birth we
are commemorating this Christmas Day, "when you are
well, you need not a physician. I come here to heal the
sick..." And of the channels at his command, He chose
as His instruments one alcoholic helping another. And
tonight's speaker, ladies and gentlemen is one of those
instruments that has carried the message of AA to all;
the alcoholics in Michigan. So it's your privilege and
both my pleasure to turn this meeting over to Archie T.,
you. This is a wonderful place to be on Christmas night.
I can think of a lot of places that all of us were on
other Christmas nights that didn't turn out as well as
this occupation of ours tonight will turn out for us.
In fact, I only have to think back to eleven years ago
this Christmas night to think of things that were not
fitting and proper for Christmas. I remember distinctly
that I was very drunk and was not doing any of the things
I'd been asked to do.
I won't go into that or very much of my drinking career
because I've been asked to speak particularly tonight
on the history of AA in Detroit - the early history. In
order to do that adequately, I'll have to skim over my
own story down to a point where I approach the necessary
conditions to join AA. In my case that meant because I
was a stubborn and headstrong and conceited sort of a
guy. That meant getting myself completely down and out
before it occurred to me even vaguely that anything might
be wrong with me. Before I launch into that part of the
story, I'd like to say that your chairman used an expression
which I hope you will bear in mind when I'm talking about
my story and what little part I Played in the development
of AA locally. He used the expression "the Instrument
of God". And I wish you to remember that I am very
well aware in speaking of anything that I have done that
it was done as the privileged "Instrument of God"
and not because I was any world beater. Necessarily I
have to talk about myself, but I want to approach that
talk in the Spirit I just outlined to you.
years ago last Summer I was winding up an eighteen year
career of drinking. I was 39 years old and I had started
drinking heavily at 21. My drinking between 21 and 30
was what most of us feel was social drinking. Of course,
once were in AA were not so sure that it was so social.
Because I was the guy that always got drunk, especially
if the whiskey was free. I think I used to really, sincerely
feel that it was my mountain duty to take all I could
consume in the way of free whiskey because it was free
and I'm half Scotch by parentage. From the age of 30 to
the age of 39, the latter half of those eighteen years,
I was definately an alcoholic. I marked that division
of time because of my changed attitude toward drinking.
I looked from the death of my mother and father, when
I was 30 years old, I began to look on alcohol as a crutch,
as a solution for every problem. It proved to be such
a wonderful solution that at the age of 39 I had reached
a point of, and a common one for all of you, or almost
all of you, of no job. I hadn't been fired, I just quit.
I didn't even quit, I just walked off the job.
money. No place to live. No help. No morale left. No will
to live left. That was my condition in the Summer of 1938.
It caused me to park myself on an unsuspecting friend
whose family were out of town and who didn't know much
about my career for the past, or previous, several years
and he unwittingly invited me to stay in his home because
I was homeless. He had me on his hands for 19 days. Every
one of those days I was drunk, continuously. I would come
home and sleep off the effects of several hours of drinking,
crawl out of bed and go back to the saloon and get drunk
again. I managed in that cagey way that alcoholics have,
of avoiding him pretty well. Or at least I thought I did.
In fact, I was quite sure in my alcoholic way that he
didn't even know I drank.
wrong I was about that. I would like to say that I went
to him after I returned to Detroit a long time afterwards
and was sober and was in AA and said: "Ralph, I had
an idea that I was keeping my drink pretty carefully concealed
from you, didn't I, outside of the time I slept on the
back stairs because I couldn't find the room. Did you
have any idea how bad I was?" And he said: "
Did I! I carried you up from the front doorstep twice
and put you to bed. And you'd pass out at the keyhole."
I didn't even know it. I give you these few details merely
to qualify myself as a legitimate member of AA. Something
went wrong with my drinking schedule on the 3rd of September,
on a Friday night. Instead of getting drunk in the morning
and being asleep in the afternoon and being out and getting
drunk in the evening and coming home after Ralph went
to bed, I got tangled up somewhere and found myself at
home in bed at at ten o'clock at night and he was home
too. The time was drawing near when his family were returning
from their vacation and I was going to have to get out
of there and incapable of finding myself a room because
I couldn't stay sober long enough to face a perspective
landlady and I had no money with which to pay room rent
although in that marvelous alcoholic way, I always had
money to drink with. Now don't ask me to explain that.
I lay in bed thinking about approaching him, and thought
"no, he's been very good to me, he's done a great
deal for me in the past. I dont want to bother him. I
don't want to bother anybody anymore.
I cant find a solution to this problem by next Monday,
this was Labor Day weekend, I'll put an end to everything.
But, I finally concluded that before I did anything like
that I'd better go in and talk to him. I went in with
nothing on my mind for the solutions to my problems except
to ask him if he would lend me $50. He got out of bed,
where he'd been reading, and walked up and down the floor
and said: "You don't need $50, you need a great deal
more than that." Well, I agreed with him on that.
But he said "You need a new lease on life, a new
interest. I can't give you those things, but I know someone
who might. He asked me if I'd be willing to go and talk
to this woman. I knew her very slightly, and i said "yes".
Because I would have said yes to anything or anybody who
might have some answers for me because I no longer had
answers for anything. So he grabbed the telephone and
started to make a date for me for the next day and I started
to back water. But it was too late and he made an appointment
for me to see this woman the next day.
four o'clock in the afternoon! He took me out, bought
me some drinks, brought me home, and put me to bed. And
I lay there somewhat quieted by the drinks and I wondered
how I was going to keep an appointment at four o'clock
in the afternoon. And be reasonably sober! And I finally
hit on a marvelous solution. I would get up a little earlier
than usual and make an effort to get drunk faster. So
that I would come home knowing my own habits and sleep
off the first of the days drinks and then go straight
over and see her to keep this appointment. I did these
things and they worked out that way.
don't know when I had my last drink. It was on Saturday
morning on the third of September before Labor Day in
1938. What time of day it was in the morning I don't know.
I blanked out. I got in this car 25 minutes after six.
At about half past seven is the latest my memory serves
me. What time I left there and went home and passed out
I don't know. I saw this woman, and to be brief, she offered
me a chance to go down to Akron and to meet some men who
had found a solution to their problem which was my problem.
She offered to take me, she and her husband offered to
take me there, and to do it the next day if I were willing
to go. She however insisted that I make up my own mind
about it, perfectly freely and without any pressure from
her. This took me quite a while. I spent a long time in
her house sitting there thinking about it.
finally made the decision. I left her house with the full
intention of hurrying as fast as my car would take me
to the nearest saloon in getting a drink. Half way to
the saloon something stopped me. I can't tell you what
it was. I know what I think it was. Today I'm sure of
what it was. I'm sure that her prayers, which were all
that were left to her, to do after she let go of me, that
her prayers did that. However, I went home and went to
bed after 18 days of continuous drinking I went home and
went to bed and sweated it out all night. I don't need
to describe that part of it to you. It makes me shutter
to think of it and it would make all you to shutter, but
I was on deck the next day, pretty much of a wreck, but
I was there to start to Akron.
Akron I was turned over to Dr. Bob and his wife. And put
in the hospital. At that time the City Hospital of Akron
was where we put the occasional prospect who was interested
in AA and I say occasional because we only had a prospect
once in a while.
spent Labor Day in the hospital reading Emmet Fox's Sermon
on the Mount. It changed my entire outlook on life. It
changed my direction. I was visited both in the hospital
and in one of the homes of one of the members of AA by
15 or 20 men who came to me with their stories, each one
as different as could be from the next. Every one of those
men were clear eyed, neat, purposeful looking, full of
confidence, not cocky. And they impressed me because they
had all the things that I lacked. And I knew that whatever
it was that they had, I wanted some of it. And whatever
they could tell me that would help me gain the same sort
of look they had, I was going to try those things that
they told me.
health was found to be practically, well, I dont't know
how to tell you about my health, Dr. Bob said there wasn't
much left of it. At any rate, it was ten and a half months
later before I could go to work. And I lived with Dr.
Bob and his wife during those ten and a half months. Many
times during those months I felt that it was very wrong
for me to impose on them. They were poor. All members
of AA in those days were poor by the way. In the 30's
you didn't go out and get a job just because you were
willing to and were going to reform. But I had to learn
to accept their goodness in the spirit that it was given
to me. But I often rebelled in my own mind about having
to impose on them.
back, however, in later years I've seen that time and
time again as an example of how much better plans our
Higher Power has for us than we make for ourselves. Because
what I thought was wrong, that is to say my being delayed
in Akron and left on the Smith's hands, was part of a
plan under which I absorbed AA from one of it's 2 oldest
members where I learned to stand on my own feet and where
I gained the strength and spiritual courage to go out
alone. I don't think I could have done these things that
I had to do later without those ten and one-half months.
March, 1939, Bill W. was in Akron. He frequently stopped
there whenever he could get some business excuse to come
with, and he was sitting in the Smith's kitchen with me
drinking coffee and he was on his way to Detroit. And
I said "I certainly would like to go up there and
see what the lay of the land is and look around and see
whether I could take hold yet or not". And he says
"why don't you?" I said, "well, why don't
I?". Bill said-"let's go now". This was
Sunday morning. We were going to start right away. Well,
we decided to wait until Monday morning. We went up to
Cleveland and came up to Detroit on the Mercury. Bill
spent Monday and Tuesday here with me. We stayed at a
hotel. We visited some of my old friends and told them
my story. Bill tended to his business. And friends of
mine asked me to stay on here for a while. Bill went back
to New York. I stayed here and worked entirely on trying
to make some AA contacts that would later on produce prospects.
order to get this picture you've got to realize that at
the time alcoholism was with the exception of a few advanced
men who had spent time and study on it such as Dr. Silkworth
in New York. Alcoholism was unknown as a disease. The
alcoholic in the public mind was an "ornery cuss",
who didn't want to stop drinking and had no will power.
However, by talking to people on street corners and anybody
who would listen to me and by talking to personnel men
in factories and to ministers and to those doctors that
I could get hold of I got a seed planted amongst a number
of people, not themselves alcoholic prospects, but people
who were likely to come in contact with the problem of
alcoholism. I should explain that my disposition was such
that I couldn't and would have been no good at running
in and out of bars and trying to sell this business cold
turkey to some drunk. I had to go about it in a round
a bout way of getting prospects where they were most likely
to crop up.
I did get that Spring in March my first prospect, and
he was a lulu. I was staying with a doctor, one of my
closest friends, and he came home for supper one night
and said " I've got a man for you. He's down on Park
Avenue in a dollar a day hotel. He's tried to commit suicide
twice this week". Does he want to stop drinking?
"I don't know". Has he ever heard of us? "No".
It's my duty to go and see him. I took a bus from the
Eastside Downtown and went through a lot of torture for
a half hour on the bus. What was I giong to say to this
fellow? Every time I got all wrought up about it I finally
said to myself "wait a minute". Your job is
get in the same room with the man and see what happens
next. This wasn't a 24 hour program, this got down to
be a 5 or 10 minute program. I got in the room with him.
And he certainly was a cold potato. I found out afterward
from him that he thought I was a detective trying to find
out whether he was drinking or not.
as everyone of you know, there's something about being
an alcoholic that will win over another alcoholic if you've
got 10 minutes with him. And in 10 minutes I had that
fellow asking me if he could produce his bottle and go
to work on it. And I said certainly, and then he felt
easier about it. Fifty minutes later I had his consent
to go to Akron. Twenty-four hours later I had raised the
money amongst his former friends to send him to Akron.
I'm afraid that most of them gave me donations of five
and ten dollars with the thought that it would be fine
to get him out of town. They didn't understand what I
was talking about, but they were right to contribute one
last five dollar bill or ten dollar bill towards after
they had already thrown a lot of money down the sewer
shipped that man out of the Union Depot the next afternoon
on the 5:30 Red Arrow to Akron all dressed up looking
pretty well with a pint of Seagram's in his pocket. I
gave it to him to keep him happy.
Bob was waiting on the platform at the other end to take
him off the train. But the point is I walked out of that
station on a cloud. My feet weren't touching the ground.
I'd done the first twelve step work all by myself and
under pretty difficult conditions. And I just was up in
the clouds somewhere.
three weeks in Detroit, I found that it was impossible
for me to stay here and work and find a job because my
health was not good enough yet and I returned very exhausted
to Akron. And I stayed there until July. And on the 10th
of July, 1939, I came back here to start life over again.
I had no place to live when I came here. I had no plans.
I had no job. My health was still very poor, so much so
that during those first few months that I had to spend
as much as three days out of seven in bed. But I came
back full of a new attitude toward life and a tremendous
desire to live differently than I'd ever lived before.
I made my living, the first six months, selling hosiery
and men's made to order shirts. I did this partly because
it was very difficult to get a job and I had to have a
job that I could go to work at right away and bring home
the bacon every night in order to pay the room rent and
partly because it left me the freedom to do the AA work
I wanted to do.
the Fall of 1939 Liberty Magazine published the first
national article on AA that had been published. And it
furnished me with new prospects. During the Summer I had
some other prospects as a result of the calls I had made
in Spring. Thanksgiving rolled around and I went back
to Akron to visit the Smiths. And I was very ashamed because
I had nothing to show of AA groups or AA activities. There
were 5 people who had gone through my hands between the
Spring and Thanksgiving. Four of them were sober. Period.
Of the four who were sober, one had no interest whatsoever
in talking to me. He just was sober and had gone his own
way. Another one was living in a different city although
he had hailed from Detroit. The third one was going very
nicely and the fourth one also. Both were going fine as
far as staying sober was concerned, but they were not
going to commit themselves to anything as definate as
starting an AA group and being involved in anything that
might keep them sober too long. One of those two men was
Mike E. And I have Mike's own statement today and I've
heard him make it in talks that was the catch. He thought
that being sober was fine, but if he got tangled up with
anything like starting meetings with me and doing AA work
that the following Summer when he went fishing and was
away from home and he wanted to pitch one and maybe this
thing would stop him from doing it.
difficult that picture was. You can imagine that Mike
got sober about the middle of September and it was at
least the middle of December before he finally agreed
to start having a meeting of some kind with me so that
we could work on prospects together and have a regular
and this one other member and I finally in December, and
I can't tell you the date, I was too busy to keep a diary,
sat down at our first meeting, together with one non-AA
member, Sarah Klein, who was our moral support. I had
an idea that until we had such a meeting every week that
we would never have a nucleus from which to grow and the
point a center toward which people would gravitate. And
it worked out that way.
no sooner began to sit down once a week together that
we began to get prospects. And we held the meeting in
my bedroom in a rooming house on Merrick Avenue, near
the public library.
February our meetings were so big that my bedroom was
crowded. We were borrowing all the chairs from the third
floor. At this time the Bensons, a very wonderful couple,
offered us the use of their recreation room out on Tayloe
Avenue for our meetings. And we in February of 1940, we
moved in there for our first meeting. All six of us. Huddled
down in a little circle at one end of the recreation room.
That was a wonderful year.
Fall we had, counting wives and friends and non-alcoholic
members who were interested with us, we were able to muster
a party for Dr. Bob and his wife who came here to visit
us, of 25 people. By February or March of 1941, February
I believe, we had grown to the point where we were packed
in tight in that recreation room and were sitting on the
basement stairs and in the furnace room. And we moved
for a moment or two to Doty Hall and found it unsatisfactory,
and then located what for a number of years was a very
popular meeting place of ours, 4242 Cass.
the first week in March, 1941, just as we were settling
on Cass Avenue, the Saturday Evening Post published Jack
Alexander's article. And we began to grow in leaps and
bounds. Luckily we'd had a small growth up until then
that enabled us to have the people on hand to cope with
the growth that suddenly came on. That growth was relatively
so great that by the fall of 1941, we split our one Detroit
group into three groups- the Northwest Group, the Eastside
Group, and one group, the Central or Downtown Group remaining
at 4242 Cass. We were so loathe to leave each other, however,
that we set aside one week each month when we'd have no
meetings of our own in our own group but would have a
general meeting back at the old home stand on Cass Avenue.
of those three groups, which I might say were very, very
small, have grown all our present groups in the greater
Detroit area and have grown into Windsor and through this
part, the near part of Ontario. So much for the statistical
data on what happened in the early formation of AA in
Detroit. My dates are not very sure on a lot of these
things except approximately.
the thing I would like to point out to every one of you
who are members of AA and who sometimes become discouraged
with the behavior of your prospects, your babies, just
remember that I had half a dozen of them before I got
one that stayed continuously sober. And that there are
only a handful of those who came to us in the Benson's
Basement days who are still with us. It took a lot of
work and a lot of prospects to produce some permanent
members in those days. That was particularly true because
of the lack of acceptance of AA by the public and by the
alcoholic who needed help. Today we're almost a household
word. It's hard for those of you who've come into AA more
recently to conceive of the conditions that I've tried
to picture. I gave a talk at the Rotary Club when I was
first back here, and when I got all through I thought
I'd explained alcoholism and our work in AA. And one of
the members of the Rotary Club came up and said, "yeah,
that just proves what I've always thought, you gotta have
will power". And that was just what you were up against
all the time.
has been a very great experience and a great privilege
for me to be part of this story. It has meant more to
me than anything ever meant in my life and I hope it will
always mean more right down to the last day of my life.
In AA I have found the things not only that have enabled
me to stop drinking but I have found the things that enabled
me to meet the problems of life instead of running away
from them. AA offered me a chance to give myself to other
people in order that I might save myself.
I want to mention one thing. In that connection. When
I came back here I thought once for a while, I struggled
with this for a while, I began to find that people wouldn't
accept what I was telling them and I began to wonder what
they were going to think of me. And I began to wonder
how that was going to impair my chances of getting a good
job one of these days. And I felt why can't I go ahead
and do AA work when the opportunity comes but just keep
my trap closed and get a decent job? Why advertise myself
as an alcoholic? I don't know how long I toyed with that,
whether it was an hour or a day.
I finally was forced with the decision that if I wanted
to stay sober I was going to have to put AA up at the
top of the list and that I was going to do these things
that I had been doing and keep doing them if I wanted
happiness and sobriety. Never once in these past ten years
have I regretted that decision. I not only got sobriety
from it but I got a degree of content, happiness, and
joy which is essentially impossible to describe.
couldn't begin to tell you what AA has meant to me and
what the privilege of belonging to AA has meant. I came
into it an unwilling prospect who had no place else to
go. And at the risk of telling something of you newer
members may doubt and may wonder about I'd like to say
that if I could drink today I wouldn't want a drink if
I had to forfeit my membership in AA because it's the
grandest thing that I know of. Thank you.
L. T. 1900 - 1957
information came from the Detroit Public Library, Main
Branch, in the Burton Archives room from the card catalog.
L. T. January 23, 1957
L. T., widely known as an accountant in business circles
and as a benefactor and counselor to hundreds of Detroit
men and women in his personal life, died last night in
Bon Secours Hospital. He was 57.
Archie T. had been taken to the hospital on Monday from
his home at 16908 Cranford Lane, Grosse Pointe. He had
been in poor health for some time.
include his wife, children, a brother Ed, and sister,
Funeral arrangements have not been completed. The remains
will be at the William R. Hamilton Funeral Home.