| print this
all of the last fifteen years of my life have been invested
in the construction of A.A.'s General Service Headquarters.
My heart is still there, and it will continue to be. To
me, A.A.'s world services are that important." So said Bill
W. at the 1955 St. Louis Convention. And so it proved. For
he elaborated on the same thought in a message written as
a final to his last book, The A.A. Way of Life (later retitled,
As Bill Sees It) about three years before his death:
1938, the greatest part of my A.A. life has been spent in
helping to create, design, manage, and insure the solvency
and effectiveness of A.A.'s world services -, the office
of which has enabled our Fellowship to function all over
the globe, and as a unified whole.. . These all-important
services have accounted for much of our present size and
A.A. General Service Office is by far the largest single
carrier of the A.A. message. It has well related A.A. to
the troubled world in which we live. It has fostered the
spread of our Fellowship everywhere...It stands ready to
serve the special needs of any group or isolated individual,
no matter the distance or language. Its many years of accumulated
experience are available to us all."
Two years after Bill sobered up, when his Wall Street activity
petered out and his business ventures failed to materialize,
he was left without income. So he became associated with
Hank P., whom he had sponsored out of Towns Hospital. Hank's
idea at the time was to organize gasoline dealers in northern
New Jersey into a cooperative buying organization called
Honor Dealers. The office for this scheme was in an unprepossessing
two-story structure at 17 William Street in Newark. The
business had one other employee, a secretary named Ruth
Hock. Ruth got the impression, rightly, that Bill W., was
not really very interested in the service station business,
and she soon learned that both of the principals were very
involved in "helping a bunch of nameless drunks." That was
the real business of the office.
it was here that Bill, with Ruth's help, produced the manuscript
of the Big Book. And it was here—after the Alcoholic
Foundation voted in favor of letting Harper & Bros.
publish the book—that Hank and Bill formed Works Publishing
Company, having no legal connection with the Foundation,
to publish it themselves. (See Chap. 2 & 12) In 1940,
it was agreed that "the A.A. book should belong to our society
as a whole," so the Foundation raised enough money to acquire
Works Publishing. Also, in February 1940, Bert T., newly
elected Class B Trustee, suggested that an office and secretary
be arranged at the earliest opportunity. A committee of
trustees was formed, consisting of Willard Richardson, Dr.
Leonard Strong and Bert T., to arrange for the office and
furniture. Bill also made the point strongly that Foundation
business ~ be carried on in the same office as local work
two weeks a modest two-room office was rented at 30 Vesey
Street in the downtown financial district of New York. The
rent was $650 per year. "At this point," says Bill, "Ruth
(though nonalcoholic) became A.A.'s first national secretary,
and I turned into a sort of headquarters handyman." At the
same time, John D. Rockefeller gave his famous dinner for
Alcoholics Anonymous. Though it resulted in almost no financial
support, Rockefeller's endorsement was publicized in newspapers
across the country, and "as a result, membership jumped
sharply to about 2,000 at the' year's end." Book sales increased,
which helped support the struggling office. And requests
for help came in, which "were answered with warm, personal
letters. When alcoholics or their families showed continued
interest, we kept on writing. Aided by such letters and
the book, new A.A. groups began to take form.
importantly, we had lists of prospects in many cities and
towns in the U.S. and Canada. We turned these lists over
to A.A. traveling businessmen, members of already established
groups...and they started still more groups. We put out
a group directory. Then came an unexpected activity. Because
the newborn groups saw only a little of their traveling
sponsors, they turned to the New York office for help with
their innumerable troubles. By mail we relayed the experience
of the older centers on to them. A little later this became
a major service."
"National Headquarters—Alcoholics Anonymous" (as its
letterhead read) sent its first "A.A' Bulletin" to the groups
on November 14, 1940. It was signed by Ruth Hock and gives
such a vivid picture of the Fellowship at the time.
spring of 1941 brought us a ten-strike," Bill continues
to relate. "The Saturday Evening Post decided to do a piece
about Alcoholics Anonymous. It assigned one of its star
writers, Jack Alexander, to the job" At first he was skeptical,
but after a month of investigation, he became enthusiastic.
"He proceeded to write the piece that rocked drunks and
their families all over the nation. Came then the deluge.
Frantic appeals - six thousand of them—hit the New
York office. At first, we pawed at random through the mass
of letters, laughing and crying by turns. How could this
heartbreaking mail be answered? It was a cinch that Ruth
and I could never do it alone. Form letters wouldn't [do].
Every single one must have an understanding personal reply."
it was originally thought that the office would be supported
by profits from book sales, an appeal was now made to the
A.A. groups to help pay for this enormous Twelfth Step job.
They responded—the suggested contribution at that
time was $1.00 per member—and the Trustees of the
Foundation agreed to look after the funds in a separate
account, earmarking them for A.A. office expenses only.
(This bookkeeping practice is followed to the present time.)
It is interesting to note, moreover, that from the beginning,
Works Publishing was the corporate entity which administered
the service office—just as its successor publishing
entity, A.A. World Services, Inc., administers the General
Service Office today.
Here were the expenses for the six months ending September
rent - 30 Vesey
& 3 Stenographers
- Soc. Sec., etc.
the same time, the Headquarters office took on another important
function: public relations for Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill
tells how: "The national spotlight now being on us, we had
to begin dealing with the public on a large scale. Public
ill will could stunt our growth, even bring it to a standstill.
But enthusiastic public confidence could swell our ranks
to numbers we had only dreamed of before. The-Post
piece had proved this.
the right answers to all our public relations puzzlers has
been a long process, Bill wrote in 1955. "After much trial
and error, sometimes punctuated by painful mistakes, the
attitudes and practices that would work best for us emerged.
The important ones can today be seen in our A.A. Traditions.
One hundred percent anonymity at the public level, no use
of the A.A. name for the benefit of other causes, however
worthy, no endorsements of alliances, one single purpose
for Alcoholics Anonymous, no professionalism, public relations
by the principle of attraction rather than promotion - these
were some of the hard—learned lessons."
In February 1942, Ruth Hock left to be married. Having helped
at Bill's right hand for five years, she was missed not
only by him but by Dr. Bob. "It's queer that having met
him only once (on a visit to Ohio], Ruth wrote, "I feel
he is one of the best friends I ever had." And she was missed
by the countless A.A. pioneers across the country for whom
she was the first and principal contact with the New York
office. For example, she played a key-supporting role to
Clarence and Dorothy S. in the phenomenal early growth of
A.A. in Cleveland. Ruth Hock carried "the affectionate wishes
of thousands of members" when she departed. She "set us
an example that will never be forgotten," Bill wrote.
Before she left, the office began to realize that dealing
with the problems of the groups was to be one of its major
services. In April, a request went out to the groups to
send in "every single suggestion or question which you think
a [group] handbook...should cover." Group support for Headquarters
office expenses in the amount of $4,000 was sought for the
six months beginning September 1, 1942. In early 1943, a
questionnaire was sent to the groups to ascertain the functions
and services they wanted from the "Central Office." A strikingly
illustrated spread in The American Weekly, a widely circulated
Sunday supplement magazine, had produced a new flood of
inquiries, and the next proposal to the groups for financial
support was for $5,000 for the six months beginning September
1943. Half a year later, $6,500 was requested for the next
period because the Trustees had approved a move of the offices
uptown and the hiring of a new stenographer.
May 1, 1944, Headquarters moved into a three-room office
at 415 Lexington Avenue, opposite Grand Central Station.
"We made this move," Bill wrote, "because the need for serving
the many A.A. travelers through New York had become urgent.
Our new location near Grand Central brought us into contact
with visitors who, for the first time, began to see Alcoholics
Anonymous as a vision for the whole world. Thousands of
A.A.'s, their families, their friends, their clergymen,
their doctors and their employers have since visited the
New York Headquarters." Besides Bill, the personnel at the
time of the move consisted of Margaret "Bobbie"B., who had
replaced Ruth Hock as "A.A.'s National Secretary #2," and
three assistants. Bill praised Bobbie for her "complete
loyalty and devotion and her unbelievable energy and capacity
for hard work." "The growth of Alcoholics Anonymous continued
at a pace which was to us sometimes staggering," Bill said.
"By almost geometrical progression the multiplication went
on year after year. We no longer counted by thousands; we
began to reckon by tens of thousands...The spread to foreign
lands began. This development brought us a whole new set
of problems to solve. . . Each new beachhead had to go through
its flying-blind period. Our pamphlet literature had to
be translated into other tongues...We became heavily involved
in correspondence, helped by American members in New York
who could translate for us...Serving foreign [A.A.) has
become a major Headquarters activity, although we have scarcely
scratched the possibilities," Bill stated in 1955.
By early 1945, the office had six full-time employees and
had a budget of $9,000 for the six-month period. In July,
additional space had to be rented on the 10th floor of the
building for shipping and storage. Mrs. Lowe, the bookkeeper,
was acting as the office manager and personnel supervisor.
A search was under way for an assistant to Bobbie B. The
next appeal was for $11,000. As Bill explained, "As A.A.
was growing, Headquarters had to grow, too—fortunately
not as fast as A.A. did, or the bill would never have been
paid. A.A. was getting so big that we could not possibly
educate all members on what Headquarters was doing. Many
groups, preoccupied with their own affairs, failed to help
us at all. Less than half of them contributed anything.
We were plagued with constant deficits in contributions
which luckily would be plugged up with money from the sale
of the Big Book and our growing pamphlet literature. Without
this book income we would have folded up entirely."
Exciting things were happening nevertheless. In 1944, the
Grapevine was started, and in October 1945 was approved
as A.A.'s national publication. (See Chap. 10) This journal,
however, had separate quarters and a separate staff. "As
early as 1945," Bill wrote, "the solution of group problems
by correspondence had put a large volume of work on Headquarters.
It seemed as if every contestant in every group argument
wrote us during this confused and exciting period. The basic
ideas for the Twelve Traditions came directly out of this
vast correspondence. In late 1945 a good A.A. friend suggested
that all this mass of experience might be codified into
a set of principles which could offer tested solutions to
all our problems of living and working together and of relating
our society to the world outside...Being at the center of
things, we of Headquarters would have to do the job. Aided
by my helpers there, I set to work. The Traditions of Alcoholics
Anonymous were first published in the 'long form' in the
Grapevine of May, 1946. Additional Grapevine pieces explained
the Traditions in detail." (These were later the basis for
the essays in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.)
out our Directory of A.A. groups began to be a job rather
like publishing a suburban telephone book," Bill recalled.
"Letter files and Kardex files began to appear in rows.
More alcoholic staff members had to be engaged." Three employees
were added to the office in January, 1946, including Charlotte
L. as an assistant for Bobbie B. "About this time...members
began breaking their anonymity all over the place...we saw
the appalling risk to A.A. if all our power-drivers got
loose at the public level. Already scores of them were doing
it. So our service office got to work, we wrote remonstrance's—kind
ones, of course—to every breaker. We even sent letters
to nearly all press and radio outlets..." On top of many
other public relations activities at the office, Bill reported
in August 1946, in a memo to the groups, that Paramount
Pictures was interested in making a film on A.A. A committee
was formed of three Trustees, Bobbie B. and Bill, to advise
on the project. "That was because of 'The Lost Weekend,'"
according to Nell Wing. "All these movie companies came
flocking to our doors. Everyone wanted to make a movie of
A.A. and they brought scripts for us to review. Hal Wallis
at Paramount hung or for about four years."
Wing came to the office in March 1947. A nonalcoholic she
had been discharged from the Spars (the female branch of
the U.S. Coast Guard) after World War II, and she was planning
to go to Mexico to pursue a career as a sculptress. She
had stopped over in New York to get a temporary Job and
pick up a little travel money. "So I went over to this agency,"
Nell remembers, "and gave them my resume. The lady read
it and came around the desk, sat down and whispered, 'How
would you like to work at Alcoholics Anonymous?' I replied,
'Oh, I'd love it!' So I went over to the office and was
greeted by Charlotte L. There were about 11 of us at that
The next day she met Bill W., who didn't waste time in small
talk but immediately launched into a tirade about his difficulties
with the Trustees and his ideas for a General Service Conference.
"I didn't have the faintest idea what he was talking about,"
says Nell. "I started as a typist and was supposed to be
Charlotte L.'s secretary, so I had to go to night school
to sharpen up my shorthand. Then, very early on, I was made
receptionist. The salary was awful - around $75 a month.
Marian W., the office manager, told me, 'You won't get paid
much, but you'll learn a lot spiritually.' I didn't have
any idea about staying permanently, but I hung around because
I love the Fellowship and all the A.A.'s. I retired 35 years
According to Nell, Bobbie B. had been a dancer in Paris
in the 1920's and, in the fashion of the 1940's, wore "tiny
little hats and went tripping along in her high heels, but
was a fantastic communicator. I can't tell you the number
of people—the countless, countless number of people
all over the world who owe their sobriety to that woman.
She was fantastic in that respect, but a little shaky on
office discipline. She was really out of that part of the
work. Charlotte L., on the other hand, "was a real businesswoman.
She brought a lot of stability and business know—how
to the office." She also brought in an associate from the
advertising agency where she had worked, Marian W. (not
an A.A. member at that time, but joined considerably later)
as office manager. "When Marian proceeded to introduce some
discipline," several of the employees quit. "The upheaval
in those days, the 'learning to be an office' so to speak,
was fascinating," in Nell's view. Part of the problem was
that Bill W. was in, the office only two days a week even
when he was not traveling—and he traveled frequently.
A major step in improving the operation of the office came
when, in 1949, the Alcoholic Foundation appointed a General
Service Committee to act as an "advisory body to the Headquarters
staff in connection with those problems of policy and administration
requiring immediate attention." This committee, consisting
of Trustees and acting in behalf of the Foundation, oversaw
the Headquarters on a day-to-day basis, and its chairman
was therefore the de facto volunteer manager of the office.
Henry "Hank" C. was the first person to fill both these
positions and carried both titles. So has every general
manager of C.S.O. since that time. Dennis Manders explains,
"The title Chairman of General Services meant that he was
the liaison between the daily operations of the office and
the Alcoholic Foundation or General Service Board. He actually
wore two hats. In those days, the general manager chaired
the publishing company meetings. And as Chairman of General
Services, he had the difficult task of having to ride herd
on Bill on a daily basis—and was responsible to the
Board for doing so." When the present structure was adopted
in, the General Service Committee ceased to exist, its function
being assumed by the A.A. World Services Board—but
the dual responsibility of the general manager continued.
Both Herb M. and Bob H. served as Chairmen of the General
Service Committee when it was still active, later becoming
paid general managers of G.S.O. (see below).
The appointment of the General Service Committee coincided
with (and was perhaps prompted by) the discharge of Bobbie
B.—and soon afterward, of Charlotte L. as well because
of alcoholic slips. According to Nell and Ann M., their
relapses were partly caused by the enormous workload combined
with confusion of the early office. Nell says, "The four
or five movie companies and all the press they had to deal
with, and the groups proliferating and the prisons and hospitals
starting, and the internationalists, and all—that
poor woman (Bobbie] was just overwhelmed. The A.A. staff
worked long hours all week and then sometimes went out to
speak or to A.A. weekends, where they were 'Mrs. A.A.' and
people showered them with affection and admiration. That
ego-inflation was hard to handle when they'd been sober
just a few years, as they had in those days. And they were
exhausted, too." Bobbie and Charlotte were apparently both
on pills for some time before they returned to drinking.
(Relapses among other staff members in the '50's brought
about changes in policy. A minimum of four years' sobriety
was established as a requirement of employment for the staff.
The staff was encouraged to take compensatory days off for
time worked over a weekend, including trips to attend A.A.
events. This avoided the stress of a seven-day-a-week work
schedule. Also, the number of staff members was increased,
so the workload was more reasonable and the trips were spread
out, as well. Finally, the office became better-organized
and operating departments assumed more routine duties. For
whatever reason, the problem of slips among the A.A. staff
the departure of Bobbie B. and the involvement of the General
Service Committee, Headquarters activity was divided into
two divisions under the overall supervision of the Senior
General Secretary, who was now Marian M. She was in direct
charge of all public relations, dealing with the press,
radio, films, doctors, clergy, etc. She was also responsible
for the management of the office and its personnel. She
had two assistants, Ann M. and Luc P. Another General Secretary,
Ruth B., was in charge of Group Relations, also with two
assistants, Jinny T. and Polly P. The Group Relations division
was charged with maintaining close relationships with the
groups, handling group correspondence and personal visits,
and acting as a reservoir of group experiences to draw upon
in solving group problems.
Helen B. joined the A.A. staff in December 1949, from the
Boston Central Service Office of A.A. She was a tremendous
help to Bill, particularly in "selling" the Traditions and
the Conference idea to the Fellowship and in organizing
the General Service Conference. She served as secretary
of the first two Conferences. Ann M. (or Ann L., her married
name, which she used for a short period) had joined in the
fall of 1947. She was unusually young for an A.A. member
in those days—only 30—and had been sober for
only about six weeks! "I had no business background," Ann
remonstrates, "as an alcoholic I had been mostly unemployable
for a long time, and I wasn't trained for anything. So God
knows why they offered me the job. It's a miracle." Ann
started as a Junior Secretary, and eventually rotated through
every staff assignment at G.S.O., retiring (like her friend,
Nell Wing) 35 years later!
Despite her protests that she had a lifelong struggle with
feelings of inadequacy, she was perceived by others as being
a "heavyweight" in terms of power and influence. Several
general managers of G.S.O. remarked on her strong, unshakable
personal opinions. This was borne out by her own account
of getting up on the Conference floor and speaking against
the change in Trustee ratio. "Most people were on Bill's
side," Ann remembers, "but in my heart I had to oppose our
founder and all the other staff members like Lib S. and
Eve M. I was so miserable, because I couldn't help it, I
felt terribly strongly that it was wrong. I don't know why
I thought my opinion would make any difference, and of course
it didn't. I felt so awful about it, I threw up." And when
General Service Trustee Bayard P. was enthusiastically recommending
publication of "A Member's Eye View," Ann H. led the opposition
to it. (See Chap. 12) "She was my personal bete noire,"
says Bayard. "Opposed everything I ever did."
However, Ann says of her 35 years at G.S.O., "Remember,
there wasn't any Conference nor even any Traditions when
I started. It was thrilling to be here and see A.A. grow
around the world. And to have a part in it because of corresponding
with those people when they wrote in. [In Argentina, they
have framed on the wall Ann's first letter to Hector, and
revere her as the one who carried the A.A. message to their
country.) It's been wonderful to see that happen. And the
Internationalists: when Charlotte left, I took over correspondence
with Captain Jack [S.) (founder of the Internationalists)
and saw that grow, too. That was so exciting."
were six A.A. Secretaries and l4 other stenographic, clerical
and shipping employees at the end of 1949. Total expenses
of the office for the year were $78,978.92.
The term "Headquarters" was dropped in 1950 and replaced
by the more descriptive name, General Service Office. And
in May, the office moved around the corner to larger quarters
at 141 East 44th Street. Rotation was instituted among the
Senior General Secretaries; i.e., Ruth B. and Marian M.
traded the assignments described above. And in August, Dennis
Manders was hired as bookkeeper.
Dennis had held a similar job at Oppenheim Collins department
store, where he had met Dorris Carroll. They had fallen
in love and decided to marry—but the store didn't
permit married couples to work there. So Dorrie looked around
for another position. When Dennis was with her at an employment
agency one lunch hour, they asked if he was interested in
a job opening with "a publishing company." Two days later,
he was interviewed by Wilbur Smith—"a small, slight
man with a deep, sonorous voice"—who was the outside
auditor for the Fellowship. "Wilbur later became my mentor,"
Dennis recalls. "He was a constant help." The day afterward,
he was interviewed by Hank C. at the latter's insurance
brokerage office in the Lincoln Building. Not until the
two of them went over to 141 E. 44th Street to tour the
office did young Dennis (he was 26 years old) learn that
the organization was Alcoholics Anonymous. After Ruth B.
gave her nod of approval, he was offered the job and accepted.
took a salary cut," Dennis says, "from $65 a week down to
$57.50. I thought it would be fewer hours than a retail
store—my God, was I wrong! I put Saturdays in and
took work home on Sundays. A bunch of amateurs were running
the operation and Hank was the volunteer manager part-time,
trying to straighten it out, and I was brought in as a part
of that. Everyone seemed to be doing her own thing. From
my point of view it was quite a mess. The former bookkeeper
had left months before and nothing had been done since.
The gal on the switchboard was writing up the sales of literature.
There were two gals in bookkeeping, one never got there
before 11:00 a.m. and if the other worked three days a week
it was a lot. I had to get rid of both of them. To top it
all off, A.A. had had a Convention out in Ohio in July,
run by the local people, where they had taken orders for
a recording of what turned out to be Dr.Bob's last talk
and one by Bill, too. Then they screwed up and lost the
addresses of the people who had ordered these. All they
were had were the checks. And this was dumped in my lap
to straighten out. That took hours and weeks of correspondence
with banks and other detective work, but we found 95% of
them. I gave myself six months to whip the place into shape,
and then I was going to quit. But after six months I was
thoroughly hooked; you would have had to fire me to get
rid of me." Dennis, too, was to stay 35 1/2 years.
Dennis describes Hank C. a man of medium height with a round
face. "I remember him as rusty—rusty complexion, rusty
hair combed straight back, a small, rusty moustache." He
was an intense man, "hard-nosed," who could be gruff and
unpleasant. "Yet when you got to know him, he was just the
nicest guy in the world. He did so much for people without
their knowing about it. That was his mode. Would get annoyed,
really upset, if you tried to thank him."
the building has long since been demolished, Dennis can
still visualize the layout of the office at 141 E. 44th.
"It took up a whole floor, facing 44th Street. The reception
area was centrally located, so as you came into it there
were corridors that went off left and right. The corridor
to the left went into a large, large room, which was for
the A.A. Secretaries, or Staff, as they are called today.
They didn't have individual offices; they were just spotted
around the room at desks, four or five at that time. The
corridor that ran to the right went into another large room
for the records. No record department then, just one gal
working on files and one on an old Kardex system. Also the
bookkeeping department, consisting of two gals and myself.
Then there was a steno-clerical department, another five
or so gals, I guess. And finally you came to the shipping
department, with two guys full-time and one half-time. There
was a switchboard off the reception area, manned by Mary
Lou, a real doll. And our friend Nell Wing was the receptionist
when I came in."
Trustee LeRoy "Chippie" Chipman, retired treasurer of the
Rockefeller Foundation and treasurer of the Alcoholic Foundation,
which he had helped organize, was around the office a lot,
too. A fussy, fastidious person, he hung onto the Foundation's
books for some time before turning them over reluctantly
to Dennis. "He still insisted on doing the bank work, to
keep me honest." Dennis also had to deal occasionally with
Leonard B. Strong, secretary of the Foundation, whom he
remembers as stiff and formal.
had the accounting end of the office running fairly smoothly
by 1951, with the help of two newly hired, efficient women
bookkeeping clerks. With the backing of Wilbur Smith and
the approval of Hank C., he then undertook the largest expenditure
to that date, to introduce mechanization, "which was badly
needed." At a cost of over $3,000, he purchased an NCR 3000
bookkeeping machine. "It was strictly mechanical, like a
huge typewriter—you had to throw the carriage over
by hand, enough to give the girls bursitis of the shoulder!"
Nine years later, it was replaced by a semi-electronic model,
which served until computerization in (WHAT YEAR?).
Hank resigned as volunteer manager in 1951 because it was
taking too much time from his business. There were three
different volunteer managers during the next two years:
Bob H., Bob B. and Henry z. "I was left the man of the house,
so to speak," says Dennis, "with the help of advice from
Wilbur whenever we needed him. A very shrewd guy." The succession
of managers didn't work out too well, and while Dennis was
expected to help make decisions on the business end of C.
S .0., an A.A. member was needed for the service end. Therefore,
in 1953, the General Service Committee hired Hank back as
general manager, compensated for one-third of his time—the
first paid A.A. manager. He resigned as Trustee to take
the position. Hank continued to function on the same basis
until his death in 1960.
The office received its first transatlantic phone call in
October 1950. It was from the Secretary of the London Intergroup
office inquiring how television broadcasts involving A.A.
had been handled in this country. In an effort to raise
group contributions, a film strip in color was released
in 1951, showing what went on at G.S.O. and the Grapevine.
And the "Exchange Bulletin" listed 15 specific services
performed by the office; namely:
2- Secretary's Handbook
3- Monthly Newsletter
4- Publications, Recordings and Translations
5- General Service Conference
6- Service to New Groups
7- Service to "Special" Groups
8- Group Problems
9- "Lone Member" Correspondence
10- Twelve Traditions
11- Relations with Doctors and Clergy
13- Public Relations
14- Speaking at A.A. Gatherings
15- Assistance to Visitors
Thus had the services of the office expanded and developed
in the little more than a decade of its existence.
Also, for the first time, correspondence was going out to
Conference Delegates—and to outside organizations
protesting misuse of the A.A. Directory. Among the personnel
changes was the resignation in May of Jinny A. (formerly
Jinny T.) because of marriage; and of Ruth B., in November,
because of a slip. (See above.) Eve L., from the New York
Intergroup office, was hired early the next year, to begin
work as a Junior Secretary. Later, as Eve M., she was widely
known in the Fellowship as a dynamic,
energetic and highly articulate staff member. Long after
her retirement in April 1968, she continued to be in demand
as a speaker at A.A. events throughout the U.S./Canada and
even abroad (especially in South Africa, which she visited
several times.) Lib S. from Baltimore joined the staff the
Correspondence with Lone Members was a relatively new and
exciting phenomenon in '52. Captain Jack S., the original
"loner at sea" had been joined by 69 others, who started
to call themselves "Internationalists." The development
of new pamphlet literature occupied attention at G.S.O.,
much of it written by Ralph B. who had been hired as a writer
consultant for $500 per month. (See Chap. 12) The annual
volume of incoming mail exceeded 31,000 pieces, and over
a million copies of A.A. books and pamphlets were sold.
The office also reminded the Fellowship that the limit for
individual contributions had been established (by the Foundation,
two years before) at 1/10 of 1% of the annual budget. At
the time, this was, effectively, $100 per year. (Dennis
Manders points out that if the same formula were applied
in 1985, the limit on individual contributions would be
nearer $6,000 per year instead of the $500 set by Conference
Nell Wing became Bill W.'s secretary in 1950, but continued
a receptionist, a job she enjoyed because she met so many
people. "I was delighted at the number of people who dropped
by in those days wanting a copy of the Twelve Steps. Not
alcoholics, but people who had heard of them and wanted
to read them and use them in their own lives," Nell recalls.
When an A.A. visitor would bring news of a new group, Nell
would ceremoniously take him or her over to a large u.s.
map on the wall of the reception area and have the visitor
put a pin in the proper spot. She would then take them to
a staff member or whoever was keeping records and start
a Kardex card with the information needed. As the size of
the directories grew, it became necessary to send out questionnaire
cards to get the necessary information. Nell estimates,
however, that no matter how many cards were sent out, they
couldn't count on more than a 50% return—and only
half of those would give any count of members in the group.
So anything like and accurate total membership count was
impossible—and still is! "It just wasn't too important,"
the only way the early, isolated members had of staying
sober was communicating with us. They would write long letters,
telling how they were feeling, how they were doing, what
luck they were having with finding another drunk. And then
the enthusiasm of finding one! Then eventually a goup: 'we're
having our first meeting tonight.' And then maybe, 'We're
having our first convention. Thanks for your help.' I treasure
when she was acting as Bill's secretary during the days
he was in, Nell talked to the visitors. "Bill could really
give you short shrift," she says. "He wasn't much for small
Publishing Company changed its name in 1953 to A.A. World
Services, Inc. Work continued apace on new pamphlets and
distribution of the newly published Twelve Steps and Twelve
Traditions, an instant best-seller. Groups in hospitals
and prisons were receiving a lot of attention, especially
in educating them in the Traditions. Besides helping these
new "special" groups get started and coordinating institutions
activity, literature packets were offered, the cost paid
by individuals or committees sponsoring these groups.
Because of this activity and the growth of the office itself,
the Shipping Department was moved in '53 over to a large
building at 305 East 45th Street. Even earlier, the office
had tried to discourage literature pick-ups on the premises,
both because it was a distraction from the true C.S.O. services
and also because it was a service enjoyed by the New York
groups that was not available to other groups - so it was
felt to be more appropriately a function of the New York
Intergroup. But the Intergroup resisted. Now, when someone
came by G. to pick up literature, they had to place their
order and pay for it there; then they were given a slip
to pick up the order at 305 E. 45th, several blocks away.
However, even this inconvenience failed to discourage pick-ups!
Among the statistics reported to the 1954 Conference by
Hank C. were: orders for books and pamphlets in 1953 totaled
10,264, up from 7,625 the previous year, an increase of
over 33%; and the staff had accepted invitations to attend
43 A.A. conventions.
With The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions behind him,
"Bill W. was in a kind of transitional stage," according
to Nell Wing. In 1954, he formed an Editorial and Research
Team consisting of himself, Nell and a professional writer
and editor, Ed B., with several projects in mind. Bill was
traveling to gather personal histories for the second edition
of the Big Book (See Chap. 12) and needed help in transcribing
and editing them. They were supposed to work on "the full-length
history of Alcoholics Anonymous;" and ended up producing
A.A. Comes of Age—though Bill still hoped to do the
full history. Thirdly, Bill had an idea of writing a book
which would be a distillation of his own and others' experience
in applying the program to everyday living. His first working
title was "After Sobriety," which he later changed to "In
All Our Affairs."
This editorial and research team began work at 141 E. 44th,
but moved the following year to a space adjacent to the
Shipping Department in the 305 E. 45th Street building.
The reason was partly to relieve the overcrowding at G.S.O.,
but even more to get away from interruptions and distractions.
Ed B., recently discharged from Rockland State Hospital
and newly sober, turned out to be feisty and hard to work
with. Although his considerable talents in writing and editing
were helpful for two or three years, he was then let go.
By that time, Bill had sunk into the worst of his depression
and was unable to proceed with his full ¬length history
or with "In All Our Affairs." Some of his ideas for the
latter book were later re-worked in As Bill Sees It.
was kind of all by myself at 305 E. 45th Street for the
next three years," Nell remembers. However, for the projected
history she had started digging into the old files and records
going all the way back to 1940 and Vesey Street, which were
stacked in boxes on shelves reaching to the ceiling in the
nearby packing room. Bill encouraged her to continue the
digging and sorting and to organize the material. "Because
of this research activity," he wrote, "it is now certain
that the basic facts of A.A.'s growth and development never
can become distorted." This "new undertaking," as he called
it, was, of course, the beginning of the A.A. Archives (see
In the early 1950's, after a series of earlier moves, the
Grapevine had its offices downtown on East Broadway, near
Chinatown. But it was felt that all of A.A.'s service family
should be together, and so the editorial office of the magazine,
involving two people, was moved to the ground floor of 141
E. 44th St. The circulation and business end stayed on East
Broadway. At that time, C.S.O. had no facilities for doing
mass mailings, so they relied on the Grapevine downtown
to keep the addresses of the groups on an Addressograph
system and to address envelopes for mailings.
Thus Bill was able to describe the office this way in 1955:
"Today the office is presided over by Chairman Hank, on
part time, and six fine Staff Secretaries. These paid staff
members are greatly helped by volunteer committeemen who
are experts in law, finance, and public relations. About
12 nonalcoholics look after bookkeeping, filing and stenography,
and two receptionists preside over the outer office. There
visitors see the walls covered with sectional maps showing
the world-wide reach of our Fellowship. On a table stands
a winged Victory, symbol of the Lasker Award...The editorial
offices of the Grapevine are on the floor below. Here editor
Don and his volunteer assistants confer with the managing
editor and her assistant to meet the monthly deadline. Farther
downtown there is a large floorspace where the circulation
department looks after the Grapevine's 40,000 readers and
their needs. Three blocks away from the main office we have
a good-sized loft space where all the shipping and mailing
is done. This now runs into tons of material a month. Six
busy lads spend full time at it. Last year they shipped
about 40,000 books and hundreds of thousands of pamphlets,
many of them newly designed and edited largely through the
work of Ralph, our consultant on pamphlet literature...Down
one side of the long packing room, on shelves reaching to
the ceiling, are scores of boxed-up files. These are the
old records of our Headquarters, going clear back to the
days at Vesey Street. The whole story of A.A. is hidden
in these boxes, waiting only to be searched out, and we
have begun the job..."
March 1955, Hazel R., from the New York Intergroup staff,
was hired to replace Helen B., who resigned to be married
and moved to Texas. Hazel R. was to have an extraordinary
impact on the office and the Fellowship. Trustees, Delegates
and associates speak of her even yet with deep warmth and
affection that seems reserved especially for her. "Hazel
was beloved by everybody. Absolutely beloved by everyone,
states Ann H. unequivocally. "They all wanted her at their
particular conferences and conventions." Herb M. called
her the mainstay of the office, "the iron butterfly." "Hazel
was a special friend of mine," says Bob P. "I always said
that and I believe it, but after I became manager at G.S.O.
and traveled a lot to the areas, I found that wherever I
went the oldtimers still wanted to speak of Hazel—and
this was maybe ten years after she had died! You know what
they all said? They said, 'Hazel was a special friend of
mine.'" Beth K. says, "Hazel made it all, all right - whatever
you were doing. I remember once Herb didn't like something
I had been working on, and I went in crying to complain
to Hazel. I said, 'Nobody cares, Hazel.' And she said, 'I
care, Beth.' And then I felt all right. She had that quality
of making you feel you were the only person at that moment."
These were exciting times. As 1955 rolled 'round, overseas
groups were corresponding regarding translations of A.A.
literature into Finnish, Norwegian, French, Portuguese,
Spanish and Swedish. AAWS was printing 500 copies of the
first Spanish translation of the text of the Big Book. There
were lone members in Asia, Africa, Europe and Central and
South America—in addition to the Internationalists
at sea. The office was consulting on a film which would
feature A.A., "I'll Cry Tomorrow." There were 275 groups
in prisons and 200 in hospitals. Preparations for the 20th
Anniversary Convention in St.Louis, including introduction
of the second edition of the Big Book, required nearly everyone's
Money remained tight. The operating budget for C.S.O. in
1956 was $162,500. Group contributions fell $14,918 short
of meeting the cost of group services. There were six staff
members and 23 other employees working at G.S.O. The name
of the regular newsletter was changed to the "A.A. Exchange
Bulletin." In August 1956 Marian F. resigned to devote full
time to her home, and Anita R. took her place. A few months
later, Jane F., an experienced businesswoman, joined the
staff. As the Fellowship continued to grow, the workload
was heavy; for example, the duties of Hazel R. were listed
in 1958 as:
Board member of A.A. World Services
Secretary, Policy Committee of General Service Board
Secretary, General Service Conference
Secretary, 1960 International Convention
Correspondence with groups in 16 states
In 1958, in an effort to acquaint groups in the area with
what went on at G.S.O., an open house was held on a Saturday,
to which G.S.R.'s and other service people were invited.
It proved to be sufficiently popular that it was held annually
thereafter (with only an occasional hiatus) to the present
time. By 1985, 700 or more people flocked to the G.S.O.
open house by the busload from as far away as Boston and
even Montreal to the north and east, and Washington, D.C.
to the south, pouring out love and gratitude, taxing physical
facilities and personnel to the limit.
Jane F., as it turned out, lasted less than two years. She
"got into everybody's job but her own," and began feuding
with others in the office almost immediately. For example,
when Dennis Manders discovered she was using accounting
clerks to cash personal checks at the bank and put a stop
to it, Jane enlisted another staff member in a campaign
to get the Controller fired. When she herself was let go
in early 1959, Hank C. called the staff and several other
key people together to explain why. When he was finished,
Ann M. said, "This makes us all feel rather insecure in
our jobs, you know." To which Hank replied, "Well, whoever
said you weren't?"
was the way Hank was," says Dennis, "gruff and very demanding.
He wasn't well liked by many people. But Hazel and I weren't
two-member fan club of Hank G. We truly admired the man
Beth K., who was hired April 13, 1959, to replace Jane,
proved to be a dedicated and durable staff member until
her retirement in 1984. She served eventually on every staff
assignment. The hiring process which she remembers was probably
typical. Sober since 1951, Beth had first heard of G.S.O.
through her sponsor, Lyb S., who worked there. Beth had
worked at New York Intergroup for four years when she was
invited' to fill out an application fort he G.S.O. staff
opening. She was interviewed not only by Hank C. and the
Staff but also by the New York Trustees. "All of a sudden
I found myself with speaking dates all over the city," she
says with a chuckle, "and when I would get up to speak and
look out, I would see Hank and Eve or Hazel or some other
staff member sitting there and listening. Because speaking
was one of the requirements, and this was part of the screening
Beth reported for work just a week before the Conference
and was immediately assigned to help Herb M., an in-town
Trustee who was very active on the public information committee.
He was to present the very first paper at the Conference,
on A.A.'s "cooperation but not affiliation" with outside
agencies. "I worked very hard on that paper with Herb and
the rest of the staff. They were marvelous in giving me
ideas and then reviewing it and checking it and adding to
it. Good cooperation. And that paper became the pamphlet
that has been used, with revisions, ever since in CPC work.
There was no CPC then; it was part of public relations."
The space at 141 E. 44th was "hopelessly cramped" by 1959,
and A.A. leased the whole 18th floor at 305 E. 45th St.
As it was a loft building, the offices, rest rooms, and
work space had to be constructed, which took about a year.
The move still represented quite a saving, however, as the
annual rental was about $3.25 per square foot versus $6.50
per square foot at 141. "So we got twice the space for the
same money," Dennis points out, "and we actually took a
little more than that. All the Grapevine operation was moved
there, and we brought the shipping department up from the
12th floor." Nell Wing was tickled to be reunited with the
rest of G.S.O. She shared a large office with Bill.
The move was a nightmare for Dennis, who was in charge—mainly
because the 44th Street building was partly residential.
The management wouldn't let the furniture be brought out
through the lobby, so every desk, every chair, every file
cabinet had to be taken to the basement and wrestled up
a narrow little stairway to the sidewalk and into the moving
truck. The whole move was made after the office had closed;
it took all night.
There was no room to spare at 305 E. 45th. Not long after
the move, G.S.O. began to knock walls down and expand. Additional
space was taken on another floor for the meeting room. Although
Bill continued to come in two days a week—and, of
course, was present at Board meetings and Conferences—he
did much of his work at Stepping Stones, usually with Nell
Wing assisting as his secretary. "Bedford Hills was my second
home," says Nell. (After Bill died, Nell continued her close
friendship with and help to Lois W. and continued the present
to spend several days a week at Stepping Stones.)
Just before the 1960 International Convention in July, Hank
C. suffered a ruptured appendix. After he recovered, he
was invited to Great Britain to visit their new G.S.O. and
tour their Intergroup offices. There, on October 26, he
was killed in a plane crash. Herb M. was asked by the Board
to take over as Chairman of General Services and general
manager of G.S.O. for a three month period, and at the end
of that time was asked to continue first on a 2/3 time and
later on a 3/4 time basis.
Herb M., whose background was in advertising and marketing,
was held in high regard not only by Bill, to whom he was
an immense help during trying and ticklish times (See Chap.
12) but by his other associates as well. Several staff members
from the '60's recall that they frequently left the manager's
office in tears, but they also give him grudging praise.
"Herb was a tough taskmaster," declares Beth K., "but he
also helped you grow and stretch." Cora Louise B. sounds
almost the same note: "Herb M. did something wonderful for
me—he knew how to get me to reach, to try to do things
I thought I couldn't do. He gave me the feeling that he
would back me up, and he did. And if I got into trouble
with it, he'd help me with it. So I did all kinds of things
I was afraid to do, because he told me I could do them."
And Bayard P., who came onto the AAWS Board when Herb was
its President as well as manager of G.S.O. says, "I have
always thought that God created Herb uniquely to be the
general manager. He had an extraordinary combination of
talents for that job—skill in handling people, creativeness,
innovativeness, sound judgement. I think he just did a superb
job. He also ran a very good meeting; he kept people on
track without hurting their feelings."
Herb is credited by Dr. Jack Norris, who was Board Chairman
during his tenure, with making drastic changes in pamphlet
publishing and purchasing of printing which resulted in
significant savings. "He put the office on a more businesslike
basis," says Dr. Jack. The changes involved a run-in with
Ralph B. Ralph had been engaged in 1952 as a writing and
publications consultant for the then princely fee of $500
a month for 1/3 of his time. He was immensely productive,
not only writing many of A.A.'s basic pamphlets which are
in use today but also writing the Conference reports, handling
the press room at International Conventions, etc. In addition
to writing and designing the pamphlets, he was also given
the job of carrying them on through production and printing.
He used printers whom he knew from his public relations
business, with whom he had a close relationship. Herb, also
familiar with publication work, faulted Ralph's printers
on quality, service and particularly on price. When he made
a move to change, Ralph was angered, which led to an exchange
of heated words, and Herb fired Ralph by phone, which the
latter especially resented. Ralph remained estranged completely
from G.S.O. (Bob P., who had known Ralph B. professionally,
tried in the late '70's and early '80's to involve him again
at G.S.O., without success.)
Herb introduced system in pamphlet publishing. He assigned
Nell wing the responsibility for carrying them through the
production process: copy-editing, copyrighting, and updating
them, and circulating them among the staff for review each
time they came up for reprinting.
When Herb took over as manager, the six A.A. Staff Members
were: Lyb S., Anita R., Ann H., Beth K., Eve M. and Hazel
R. They rotated every year, but Ann H. concentrated on A.A.
in other countries, as this was a period of growth and expansion
overseas in which G.S.O./New York played a vital, helping
role. To avoid staff burn-out, Herb, with the approval of
the AAWS Board, introduced a policy of granting senior staff
members a sabbatical leave of six months to a year's duration
at half pay, during which they were expected to enrich their
personal A.A. life through travel or other activity. Only
two staff members, Ann M. and Eve M., were able to take
leaves before the experiment was abandoned because of the
confusion in arranging replacements to handle the growing
Lyb S. resigned in July 1961 and was replaced by Midge M.,
who had been secretary (i.e., manager) of the Boston Central
Service Office. Waneta N., a veteran of the Detroit Intergroup,
was hired in January 1964, to take the place of Ann H. while
the latter was on sabbatical, and stayed on. And in October
1965, Cora Louise B. was added.
A pert Southern belle from Mississippi, wife of a soft-spoken
Episcopal clergyman who was Chairman of the Department of
Religion at New York University, Cora Louise had disgraced
herself repeatedly because of her alcoholism and sunk into
a state of humiliation and desperation before sobering up
in Alcoholics Anonymous in 1957. Eighteen months later,
a friend told her about a staff opening at G.S.O. Although
she had no special qualifications or job experience, she
visited the office and filled out an application. They informed
her that four years of sobriety were a prerequisite, but
encouraged her to keep in touch. She was called back three
years later to be interviewed by Hank C., the staff and
in-town Trustees, only to lose out to Midge because of the
latter's Intergroup experience. As openings occurred over
the next three years, the office called Cora Louise twice
more to see if she was still interested, but she had a job
which she felt she couldn't leave. When still another call
came in 1965, her husband, Lee, advised her to give it a
try, and so she came to work at G.S.O. June 15, less than
three weeks prior to the International Convention in Toronto.
Dynamic and demanding, Cora Louise B. left an indelible
mark on the office over the next nearly 15 years. A prodigious
worker and marvelously competent, she was somewhat held
in awe by her fellow staff members, and outright feared
by the stenographers and clerks. She became widely known
throughout the Fellowship, as she both charmed and inspired
A.A. audiences; Bob H. considered her "perhaps the finest
woman speaker in A.A."
Louise says, "Working at the General Service Office turned
out to be the second most rewarding experience of my life
-second only to getting- sober in A.A. in the first place.
From the minute I got there, I loved it. It just blew my
mind to learn what a great, big, wide world of A.A. there
is out there. I adored the work and liked most of the people
I worked with—and even those I didn't like, I respected."
Herb H. was quick to realize she could shoulder almost any
amount of responsibility and loaded it on her. "For instance,"
she says, "at one time I had Institutions, Internationalists,
the Literature Committee and area correspondence. During
those two years on the Literature Committee, we published
the book we now call As Bill Sees It and the first comic
books. And Institutions included both prisons and hospitals.
It was busy, I'll tell you!" Another time, "CLB" as she
was nicknamed, was Secretary of the International Convention
in Miami. At the same time, she was on the Public Information
assignment just before it was split into P.I and CPC because
of the huge amount of work. "I had the P.I. Committee and
all those clippings and wrote the letters about them and
the letters to all the professional people and was planning
the Convention and couldn't get enough stenographic help
assigned to me. It almost put me under."
Cora Louise was probably more responsible than any other
individual for creating the CPC assignment. As she was handling
P.I. (as described above) when the split came, Bob H. asked
her if she would take over the new function, including the
secretariat of the newly formed Trustees' and Conference
CPC Committees. "That first year, I just didn't know how
to string the beads to make it work," CLB confesses. " Yev
G., who was on the committee and also worked at the National
Council on Alcoholism, helped me a lot on how to organize
it. I wrote to every State [government] and all the private
treatment centers and got their literature for our files."
With the passage of the Hughes Bill that year, suddenly
the armed forces were mandated to begin alcoholism treatment
programs and the 50 States formed alcoholism agencies on
a crash basis. "Sometimes we would get 200 letters a week
just from the armed forces saying 'we have to start a program
on this base -it was an onslaught. So we worked out form
letters and a package of literature -I gave away so much
literature, I got in trouble with Dennis.
whole [alcoholism] field was developing almost faster than
we could deal with it. Then came all the hue and cry from
the groups, the A.A. members, which was far more serious
to us: 'These agency people, these treatment people are
doing this and doing that, and how are we going to stop
'em? They're trying to take A.A. away from us...'" The need
to answer these anguished protests led to the writing of
Guidelines, a distillation of A.A. experience on a given
subject, which could be sent in place of a very lengthy
letter. Guidelines were developed on treatment centers,
court programs, armed services, A.A. members working in
the field, etc. "I leaned over backward to try to get the
A.A.'s to be the ones to show tolerance," says Cora Louise,
"and to grasp that this was a way to carry the A.A. message.
We gave away literature by the bushels and got orders for
jillions more, and, of course, A.A. simply grew by leaps
and bounds as a result." (For CLB's part in the birth of
Regional Forums, see Chap. XX)
Kleina Jones, who joined G.S.O. in 1961 as Supervisor of
the Stenographic Department, was a key figure in administration
at the office for the next 15 years. She was promoted in
1971 to Office Manager which included the duties of Personnel
Manager and Functions Manager, making hotel arrangements
for Board Meeting weekends, Conferences and International
Conventions. A year later, Denise Stern was promoted from
supervisor of the Steno/Clerical Department to Office Manager,
and Kliena retained her other duties and added the function
of "Departmental Coordinator"—to expedite the handling
of requests and services which involved more than one department.
In the mid '70's, Donna Berkowitz took over from Denise
Stern, and Shirley Grant assumed Kleina's responsibilities,
which she still had in 1985. Tony Osnato was promoted to
Office Manager and Functions Manager in 1980.
Manders, who had actually been performing the job of Controller
for several years, was given the formal title in 1966. The
same year, an employee retirement plan was put into effect.
A tax-sheltered annuity program was also offered, paid for
solely by the employees.
the 1960's, the Directors and Trustees serving on the AAWS
Board were all "in-town" and hence were often closely involved
with G.S.O. The ubiquitous Allen B., the General Service
Trustee who had stepped into the breach to help run the
Long Beach Convention, now framed the by-laws under which
A.A. World Services, Inc. was reorganized into a membership
corporation with the Trustees as the Members. Also, in 1964,
he represented AAWS in a trip to El Salvador and Columbia
to establish literature distribution centers for Central
and South America. (This aim was only partially successful,
but Allen is credited with helping start G.S.O.'s in both
countries. See Chap. XX) Gene K. provided astute business
direction. Sumner C., who had headed the New York Intergroup,
brought solid service experience. Adrian F. translated to
and from Dutch and Flemish and helped G.S.O's relations
with Holland and Belgium. Bayard P., a senior advertising
agency executive, was a powerhouse on the Board. And three
persons who were later to hold management positions at G.S.O.
were Directors in the '60's: Bob H., Niles P. and Bob P.
Throughout the '60's and '70's, the volume of correspondence
in Spanish increased, and G.S.O. tried always to have a
bilingual stenographer in-house to translate incoming and
outgoing letters for the staff. Translations of A.A. books
and pamphlets were done either in Latin American countries
or by Spanish translators hired by the office. The aim of
G.S.O. was ever to provide the same service to all groups
and members regardless of their language. A giant step forward
was taken in 1969 with the arrival on staff of Mary Ellen
U. An attractive, effervescent brunette, she was born in
Columbia, South America of a well-to-do American father
and Colombian mother. She was able to communicate fluently
with A.A.'s throughout the Spanish-speaking world and advise
countries in Central and South America in their service
activities. However, as Mary Ellen rotated among the staff
assignments like any other staff member, in 1974 Yolanda
L., a native of Cuba who had also lived in Brazil and Columbia,
was hired to handle Spanish correspondence. Although she
was a sensitive and compassionate A.A. member, she proved
unsuited to office work and left after about a year. When
Mary Ellen U. - having married and become Mary Ellen W.—retired
in 1978, Beth K. picked up responsibility for Spanish correspondence,
once again using the cumbersome system of working through
a bilingual stenographer.
There were 466 Spanish-speaking groups in the U.S./Canada
by 1984, and they increasingly pressed for a service representative
of their own at G.S.O. Such a person was provided with the
hiring of Vicente H. as a non-rotating staff member. Vicente,
born in Ecuador, had come to Los Angeles in 1950, where
he joined A.A. in 1976. He immediately became active in
service, working as a coordinator at an Hispanic Intergroup
Office and helping create a Spanish District in the Southern
California Area. He also translated several A.A. leaflets
and pamphlets into Spanish. At G.S.O., he was not only able
to communicate directly with Spanish ¬speaking A.A.
world, as Mary Ellen had done, but he represented the Board
and the office by attending conventions, Regional Forums,
World Service Meetings, etc.
G.SO. also had a sizeable French-speaking constituency,
of course, concentrated mainly in the Province of Quebec,
Canada. And they, too, had to be provided with equal services.
However, the French Literature Committee translated and
published all A.A. literature in French, including the Service
Manual and other service material. Generally speaking, the
Quebecois were more bilingual in English than the Hispanics,
and usually were able to correspond in English. Nevertheless,
such universally—used items as loose—leaf covers
for Group Handbooks, contribution acknowledgements, and
International Convention programs were eventually printed
in all three languages.
Having survived a massive heart attack, Herb M. announced
his intention to retire at the end of 1967 at age 65 after
seven sometimes turbulent years at G.S.O. The logical choice
to succeed him was Bob H. Sober since 1942, he was one of
a dwindling few who had actually been sponsored by Bill
W. With a background in advertising and communications,
Bob had served on the General Service Committee and had
even been a volunteer manager of the office in 1952 during
the hiatus in Hank G.'s tenure. More recently, he had served
since August 1964 as a Director on the A.A. World Services
Board and hence was thoroughly familiar with G.S.O.'s activities;
and in April 1966, he had been elected a General Service
Trustee. He was held in high regard not only by Herb but
by Board Chairman Dr. Jack Norris and Trustee Bayard P.,
among others. Bob H. was the first general manager to serve
was tall and spare, with a trim, military moustache. His
knowledge of Alcoholics Anonymous was encyclopedic, and
his feeling for the Traditions and Concepts was intuitive
and uncompromising. He was extremely nervous, as illustrated
by one of Dennis Manders' favorite stories, as follows.
The "down" signal for the elevators [at 468 Park Ave., So.]
was broken. When it was fixed, the repairman said the breakdown
was due to people jabbing it impatiently. Forthwith, Bob
issued a memorandum to all employees directing them to cease
and desist on penalty of dismissal. The very next day, as
Dennis and Bob were waiting for the elevator, who was jabbing
savagely at the down button? Bob H., of course!
As Bob H. took over in 1968, the General Service Office
had 43 full-time and seven part-time employees. The A.A.
Staff consisted of Midge H., Ann M., Beth K., Waneta N.,
Cora Louise B., Hazel R. and Eve H. (who retired later that
year and was replaced by Mary Ellen U.) The Steno/Clerical
Department, supervised by Kleina Jones, had 14 employees;
the Shipping Department, under Al Cryan, had six full-time
and five part-time men; and the remaining employees were
divided among the Accounting and Records Departments.
In 1968, the office was continuing to grow and become more
crowded, so Bob H. and Dennis set up an appointment with
the building management firm, Cross & Brown, to negotiate
a new lease for more space beginning in 1970. They got a
shock. Cross & Brown wanted a 60% increase in rent,
with no concessions and no dealing. "We not only couldn't
afford to expand, we couldn't afford to stay!" says Dennis.
(It turned out that the owners were trying to force the
industries and businesses out of the building, which was
near the edge of the United Nations property, in order to
convert it to apartments. Retribution of a kind came in
1972 when, shortly before 8:00 a.m. on the opening day of
the General Service Conference, a tremendous explosion rocked
the East Side of Manhattan. The entire west wall of 305
E. 45th was blown away in a blast traced to a gas leak.
"Thank God we weren't still there,' says Dennis. "At that
hour on Monday, we would have had a full crew in the Shipping
Department, getting a truckload of stuff ready to go over
to the conference. And we would have been locked out of
our offices for at least two years, while the litigation
went on. 'But for the grace of God...'")
With Board approval, Bob and Dennis began a search for new
quarters which continued for several months. "We looked
at 15 to 18 different places," Dennis recalls. Their choice
was a pleasing, solidly built loft building at 468 Park
Ave., So., between 31st and 32nd Streets. Its Park Avenue
address as somewhat misleading, for it was on the fringes
of a wholesale district, along what was sometimes called
"non-profit row" (or, earlier and more appropriately, "publishers'
row.") A.A. initially leased two floors, the 5th and 6th,
for ten years at an extraordinarily attractive annual rental
of about $6.00 per square foot, with escalations allowed
only for increases in real estate taxes or building employees'
Again the offices and other workspaces had to be constructed
in the loft floors - including lighting, plumbing and installation
of central air conditioning. It took about six months to
get the new quarters ready, but even that tight schedule
necessitated a three-month extension on the lease on 45th
St. at double the rent. Austerity continued to be the style
at the new offices: linoleum floors, light painted walls
and second hand furniture, wooden desks for the staff and
administrative people, battleship-gray steel for the rest.
The move was completed in a rush April 1, 1970. Within three
weeks, it was conference time; and within three months,
the International Convention was held in Miami. (Exactly
the same stress-producing schedule had marked the 1960 move.)
A.A. was embarking on an era of unprecedented growth. Sparked
by the passage of the Hughes Bill (See Chap. 12) and the
resulting nationwide boom in the alcoholism field - especially
the opening of thousands of treatment centers - (See Chap.
15) A.A. was estimated to be doubling in size every seven
years. This growth was manifested at G.S.O. in publishing,
staff workload and activity of the supporting departments.
From '69 to '72, sales of literature increased 25% per year!
At first, Bob H., believing it to be a temporary phenomenon,
was reluctant to expand or reorganize or increase the payroll.
Dennis, as Controller, concurred. "We thought we could control
it with some outside 'temps', some overtime and the like,"
he recalls, "because we thought it wouldn't last."
This line of thinking reflected the philosophy of financial
management followed by all general managers of G.S.O. and
certainly by the Controller. Dennis expresses it this way:
"My whole aim in working for the Fellowship was to strive
continually to do things more economically, to get more
and more out of the A.A. dollar. I feel that whether it
is a contribution or payment for a piece of literature,
every A.A. dollar is really a dollar in trust. And I managed
to pass along this philosophy to the people I worked with.
We asked ourselves, 'How will this expenditure improve the
quality of sobriety?'" So Dennis is especially proud of
the improvements made in systems and technology, which permit
more services to be performed without adding more people.
Bob P. later expressed a similar management philosophy of
his own at Regional Forums, saying: "My objective is to
prevent your General Service Office from becoming a bureaucracy.
We must take advantage of every advance in methods and equipment
to render more service without continually adding more people."
But in 1972, the problem was that it had taken Bob H. and
Dennis almost three years to face the fact that the exploslve
growth wasn't going to go away. By that time, all the systems
at G.S.O. were suffering badly. Shipment of literature was
lagging from four to eight weeks behind orders. New groups
were registering at the rate of 15 or 20 a day, but were
experiencing exasperating delays in receiving New Group
Handbooks. Preparation of A.A. Directories by hand, from
group records kept manually on cards, was a prodigious,
incredibly tedious and time-consuming task; and the Directories
were full of errors and obsolete before they were received,
similar deficiencies ran through the whole organization.
first move was to decide to add necessary additional employees
in the Shipping Department, Accounting Department and Records
Department. The next move was for the AAWS Board to authorize
a management consulting firm, Ferro, Berdon & Co., to
come in in May 1973 and suggest ways to smooth the work
flow and improve efficiency. On the Service side of G.S.O.,
Eleanor N. was added to the Staff in 1970, bringing the
number to eight. On the night of January 24, 1971, Bill
w. died in the hospital in Miami Beach, Florida, and the
G.S.O.—which had been prepared by Bob H. for this
eventuality—swung into action to inform the Trustees
and the Fellowship around the world, as well as the nation's
press (For detailed account, see Chap XX on GSB) Only a
few months later, another blow was suffered when Hazel R.,
who now was Assistant General Manager, went on sick leave
with a fatal brain tumor. She died September 10. Valerie
S. was hired to fill the vacancy, and Midge M. became Assistant
to the General Manager. Phyllis M. further augmented the
Staff in late '71, followed by Betty L. early in '72, and
June R., the first Black Staff member, in '73. General Service
Trustee Niles P. (See Chap. 2) resigned in early '73 to
come to G.S.O: as Assistant General Manager.
to recap, the G.S.O. executives and Staff now consisted
of Bob H., General Manager; Niles P., Ass't. G.M.; Midge
M., Administrative Ass't.; and nine other Staff members—Cora
Louise B., Beth K., Betty L., Ann M., Phyllis M., Waneta
N., June R.,Valerie S. and Mary Ellen U.
accommodate the growth, an additional floor (5,000 sq. ft.)
was leased at 468 Park Ave., South, in 1973. When the moves
were completed, the Staff and the Steno/Clerical Department
occupied the sixth floor, along with a conference room and
an employees' lounge; the Accounting and Records Departments
shared the fifth floor with the Grapevine, which also had
more space; and the eighth floor contained the Shipping
Department and the Archives.
after these major steps had been taken, Bob H. still perceived
a need for a further reorganization in responsibility at
the top. He needed a general manager for the office while
he retained the positions of Chairman of General Services
and President of A.A. World Services, dealing with both
the Trustees and the Directors. So, already 66 years of
age, he announced to the General Service Board in 1973 that
he intended to retire in 1977, upon reaching the age of
70; and he wanted to bring in a new general manager as soon
as possible, to provide a maximum period of overlap. The
Board agreed in principle, but some members were concerned
that such an arrangement would make the salary budget top-heavy.
Owen "Bud" Flanagan, A.A.'s outside auditor and financial
consultant, reassured them that the administrative overhead
at G.S.O. would still represent an unusually small percentage
of the total budget, compared with most other organizations.
search committee appointed by the Board considered about
eight names of potential candidates from widely scattered
areas of the U.S. and Canada. When contacted, several of
these were unwilling to move to New York. For this and other
reasons, the field was narrowed to two: Tom C., the first
Trustee-at-Large from Canada; and Bob P., who had served
simultaneously on both the Grapevine and AAWS Boards and
as General Service Trustee (See Chap. 2) before rotating
out in 1972. The Board decided on Bob P. at its July 1974
meeting. He reported to G.S.O. September 1, and assumed
the post of general manager on January 1, 1975, in tandem
with Bob H. as planned.
slender and white—haired at age 56, Bob P. came from
a background in writing and publications. As a public relations
executive, he was also experienced in management, personnel
administration and budgeting. Sober since 1961, he was an
active member of local A.A. in Connecticut, where he resided.
Before reporting to C.S.O., Bob P. had luncheon interviews
with each of the staff members individually; and after reporting,
he spent several hours as a working observer in each of
the supporting departments.
meet the demands imposed by the enormous growth in A.A.
in the years from roughly 1967 to 1985, the organization,
methods and procedures of the office changed in fundamental
ways. Changes begun by Bob H. in the early '70's evolved
under the joint management of the two Bobs and were carried
still further by Bob P. Some of the more dramatic and interesting
metamorphoses were these.
records of the groups current—and publishing the A.A.
Directories and maintaining mailing lists from these records—was
always a prime function and a prime headache. In the early
days, a Junior Secretary (i.e., junior staff member) assisted
by a couple of steno/clerks, was assigned the job of posting
daily the records of new groups and changes in information
on existing groups. It was done by hand on cards which were
kept in Cardineer or Roladex file systems. As the number
of groups grew to tens of thousands, the number of record
changes grew to several hundred per week, and in the '60's,
a separate Records Department was established, eventually
numbering eight employees plus a Supervisor.
real crunch came at Directory time, when the records on
the cards had to be typed in-house on a Veritype machine,
and then pasted up and sent out for printing. But first,
group contributions had to be transferred from the Accounting
Department ledgers to the cards—and then totaled and
trial balances run, before they were typed. And, of course,
the entire Directory had to be proof-read and checked back
against the cards before it was printed. All this required
untold hours of labor. Not only the records clerks and accounting
employees, but also staff members and all other available
hands burned the midnight oil for weeks before the Directory
was finally published and mailed each year.
the late 1960's, G.S.O. requested the Conference to permit
them to stop listing group contributions in the Directories,
but the Delegates voted to continue. Meanwhile, a better
way of producing the directories was being sought. A printing
firm on Long Island which was being used to print the "Box
4-5-9" bulletin and other G.S.O. jobs were themselves trying
to convert to electronic type setting. They were dealing
with J.Schiller, Inc. in New Jersey, whom they were glad
to introduce to Midge M. and Dennis. And in this way, C.S.O.
changed over to punching its directory information into
tape which was then fed into a mini¬computer at Schiller;
and the output was "cold" type in a format ready to be printed.
Multiple proofing was reduced, human error was cut drastically,
and the whole process speeded up. The Conference granted
a moratorium on publishing a Directory in 1973 to permit
records was the first office function to be put on G.S.O.'s
computer when it went on line in September 1977. From terminals
in the Records Department, record clerks entered new data
swiftly and accurately, and the computer could then print
out, on command, accurate listings for Directories or for
mailing lists. Actually, the Board had authorized funds
to explore the feasibility of using a computer as far back
as 1968, but the idea encountered some reluctance based
on the feeling that it would somehow reduce the personal
touch that so typifies A.A. But only two or three years
later, when G.S.O. was drowning
in data, a small task force was organized and set to work
to bring A.A. into the computer age.
the task force was Bob P., "Bud" Flanagan and Ed Gordon,
who had been hired as an Assistant Controller and Assistant
Administrative Officer to back up Dennis Manders. They sought
advice and guidance from Prof. Jack M., past Trustee and
head of the Data Processing Department at Eastern Michigan
University; and from several other consultants. The delay
was perhaps fortuitous, for the technology was changing
at a dizzying speed, and mini-computers of the kind most
suitable for A.A were just becoming available. From the
day it began operation until the present time, not only
were office procedures undergoing constant change and improvement,
but the computer itself underwent continual expansion
and upgrading. "About all that's left of the original,"
declares Ed Gordon, "is part of the metal frame."
A qualified Data Processing Manager, and eventually an assistant,
were added to the roster of employees.
On the other hand, the Records Department is now able to
handle several times the volume of work as before, with
three fewer people—reduced through attrition.
A.A. mailing lists is like cutting your way through a tropical
jungle with a penknife," is the way one employee put it
in the early '70's. And yet this was the very heart of G.
S. 0. 's communicating with the Fellowship. When the office
took over the task from the Grapevine in 1953, it was given
to the Mail and Shipping Department. Names and addresses
were kept on Scriptomatic stencils, stored in boxes and
fed into an envelope addressing machine when a mailing had
to be made. New stencils had to be constantly typed from
Records Department cards and substituted for obsolete stencils
by Mail Department employees, supposedly during their slack
time but more usually on overtime. Regular groups, hospital
groups, prison groups, loners & Internationalists, G.S.R.'s,
D.C.M.'s, Delegates present and past, Trustees present and
past, and so on and on: more than 40 different mailing lists
in all—all with countless inaccuracies, countless
duplications, obsolete names never deleted and new names
never added—it was an almost hopeless mess. Finally
a dauntless woman with a unique talent for organization
and a reputation for getting things done was snatched from
the Stenographic Department—staff members wept to
see her go—and was given the task of bringing order
out of chaos. Given the title of Manager of Special Projects,
she sometimes took on other temporary jobs (such as producing
the Final Conference Reports) but her main "project" was
to organize and maintain G.S.O.'s mailing lists. The computer
arrived in the nick of time to make the project do-able.
Today, Dorothy "Dotty" Mccinity is known by name to literally
thousands of A.A. '5 throughout the Fellowship, especially
those who avail themselves of the service of providing mailing
labels for area and regional mailings.
the most revolutionary changes in organization, methods
and procedures took place in the Shipping Department. The
shipping clerks had always handled the incoming and outgoing
mail in addition to shipping literature. But the volume
of incoming mail grew to an average of 500 pieces a day—and
as many as 1,500 pieces on a day following a long weekend.
And every piece generated a an outgoing letter or package.
So a Mail Department was created, separate from a Shipping
and Receiving Department. It was also given responsibility
for assembling and mailing the mountains of "no-charge"
literature packages distributed by G.S.O.
the earliest times, orders for literature were filled by
a shipping clerk who assembled the assortment of books and
pamphlets and then "mummy-wrapped" it with heavy wrapping
paper secured with a gummed tape and wrapped tightly with
twine. The packages were almost indestructible, but each
was a custom creation that took an inordinate amount of
time and materials. No wonder order filling had fallen weeks
and months behind! After Bob P. took field trips to see
how other large shippers of books and pamphlets did it,
he introduced the assembly line concept into shipping. Two
or three clerks concentrated on picking the orders as they
came down from the Accounting Department and stacking the
material on a standard-sized corrugated-cardboard base.
These stacks were then lifted in turn by wrappers, each
working at his own bench where he formed a proper-sized
carton on the spot and fitted the literature in it with
packing material to hold it snug. The cartons were quickly
closed, sealed and placed on a roller-conveyor which moved
them by gravity to the mailing clerk. He placed each carton
on an electronic scale which automatically computed and
generated the proper postage sticker from the weight and
destination—at the same time, printing out a complete
record of the shipment.
orders were shipped within 24 hours of their receipt in
the Shipping and Receiving Department, and 100 to 150 orders
per day could be handled with half as many people as had
employed at one time.
growth and the increase in treatment facilities were accompanied
by an increase in sales of Conference-approved literature.
Alcoholics Anonymous became a major publisher. Each year
set new records and in 1985, G.S.O. distributed, in round
1,385,000 miscellaneous items
figures include literature in English, French and Spanish,
for the U.S./Canada only.)
this volume of publishing, it became apparent to Dennis
Manders in the late 1960's that substantial savings could
be realized by buying paper directly from the manufacturers
rather than through the printers, who added on a commission.
Jack Blackwell, an executive of American Book, the company
which printed the Big Book, put him in touch with S.D. Warren
Co., a top line paper manufacturer, and a deal was struck
to buy paper by the carload. (Of historical interest, Jack
Blackwell was the son of Ed Blackwell of the Cornwall Press,
whose faith in Bill W. and the infant A.A. movement enabled
the Big Book to be printed back in 1939.) Later, C.S.O.
applied the same thinking to direct purchase of the cloth
and cardboard for book covers. Eventually, in 1978, Robert
Cubelo was given the responsibility for letting printing
contracts and purchasing publishing materials. In 1985,
in this capacity, he spent about $2,500,000 of A.A. money—which,
of course, was immediately recovered from literature sales
and again recycled.
with the growth of A.A., the number of Intergroups and Central
Offices grew to about 400 by 1985, and, with few exceptions,
they stocked A.A. literature and sold it to their supporting
groups. To encourage this, G.S.O.. offered these offices
quantity discounts on top of the regular A.A. discount.
In the late 1960's,, the Los Angeles Central Office, purchasing
for about a dozen other smaller service offices in Southern
California, had become the Fellowship's largest "customer"
of G.S.O. And Carroll A., manager of the L.A.C.O., was unhappy
at delays in receiving his literature orders. He was invited
to New York in 1975 by Bob H. to explore ways of improving
service. As the result of that meeting, arrangements were
made with a warehouse in the Los Angeles area to store A.A.
literature in quantity and transship it. The warehouse was
linked to G.S.O. by teletype. Then, when Carroll or one
of his associated central offices ordered literature by
mail or phone, the order was processed and immediately relayed
to the warehouse which dispatched the shipment by truck,
often the same day.
the system was set up, additional warehouses were established
rapidly in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, New Jersey, Toronto
and Calgary. This network provided fast service to Intergroups
and Central Offices throughout the U.S./Canada. It also
gave birth to an Inventory Control Department at G.S.O,
reporting originally to Charles Columbia, Assistant Controller.
"When A.A. dollars are converted into books and pamphlets,
that inventory still represents A.A. dollars, and must be
accounted for just as carefully," Charles points out. Accounting
for it was complicated as the literature inventory was dispersed
in several printing plants, seven warehouses, and G.S.O.'s
own Shipping Department. Furthermore, each title was depleting
at a different rate in each location. Yet it was absolutely
essential that G.S.O. know far enough in advance that it
was time to revise and reprint each title so that it would
not run out. For if a title had to be back-ordered, the
expense of bookkeeping and handling was prohibitive. So
this was the task of the newly created Inventory Control
1985, with the formation of a Publications Department under
the direction of Vinnie McC., Bob Cubelo was made a part
of that function in charge of purchasing, warehouses and
Accounting Department had grown unwieldy, but under an exceptionally
able manager, John Kirwin, it was divided into sections:
order processing, contributions, research, accounts receivable,
accounts payable, and general ledger. With the advent of
the computer, their methods gradually changed and improved
in efficiency until several times the volume of work could
be handled by two less people.
141 E. 44th St., the files were kept in a few drawers of
a cabinet in the stenographic department, with one clerk
assigned part-time to keep them up to date. There was a
folder for every registered group in the U.S. and Canada,
and folders for every other country were A.A. was found.
There were folders for all the problems and all the subjects
dealt with in correspondence. As the Fellowship grew, the
pieces of paper became a tidal wave that demanded constantly
more room and more woman—hours to cope with it. The
files were also the heart of the office, because they contained
the accumulated A.A. experience to be drawn on for sharing
with those who wrote in for help. After the move to 468
Park Ave., South, Wilma Joseph was detached from the Stenographic
Department, along with her row of file cabinets, and given
space of her own along with independent responsibility as
supervisor of the Files Department. Not long afterward,
the standard steel file cabinets with drawers were replaced
with several tall rows of open file shelves. Drawers were
eliminated and file folders were removed and inserted horizontally—with
a huge increase in file capacity and a huge saving in space.
As time went by, the number of employees in files grew to
four, and in 1984, a quantum leap in efficiency was initiated
with the introduction of a microfiche system. Although it
would take several years to photograph the hundreds of thousands
of letters and documents onto the 4x6" masters of film,
each holding 98 images, it was now possible to reduce the
contents of three open file shelves to less than two inches
of film. And full-size duplicate prints could be made simply,
the staff poured out over 20,000 letters a year, they had
always dictated them into machines (and still do), which
were transcribed in a stenographic pool. The pool system
lasted until the offices were expanded and refurbished in
1980-81. At that time, the Stenographic Department, under
manager Elizabeth Garcia, was reorganized to provide for
an assigned stenographer—in effect, a permanent assistant—for
each staff member, with a back-up of additional stenographers,
typists and clerks. As dramatic improvements in typewriters
were made, new machines were provided for maximum efficiency.
The large output of letters and other typing justified the
addition of memory typewriters in the early '70's, and a
complete word-processing system in 1983.
1974, Staff member Valerie S. resigned to go into religious
work, and Susan C. (later Susan D. and still later Susan
U.) was hired to take her place. The same year, Wilbur S.,
who had served A.A. as its outside auditor of record and
its financial advisor since the very beginning, retired
because of ill health. Fortunately, a former associate in
his firm, Owen J.. Flanagan, who was equally familiar with
A.A., was able to step in and take over. At the time, he
was a member of Hauser, O'Connor & Highland, C.P.A.
's, but later became independent.
1975, a staff member was assigned to serve as Secretary
of the A.A. World Services Board on a rotating basis. Besides
preparing the agenda for the monthly meeting, taking notes
at the meeting and writing and distributing the minutes
afterward, the Secretary was the focal point for requests
from other organizations for permission to use or adapt
A.A.'s Twelve Steps, requests to publish A.A. literature
in other languages, requests to reprint other copyrighted
material in articles or books, and a myriad of other Board
business. Each new Secretary learned "on the job", did things
a bit differently, and sometimes used different file systems
for Board records. Even worse, she often lacked knowledge
and experience that would enable her to screen requests
and prepare them for Board action without re-inventing the
wheel. Therefore, in 1977, Madeline Whitlock (later Madeline
Jordan) was made permanent Secretary of the AAWS Board.
As she grew in experience and competency, the Board authorized
her to correspond as necessary with the petitioners to develop
additional information and obtain agreement with all requirements
before taking the Board's time.
had been widowed when her three children were young, so
she had re-entered the workplace to support them. A stunningly
pretty woman with a head-turning figure, she also possessed
superb secretarial skills. Employed in 1968 at G.S.O. as
Supervisor of the Steno/Clerical Department, she soon discovered
she disliked being the boss. She served variously as recording
secretary of the Conference and of Regional Forums, as well
as AAWS, but her main job was secretary to general managers
Bob H. and Bob P. After Madeline assumed full responsibility
for the secretariat of the AAWS Board, Bob P. opted to join
the rest of the staff in using a dictating machine for his
M., after a record 27 years of service on the A.A. staff,
retired in 1975, and Sarah P. was hired to fill the vacancy.
The following January, Bob H. went on reduced time (four
days a week) but remained Chairman of General Services.
Niles P., Assistant General Manager, resigned and was not
replaced. ("Beloved Niles," as he was nicknamed, had a keen
eye for the talent and temperament needed in G.S.O. staff
members, and had recruited several of them.
great traveler, he was well-known in A.A. abroad, where
he had helped service get started in several countries.
He was a living leprechaun and always a free spirit, and
now he set out by van to visit A.A. friends all over the
U.S. and to adventure as a hotel cook in Florida and a croupier
at a Nevada casino. After two years, he returned to New
York to work as a contract writer for G.S.O. on the biography
of Dr. Bob. He had just completed this job when, after a
courageous battle, he died of cancer in 1980.) At the end
of 1976, Midge M. retired and was replaced as Administrative
Assistant by Frank M. (See below, "Archives") The G.S.O.
open house that fall drew the largest crowd ever, about
500; but four years later, 750 came
veteran staff member, Waneta N., retired in 1977, and the
vacancy was filled by Vincina "Vinnie" M. And at the end
of the year, Bob H. retired from G.S.O., with Bob P. assuming
his title of chairman of General Services. Bob H.'s departing
gift from the Conference was especially appropriate: a whimsical
bronze statue of Don Quixote, spear in hand, mounted on
a spavined nag. Not only did Bob H. resemble Don Quixote
physically, but his remarkable 24 years of service to Alcoholics
Anonymous had been a "quest for the farthest star."
York City underwent a severe financial crisis in the mid¬1970's.
Fiscal mismanagement had brought the metropolis to the brink
of bankruptcy. The infrastructure had deteriorated, there
was rumor that essential fire, police and sanitation services
might be curtailed, and a mood of pessimism prevailed. The
A.A. World Services Board of Directors deemed it prudent
to authorize a study of the feasibility of moving the General
Service Office to another location.
Fantus Company, consultants in corporate relocation, was
hired to conduct the study. They were given four arbitrarily
chosen, hypothetical places for the purpose of investigating
costs: Chicago, Kansas City, Tulsa and Denver. (Other East
Coast, Pacific Coast or Canadian areas were ruled out as
not offering the possible advantages of a more central location.)
Fantus made a detailed report in early 1977 which showed
that substantial savings would result in the long run from
placing G.S.O. in a central location. Interestingly, however,
the cost of alternate office space was not a significant
factor, due to the relatively low rent of the 468 quarters.
Offsetting the savings was the large expense of moving the
office and the key personnel, and severance provisions which
would have to be made for those unable or unwilling to make
the move, or those fired and left behind. These expenses
would take between five and eight years to recoup.
most convincing consideration was the realization that the
greatest asset of G.S.O. was the accumulated and combined
experience of the staff members, reflecting the experience
of Alcoholics Anonymous passed along from person to person.
And many of the staff members declined to leave New York,
so their experience would be completely lost. The Grapevine
said that the creative environment of New York and the proximity
of its graphic production services were essential to its
operation. New York is the center of the publishing world,
declared the Grapevine Board, and we would be opposed to
any move. Also, plaintive objections were heard from overseas
A.A. members. They looked forward to visiting G.S.O. when
they came to New York—but their trips, they said,
would never take them to Kansas City or Denver.
all factors were weighed, The AAWS Board recommended to
the General Service Board that "it would not be in the best
interests of the Fellowship to move G.S.O. at this time."
The Trustees agreed and so did the 1977 General Service
Conference. A couple of Delegates, however, felt that not
enough consideration had been given to this action (at least,
not by them) and so the matter was placed on the agenda
of the 1978 Conference. After Delegates in the minority
had made presentations of their views, the Conference reaffirmed
the 1977 action.
an A.A. trip to San Francisco in 1977, Cora Louise B. had
met Lois F. a teacher who was active in A.A. service in
the Northern Coastal Area. She recommended her as a promising
candidate for a staff member, so the General Manager interviewed
her on his next trip to California and she was invited to
New York. She became a staff member in January 1978. Mary
Ellen U., who had married and become Mary Ellen W., left
G.S.O. in 1978 to join her husband in retirement. Helen
T. was hired to fill the opening. When Cora Louise B. retired
a year later, two new staff members joined the office: Lyla
B., then Alternate Delegate from Alaska; and Curtis M.,
another teacher who had served at the New York Intergroup.
Bill W., in 1962, wrote in Concept XI his opinion that men
staff members could not "possibly relate themselves so uniquely
and so effectively to our Fellowship as women." But in 1980
this chauvinistic attitude was no longer acceptable, and
discrimination on the basis of sex was illegal. So Curtis
broke the gender barrier as the first male staff member
1980, then, the A.A. administrative and staff personnel
were: Bob P., general manager; Frank M., Administrative
Assistant; Lyla B., Susan D., Lois F., Beth K., Betty L.,
Phyllis M., Vinnie M., Curtis M., Sarah P., June R. and
the Delegates had visited the office as part of the 1979
Conference week, the made a spontaneous and exuberant recommendation
from the floor that "when G.S.O. and Grapevine offices are
expanded, the offices be modernized and the appearance of
the reception area and office as a whole be vastly improved."
this carte blanche, the General Service Board authorized
AAWS to sign a new ten year lease on 25% more space—an
additional floor—at 468 and 470 Park Ave., So., at
very favorable terms since the New York real estate market
was in a temporary down-turn. The firm of Sherburne Associates
was engaged for the internal architectural work, with Larry
O'Neill the resident architect. The first step was to interview
every manager with a view to projecting their space needs
for the next decade, given a normal growth rate for the
Fellowship. Then the work flow between departments was studied.
The resulting plan was for the A.A. staff and supporting
steno/clerical services to move from the sixth to the eighth
floor, where a large and beautifully appointed reception
area was provided along with an employees' lounge and staff
lounge. Access was cut through on the same floor into the
470 building to be occupied by the nonalcoholic administrative
people in offices fronting on Park Ave., the bulk of the
floor accommodating the accounting, data processing, records,
files and inventory control departments. The computer was
housed in a separate, climate-controlled room. The sixth
floor on the 468 side was devoted entirely to the shipping
& receiving department and the mail department, plus
a storage room. The Archives moved into much larger quarters
on the fifth floor, which also held spacious and handsomely
furnished conference room to be used for board meetings,
staff meetings, committee meetings, and sometimes for employee
meetings and parties. The Grapevine offices occupied the
remainder of the fifth floor.
had to keep operating throughout the expansion, reconstruction
and renovation, making it a logistical nightmare. Delays
were encountered in obtaining the 470 space, and when the
estimates for work came in over budget, changes had to be
made in the specifications and design. Demolition of the
old partitions commenced in May 1981, and work continued
over the next year. The end result, however, fulfilled the
most sanguine expectations of the Conference.
office sustained three losses in 1983. Nell Wing retired
January 1 after 35 years' extraordinary service. June R.
died May 4. The first black staff member, June was a devoted
worker with sly and hilarious sense of humor. Her imitation
of black patois and her gift for mimicry lightened up staff
meetings for years. After serving as secretary of the Fifth
World Service Meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in October 1978,
June had a heart operation from which she never fully recovered.
And September 1, Beth K., the senior staff member with 24
years behind her, called it a day. She continued to be on
call, often coming in for half a day per week to handle
a backlog of correspondence.
the end of 1983, Eileen G., a diminutive, dynamic young
woman with an accent reminiscent of her native England,
joined the staff. Soon afterward, Vicente H. was brought
from Los Angeles to handle services to Spanish-speaking
A.A. community, as was mentioned earlier. The final new
staff member to round out the roster as it existed in 1985
was Cheryl Ann B., from Florida, who was hired in mid-'84.
the example set by his predecessor, Bob P. had informed
the General Service Board in July 1983 that he intended
to retire in February 1987 upon reaching 70. As he had managed
G.S.O. for eight years without an assistant, he was beginning
to feel the strain, and requested the Board to select a
replacement as soon as convenient, to provide a maximum
overlap. John B. was chosen (See Chap. 2) and began work
at G.S.O. May 1, 1984. After a three-months' orientation
period, he took over as General Manager August 1, with Bob
retaining overall responsibility as Chairman of General
Services. Immediately following the 50th Anniversary International
Convention in July 1985, of which he was Chairman (See Chap.
22), Bob relinquished all administrative and managerial
responsibility to John, remaining on as Senior Advisor until
his scheduled retirement 19 months later.
Bob's slightly more than a decade in the general manager's
chair, Alcoholics Anonymous grew phenomenally. The number
of regular groups in U.S./Canada increased from 16,875 to
38,285, and all aspects of G.S.O. operations had increased
accordingly. Gross sales of literature had skyrocketed from
$1,346,800 to $7,251,200; and contributions from $749,500
to $2,378,800. The number of Big Books distributed annually
had soared from 137,500 to 696,300; and pamphlets from 3,846,000
the decade, G.S.O.'s operating budget also increased dramatically,
from $1,360,000 to $5,626,000 - but more than half of that
was due to inflation. Bob was proud of the fact that the
number of employees at G.S.O. had increased only from 72
in 1975 to 99 in 1985. To accomplish this, he had overseen
a revolution in office procedures (as described earlier
in this chapter) and the introduction of modern business
technology: computer, assembly-line, microfiche, word-processing
and many other innovations.
a management philosophy," Bob said, "I believe in maximum
delegation. I try to create a spirit and an environment
which will every person to give his best." Delegates remember
him for his apparent patience and serenity while presiding
at difficult and contentious Conference sessions. But he
will perhaps be most remembered for taking G.S.O. to the
Fellowship. He did much to eliminate the feeling of "them
and us" that had prevailed before, as he traveled extensively
and tirelessly to A.A. events. He also took A.A. abroad,
establishing lines of communication with the Fellowship
in. other countries. He once estimated that up to a quarter
of his correspondence was devoted to overseas matters.
A A Archives
we saw above (pp. XX-XX), the beginnings of the A.A Archives
go back to the time the little Editorial & Research
Committee was formed and moved to space adjoining the Shipping
Department at 305 East 45th. And all the old files and records
from the Headquarters office had been moved to the same
location in boxes stacked to the ceiling. In Bill's plan,
one project of the committee was to be the writing of a
history of A.A. Although this was dropped when Bill was
almost incapacitated by depression, Bill admonished Nell
Wing, "Now, Nell, give what time you can to getting all
this stuff in order. It's got to be preserved." (Actually
Bill had asked Lois W. to preserve records as far back as
the late 1930's, and she had filed away letters, photos,
magazine articles, newspaper clippings, etc.—copies
of which she later shared with the G.S.O. Archives.)
had some underlying reasons for his intense interest in
archival matters, beyond that expressed in A.A. Comes of
Age namely, so that "the basic facts of A. A. 's growth
and development never can become distorted." By 1955, the
facts were already being distorted by Clarence S. and other
oldtimers who were attempting to undermine Bill's place
in A.A.'s history. So Bill wanted the records available.
Also Bill was visionary; he saw the sweep and scope of the
Fellowship he had helped found and foresaw its significance
as a social movement to be studied by future historians.
there is still another reason for the importance of the
Archives to every member of Alcoholics Anonymous. As A.A.
grows only by a sober A.A. member "passing it on" to a still-suffering
alcoholic, every A.A. alive traces his sobriety back through
his sponsor and his sponsor's sponsor and so on back to
the founders themselves! Thus the Archives acquire a personal
significance to each individual: without the beginnings
which he sees preserved and symbolized there, he would not
be alive. No wonder many visitors tear up or have difficulty
speaking as they gaze around the exhibits in the Archives.
started thus in the late '50's and continued through the'60's:
"When I sent out Bill's letters to Tom S. [in Florida) or
whoever, I remember writing notes on them, 'Save the history
records in your area because we're going to put these together
in an Archive.' I did a lot of that. In our big room over
at 305, I was not only weeding out group files and the old
office files, but I also had the Conference reports all
together, I had the Exchange Bulletins all together, I had
the Grapevines all together, I had Bill's records all together,
and many other categories. I was eager to get on with it,
but I had so many other things to do." This was corrected
in 1968. Bob H., the new general manager, assigned Nell
to the Archives full, time except for her duties as secretary
to Bill, who was coming to the office less frequently now.
the move to Park Avenue, South, Nell and the archival records
shared a big room with Bill. After Bill died, the room was
partitioned into two offices, and Nell was moved across
the hall. She reported to Midge H., then administrative
assistant to the general manager. In 1973, the creation
of an Archives as part of G.S.O., was officially announced,
and it was given its own space on the newly-leased eighth
floor. A large sunny room with pale blue walls and pumpkin-colored
chairs was flanked by a small, well-secured storage room.
A professional librarian, Edith Klein, was employed as a
consultant to help Nell organize the material.
make policy decisions a Trustees' Archives Committee was
formed consisting of General Service Trustee George C.,
Chairman; Rev. Lee A. Belford of New York University; Class
A. Trustee Milton Maxwell; and Midge H., Secretary. The
committee saw the function of the Archives as insuring that
"myth does not predominate over fact" in A.A. history. They
immediately set to work to classify the historical material
and to develop guidelines governing the right of access.
They were also concerned with the preservation of the truly
priceless mementos and authorized microfilming such material
as original correspondence between Bill and Dr. Bob. States,
provinces and areas were encouraged to write their own histories
and supply copies of historical documents to the Archives
committee-at-large was created to help assemble this kind
of material from the Fellowship. It was headed by past-Trustee
Tom S., who, from the beginning, had urged Bill to take
this step. Tom wrote 175 old-timers asking them to send
in their recollections.
opening ceremonies were held immediately following the meeting
of the General Service Board on November 3, 1975. Chairman
George C. presided and Lois W., Dr. Jack Norris, and Tom
S. all made brief remarks. "I'll never again hear the words
'labor of love' without thinking of Nell," said George.
Lois and Tom did the honors in cutting a blue ribbon to
symbolize the availability of the Archives. The ceremony
was photographed, but after the food and coffee were served,
the assembled group had their big laugh of the day. It was
suddenly realized that no one had taped for posterity the
remarks at the ceremonial opening of the Archives!
provide Nell with much-needed help and back-up, Harriet
C. was employed beginning in 1975. Harriet was an elderly
lady from a good social background who ostensibly worked
on a part-time basis to avoid exceeding her earnings limit
under Social Security, but as she lived alone and became
absolutely devoted to the Archives and to Nell, she could
be found there most of the time. This team was augmented
and later succeeded by a succession of archival clerks over
the years. When Midge M. retired in 1976, Frank M. was employed
to replace her as Administrative Assistant, with responsibility
for the A.A. Directories and the Archives, among other duties.
Frank, a tall, rather intense A.A. from New York, with a
background in pharmaceutical advertising, took a special
interest in the Archives. Nell Wing retired at the end of
1982, after 35 years of service to Bill, to G.S.O. and to
A.A.—a rather long tenure for someone who came there
only temporarily!—and was kept on as a consultant
to the Trustees' Archives Committee until after 1985. Frank
M. became Archivist at the beginning of 1983.
the Archives Committee, George G., who had played such a
key role in establishing the Archives, was succeeded as
Chairman in 1977 by Milton Maxwell; but by invitation he
remained on the committee until his rotation from the Board,
when he became a kind of consultant-emeritus. During that
year, a three—category system of classification of
material was defined and implemented. Upon Dr. Maxwell's
election to Chairman of the General Service Board the following
year, he appointed Southwestern Regional Trustee Mike R.
to take his place as Archives Chairman. Mike felt that since
relatively few members of the Fellowship would ever visit
the Archives, a way should be found to take the priceless
artifacts in the Archives out to them. And so he pushed
for a filmstrip to be made, which was completed in 1979
with the title, Markings on a Journey, and presented to
the 1980 Conference which gave it enthusiastic approval.
It was presented to the Fellowship at large at the International
Convention in New Orleans and has been in general use ever
since. Also under Mike R.'s leadership, a program of preservation
was begun, in which the one-of-a-kind documents were repaired,
restored, treated chemically to prevent further deterioration
and encased in transparent mylar for permanent protection
and availability. Other Trustees serving as Archives Chairmen
through 1985 have been Fernand I., Al H. and Garrett T.
the 1980 International Convention, an Archives Workshop
was part of the program for the first time. It was very
well attended, and four panelists from other parts of the
country (Washington State, Southern California, South Florida
and Western Massachusetts) shared their experience in setting
up local archives. As a result of the workshop, an archival
newsletter entitled "Markings" was inaugurated in 1981 and
has been published at irregular intervals since then. By
1985, almost every state, province and area—and many
countries overseas—had some kind of archives. A huge
Archives Workshop held as part of the Montreal Convention
drew an overflow crowd. Chaired by Garrett T., it featured
talks by Ruth Hock, Dr. Jack Norris and Mike R. with marvelous
and moving participation by oldtimers in the audience.