Alcoholics Anonymous History In Your Area
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1170 Yonge Street—Toronto’s Early AA Refuge
Joe C., 55 years sober, remembers 1170 Yonge Street vividly, “across from Summerhill station liquor store.” Formerly of the Willowdale Group, Joe now attends the Sunday Morning Men’s Meeting. He remains active as a certified (Minnesota) Addiction Counselor.
“1170 was our only social gathering place and safety net between 1944 and 1949,” Joe reports. “Alcoholics were totally ostracized: hated by police, the medical profession, and our families. We concentrated on our 12 Steps and Big Book, clinging together. 1170 brought us joy because we had a place to go.
“We clung to each other: 15 of Canada’s 25 AAs. Every evening I went to 1170, afraid I’d drink. A greasy spoon nearby was friendly to us. Also, a MacPherson Avenue boarding house always saved a bed for someone desperate.
“The 1944 monthly rent was $50 – Bruce M. always paid the difference personally if our donations were insufficient.
“Today, speakers select spectacular drunkalogue anecdotes. Feelings are important, how one manages to overcome fears and anxieties. Once, I hadn’t seen a show in six months. I reached the box office, bought my ticket, then returned to 1170, feeling in jeopardy – only 1170 was safe. Meetings were Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, always open, permanent coffee.”
Joe remembers that during 1944-49, 1170 was both office and social address. “In 1949 0 actually signaling AA’s healthy expansion in society – some of us left 1170, called ‘deserters’, for meetings in St. James Cathedral parish hall. We’d played cards at 1170, then the office became York, Bay, Gerrard Street, and so on.
“My sponsor, Freddy A., the most God-loving atheist I ever met, was always there to greet, answer phones, sponsor, never thinking of payment for his limitless desire to serve.
“We men in 1946 felt we could get away with anything, even arrogance with our first woman AA, Dorothy P., as if her stigma could be worse than ours. How can new AAs imagine the climate of those early AA days?”
Copyright © October 2002, Better Times, GTA Intergroup, Toronto, Canada