Alcoholics Anonymous History In Your Area
Aiken, South Carolina
Aiken Central Group of Alcoholics Anonymous
Aiken, S.C., incorporated on December 19th, 1835, became a health resort at the turn of the century and was highly influenced by the “winter colony” for the next 50 years. The “winter colony” were wealthy people who lived in the North during the summer but made their homes in Aiken from Thanksgiving to Easter.
A housekeeper for one of these winter residents had sobered up in the North and when coming to Aiken for the winter of 1946-47 sought out alcoholics who might help her stay sober. She found a few in Aiken and with the help of an A.A. group in Augusta, meetings were started in the parish house of St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church on Pendleton Street.
One of the earlier Aiken members, Rudolph B., had given a house to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church several years before for use as a parsonage. In 1948 and 1949, A.A. meetings were held in St. Paul’s wooden educational building on Pendleton Street.
An alcoholic from Graniteville, Bill T., had heard about A.A. from his brother, who had moved North and found sobriety. He suggested that Bill seek out A.A. and give it a try.
Bill went to his first A.A. meeting at St. Paul’s on March 24th, 1948, and exactly a year later became the first member to celebrate a year of continuous sobriety. That night he sat alone in the meeting place for some time, wondering if there would be a meeting, for no one else appeared.
Then, his wife Vera came in, then his children, and other relatives, and finally, A.A. members from both Aiken and Augusta. It was a surprise party which the family has never forgotten. Bill never took another drink for the rest of his life. He died in 1974 after “26 years of wonderful sobriety”, as his family puts it.
Other members in Aiken didn’t fare as well as Bill, as one by one they succumbed to John Barleycorn. Meetings were discontinued late in 1949 and Bill began meeting with A.A. members from Augusta.
In 1950, construction of the massive Savannah River Plant began, and with it came thousands and thousands of new people to the Aiken area. As former A.A. members sobered up and new members arrived, A.A. meetings were again resumed at the original location in St. Thaddeus’s parish house. Meetings have been held continuously ever since.
Later in 1950, another member, Bert W., offered the second floor of a building he owned on Laurens Street for use as a meeting place for the A.A. group. It housed the Jones Electric & Gas Company on the first floor and basement and had two apartments and a large meeting room on the second floor. Weekly meetings were continued at this location until one cold Monday night — January 26th, 1953, when a strong odor of gas in the building caused the A.A. meeting to be called off.
At 8:30 the next morning the owner’s son, Jimmy J., turned on the exhaust fan to remove the fumes. An explosion resulted. Jimmy was thrown from the building but survived. Others in the building were less fortunate, as they died in the blast and ensuing fire. In addition to the Jones Electric building, the fire also leveled the adjacent R.W. McCreary’s Dry Goods Store, the W.J. Platt Drug Store, the Diana Shop, and the Liles Drug Company. Windows were broken in buildings in an area of four square blocks.
St. Mary’s Help of Christians Catholic Church on Park Avenue offered its recreational building as temporary quarters for the A.A. group. Later in 1953, the group leased a basement area in the Bank of Greenwood (later the State Bank and Trust Company) on Laurens Street. The basement area was made into a club-like atmosphere and meetings were held there until 1965.
From two meetings a week in 1965 the number has grown to 21 meetings a week today, including three Al-Anon meetings.
In 1966, The Aiken Central Group, as it is officially called, welcomed a new member who had recently returned to Aiken, Frank S. He had been the 64th member of the original members of Alcoholics Anonymous. He remained a member until his death on November 21, 1973. His 1965 automobile license from the state of Ohio, “AA-64”, is still displayed in the clubhouse.
In 1995, the “Recovery Incorporated Club,” was formed with its 9-member board of directors, new by-laws, and club rules.
Copyright © February 2002 Area 62 of Alcoholics Anonymous, K.I.T. Newsletter