Tonight, April 1st, 1996, is a happy and historic occasion for Alcoholics Anonymous in Guelph and the surrounding area. In observing its 50th A.A. Birthday, anything that might be considered a “long form” account dating back to 1946 will be the work of our dedicated volunteers in the archives. Tonight’s meeting will also form part of our history, and we are pleased to have Joe C. (Willowdale Group) as our honored guest speaker. Joe was very much a part of the picture in the early days of A.A. in Guelph. I can recall one of our oldtimers, Dave P., from Hespeler (South Waterloo Group, Scout House, Preston) mentioning in his talk that Joe was one of the first speakers, if not the first, when the old Guelph Group had its meetings at Homewood. I believe that some simple research would confirm that Dr. Baugh, a longtime friend and supporter of A.A., was director of Homewood at that time. A Sister Isadore from St. Joseph’s Hospital often referred to Dave P. asher bald-headed son and on one occasion, when Dave was being admitted after another battle with John Barleycorn, the only room she had for her son was the flower room.
It is almost impossible to list the many good friends of A.A. in the outside community. These were the doctors, pastors (who allowed us to meet in their churches and to makefull use of their kitchen facilities), hospital staff and yes, even the police! This group had its closed discussion meetings at the downtown police station for a considerable time and their consideration and cooperation is well remembered and appreciated.
In the earlier days, prior to answering services, doors were open in the community for those who were active in Twelfth Stepping. The local Y.M.C.A. building on Quebec Street (Park Mall now) was a residence for many who came to their first meetings, who had no place to call home. This tied in, at the same time, with two other very helpful establishments. One of these was the Minute Lunch, also on Quebec Street, and the dear lady at the City of Guelph Welfare Office, Mrs. Cadwell. She issued lunch tickets to deserving clients and these were honored at Greg’s Minute Lunch. A hot beef sandwich was 45¢ at Greg’s at that time.
One could go on and on with writing down recollections, occurrences, and some very special days and times from our yesterdays and this would be a labor of love. For our special meeting, a “brief” history must, in fairness, be just that.
Our first member in Guelph, Clair McC., brought A.A.here from Toronto. It wasn’t long before he attracted another and then others came. Meetings were held in homes then and our present archivist has material and old members’ cards (with sobriety dates) dating to those early beginnings.
One of the early meeting places was at the “Five Points,” above the tinsmith’s shop on Woolwich Street. The stairs were numbered 1 to 12 going up and at the top was a clock with the 12 letters of our slogan — Remember When. This was the old Alano Club.
For quite a few years the Guelph Group met at Downtown Knox Church. This is where Punchy and so many others came to their first meeting. Reverend D.Crawford Smith was Pastor (and Padre) and was a great friend of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The group had two meetings a week, one open and the other a closed discussion. In later years, the discussion meeting was held at the Delhi St. Rec. Centre. This group evolved into what is now Pathfinders, which meets Sunday mornings at the Homewood.
Many other groups in the area had their roots in the Guelph Group, including Acton Mobile and the old Elora Group (the meeting was across from St. Mary’s R.C. Church, in the little schoolhouse) and those early members and their groups kept very close ties. There was a lot of visiting between Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, i.e. the Highland Road Group and also North Waterloo Group.
One of our members started the inside group (Serenity Seekers) at the Ontario Reformatory, Guelph in 1949. This meeting has been continuous there over the years and the founding member’s widow, Alice (in her 90’s) and the old superintendent’s widow, Greta (in her 80’s) have been honored as guests at the annual one-day Round-Up, which happens every September. These special people are a link, a connection, to where we’ve come from.
There is so much more that will be recorded for those who follow after us. But here we are, by the Grace of God, and mindful of our co-founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob and the great movement that many believe was inspired by a Higher Power.
May we take the liberty of saying that this is a family birthday for all A.A.’s in this area and our deep gratitude goes out to those who walked the walk and had the courage to start A.A. in Guelph, not seeking or desiring recognition of any kind.
Some of us were fortunate enough to share with Joe at the Willowdale Group of A.A. on the occasion of his 50th A.A.birthday last year. Thanks Joe, to you and your dear wife, for carrying the message all those days ago and our heartfelt appreciation for making the trip to share in our 50th tonight.
*Note: The author wrote that since this history was written,”it has become apparent that the Guelph Group was `exported’ here from Toronto and the first meetings began in 1947, so-a year-out.”