Alcoholics Anonymous History In Your Area
THE FIRST OUTREACH IN NORTHERN ILLINOIS
An Illinois 1930s-era college farm town would always have at least one drug store with a soda fountain, penny candy, magazines, newspapers, cigarettes, and of course, a door with a bell at the top that would ring when it was opened or closed…
This description might be just a mythical image of an earlier time, but there is one fact of northern Illinois A.A. history—a particular Dekalb pharmacist was sober in 1939 when the Big Book was first published.
In April of 1940, a letter arrived at the office of the Alcoholic Foundation in New York City: “Alcoholics Anonymous is new to me, and I’m interested to make contacts in this vicinity that I may become a member in good standing.” Perrie S., the pharmacist, wrote that he “read ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ thoroughly and wished to say, that I established myself with a Superior Being by myself, with my own thoughts, during a 28-day leave from business with persons who at that time were in the same fix as myself.”
Ruth Hock, the Foundation office’s secretary, replied within a few days and thanked him for his very sincere letter. She referred him to an “Earl T. and the Chicago membership, and we assure you they will appreciate an opportunity to talk with you.”
The Chicago Group was the nearest A.A. Chapter, over 120 miles east of Dekalb, and Perrie rode the trains into the city many times to attend its meetings. Over the next few years, Perrie and Ruth exchanged letters on a regular basis. Ruth, in different letters from New York, suggested that he contact other new members in nearby Dixon, Sterling, and Rockford.
These towns were home to the 1940s “A.A. Loners” who eventually formed the first Groups in northern Illinois. Our pharmacist friend in DeKalb, Perrie S., remains the earliest correspondent of record.
Delegate Area 20 Historian, Algonquin, Illinois, August 2002.
Note: Quotes are used with the permission of the A.A. Archives at the General Service Office in NYC.