THE CENTRAL GROUP 1944 - Present
Listen to the oral history of the Central Group below:
THE CENTRAL GROUP was formed in 1944 and was the first group to receive an official group # from the general service office in new york city, ny.
May 26, 1941
Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Ellen B., write a letter to the Ruth Hock at The Alcoholic Foundation requesting a copy of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. While they were not Alcoholic themselves, they wanted to remain Anonymous and help Alcoholics recover. Ruth Hock stayed in touch with the Anonymous Couple through letter writing and would send any Memphis inquiries their way. They resided at 1498 Goodbar.
Memphis was listed in the General Service Office as having “One Contact, No Group”
Jan 20, 1944
The first AA meeting in Memphis was founded by traveling salesmen from Birmingham Alabama who were members of the Five Points Group there. That Birmingham group still meets today. These men were Harry Huckstop, Wally Hartsfield, and Warren Clower. They were joined by Dr. Ed Thorne from Holly Springs, MS. This meeting was held in the basement of the Peabody Hotel Jan 20, 1944.
These Meeting Continued every Friday Night until The Alcan Club opened. A Second meeting would take place at The YMCA Downtown in the Spring of 1944.
May 17, 1944
The first correspondence with the group is dated May 17, 1944. Wally H. wrote with Bobby B., secretary at the Alcoholic Foundation, with:
I have rarely heard of a finer start than this group has had. Memphis was ready and waiting for some one to start the ball rolling. Harry H. and Warren C. have been as helpful as possible and the result is a group of 20-odd established with the blessing of the city’s leaders. (To say nothing of the alcoholics) We are meeting regularly each Friday night at the Chamber of Commerce in the basement of The Peabody Hotel. Many of us will journey down to Birmingham to see and meet Bill on his visit to that city.
June 26, 1944
The next correspondence is a group information sheet dated June 26, 1944. The group had 26 members who met at the Y.M.C.A. on Fridays. Howard U. was the secretary for the group.
The Central Group holds it’s first Meeting at 152 Madison (Currently The Brass Door) It had 30 Members present. It consisted of Members from both The Peabody Meeting and the YMCA Meeting.
Secretary Oscar M. reports to The Alcoholic Foundation that The Central Group is Memphis' first Alcan Clubhouse and has 150 Members. The Clubhouse was called The Central Group Meeting Rooms. In the early days, AA Clubhouses Nationwide used the name Alcan Clubs, derived from our Fellowships name:
January 17, 1946
Charles L., of the group, wrote to Bill W. on January 17, 1946.
It has been our custom since the early beginning of the group to hold open meetings of the group every four to eight weeks. At these meetings our membership has been privileged to invite their families, doctors, ministers, or other having a direct and personal interest in the members of the group. These meetings have undoubtedly been a very strengthening thing for our group and to hold them we have secured excellent speakers from the groups in other cities and this has of course added interest and helped to keep our group rejuvenated. We have found them a great inspiration, and they are the only “open” A.A. meetings we have.
September 19th, 1947
The Central Group is host to The Southeast Conference and invites Bill Wilson to Memphis where he introduces the Long Form of AA’s 12 Traditions, known then as “Twelve Points to assure our Future”
The Central Group of Memphis reaches 225 Members, the largest Membership to date.
December 17th, 1955
The Central Group petitions the Alcoholic Foundation for Group #
January 27th, 1956
The Central Group is issued its Group # 112661, the first Group in Memphis to be issued Group #.
January 27, 1956- In a letter from Charlie to Bill Wilson:
It thanks him for the information in his letter and refers to him as the G.S.R. of the Central Group. This is followed by a letter from Ed P. to the G.S.O. dated February 13, 1957. He wrote that Lois gave a talk at the Southeastern Convention, and mentioned a movie about A.A. in production at that time. According to Ed, Lois mentioned that Bill W. was working on the film. He wants to know when this is going to be released so the groups in the area can be prepared for large numbers of newcomers. G.S.O. responded to Ed P. on February 17, 1957, with a letter. It says that Lois gave that talk in the summer of 1956, while Bill W. was in Hollywood working on the film. They also say that it will probably be an hour long television program, and that G.S.O. will inform the groups about it when it is ready. The letter also mentions that another A.A. related T.V. program, “One Day at a Time,” which was produced years before this, has been playing.
September 17th, 1956.
The Central Group Meeting Rooms/ Alcan Club originally housed The Area Intergroup .The Central Group and The Area Intergroup Co-Sponsored the first Public Meeting of Intergroup of Memphis.
It was held at the Goodwyn Institute Auditorium. It featured Dr. Will M. of Corsicana Texas.
After The Assembly, Guests were invited back to The Alcan Club for Food and Fellowship.
The Central Group’s first address was on Madison, as well as the P.O. Box- the P.O. Box that is first recognized by GSO in 1944, was Box 1364. It is the same P.O. Box used when The Central Group got its Group #112661 in 1956.
The Memphis Area Intergroup shared the Madison Address from the mid 50’s -1965 with The Central Group.
Issues surrounding card playing and gambling divided the group and it lost many members in the early 60's. A number of the members then formed the Paramount Group up the street at 1484 Madison in the former Paramount Dance Studios. It met the same fate from the same root cause - card playing and gambling - and closed in 1970
The Central Group is listed in Meeting Directories in GSO archives all the way thru 1967. Up until 1965, the address listed is 152 1/2 Madison, 1966 and 1967, no address listed- Contact Person is Charlie L. and Secretary was Willie M. - 1968, 1969 & 1970, no listing for Central at all.
Charlie L. is Charlie Luke - the fifth recorded member for Central Group in 1944. He was a central figure in early Memphis AA and in The Central Group.
The Central Group is defunct during this period. No listings of meetings in GSO Archives. The Central Group will remain inactive for the next three years. Some of the remaining Members attend The Paramount Group which was started by many prior Central Group Members.
The non-gambling oriented members of Paramount Group, reformed the defunct Central Group. Clara Steverson, Irene Redmund, Helen Seely, and Bud Rose were all founding members of note. The new meeting place was at 663 S Rembert, which was a vacant neighborhood grocery store which was owned by Clara Steverson's husband's family. Steverson’s eventually became part of a large chain. Many considered it to be the best group in Memphis at the time and one of the best ever in Memphis. There were two floors, abundant literature was stored in the meat locker, there were big glass windows, a platform with the Chairman's desk, beautiful hand-lettered Steps and Traditions (Clara did this!), beautifully reupholstered furniture (Bud Rose did this, a trade he learned in prison). In 1971, The GSO listing has The Central Group meeting Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at its new location on Rembert. The Central Group resurrected its Group #112661 after a 3 year Hiatus at the G.S.O. on January 8, 1971.Floyd M. was the Contact Person and the mailing address was 663 Rembert. This is coupled with a Group Information Card also dated January 8, 1971. It shows that the Central Group had Floyd M. as a G.S.R. and both Floyd M. and Ann H. as contacts.
March 2, 1972
The last correspondence by written letter from the group is a group information card dated March 2, 1972. Floyd McL. And Ann H. were listed as the contact people for the group. They had 20 members who now meet every day but Thursday. The Meeting Spot was 663 Rembert.