According to Milton McC. (Traditions; 43 years), the largest Memphis groups in the early-to-mid 1970's were Central, Collierville, Family Fellowship, Frayser, Memphis, and Whitehaven.
At that time, a higher percentage of groups had dedicated meeting places or met at clubhouse facilities. Unlike today, most Alanon meetings were in close proximity to AA meetings, so the extra space was needed. There was a higher overall level of family involvement and activities associated with the fellowship. Saturday speaker meetings often featured what was known as a “couple's share.”
The Action Club at 571 Malcomb was a locus of activity. As a former church, the layout was interesting and the former sanctuary and stage lent themselves nicely to AA meetings and activities. Bingo tournaments were held every Friday and Saturday night. A well-attended dance took place on Saturday, for which many of the AA's dressed in their finest and were regaled with “Johnny Be Good” seemingly every third dance. The Club was open all day on Saturday and Sunday. Three AA groups met there: The Family Group, The Memphis Group, and The Young People's Group – complemented by a number of Alanon, Alateen, and Alatot meetings.
After a few year hiatus in the mid-to-late 1960's, Memphis's arguably oldest group (Central) was re-formed in 1970, largely by older-time members of the Paramount Group who had become increasingly disenchanted with the level of card playing activity in the clubhouse in the former Paramount Dance Studio at 1474Madison. Irene Redmund, who had the most sobriety of any woman in Tennessee at the time, was one of the founders. As was KittyLu A. Although not a founder, Bud Rose was involved in the early stages. In addition to being a hard worker and solid organizer, Rose was known for his carpentry and reupholstery skills that translated into well-designed, well-appointed, and comfortable AA meeting places. Another founder, artist Clara Steverson, hand painted the floor-to-ceiling steps and traditions that remain on the Central Group's wall to this day on Forest Avenue. The meeting place at 663 South Rembert was a lovely two-story former market with big glass windows and a unique look-and-feel to it. The literature was stored in the former meat locker.
Seeing the need for a noon meeting that would be convenient for professionals, an attorney in 1973 started the Tower Meeting in a rented office directly across from the elevator on the top floor (31st) of the Clark Tower. Before then, Central Group held the only noon meeting in the Memphis area. From the 1940s until the early 1970s, AA meetings in Memphis (and around the country) traditionally started at 8:00 PM. The Tower Meeting became so popular so quickly that members felt compelled to lobby building management to dedicate an express elevator to the top floor just for the AA attendees. Although this never materialized – and despite ongoing complaints from other tenants about smoke and elevator congestion – Tower met on the 31st floor until the late 1980s, when it was moved down to the 8th floor. By that time, meetings were held throughout the day seven days a week.
Bud Rose, a past delegate from Florida who had chaired four conventions, moved to Memphis in 1972 and spearheaded the launch of the Bluff City Convention in November, 1975. It was held at the downtown Ramada Inn. The committee'splanning and execution process only took three months. Members were as follows: Bud Rose – Chairman; KittyLu A - Program director; Dale K. – Treasurer; Sid and Shirley F. – Public Information. The local print and television media both publicized the event. It was also mentioned in The Grapevine.
Attendance at Bluff City rose smartly from 147 (paid) in the first year to 280 (paid) in year two and grew to over 1,000 paid attendees in its peak years – large enough to warrant a move to the Cook Convention Center. Ongoing debates rose about the formal name, which ended up being changed numerous times; variants included Memphis Bluff City Fellowship, Bluff City Fellowship, Bluff City Convention, and Memphis Bluff City Convention. The sobriety countdown also became a prime subject for discussion, with the ordering system eventually changed to most-to-least from least-to-most.
By mid-decade, the Area 64 Assembly had enlarged the state structure to twenty from six districts. Shelby County was assigned District 20 and was subdivided into three regions: A, B, and C.
- David C.
2017, MAAC Archivist