My Recent Trip to Where it All Started: Akron, Ohio – Part 1 (The Archives)

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My Recent Trip to Where it All Started: Akron, Ohio – Part 1 (The Archives)

I recently took a trip to my home state of Ohio. I was on a mission for a few things. Making amends, visiting my family, escaping the Vegas heat- to name a few. I also had another big mission on my radar. Call me the James Bond of planning because I had a BIG ONE in store! Akron. I wanted to pay a visit to the home of Doctor Bob, visit the Mayflower hotel, tour the Akron archives, scope out intergroup- and top it off with a meeting to conclude my evening. Well, I can proudly say that my mission was a fantastic success. I’m here to report (mostly) about my AA adventure. However, you may get a randomly placed picture of my beloved grandmother in here somewhere. Without further ado, this is how it all shook out.

Getting close now…

Our first stop was to intergroup. We called in advance and spoke with some really awesome people over the phone so they could plan for our arrival (a bit self centered?). When we pulled up, we actually arrived at the back door which had a full size painting of the cover of the 4th edition on it. Fooled by it’s life saving goodness, we assumed it was the front door. We were wrong. We knocked… and knocked… and knocked some more. After a solid 10 minutes of anticipation, we finally connected the dots that it was in fact, the back door.

This is that magnificent (and somewhat misleading) door.
Yes, we tried to open the door. We failed. 🙁

After a leisurely stroll through the grass around to the front of the building, we found how to enter!

The famous work of art now titled, “The Man on the Bed”

Quick history for anyone that is interested, this painting was created by stain glass and different visitors from all over the world actually got the chance to cut one piece of glass and have it contributed to the whole. What a cool concept! Even if they had NO experience working with stain glass, the friendly people at the Akron AA Archives assisted them in getting their piece all set to be placed in this beautiful piece of stain glass. Do you know about Bill Dotson? If you do – post a comment on this article sharing what history you know. I would love to read about it!

Book, books, and more BOOKS!
A look inside!

Okay, so to be perfectly transparent- intergroup turned out to be exactly how I anticipated it. Lots of books and literature, a few people sitting behind a desk, and material to make the meetings tick. Shocker. But I did find some really cool pieces of literature that you don’t normally find at central offices! Like this next book for example:

Literally titled: “The Book That Started It All” – it is a collection of copies of the notes, rough drafts, and different memo’s that was the backbone to the modern big book that we know today. The price tag was a big high on this one, but if you’ve got the coin, it’s worth the buy.

Upon our arrival, we were happily met by the head archivist at the Akron AA archives. His name is Jim. First off, let me say what a blessing it truly is to be able to go anywhere in the world and still have a family and a home when your a member of AA. Jim treated us like old friends. He explained everything and gave us the full service tour from a deeply passionate place in his heart.

The man, the myth, the legend.

The first part of the tour through the archives (which lives in a connected building to intergroup) was to admire this stain glass painting I mentioned earlier. At first, I could not understand why Jim talked about it for a solid 30 minutes. It wasn’t until after came back home to Vegas that it started to make sense. There are some really deep principles that are embedded in the not only the origin of this piece of art, but the history and spirit that lives with it. Notice the four absolutes that are in this. Bonus points if you can drop a comment talking about the origin of the four absolutes!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Or, at least four words in this particular instance.
Flying Blind and the Four Absolutes

Next in our tour, we visited each display. Labeled A-Z, and making a it’s way down the hall- the feeling we get of being a small part of the greater whole really set it. Needless to say, it made the hair on my neck stand the entire time.

A letter to Bill Dotson from Bill Wilson himself in December of 1953.
“They have it typed up over there somewhere”

The first stretch of hallway at intergroup displayed the big book in many different language. While it’s known that our book was translated into tons of languages- and our program is world wide, it’s daunting to see all of this first hand. It’s not just American’s getting sober across this Earth. The only requirement is the desire to stop drinking.

History and a good book. Anyone with me?
This clip pretty much sums up our feelings of the entire trip!

We were also encouraged to drop a pin on the map where we got sober at! How cool is this?! +2 pins to Las Vegas!

This is my “intense pin dropping face”
We left our mark!
Exhibit A: “Love and Service”
Exhibit B: “Vermont – Birthplace of our Co-Founders”
Exhibit C: “Oxford Group”

I should probably stop right here for a brief moment. If you’ve made it this far in my blog then surely you remember me mentioning an unrelated picture of two? No? Remember those pictures of grandma that I promised you all? Here you go! This lovely young woman in the middle is about to promptly get her rear handed to her in a game of scrabble! 😀 (provided she doesn’t try to hide tiles in her lap! Sorry Grandma! I had to do it!)

This is Grandma Ruth!

Okay, that was a nice little intermission- now, back to business!

Exhibit D: “The Mayflower Hotel” Part 1

You can click the image above and zoom in to see the headlines, in case that’s a little more effort than your willing to put forth, I will summarize the content here. Headlines read: “Firestone Returns From Winter Trip”, “Oxford Group’s Plans Studied”, “Akron Greets Oxford Group Leaders, ‘Modern Dress’ Evangelistic Party”, “Buchman’s Party Warmly Welcomed”, “Members of Society Welcome Dr. Buchman”. There is a TON of AA early history packed into here. Do you know why the Mayflower hotel is significant? I would LOVE to hear your history in the comments below.

Exhibit G: “Spring, 1935”

Exhibit G displayed a portrait of Henrietta Buckler Seiberling. She was the woman who put Bill Wilson in touch with Doctor Bob when he was in desperate need of a solution to his drinking problem.

Exhibit H: “The Mayflower Hotel” Part 2

The phone hanging on the wall of this exhibit was from the Mayflower hotel itself. When Bill arrived at the hotel, only five months sober, he knew he needed to help people to stay out of his depressive state. He was already learning of the 12th step. He had to give away what was given to him in order to maintain his sobriety. He placed several calls at the Church directory at the hotel on this very phone where eventually he was put in touch with Henrietta Seiberling, who connected Bill to Bob.

Exhibit I: “Stan Hywet”

Known as “The Gate House”. On May 12, 1935, Bill W, a New York stock analyst met Dr. Bob- an Akron physician at the gatehouse of the Seiberling mansion in Akron, Ohio. Both men were alcoholics who had unsuccessfully tried to stay sober on their own. During that meeting, they discovered they could stay sober with each others help. This meeting turned out to be one of the founding moments of Alcoholics Anonymous which has became the greatest spiritual movement of the twentieth century.

“District AA’s in Session”
Headline: “AA – National Organization Without officers and Due’s”

If you look really close and zoom in on this photo (you can click on the picture to blow it up) you can see the outlined principles of AA in the article. What an interesting read this was. Stunning piece of history right before my eyes.

Original manuscript for the Big Book. Leather bound & gilded copy passed down from Dr. Bob
How to Listen – by the Oxford Group
“Suggestions to For Improving Our Thinking” PART 1
“Suggestions to For Improving Our Thinking” PART 2
“Suggestions to For Improving Our Thinking” PART 3
“Suggestions to For Improving Our Thinking” PART 4

This next image is really cool. It’s a record from Charles B. Towns Hospital at 293 Central Park W. New York, NY. This documents Bill’s hospital visit he made in 1934 when he was 38 years of age. He was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 17th, 1934 at 5:00PM. This is really special, because that incredible story we read about in the first chapter of the 4th edition of the big book was likely based on this exact event in history.

Towns Hospital Admittance Slip of Bill Wilson in 1934
Having a little rest in some of the original chairs that were preserved from the Mayflower Hotel.
Have you ever seen the steps laid out this way? I hadn’t before I saw this! JAW DROPPER!

2 Responses

  1. David Walters says:

    Thank you so much Andrew. You did a wonderful job. I’m grateful you’re my friend. What an excellent presentation. This makes me want to go back there and see where everything started in Akron Ohio.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Make my day even more blessed as a sober woman with this wonderful entry–AA, Dr Bob, Bill W and you, Andrew. Many Blessings, Bea. AA Santa Fe NM

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