“We are trying to build up extensive records which will be of value to a future historian...
“It is highly important that the factual material be placed in our files in such a way that there can be no substantial distortion...
“We want to keep enlarging on this idea for the sake of the full length history to come...”
— Bill W., 1957
The idea for organizing an historical collection of the Fellowship’s records came from A.A. co-founder Bill W. in the early 1950s. Bill was becoming increasingly concerned that “the history of Alcoholics Anonymous is still veiled in the deep fog.” Knowing that the office correspondence was loosely maintained in the drawers at the General Headquarters, he set out to arrange our historical records.
Responsibilities of the Staten Island Archives Committee Chair:
- Collects and preserves historical data that is pertinent to the county area.
- Attends the S.E.N.Y. Archives Chair's Committee meetings.
- Displays archives at all county functions upon request.
- Attends the monthly Staten Island General Services Meeting held on the second Sunday of every month.
Staten Island's place in AA history is intimately linked to the first of the Three Legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous Recovery.Strange as it may seem, the black clouds of a slip gather over Staten Island seven months prior to the actual founding of AA. How did it happen? The year was 1934, the month was November. Bill W., Co-founder of AA, had been sober since September, his latest drying out session at Townes Hospital on Central Park West. Bill's Wall Street office was closed for Armistice Day, but his wife, Lois, was at her job at Loeser’s Department store in Brooklyn. Alone, Bill decided to spend the day golfing at one of Staten Island's many golf courses. Once on the island, he began to chat with a stranger on the bus. At lunch, in a good mood and reminiscing over his experiences in France during World War I, Bill relaxed just enough to pick up a drink. Thus began his last alcoholic binge that lasted until mid-December.You may think that this incident is a dubious distinction for Staten Island. But looking at it another way, Bill's Island golf outing may be viewed as the final turning point from which he finally got the message of recovery and could pass it on to us as our First Legacy. Bill's final drinking days are described in the book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Chapter II, The Three Legacies where he went on to write these now famous words, "Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light." Having had a spiritual experience, his true sobriety began.AA marks its founding date June 10, 1935, the sobriety date of AA number two, Dr. Bob. Yet it wasn't until January or February 1945 that Staten Island's first regular AA group began to meet. The March 7, 1945 edition of the Staten Island Advance headlined an article, "Alcoholics Anonymous . . . has come to Staten Island and has already begun its work quietly and effectively, just as it has in hundreds of other communities . . . the Island group held its first meeting only a few months ago. Within a short time after it began . . . eight Islanders—six men and two women—have been helped." That first group, called the St George Group, initially met at midday in Borough Hall to accommodate office workers in the area.We owe a vote of gratitude to many alcoholics who were very instrumental in helping us. They added a measure of credibility to AA's program of recovery during an era when public opinion concerning alcoholism was low. For Staten Island, one such friend was Father James Griffin, Pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Tompkinsville. The priest helped found the first group, lent an encouraging hand, and spread the favorable reputation of AA among community leaders. Griffin had been a chaplain at Queen General Hospital. It was there he began to help suffering alcoholics. An Island drinker went to him for help and this effort was the seed for our first regular AA group.Prior to that, Islanders introduced to AA in Manhattan or Brooklyn held meetings in private homes. We even had an active PI (Public Information) Committee in the early forties. A few newspaper articles carried comments about Box 301, a Twelfth Step P.O. Box at the St George Post Office. This apparently was a way for Island AA's to reach out to active drinkers and their families before the Intergroup 12th Step phone lines were established.By 1946, New York Intergroup's first meeting list carried a Wednesday, 8:30 pm meeting at the SI Institute of the Arts & Science in St George. In 1947 and 1948 two new groups were listed. Of all the groups in existence today, only one can trace its beginnings to the 1940's. The Sunnyside group was founded in February 1949 at St Theresa's Church in the Sunnyside section of Staten Island. In those days the group met Tuesday and Friday nights; today, it meets at Moore Catholic High School, Graniteville, Sunday and Wednesday evenings.Our next still existing group, the Great Kills group, was founded September 6, 1952. At the time The Staten Island Advance reported that it was the sixth Island "Unit," the 161st in the New York Metropolitan area and the 4511th in the World. The group held its meeting on Saturdays and Monday nights. So by 1952 we had at least one AA meeting each night of the week. Amazingly this group still meets on the same days. The congregation built a new church in 1952. AA was invited to meet in their new parish hall beneath the church; we continue to meet there—that's 46 years at this writing—a truly awesome relationship.During the ensuing years, Staten Island AA chugged steadily uphill like "the little locomotive that could." By the early eighties, pursuing the legacy of service, the SI area General Service Meeting was formed. Since then it has grown dramatically expanding its service to remain sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety through some of the following committees: Public Information, Cooperation with the Professional Community, Treatment Facilities, Corrections, Archives and Literature, and Grapevine. Our General Service also hosts SENY Service Workshops and Traditions Workshops. In 1995, General Services began to sponsor a Holiday Marathon for December 25th providing meetings, cake and coffee throughout the day.
General Services also sponsors the annual SI Share-A-Day, our biggest 12th step event. First presented in 1983, the workshops and speaker meetings draw crowds of seven or eight hundred people. Al-Anon participates. Hot lunch and lots of coffee and cake are provided for the price of a $3.00 ticket. Invitations are extended to the general public and to the professional community.
Christmas is an important season for Staten Island AA's. A Christmas Eve Marathon was started in 1984, and it has evolved into an all-day sober celebration with fellowship and open meetings from 10 AM to midnight. Members contribute their favorite holiday feeds and they come to share fears and joys associated with the holiday. Members' children and other loved ones are invited to attend.
November of 1996 saw Staten Island's first Spanish AA meeting called Grupo Papa Todos, Group for Everybody, at the Immaculate Conception Church Wednesday and Friday nights.
Staten Island now humbly boasts 80 groups providing 105 meetings a week. Our institutions committee, an aim of the Greater New York Intergroup, is also very active organizing members to bring 65 meetings a week into institutions such as the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, halfway houses and four local hospitals which house ATCs, detoxs and a sobering-up station. The committee also provides meeting lists, Big Books and pamphlets for prisoners and patients as its budget allows.
Today, society has a deeper understanding of alcoholism and the recovery process. The world accomplished by recovering alcoholics designed to help themselves and others has contributed to this understanding. Staten Island AA is proud to have done its part to foster The Three Legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous, Recovery, Unity, and Service.
Staten Island also welcomed the opening of its first sober clubhouse, Traditions House, located on the grounds of Mt Loretto. The opening date was June 10th, 1997, the anniversary of our co-founder Dr. Bob. Traditions House hosted 18 AA meetings weekly over the course of its nine year existence and supported countless members of AA on their road to recovery. One year following the closing of Traditions House, Staten Island welcomed its second sober club house, The HOW Club, located in Port Richmond, which opened its doors on December 1, 2006.
Meanwhile, on December 1, 2002 at The Snug Harbor Cultural Center, members of Staten Island AA created the 1st Annual Spiritual Breakfast. In 2007 over 350 people attended the Spiritual Breakfast. Other notable 2007 occurrences included the 1st SENY Archives Workshop held in October, the creation of a new General Services Website at www.statenislandaa.org and the expansion of Staten Island's DCM areas from 6 to 12 districts.