A Brief History of Portland Area Intergroup
In 1943 Portland Oregon saw its first AA meeting come into existence. They were called “10th Street Group #1”.
As time went on, one group turned into eight! Early AA’s thought it a good idea to have a central location for AA meetings in Portland. In short order “The 10th Street Club” got its start.
Soon thereafter, the idea came to develop a Central Office. A small group of people looked into this idea and came back with a plan that has developed into the Intergroup we know today as PORTLAND AREA INTERGROUP.
Our central office actually began in the 10th street club in 1947. After about 2 years of operation, a small committee was appointed to study the actual needs and functions of an AA central office. At the completion of the study, resolutions were drawn up so that by the end of 1949 our office was official
About that time, another alano club started in NW Portland at 19th and Flanders. The central office moved into a room in that building that allowed for a separate entrance and phone line. We knew it was important to keep identities separate and this worked well to that end. As well as that arrangement worked, it was deemed prudent to secure a completely separate office space for the AA central office. November 1950, the central office moved to 519 S.W. 3rd Ave in downtown Portland. This was the infamous Dekum building where we remained for the next 40 years! The office manager during this period was “Doc” Dailey. He remained manager until 1971.
Our office has had several names over the years as we have matured. The first name and the least known was “Metropolitan Central Committee”. Soon it evolved to “Central Advisory Committee”, then as you could expect, it changed again to simply “Central Committee”. As AA grew and the greater Portland area expanded, more and more AA meetings sprang up all around rural Portland and outlying areas. In 1962, the name “Portland Area Intergroup” was adopted and continues to serve us well.
It is quite interesting to note that the troubles early groups had are very much the same today as they were then. Things such as falling attendance, lack of funds, discussions on how to improve the groups and how to increase attendance at the intergroup meeting; all of these seemingly small issues are shared by AA groups worldwide. The common thread is, we are all doing what we can to improve how we serve the still suffering alcoholic. Keeping AA available and viable is what our statement of responsibility means.
The Responsibility Statement reads:
I am Responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible
The monthly intergroup meetings were “sponsored” by member groups for many years. They would request a few months in advance so the word would be out in enough time for everyone to attend. Of course it was fairly simple to keep everyone informed for the first score of years. June of 1968 had 12 groups represented. January of 1980 had 17 groups. (To date (2012) we have record of over 65 groups on a regular basis and nearly 100 people in attendance.)
According to the minutes from these early meetings, our Corrections committee was most active. They were constantly looking for new volunteers and they always had something to add to the business meetings. The corrections committee continues to be a stabile source of service opportunities for the AA member looking to assist an outreach committee.
In 1959 the “Eastside” group announced their intension of opening another office and telephone service to improve 12 step work. There was a little discussion about this at that meeting but it was never mentioned again. The Eastside group did start attending and supporting the efforts of the intergroup the very next meeting however. The focus was on 12 step work and helping the still suffering alcoholic!
Speaker meetings were now on the radar and the Intergroup sponsored a quarterly speaker meeting which became tradition by the 1960’s. Marty Mann was one of the early speakers of the time. Marty was best known as the first woman in AA to stay sober for any length of time and who worked tirelessly to educate the medical profession on alcoholism and the tools AA had to offer as a treatment.
One last issue Central Office was expected to solve was dealing with “student” AA meetings. Yes those pesky kids wanted sobriety too! For a brief period “student” meetings could only attend the Intergroup business meeting by first getting approval from the board of directors. We’ve come a long way babe!
Fred Douglas was the 2nd person to serve as manager of the office and did so for the next 12 years. AA continued to grow and the office kept up with the growing pains. The office moved from a 144 sq ft room that served 8 groups, to a 1200 sq ft office that served over 200 groups. This period was from 1950 to 1983. After Fred retired, we found Chet Carlson. Chet managed the office for the next four years. (1983-1987) Chet was a well know AA member in Portland and helped start many, many meetings in the Portland Area. Chet was also very active in Oregon Area. Chet also maintained the Oregon Area Archive collection for a number of years. When Chet retired, Donald Baxter was asked to manage the office and usher in the computer era. Don also brought a level of professionalism to Central Office that served as an excellent example of “how to” be organized in a disorganized organization. Don’s work made it easy for the next manager to step in. Don retired in 1993. Garry Biggers was hired to serve as office manager after Donald Baxter retired, and currently still serves in this position.
The growth of AA has been consistent with the growth of the population in the greater Portland area. Our Intergroup currently publishes a local meeting schedule that lists over 800 meetings a week in Portland and outlying areas. We supply AA literature to the majority of the meetings and groups. Portland Area Intergroup has had a successful “Intergroup Committee” meeting monthly since its inception. We continue to strive to meet the needs of the AA community and act as a contact point for anyone inquiring about the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Central Offices across the country have had a weekend seminar once a year for about the last 20 years. At this seminar we discuss and share our experience strength and hope with each other as to how to better serve the still suffering alcoholic. We frequently communicate via e-mail with each other to offer advice and encouragement. We all seem to share common ailments when it comes to running Central Offices. One thing is certain, our fellowship continues to grow and daily people reach out to AA for the first time.