It happened at the Central Committee meeting on the evening of the first Tuesday of November 1944. At this time there were 44 groups in the Cleveland area and 37 members were present representing 23 groups. On this particular evening a restless and exciting atmosphere was quite noticeable. One member had trekked to this meeting all the way from Toledo. By the time the moderator called the meeting to order the room was already enveloped in one gray cloud from the smoking. The moderator again and again had to remind all present that the meeting had already been called to order, and even after the Serenity Prayer had been invoked and the reports of old business were being read, one could still hear a murmur of persistent whispering among the men and women seated.
Finally the moderator was able to have all the business reports given and now only one more report of old business was to be heard – that of the Hospital Committee. By this time the impatience and restlessness of most of the members were quite obvious. Not many seemed to know in reality the reason for the strange atmosphere of this evening. Rumors had been spread that a group of members, mostly old-timers, were considering the affiliation of the AA fellowship to the Oxford Group. Others claimed they had heard that this same group wanted to have a screening committee to approve applications of new members. There seemed to be many different rumors as to what was to be proposed.
Two members so incensed about all this uncertainty that, they were willing to voice the opinion that it would be much better not to allow the group of agitators or reformers to talk. It wasn’t easy for the moderator to maintain quietness and proceed. Finally the turn to new business began.
One member, sitting back in a corner and of a rather unassuming appearance, requested to be heard on something in the area of new business. The moderator consented and this member, after giving his name and the group to which he belonged, slowly continued to say that he was speaking not only for himself but also for a number of other members. He said some of them were present and others were not, however, he said their names were Charles D., Dr. F.F., Cliff B., Paul J., Elmer L., Abby G., Kay H., Clarence S., John D., Jack D., Clarence W., and few others whose names unfortunately cannot be found at this time. All present had their eyes and undivided attention fixed on the man talking, anxiously waiting for the bomb that was supposed to explode. The member on the floor went on to say that he, as well as most of the members whose names he had just mentioned, had driven to Akron for some time to attend meeting of the Oxford Group. This was before the actual birth of A.A. and, of course, the purpose of their interest in the Oxford Group had been the same interest in being now members of A.A. Practically all of these men had journeyed all the way to Akron meeting to acquire the sobriety they desired.
However, he said there were many men and women here in need of our A.A. program and it was the idea of himself and the other men he represented that the Central Committee might take under study the establishment of a Central A.A. Office similar to that already functioning in Chicago.
The Cleveland Alcoholics Anonymous District Office was opened and functioning on February 7th, 1945. Located in the Williamson Building which is on the southeast corner of Public Square. The first Secretary was Laverne Hawkins. The telephone number was the same as it is today, Cherry 1-7387. The purpose of the office was to provide service to individual and prospective members, to serve as a source of information and to distribute literature to groups and individuals.
During the first month the office was in operation, it received 31 calls. Some of these were calls for help and others were inquiries about location of meetings. At present the number of calls has increased to the staggering figure of about 140 per month. During last year, 1964, the office received 1540 calls for help of which 540 were from women. For the benefit of anyone who may wonder what are the sources of these calls, doctors, hospitals and social workers inform the office about many of the patients they have recommended to join A.A. because of their alcoholic affliction. Clergymen of all faiths also request many of their followers to contact A.A. through the office. A very large number of calls for help come from wives, teenagers inquire as to what they can do to help their dads or mothers who they believe may have a drinking problem.
The office has an average of ten calls a week from out of town A.A. members inquiring about groups where they can go to a meeting. Probation officers send many of their parolees into A.A. through the office when alcohol has been a contributing factor to their delinquency. It is almost impossible to describe in detail the nature of all calls that come in, however, the major portion of phone service is answering the calls of members and groups who are in need of information or assistance pertaining to some area of their much-diversified A.A. activities.
The Downtown Office is the center of communications for all the Cleveland area A.A. fellowship. It serves 187 groups and a membership of approximate 9,000. At this time of the year we often hear members utter, “This was my first sober Christmas”. Others say five, some claim it is their tenth, and so on. We all know it has also been a most joyous time for all their beloved ones. Groups and individuals must feel a deep sense of satisfaction when we also hear members say “And, to think that all that was needed was a phone call to get into this grand brotherhood.”