The Central Office Archives Committee and longtime Bay Area member Peter M. compiled a history booklet of our local Central Office which serves San Francisco and Marin counties. It highlights important facts and developments. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of Central Office this year, The Point is featuring the following highlights from the booklet.
As part of the 75th anniversary celebration and to honor Founders’ Day, Central Office is hosting an open house on June 11. Activities include a scavenger hunt, raffle and food. Literature will be discounted. Stop by for a visit, learn more about Central Office and join in the fun. June 11 @ 1-4pm, 1821 Sacramento St., San Francisco.
When Central Office First Opened
A February 1952 issue of A.A. Grapevine focusing on A.A. in San Francisco and Los Angeles describes problems at the Alano Club on Bush St. and that “strains had developed because of the uncomfortable overcrowding of A.A. meetings, drunks, panhandlers, wolves and Red Riding Hoods,” upsetting the meetings.
Tempers flared and relationships became strained, but finally in January 1947, the first San Francisco Central Office was opened. Correspondence available in the GSO Archives indicates that the first Central Office Secretary (or manager) was a woman, Anne C., but by 1948, Bob G. had become the Secretary. There was a subsequent move to 406 Sutter St. in 1951, and three years later in 1954 to 166 Geary St. where the Central Office remained until 1981.
The First Newsletter
The first local A.A. newsletter appears to have been created to coincide with Bill W.’s visit of March 1951, and the first issue appeared in January 1951 titled, You Name It. After consideration of various titles including Central Office Reporter, San Francisco A.A. Newsvine, Tangibles & Intangibles, Good News was decided upon for the publication. A.A. member, O.K. P., a career newspaperman, is credited with starting the paper.
While the Good News has always been associated with the Northern California Council of Alcoholics Anonymous (NCCAA), and is still published by NCCAA, when the Good News started it was published monthly through the San Francisco Central Office and NCCAA used the Central Office as its mailing address.
O.K. P., the first editor of the Good News, would later serve as Central Office manager and also as a delegate to the General Service Conference.
For many years, the Good News was the best source of local information on Alcoholics Anonymous and included updates on fellowship activities around Northern California from Monterey to Sacramento and Eureka. Still there was always news on the fellowship in San Francisco, including speaker line-ups for Central All-Groups which was a Friday 8:30pm meeting listed as open to the public and frequently included professionals from the community, including lawyers, judges, and doctors working with alcoholics in the community and A.A. members sharing their experience, strength and hope.
While the Good News is still produced, it has eventually come to focus more on the activities of NCCAA, and its three conferences per year throughout Northern California. Central Office developed a Secretary’s Newsletter in the 1960s focusing more specifically on activities concerning the Intergroup Fellowship.
Recollections of a Local Member
“My first memories of Central Office started in December 1968 with my first phone call, a very helpful volunteer tried to convince me to attend a meeting that evening. I declined and asked only for some literature, which arrived the next day! My first service commitment was Literature person which required a trip to Central Office at 166 Geary. What a great experience, a ride up to (I think the 6th floor) in an old-fashioned caged elevator, nervous if it would make it, but it was fun looking through the bars as we passed each floor.
I met all the office staff, Neva, Jen, Harriett, Kay and Paul G., Central Office Secretary. Paul was ever so gracious, invited me into his office, his door was always open to everyone. He was always dressed in a suit and his signature bow tie. I always looked forward to delivering the group contributions, having a chat with Paul and the staff. I would often drop in for a cup of coffee and a little arms-length A.A. fellowship.
The Central Office later moved to 1046 Irving St. and that was a very nice office, spacious work area for the volunteers and a welcoming atmosphere. Chris W. was the front desk receptionist, Harry R. always sitting in one of the chairs in the reception area, lots of good A.A. Since I was working in the financial district, it was a little more difficult for drop in visits. Bill S. was now the Secretary, then it passed on to Erwin K. and the office moved to Oak and Fell, Market Street area. The eventual move to our present location on Sacramento St., where there is a great staff of volunteers, a renewed lease for the future!” — S.K.