Monday, June 11, 2012

William's Burg

In 1970 I was on a job interview with my wife in a small Ohio town about thirty miles west of Akron.  After a long day of interviewing and house hunting we felt we needed some spiritual refreshment.
              “Let’s find a meeting; must be one around here somewhere.”
    We drove to the local police station. I went in and asked,
            “Where can I find an AA meeting or do you have a number I can call?
The desk sergeant gave me a once over.
            “We have a number for a local AA member.”
I called.
            “You’ll have to go down to a little burg about ten miles out in the country if
               you want one tonight.”
I paused, so he asked the obvious.
            “New in town, don’t know how to find Fredericksburg, do you?”
He gave me directions and cautioned, “be careful, bad fog setting in.”

Leaving the main highway the narrow single lane country road wound itself up, down and around the rolling hillside. With every mile the fog got thicker. About half way there the visibility was limited to a few hundred feet.

With my eyes glued to the windshield I did a double take as I caught the flicker of a bobbing red light coming up fast in front of us. I hit the brakes, regained my composure then cautiously passed the horse and buggy muttering, “What the hell is that doing out here in this fog.” In the buggy sat a bearded old man in black hat and coat with reins in hand.  

As we crested the last of the hills and began our decent into the little valley we were treated with a sight out of the past. Under the fog lay the lights of a tiny “Norman Rockwell” village.  Only the white church steeple faded out of sight into the fog.

Another surprise met us as we pulled into the church’s parking lot. The lot was wall-to-wall horses and black buggies. Shaking off my disbelief I turned to my wife and said.
“This must be the place; we were told to look for the little white church and this is the only one around. Lights are on in the basement.”
As we started down the storm-cellar stairway to the basement we were greeted by a wizardly old man in a black suit grinning from ear to ear.
            “Welcome friend. If you’re looking for an AA meeting, you’ve come to the right
               place, my name is Mose.”
            “Hi, I’m Jim and this is my wife, Cynthia.
We followed him down into the meeting hall filled with more black-suited men wearing denim shirts, no buttons and suspenders. My wife was quickly escorted to a room off the main meeting room by a couple of modestly dressed long skirted women for an Alanon meeting.

The meeting was ready to start.  It was a typical Ohio AA meeting; a lead meeting with a twenty minute speaker followed by a “pop-up” comment session for the balance of the hour. As the speaker and the “pop-ups” continued I became aware of numerous references to a fellow member named William.
Curious, I asked Mose.
“I presume William isn’t here tonight but I sure would like to meet him. It    sounds like he has a lot of wisdom and good sobriety.”. 
With that Mose jumped out of his seat giddy with laughter, pointed to me and addressed the group.
            “Our new friend James here doesn’t know who William is”.
With that the whole room exploded into laughter. At once it dawned on me.

            William… William..! They mean Bill, Bill W.
Amazing, here I am , , in a little burg out in the boonies, in the middle of Ohio in the middle of a fog, in a story book church with story book little men in black suits, their wives in long dresses while their horses hitched to buggies await them attending a meeting frequented by one of the founders of AA.
WOW. PRICELESS. Isn’t GOD great. 

For anyone, especially Bill W, (William) wanting to be simply Bill W. alcoholic, the meeting out in this small village in the countryside amongst the Amish was ideal.  In this “little burg” with these men one could find one of the backbone of our program; the simple, honest “principles before personalities” fellowship of AA.

 Jim M.

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