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The Eighth A.A. International Convention
Montreal, Canada, 1985

by Nancy O.

The Eighth AA International Convention was held in Montreal in 1985. The was the second to be held outside the United States, both in Canada. It drew more than 44,000, representing fifty-four countries, and began again, with a flag ceremony.

Nell Wing wrote that "Because the emphasis of the whole event was Alcoholics Anonymous history, but mostly, I think, because I was accompanying Lois, I was on the platform in the middle of the vast Olympic Stadium Friday night for the opening ceremonies."

"Lois Wilson, a tiny, stooped figure now at age 94, was assisted by her secretary, Francis H., to the microphone, where she delivered a short but touching speech in a strong voice with her sense of humor evident," according to Nell.

Ruth Hock, Bill's first secretary who typed the original manuscript of the Big Book in 1938, was there and was presented with the five-millionth copy of the Big Book. Nell wrote that Ruth "was much more than a gifted secretary, she was a major factor in the stability and functioning of that early office. In fact, she was a balancing factor in the debate between Jim B[urwell], the former atheist, and Fitz M[ayo], who was strongly religious, that resulted in the use of the phrase 'God as we understood Him' in the Steps -- certainly one of the most significant decisions ever made in A.A."

Nell adds "What would later be called the 'Serenity Prayer' was brought to her attention in June 1941. She sent it to an A.A. member (who was a printer) in Washington, D.C., and he printed it on small cards for distribution from G.S.O. to interested members." Ruth died in the spring of 1986.

Dave B. ("Gratitude in Action in the 4th edition of the Big Book), the founder of A.A. in Montreal, was to have been honored at the convention, but he died only a few weeks before and was represented by nonalcoholic past trustee Dr. Travis Dancey, who had first tried to bring the A.A. message to Dave.

Dr. Jack Norris, Dr. Milton Maxwell, and Dr. Bob's son and daughter and Bob's wife Betty were at this convention. And among the attendees was 89-year-old Ken S., a "long-timer" from Kansas, and Sybil C., the first woman member in Los Angeles. She was then the longest-sober living woman in A.A. When she was introduced to the attendees, she told the colorful story of A.A.'s beginning in Los Angeles, in which she had played such a vital role. When she finished her talk, the audience rose to its feet as one and gave her a standing ovation which continued so long that some thought it would never stop.

Workshops were held on archives, and there were "old-timers' meetings and pioneers' meetings. The closing talk Sunday morning was by Joe McQ., the first black member in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1962. Joe McQ has joined with Charlie P. to participate in Big Book seminars in the USA, Canada, and overseas. "His was a stirring and moving story," says Nell.

Several hundreds of A.A. members and their families could not find rooms. Every hotel room within eighty miles of Montreal was booked, and some were housed as far away as Burlington, Vermont. Many who found themselves without a room left early or slept on the floors of rooms of friends. One reporter noted that few chose to sleep in parks or other public places, which seemed to surprise the reporter.

On Friday night historic figures were introduced, including Lois Wilson and Ruth Hock Crecelius, who was presented with the five-millionth copy of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. As secretary to Bill Wilson and Hank Parkhurst ("The "Unbeliever in the 1st edition), Ruth had typed the original manuscript."

Many laughed that the House of Seagram paid tribute to Alcoholics Anonymous by lowering the three flags adorning its Montreal headquarters to half-staff for the duration of the convention.

Ernest Kurtz wrote: "Overall, the centrality of A.A.'s own story suffused the whole convention and became permanently enshrined in the 'Family Album and Souvenir,' Fifty Years With Gratitude, which in its reproduction of over a hundred newspaper clippings and old photographs recalled their history to A.A.s and A.A.s to their history."

"Not God," by Ernest Kurtz
"Grateful to Have Been There," by Nell Wing.

From Ruth Hock's Daughter, Laurie L.

Just read the posting - what a wonderful memory of that convention!! It was my first, and I went with my mother, Ruth Hock Crecelius. She could hardly believe how large our fellowship had grown, and had just begun to "accept" what her role in it's survival meant to us all. I had about 9 years in the fellowship then.

Thought I'd add a couple of cute things about that convention that you all probably didn't know:

I asked her that night what went through her mind as she accepted the book and watched those thousands of people give her a standing ovation?? Her reply was: "I looked up and asked 'What do you think of this, Willie?'"

Also, the 5 millionth copy of the Big Book was NOT given to her that night. Everyone was up on the stage and suddenly someone remembered that the book had not been returned from the binders (special leather cover). A representitive "snuck" (almost literally) from the stage to find a book. Someone in the croud (of course) had a Big Book with them, which was promptly borrowed for the presentation!! Mom thought it was quite funny and typical of the resources we alcoholics have! That book was signed by Mom and returned to its owner. She got the leather bound volume soon after returning to Ohio. It is currently in my home - a wonderful memory of her legacy to me and all alcoholics!

Sybil C. was the speaker that night - I have wonderful memories of her family and Bob Smith's during the meeting - each of us crying as his/her family member was introduced and gave a talk. As Bob Corwin so profoundly put it in a letter to me later: "we proudly sat in humility row basking in reflected glory!" What a wonderful time in my recovering life in AA.

Thanks for all you do in helping keep our history alive!

Laurie L.

Index of A.A. History Pages on Barefoot's Domain

As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of A.A. with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In A.A. and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!

ABC Page 60 from the Big Book



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