has been compiled by Maria H., Archives Chair, 2003.
This information is gleaned from various written histories
by longtimers found in District 1 Archives as of 2003.
the late winter of 1944, a man moved from Boston to St.
Petersburg. Wanting to continue his AA way of life, he wrote
to the New York office and asked if there were any groups,
or any AA members in this area. In answer to his letter, the
New York office told him of a new group in Tampa, meeting at
the old De Soto Hotel and also of a man in St. Pete who had
just purchased a Big Book. He was also given the name of a
man there from Baltimore, Fred Meakin. Most of us called him
had already contacted the group in Tampa where he met Ernie
King, and the "Sarge", Roy Yeargan, who had
started the Tampa group. He went back to St. Petersburg, and
called on the man who had purchased the book, Bob W. After
talking to Bob and going to the Tampa meetings together,
they decided to form their own meeting in St. Petersburg on
February 14th. It was first held in Bob's office at the
Florida Power building.
In the meantime, they heard about an active alcoholic in the
St. Pete Stockade, and Bob talked to him. Bennie W. decided
he would like to try the program. Bob and the Deacon talked
to the jailor and asked them if they could take him out to a
meeting, and return him afterwards.
first meeting on February 14, 1945 consisted of eight men:
Two from the Tampa group, Ernie K. and Roy Y. "The
Sarge", one "snow bird" from NJ, Walter O.,
& Ferrell C. of Akron, along with four from St. Pete,
Bob W., Fred M. the Deacon, and their two boys from the
jail, Bennie W. and Jack H. This group, known as the St.
Petersburg Group, registered with the NY office in February
next week two more alcoholics attended. One was Dick E. with
2 years of sobriety on the "Big Book" alone. The
other was a snow bird from New Jersey, who we all love so
much for all the help he gave us in those early years. He is
George S., who with another man, visited Miesners Sanitarium
to see a dentist from Clearwater. This man took to AA like a
duck takes to water. You all know of Dr. Fred. God bless him
because he went back to Clearwater and started to carry the
message. I believe one of his first successful babies was
Eddie M. and from this humble beginning, AA in Pinellas
County started to grow.
office soon became too small, and they moved to the Coca
Cola building on 4th Street. On March 16, 1945 Fred stated
in a letter to NY that there were 27 to attend that first
meeting. Again they had to move to larger quarters and moved
into a room upstairs in the Alhambra Arcade, a beautiful old
Spanish-style building located on the corner of 6th Street
and First Avenue North. Here they celebrated their first anniversary.
(Sadly, the building was torn down in the late 50's or early
60's.) The write-up
in the St. Pete Times was responsible for changing the lives
the winter months they had as many as forty people, counting
the "Snow Birds". A wonderful closeness remained
between the three area groups -- Tampa, Clearwater, &
St. Pete. They held a meeting once a month, which was called
The Golden Triangle meeting. Once a month they would
exchange meeting places and Chairmen. Sometimes these
meetings meant the difference between paying the rent or
Late in 1946 they had to move because of remodeling and
found a room at the YMCA, but continued to look for a larger
and more convenient place. They finally located a place at
28 Beach Drive N.E., which belonged to a rest home across
the street. This location consisted of the entire first
floor and a large screened porch, which was a perfect
environment for group sessions. The group really thrived and
grew in this location and became large enough to have two
meetings a week.
It wasn't long before they outgrew their Beach Drive home,
and found a perfect meeting hall at Saint Mary's. Growth was
tremendous, so they started splitting into smaller groups
and moved to different parts of the city.
The folks who remained at St. Mary's called themselves The
Sunshine Group. Some members retained the original name, St.
Pete Group, and moved to 710 Central Avenue, while other
members of the original group became the Central Group. The
first AA clubhouse was established in 1951 in the 1100 block
of Second Avenue.
is controversy concerning this "title" of the
"Oldest Group" or the "Original Group"
-- the Central Group or St. Pete Group. We only know that
New York records The St. Pete Group registration from the
Coca Cola building in February, 1945. The split-up was
considered to be very tragic to most people at the time, but
AA has a way of coming out of troubles, even stronger than
1951, AA was well established in our county. In addition to
St. Pete, Sunshine and Central, there was a group that had
first met in a home and then moved to Pasadena, and a small
group at Pass-A-Grille, which eventually became the Holiday
Isles Group. There was a group called "Women's
Unit" in St. Pete and in Clearwater. I assume these
were the beginnings of what are now just called women's
In the meantime, Clearwater was growing fast, and they found
a nice place in The Women's' Club Building. From the
Clearwater Group, new groups opened in Dunedin, Safety
Harbor, Ozona, & Tarpon Springs. In Ozona, there were
even meetings held in a bar that was owned by a grateful
member of Alcoholics Anonymous. In our archives there is a
newspaper article about an anniversary celebration held
the years, as the number of groups multiplied, attempts were
made to establish an active Intergroup Office, which could
be of service to all of Pinellas County. This was finally
accomplished in December, 1962.
our Archives, we have the Minutes from those first few
meetings. There were representatives from six groups listed
in attendance. Those included:
first Central Office was evidently in St. Petersburg. Soon
an office was established on Seminole Blvd. in Largo with a
telephone installed to relay the calls for help to members
of individual groups, to say nothing of the many calls for
information of all kinds.
thumbnail sketch can only give a brief synopsis of
Alcoholics Anonymous in Pinellas County during the first few
years, but it is heartening to all concerned to realize the
tremendous progress of this fellowship.