The Fourth A. A. International Convention
The fourth AA International Convention was the first not
held in the USA. It was held in Toronto, Canada, in July 1965.
Bill and Lois were, of course, prominent on the program, and at that time many of the old-timers were still active and at the convention.
Nell Wing, Bill's secretary, particularly remembered
Clarence Snyder, who started AA in Cleveland. She said that Bill spent "a couple
of hours" in Clarence's hotel suite reminiscing about the early days.
This surprised Nell, who pointed out:
"He started a group in Cleveland in May 1939, the first group, as far as we know, to use the A.A. initials. (Bill had been using the full name since 1938 in letters and a pamphlet.) On this slender basis, Clarence forever claimed to have founded A.A."
"As long as Bill was alive," Nell notes, "Clarence was antagonistic and hostile toward him. He was a leader of a small group of dissidents, who were anti-Conference and anti-G.S.O., and who bad-mouthed Bill for many years.
And here was Bill in Toronto, chatting and chuckling
with his bÍte noire and enjoying it all. I believe that was the last time they
Nell adds that a "feisty priest who had threatened to disrupt the 'Coming of Age' ceremony in St. Louis, was at this convention also, but now he was loving and kind to Bill and Lois and everyone else. He had just returned from an audience with the Pope in Rome, bearing a citation for Bill. It hangs now on the wall at Stepping Stones."
The film "Bill's Own Story," which Nell had watched being made at Stepping Stones, was shown for the first time in Toronto. It was well received and has been reproduced in several languages since then.
I think I need to give tribute to one person who made Toronto such a significant convention: Al S.
Al S., an advertising and film man in New York, had joined the fellowship in March 1944. "'Within a month," Nell Wing reports, "he was 'into action,' as the Big Book says. Among his many contributions to AA, he helped re-form the Manhattan group, and also helped organize another club for A.A.s on Forty-first Street. He helped structure the New York Intergroup, for which he served as secretary and director. While there, he and another member,
George B., were instrumental in persuading Knickerbocker
Hospital to set aside a ward just for alcoholics under the sponsorship of A.A.
-- the first such general hospital in New York to do so."
Nell notes that by late 1948, Al had become editor of the Grapevine. During the time he worked on the Grapevine, he also served as a director of A.A. Publishing, Inc. (an earlier name of AA World Services, Inc. From 1958 to 1961, he was a director of the A.A. Grapevine, Inc., and a trustee on the General Service Board.
He attended, until his death, every international convention and contributed to the success of them all.
He was a valued friend of Bill's, according to Nell, and Bill solicited Al's views and comments on all his books and other writings. Nell adds: "Lois put it succinctly: 'Bill and Al were buddies.'"
I, for one, feel a debt of gratitude to Al S., whom I don't remember ever meeting, for all he did to help New York AA, especially the Intergroup office, where I made my first AA contact.
But the contribution for which most of us feel most grateful, it was Al S. who composed the "I am Responsible" pledge for the convention in Toronto.
"I will never forget -- nor will anyone who was there -- the moving ceremony of rededication on Saturday evening in the Maple Leaf Gardens auditorium. The crowd of more than 10,000 rose and joined the conference delegates, trustees, and A.A. representatives from 21 countries up on the stage in repeating the declaration. They clasped hands and loudly pronounced in one tremendous, strong voice:
"I am responsible when anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.
"There was a special spirit about the Toronto Convention. Many people say it was the best ever.
"Grateful To Have Been There"©, by Nell Wing
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