Archives

ArchivesThe mission of the GTA Archives is to document permanently the work of Alcoholics Anonymous in the GTA, to make the history of the organization accessible to AA members and other researchers, and to provide a context for understanding AA’s progression, principles and traditions.

Consistent with AA’s primary purpose of maintaining our sobriety and helping other alcoholics achieve recovery, the GTA Archives:

  • Receives, classifies and indexes all relevant material considered to have historical importance to AA and to the GTA
  • Holds and preserves such material
  • Provides access to these materials, as determined by the GTA Archivist, to members of AA and others who may have a valid need
    to review such material, contingent upon a commitment to preserve the anonymity of our members
  • Serves as a resource and laboratory to stimulate and nourish learning
  • Provides information services to assist the operations of GTA Intergroup
  • Promotes knowledge and understanding of the origins, goals and programs of AA and of GTA Intergroup

GTA Archives Committee

The Archives Committee consists of the Chairperson, Alternate Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, the Archivist (and members of the Archivist Committee), Alternate Archivist, the eight GTA District Archives Chairpersons and their Alternates and Sub-Committee Chairpersons. All AA members are welcome to attend.

Frequency of Meetings

Meetings are held monthly on the 2nd Friday of the month in the boardroom at the GTA Intergroup Office at 234 Eglinton Ave. E., Suite 202, Toronto.

GTA Archives Repository

The GTA Archives Repository is located at the GTA Intergroup Office.

GTA Archives Display

The GTA Archives Display is located in the boardroom at the GTA Intergroup Office.

GTA Archives Travelling Display

The GTA Archives Travelling Display is set up at group anniversaries, services days, round ups and conferences.

Annual GTA Archives Breakfast

The GTA Archives Committee hosts an Annual GTA Archives Breakfast in November.

Volunteers

Are you interested in the history of AA and are you willing to be trained? Help is currently needed to catalog material.

Contacting GTA Archives

You can contact the GTA Archives by email at archives@aatoronto.org

The images and excerpts pictured below are from the book “50 Years The History Of AA In Ontario”. This book is available from GTA Intergroup for $10.00 ( a limited number of copies exist.)

Alcoholics Anonymous quietly arrived in Canada, Toronto, Ontario, to be exact, on January 13th, 1943. The first meeting was held without fanfare at the Little Denmark Restaurant, located on the west side of Bay Street between Gerrard and College Streets. Present were Reverends George Little and Percy Price (see below), accompanied by six alcoholics. Enough interest was shown in the initial meeting that a second meeting was scheduled and held one week later. And so, Alcoholics Anonymous in Ontario was born.

This is one of the lamps from Little Denmark Restaurant where the first continuing meeting of A.A. in Canada was held . . . Little Denmark was on the west side of Bay Street between Gerrard and College. The lamp is still in the Archives display at the GTA Intergroup offices (234 Eglinton Ave., East, Suite 202).

Prior to the availability of A.A. in Ontario, many, alcoholics made efforts to lead sober lives. A good example is the Toronto Magistrate who found sobriety in 1938 through association with the Oxford Group. After sobering up, he maintained a room near his office where he met alcoholics and succeeded in helping some quit drinking. Though unaware of A.A. during his initial years of sobriety, the Judge learned a lot about it after he attended the meetings at the Little Denmark Restaurant and Metropolitan United Church House. He joined A.A. from that first meeting and his efforts on behalf of A.A. and alcoholics became legendary and helped establish A.A. throughout the province. Meetings are still held in this church.

The Reverend Percy Price M.A. LL.B., assistant pastor of Metropolitan United Church, was very helpful at this stage of the A.A. movement in Toronto. . . buoyed by the meetings at the Little Denmark Restaurant, he arranged to hold meetings at the Metropolitan United Church House, the first of which was held at five o’clock, on January 28th, 1943. Six people attended that first church meeting, completely unaware that the future would see thousands of members attend hundreds of churches participating in a fellowship that could return them their lives.

The Metropolitan United Church [entrance is pictured] meeting grew swiftly and attendance tripled within a few weeks. More importantly, at the February 25th meeting, the first woman attended. This weekly meeting continued until June 10, 1943, interestingly enough, exactly eight years after Dr. Bob had his last drink and A.A. began. On June 12, 1943, two days later, meetings started at the newly acquired Clubroom at 160 Bloor St. East, Toronto.

If June 10th, 1935 is a Red Letter Day for alcoholics world wide, then January 1940 must rank as the most important month for all alcoholics in Ontario. In was January 1940 that Dr. Emerson Fosdick wrote an enthusiastic book review on “Alcoholics Anonymous” – A.A.’s own book, which later became affectionately known to alcoholics as the “Big Book”. This review was to have a profound effect on the very existence of A.A. in Ontario. This Big Book [pictured] is on display in the Archives room at the Toronto Intergroup Offices at 234 Eglinton Avenue East. It is one of the original Big Books, red in colour and much larger than the currentones. It is a First Edition, First Printing, one of the original 5,000 printed and which they had difficulty selling.

The review stirred an interest in Dr. George A. Little, D.D., then a fifty-six year old Minister of the United Church of Toronto. Dr. Little had been a caring man who had unsuccessfully attempted to help alcoholics gain sobriety. Fosdick’s review led him first to make copies of the book, then to order a personal copy of the Big Book for himself. Having read the book, he began in earnest mimeographing portions of it which he distributed to anyone he felt could further the cause or more importantly, to those he felt might be helped themselves. With his good intentions and tireless effort, people started to want more, and as a result, he ordered five copies of the Big Book in June, 1941. As an enthusiastic supporter of A.A., Dr. Little continued to be the alcoholics’ friend – so much so that he enrolled at the Yale University School of Alcoholic Studies from which he graduated in 1941.

Nineteen-forty-one seemed a busy year. Three months before Dr. Little ordered his five Big Books, March 1941, an article appeared in the Saturday Evening Post written by Jack Alexander (now available as a pamphlet through our Literature Department).. The magazine carried a substantial amount of weight in the forties, the article itself was enthusiastic and proved to be a dramatic boost to A.A. south of the border. The Saturday Evening Post was well subscribed in Canada and certainly must have been met with enthusiasm by those suffering alcoholics, their friends and families, across the country. As if to cap off a year of miracles and perhaps three years of good fortune, 1943 finished with A.A.’s first big event in Ontario. On December 16, 1943, at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, eighty people enjoyed a banquet and celebrated their new friends and more importantly, their sobriety. The banquet, which was hosted by an A.A. member, seemed only fitting. In one year eighty people had renewed their lives, many of them had arrived from the gutter and twelve months earlier, on January 13, only eight of them had met – now they were ten fold . . . what a year!

One year and already so much had occurred, the membership was burgeoning, so much so that Toronto members rented a building at 1170 Yonge St. from the Royal Bank of Canada. It was January 28, 1944. The building was in need of a cleaning and obviously had to be furnished, both needs were handled eagerly and earnestly by A.A. members. The new location was open every day and a regular Thursday night meeting was immediately established. A committee was selected every three months to look after 1170 affairs. The Toronto “Clubhouse” became known worldwide.

Early in 1950, February 11th and 12th , the annual A.A. Conference was held at the Royal York Hotel . . . Until now, most media coverage of Alcoholics Anonymous took place south of the border, but that, too, was about to change. On February 13th, 1950 all three Toronto newspapers ran major articles on A.A. Interestingly enough, a positive note was struck.

The progression of the names of the Ontario Regional Conference can be seen from the programs:

  • 1950 The A.A. Conference
  • 1951 The Regional Conference
  • 1952 The Ontario A.A. Conference
  • 1953 The Ontario Regional Conference

Gerrard St. W., number two, was the location of the offices to which A.A. in Toronto moved Friday, January 15, 1960. Prior to this, there had been the club at “1170” and the office at 77 York St. At this time, the two were combined. The offices were on the second floor. The name of “Central Committee” as it applied to the administrative group was changed to “Toronto Intergroup”. A.A. remained here until 1975.

By 1965 A.A. membership worldwide (including Canada) was 217,967 members who belonged to 11,752 groups. The ORC was not held in 1965, but was replaced by a much larger event – the International Convention marking thirty years of A.A. The Convention was a major event for A.A. in Canada. For the first time, the Convention was being held outside the United States. A.A. claims to have no boundaries and this convention upheld that attitude. It did not take place without a great deal of effort on the part of a dedicated few. The delegate from the East area 61-62, Al B., made the pitch at the General Service Conference. This was successful and the attendance was phenomenal, the best mark up to that time. About 11,000 attended the event.

The headquarters were at the Royal York and large meetings were held at Maple Leaf Gardens. Toronto and Ontario members went all out to extend a welcome handshake to members from all over the world. Bill and Lois Wilson were there and Bill introduced the pledge “I am Responsible” to a standing ovation and a full house at the Gardens. “I am Responsible” remains a powerful pledge to this day and was the idea of Al S., a grateful alcoholic.