Portland Intergroup History

Alcoholics Anonymous Grows in Portland

A Brief History of Portland Area Intergroup — 1950-2021

In 1943 Portland Oregon saw its first AA meeting come into existence. They were called “10th Street Group #1”.  As time went on, one group turned into eight! Early AA’s thought it a good idea to have a central location for AA meetings in Portland. In short order “The 10th Street Club” got its start.

Soon thereafter, the idea came to develop a Central Office. A small group of people looked into this idea and came back with a plan that has developed into the Intergroup we know today as Portland Area Intergroup. Our central office actually began in the 10th street club in 1947. After about 2 years of operation, a small committee was appointed to study the actual needs and functions of an AA central office. At the completion of the study, resolutions were drawn up so that by the end of 1949 our office was official!

About that time, another Alano Club started in NW Portland at 19th and Flanders. The central office moved into a room in that building equipped with a separate entrance and phone line. We knew it was important to keep identities separate, and this worked well to that end. Although this arrangement worked, it was deemed prudent to secure a completely separate office space for the AA central office. In November of 1950, the central office moved to 519 S.W. 3rd Ave in downtown Portland. This was the infamous Dekum building where we remained for the next 40 years! The office manager during this period was “Doc” D.. He remained manager until 1971.

Our office has had several names over the years as we have matured. The first name and the least known was “Metropolitan Central Committee”.  Soon it evolved to “Central Advisory Committee”, then as you could expect, it changed again to simply “Central Committee”.

As AA grew and the greater Portland area expanded, more and more AA meetings sprang up all around rural Portland and outlying areas. In 1962, the name “Portland Area Intergroup” was adopted and continues to serve us well. The monthly intergroup meetings were “sponsored” by member groups for many years. They would request a few months in advance so the word would be out in enough time for everyone to attend.

Dekum Building

Resources on National A.A. History

A.A. General Service Archives

GSO Archives displays
General Service Archives displays

The GSO Archives is a historical collection of the Fellowship’s records based on an idea from co-founder Bill W. The Archives provide an environment dedicated to exploring A.A.’s history, serving members of the A.A. Fellowship and the general public.

Akron A.A. Archives

The Akron A.A. Archives preserves the history of Akron AA by collecting, maintaining, cataloging, teaching and displaying historic materials. The Akron Archives was founded in the mid 1990’s based on a request from Nell Wing, Bill W.’s non-alcoholic secretary and A.A.’s first archivist.

The Akron A.A. Archives website contains photos of historic sites around the city and recordings of Akron oldtimers sharing their stories.

Mayflower Hotel lobby

Of course it was fairly simple to keep everyone informed for the first score of years. June of 1968 had 12 groups represented. January of 1980 had 17 groups. To date (2019) we have records of over 80 groups on a regular basis and nearly 100 people in attendance. Portland Area Intergroup actively serves over 900 weekly AA meetings with approximately 15,000 members.

In 1959 the “Eastside” group announced their intention to open another office and telephone service to improve 12 step work. There was a little discussion about this at that meeting, but it was never mentioned again. The Eastside group did start attending and supporting the efforts of the intergroup the very next meeting however. The focus was on 12 step work and helping the still suffering alcoholic!

Speaker meetings were now on the radar and the Intergroup sponsored a quarterly speaker meeting which became tradition by the 1960’s. Marty M. was one of the early speakers of the time. Marty was best known as the first woman in AA to stay sober for any length of time and who worked tirelessly to educate the medical profession on alcoholism and the tools AA had to offer as a treatment.

F.W. “Doug” D. was the second person to serve as manager of the office and did so for the next 12 years. AA continued to grow, and the office kept up with the growing pains. The office moved from a 144-sq-ft room that served 8 groups, to a 1200-sq-ft office that served over 200 groups. This period was from 1950 to 1983.

After “Doug” retired, we found Chet C.. Chet managed the office for the next four years. (1983-1987) Chet was a well-known AA member in Portland and helped start many meetings in the Portland Area. Chet was also very active in Oregon Area and maintained the Oregon Area Archive collection for a number of years.

PAI Headquarters
Our current home at Portland Area Intergroup
825 NE 20th Ave., Suite 200, Portland, OR 97232

When Chet retired, Donald B. was asked to manage the office and usher in the computer era. Don also brought a level of professionalism to Central Office that served as an excellent example of how to be organized in a disorganized organization. Don’s work made it easy for the next manager to step in. Don retired in 1993. Garry B. was hired to serve as office manager after Donald B. retired.

The growth of AA has been consistent with the growth of the population in the greater Portland area. Our Intergroup currently publishes a local meeting schedule that lists over 900 meetings a week in Portland and outlying areas. We supply AA literature to the majority of the meetings and groups. Portland Area Intergroup has had a successful “Intergroup Committee” meeting monthly since its inception in 1947. We continue to strive to meet the needs of the AA community and act as a contact point for anyone inquiring about the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Central Offices across the country have had a weekend seminar once a year since 1985. At this seminar, we discuss and share our experience strength and hope with each other as to how to better serve the still suffering alcoholic. We frequently communicate via e-mail with each other to offer advice and encouragement. We all seem to share common ailments when it comes to running Central Offices. One thing is certain, our fellowship continues to grow and daily people reach out to AA for the first time.