NOTHING HAPPENS WITHOUT A PURPOSE
The Big Book begins with Bill W's struggles with alcohol, relating in Chapter Eleven, "A Vision For You", how he met Dr. Bob, thus forming the beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
One man on an unsuccessful business trip far from home, forming a strong friendship with another man through a random selection from a church directory in a hotel lobby, while searching for relief from his own suffering and temptation, would seem to go against most odds in itself.
But, for that chance meeting and subsequent friendship to grow into a powerful miracle bringing relief to sufferers throughout the world, would seem to be against any odds that even the greatest of odds-makers might conjure up. A chance meeting?
Consider the events six years later, when three men, one in Kansas City and two strangers living two blocks apart in Willow Glen, began a journey that would extend this miracle, forming a fellowship that has endured for over thirty years and still grows. This is the Heritage of the Alano Club of San Jose, California.
Although the club itself did not receive its charter until 1951, the foundation was being laid ten years earlier, a year that brought the United States into a world wide struggle that lasted until 1945. In 1941, Jim H. first joined Alcoholics Anonymous in Kansas City, seeking to end his own struggle with alcohol. That same year in California, Mickey C. wrote to AA in New York seeking help from this new organization and was advised by return mail of group meetings in Oakland. After attending meetings for 2 or 3 months, he met Jim R., who had sought help in the same way, receiving the same response and following the same road to Oakland. They met at these meetings and started meetings of there own in Jim R.'s home - just two blocks from the home that Mickey C. shared with his wife.
The meetings continued and expanded as the principles of AA to help yourself by helping others brought more alcoholics into the fold, sharing their experiences and growth in their quest for sobriety. Mickey C. became the first AA member in San Jose to become sober through the program.
The war interrupted Jim H.'s membership in Kansas City, bringing him into the service to aid in the national struggle for peace. After the war, Jim returned home to Kansas, to be transferred to San Jose in 1945 as Depot Agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1946, he re-joined AA in San Jose, becoming very active. Jim was a joiner, and at the time, Alano Clubs were being recommended for people like that. Jim approached Bob S., Dean Mc., John D. and others, and John D. said "If you can raise the money, we'll start a club of our own." Carl T. and Bob S. were among the first to contribute their $50.00, and the move was on.
Heritage has many definitions, but one stands out above all others, as we would apply it to our own Fellowship: "something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor". These brief summaries are part of a larger effort to record for posterity the heritage that our predecessors have begun. Our past should always be remembered, for that is the foundation for our future.
Back to Beginning
THE FIRST CLUB HOUSE
First there was one. Then there were two. Wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there shall I be. Certainly, a Higher Power was at work to bring Mickey C. and Jim R. together through such a circuitous route: from San Jose to New York by mail; to Oakland by car, and finally, to within walking distance of each other to begin their journey on the path to recovery. By the time Jim H. arrived in San Jose by train from Kansas City in 1945, the rank and file of alcoholics gathering together for their own recovery had grown. Like gypsies banded together by a common bond, they wandered from place to place, meeting in each others homes, more for the comfort of social gatherings than to practice the steps toward sobriety.
Jim H. joined these wanderers in 1946. Jim was a joiner, getting involved in unions, fraternities and other organizations where people got together with people for whatever reason. Being a joiner, he needed a feeling of more permanence than this group had to offer, but this was the only group that would protect his sobriety.
So he talked with the others about a place to get together - a meeting place, a clubhouse, a place they could feel they really belonged. He talked to Bob S., discussed it with Dean Mc., spoke to Carl T., approached John D., and John said, "If you can raise the money, we'll do it."
That was all Jim needed. With a list of those he thought would agree and those he thought could be talked into it, he made the rounds again. Money was tight then, especially for alcoholics. There were a few who had their own business, so Jim made a special effort with them. He went to Carl T. at his jewelry store on First Street near the Hester Theater. Carl put in $50. Bob S. owned a window shade company - another $50. John D.'s mortuary provided another $50. And so it went - those who could did; willing to share for the sake of those who couldn't.
With money in hand, they looked for a place to settle. The criteria was simple: inexpensive and cheap. As it happened, Bob G. had a dry cleaning shop on Almaden Ave. next to a vacant house. Shack is a better description, but the rent was right: $30 a month. No bathroom and it lacked in a few other ways, but it met the most important criteria - it was cheap. So they moved in - a place of their own.
You wouldn't have called it a meeting place, because they didn't hold meetings. Card room fits best. A coffee pot, a table, a few chairs and a waiting line if you got there after a game started. Poker was the first order of the day, and the last call at night. Bob G. loved to play poker, and that was probably a bigger threat to his business than drinking, but the games went on.
Summers in San Jose get a little warm sometimes, and that created a small problem that got worse as the card games and coffee drinking progressed. The distance between the clubhouse and Bob G.'s Cleaners was only about six or eight feet. Not having indoor plumbing, this was the ideal spot to get rid of recycled coffee. It doesn't take much imagination to consider the effects of the hot sun on the 'former' coffee in a closed-in space. Something had to be done, and soon.
About this time, the wives were beginning to get involved. The clubhouse kept most of the men away from alcohol, but the card games kept most of the husbands away from the wives. The pressure was mounting. The wives wanted to be around their husbands and the neighbors near the clubhouse wanted to be around fresh air. The solution was obvious: move to a place with an indoor outhouse, and leave the decorating to the wives.
It is interesting to note that our predecessors moved into their first clubhouse in 1946. The Twelve Traditions of AA were first published in . . .. 1946.
Back To Beginning
MOVING, GROWING, MOVING
Behind every good man stands a woman. Alcoholics aren't always good and women seldom 'stand' for things that aren't good. So moving to a better place where the men could learn a little more about being good (staying sober) seemed the only reasonable thing to do. A few more meetings, a little less cards and more time to spend with their wives. The meetings this group attended were held at the Women's Club, while the wives met in each other's homes. So, when Jim H. and Carl M. located three rooms above the Padre Theater on South First Street, the stage was set for a better way.
Not all the members of the group liked the idea, but those who did pitched in to make it worthwhile. A long chesterfield and a few chairs from Los Angeles (connections and a better price) made the lounge warm and friendly. A recreation room and a combination meeting and card room rounded out the new 'place to be'. An artist in Los Angeles painted the Twelve Steps of AA and the spirit of the program began to grow. The first organized place dedicated to sobriety.
Roy M. was active in the club, and his wife, Eva, was making sandwiches and good coffee (at last). Bob B., his wife Vivian, Lloyd S., his wife Jean (Jean started the first Al-Anon group in San Jose), Chet M., Dorothy B., and several others, frequented the club, taking an active part in the going's-on, making it much more than merely a refuge from drinking - it was becoming a new way of life.
This new life began attracting more and more to the point that three rooms no longer provided the comfort it did when they first moved in. Sam H., a prominent attorney, filed a club charter and the club had a formal name "The Alano Club of San Jose". A new name and a need for more room. Time to move again. The need to move was different than before, and the obstacles were different as well.
Johnny B. loved to dance, so the new place should have room for that. The meetings were getting larger, so more room was needed for them. Card games were a must, and of course, a bigger lounge was needed for a break from all the other activities. Some members, however, weren't convinced. The Board of Directors of this new club didn't know what they wanted, or how to go about it. They'd get started, get opinions and if they couldn't have their way, there'd be problems. At one point, all the Board Members resigned leaving Johnny, President. He was proud of that responsibility.
The old-timers (8, 9 and 10 years at the time) said that a clubhouse would create resentments. Johnny thought that alcoholics are full of resentments anyway, so a club couldn't make many more. Martin K. had a set mind, and said if there was no gambling, a club would be O.K. Johnny said O.K., Al C. didn't think that was a good idea because the card players were the only regulars they could depend on, and the gambling was one of the few ways to raise money. Martin was always saying at the meetings "We have to learn to stand on our own two feet!", yet the members would say "If Martin goes along with it, we'll go along with it". Johnny would say, "If we have to stand on our own two feet, why does it depend on what Martin says?". Another thing Martin liked to say was, "Whenever I have a problem like that, I always take it to my Higher Power". Johnny took it to his Higher Power, and the answer came back "Go For It!"
The Twelve Steps painted by an artist in Los Angeles are the same Twelve Steps that survived the fire which destroyed the next clubhouse, and the same ones that hang in Duncan Hall at the Fair Avenue Fellowship today.
Back To Beginning
SOBRIETY IN A WINERY
Once the decision to move to a larger club was made, the task of finding the right place began in earnest. Room to dance, a lounge to talk sobriety and relax, a room for meetings, and, of course, cards. A tall order to fill on a small budget, but where there's a will, there's a way. Most alcoholics have a considerable amount
of practice finding a way to get drunk on little or no money, so this acquired skill could finally be put to good use.
After searching and seeking, a suitable building was located on Almaden Avenue in Willow Glen, across from Mariani Gardens. The Old Filipino Hall. Prior to that, it was a winery, and now it was to be a "Sanctuary for Sobriety." No doubt their Higher Power had been planning this use for this building for some time, and the time was now at hand.
A two-story building with the lower floor sunk about four feet below street level. It had all the desired features, including reasonable monthly rent. A small kitchen in the basement with a few tables and chairs. A raised area on the upper floor served as a base for a nice, long oak bar. Steps at the end of the bar led
to the card room, often crowded with anxious on-lookers waiting for the next open seat in the game.
A door behind the bar led to a small one-room apartment, frequently occupied by a down-and-out member helping out at the club. Refrigerator, coffeepot, tables and chairs (some of the old fashioned wooden folding variety), and a few miscellaneous knick-knacks set the mood. The Twelve Steps naturally moved with the other things from the Padre Theater club. Folding card tables saw many a game of canasta, bridge and pinochle after the meetings. Judd would sometimes play the piano in the corner while members gathered around and sang in and out of key. Shuffleboard occupied the time for many, testing their skills after signing up for their turn on the chalkboard hanging on the wall.
Cliff E. was the first secretary of the Saturday Night Family Meetings held at the club. The dance afterward attracted many from the only other Saturday Night Meeting held at the First Trinity Church on North Second Street. Johnny B. was sure to be one of the first on the floor and one of the last to call it quits. Potluck dinners in the basement rounded out the social activities. Clara B. started Beginners Meetings on Tuesday night, and the men got together for a Closed Men's Meeting each Wednesday.
Duncan M. was the first Manager of this club. A little hard of hearing, but dedicated to the task with the energy of four men, Duncan would rush to open the club after work and stay long after a reasonable quitting time. The only monies he received for his effort was car fare to and from the club, and members argued about paying that, saying "Why can't he pay his own way out of his own pocket?". Gratitude then, as always, strikes different people in different ways. Duncan continued to receive gas money, but most importantly, he continued to grow in his journey to sobriety, going to any lengths to get it.
The only reward we seek in the Fellowship is a daily life without drinking. The dedication of some for others, however, is occasionally recognized and honored for future posterity. We honor the memory and dedication of Duncan M. each time we attend meetings in Duncan Hall at the Fair Avenue Fellowship in the Alano Club.
Back To Beginning
SETTLING IN & DISASTER
As time went by, the club and the membership matured. Of the thirteen regular meetings in the valley, three were held at the club. Inter-group Service Council met there on the third Thursday of the month, featuring "Guest Speakers - Entertainment & Refreshments. Family Night every Thursday traded "Games" for "Guest Speakers", but the welcome mat was always out. Open daily from 7 PM to Midnight, sooner if Duncan could get there, later if there was money to be made. Duncan made a special effort to open early during the cold winter months, and with poker charged at 15 cents an hour, every bit counted. But sometimes, there weren't enough 'bits' coming in to meet the demand going out. Bob S., owner of the San Jose Window Shade Company on South Second Street, a charter member of the club and tracing his sobriety to 1942, said "Turn it over to me, and I'll get the bills paid". Things were turned over, and between he and Duncan, things got better: the bills were being paid - on time, and there was actually a surplus. Only problem with that, however, was that every time the kitty got up around a hundred dollars, they'd throw a big steak dinner. Stomachs got filled and the kitty got emptied. One Day At A Time was becoming an Easier, Softer Way.
The message was being carried and carried well. Sometimes, however, the experience, strength and hope in the message isn't well received by all, especially the experience part. At one open meeting, a speaker carried a message of recovery, and when finished, the group responded with a hearty applause. One lady remarked
to another, "Wasn't that a beautiful talk!", to which the other replied "Oh, I heard her talk a couple of months ago, and she's nothing but a tramp". A third lady sitting just ahead of these two overheard the conversation and fumed. The next morning, Thelma G. was on the phone and within a week, the Midday Women's Group
was meeting at 12 O'clock. The first closed women's meeting was off and running in privacy.
Days grew into weeks, weeks into months and, of course, months into years. Poker games went well past closing, often lasting until early in the morning. Sobriety was the order of the day, but we all need a breather sometimes. Jules became the new Manager, and progress continued. Many summer Saturday nights, the Alano Club Family Group meeting drew over capacity crowds, forcing late arrivals to stand outside, hanging into open windows to hear about sobriety.
It was on a Saturday night that fate dealt the blow that would test the character of this group. The meeting was well attended, many more gathering from other meetings around the valley to join in the festivities of the regular Saturday night dance. The night seemed endless, but the last dance finally came, bringing the
evening to a close. As the crowd dwindled, a few remained to clean up, emptying ashtrays, returning tables and chairs to their regular spots. The lights went out, the door was locked and the clubhouse settled down for the night. But over in the corner, a small cardboard box began to smolder, then glow, finally bursting into
flames that would turn the upper floor into a mass of charred memories. A cigarette, not quite extinguished, carelessly thrown in the wrong place had the final say at 1274 Almaden Avenue.
The program teaches us to live life on a daily basis, facing each event with a clear mind and a resolution to go ahead even under the most adverse conditions. The strength of the Alano Club today is a tribute to how well our predecessors acquired this ability.
Back To Beginning
HARD TIMES GET BETTER
After the fire, little remained of the clubs furnishings, most of what was left was soiled. It was fortunate that one of the members, Harvie W., was an insurance agent and had convinced the members of the need for protection against this sad event. Another member, Bill B., ran an accounting and tax service out of his garage and had the club assets on IBM punch cards. Before turning in a claim, though, the value was inflated somewhat to make the best of a bad situation: thus a thousand-dollar list became a $3,500 payoff. It seemed the right thing to do under the circumstances.
The members were advised that they wouldn't be allowed to return once the building was repaired, so a new place had to be found. Another member, Dean Mc., leased a warehouse on West San Carlos Street across from Sears with a vacant space on the ground floor, with his living quarters above. He had his own Higher Power, and everyone knew it. Al E., Secretary of a meeting on the Eastside, tried once to get him to lead in the Lord's Prayer, and Dean abruptly told him "I don't say that --- ---- thing!". Al never did that again, but Dean showed his faith by letting the club use the downstairs area in his warehouse as their clubroom
With a place to move to, the only thing left was the physical move. Jim C. went to the different meetings around town asking for volunteers with pick-up trucks and a strong back. There were so many eager hands raised that he had to cut it off at 25 volunteers. All the volunteers were to meet early Saturday morning--at the old club. At 8 AM, Jim waited beside his flatbed truck with Bill B. for the others to show up. A little later, Roy showed up and this small band turned to moving. Roy, who wasn't even an alcoholic, and the others, were willing to do for the good of the many.
After the comfort and spaciousness of the Almaden Club, West San Carlos was pretty bleak. The few chairs and tables scattered here and there helped. Some of the insurance money went to recover a couch and chair in red. One member had a counter from a store downtown in his backyard for ten dollars, the counter that once served downtown customers became the coffee bar for the few that remained loyal to the club. The Twelve Steps from the Padre Theater Club survived, adding a touch of sobriety to the atmosphere.
Two pinball machines graced the sidewalls, ringing their bells to the pleasure and displeasure of the pinball wizards. The nickels were emptied every night and hid in a different place each time for security. That didn't deter those with a rigorous desire for easy money. Many a time on opening the club, a trail of broken matches marked the efforts of thieves searching in the dark for this small treasure, ending when the hunt was over, and the money taken. Jim C. finally put an end to this by pouring the nickels into two cigar boxes, carrying them home at night, returning them for the next day's games.
The membership dwindled to just 13 dues paying members, the others unwilling to hang in for better or for worse. This small group knew what had to be done, and set out once again on a search for the "right place." Harold P. and Jim C. drove all over town searching. Jules and Zella D. scouted the streets for a likely spot. Days and weeks of diligent effort finally paid off - a suitable building on Minnesota Ave. in Willow Glen was located. Now the task of getting a rental agreement began. The Mormon Church owned the property, and any rental had to be approved out of Salt Lake. The request was submitted and the waiting game began. Would they, or wouldn't they? Finally, after a couple of months the answer came back - It's O.K.!
Back To Beginning
HERE WE GO AGAIN
A little over a year had passed since the Almaden St club had burned down, and 1139 Minnesota Ave. was a far cry from the warehouse on West San Carlos that was the temporary Alano Club of San Jose. The membership grew once again, and the club began acquiring new assets. The red couch and easy chair, recovered in vinyl after the fire, were some of the few things reminiscent of the first club above the Padre
Theater. The Twelve Steps, of course, had made the same moves also, surviving the fire intact. A coffee bar was built, the clubroom was carpeted, and captains chairs and folding chairs were bought to provide seating for the attendees.
A small house, or shack, to the side proved a delight for the card players. The club opened at noon, and if you weren't there on time, you'd find a line waiting for the next opening. There was no regular closing time, at least for card players, so many a night the lights burned bright while the deal passed hands. Johnny B.'s wife, Amelia, would call, wanting to know when he would be home. Finally, one morning about 4 AM, she came in and all ---- broke loose. Jim C., President of the Board, installed a timer on the lights, set it for 11 PM and that took care of that - no light, no cards.
Evelyn W. managed the club on a voluntary basis, receiving only expenses, but the task was more demanding now, with a larger membership, and it soon became apparent that volunteer efforts were not enough. The Board thought about it for awhile, then decided that a full time, paid manager was the answer. Paul S. was there and seemed to fit the description of what they wanted, so Paul became the first hired manager of the club. He was quiet, nice, and easy going and everyone liked him. Not too neat behind the bar, but the rest of the club was kept up in fine shape.
Inter-Group Service Council held their monthly meetings here, and Al-Anon Groups met weekly. In October, 1957, Al-Ateen began holding their meetings every week, as well. That created a few problems, however, since they weren't supervised all the time and things got a little out of hand now and then. More than once, President, Jim C. got a call for help and came down to get things back under control. As time passed, a new Board was elected, with Herman S., President, Al E., Vice President, Margarite P., Secretary-Treasurer, and Milt S. and Glenn G. completing the ranks. Milt and Glenn put their heads together and came up with some good ideas. Regular Bingo games and re-start the dances again. Milt was busy, so Glenn went out and found the Bingo equipment: cards for the players, a hand turned cage for the numbers, and corn and buttons to mark the ones called. Money was collected for each game at ten cents a card, three for a quarter, and the game took off. It started out in the front room, but over capacity crowds soon pushed some into the back room. Someone had to stand in the hallway to shout the numbers to those in back.
Glenn had met a man, Buzz D., at Soledad, where he carried the message, and Buzz agreed to help out with the dances. Buzz had a band and offered to play for nothing. The price was too low, so they settled on fifty dollars to play. The group wasn't too good, but they were loud, so it worked out all right. Except for the trumpet player, there was a different set of guys that showed up each time. Dances were free, and the board soon wanted to charge money. Glenn didn't agree, so he had a talk with Dick P., Secretary of the Saturday Night Alano Family Group. There was a schoolhouse across the street, and they told the board if money was charged, they'd hold the Saturday night meetings there. The board didn't listen, so for a while the schoolhouse became the meeting room. That didn't last long, and free dances came back to the club along with the Saturday night meetings.
Back To Beginning
NO MORE RENT
The club was on a high point nearly fourteen years after the first social gathering at the Padre Theater, almost eleven years as a chartered organization. Membership ranks swelled the rooms to overflowing, a feeling they had experienced in the past and which, with the exception of the Almaden Avenue fire, had been their reason to move to new quarters. Growth had been fairly smooth, with a few exceptions. President, Herman S., slipped after his wife left him, and was replaced by Harold P. Glenn G.'s term on the board had expired, and his duties were assumed by Joe C. Secretary-Treasurer, Margaret P., was replaced by Jack H. and manager Paul S. fell in love and fell off the wagon. Glenn was in a meeting when one of the board members anxiously called him out, explained the situation, and added that the board, at an emergency meeting, would like him to take on the duties temporarily. Glenn had thought of retiring from the meat business anyway, so he accepted and became the new permanent manager.
The members felt more confident of their new status now, and longed for something with a little more stability. Why not own our club rather than rent again? The idea caught on and a new fever spread among the sober alcoholics, so Al E. had plans drawn up for a building with all the right things in exactly the right place. As it turned out, the lot they had in mind on Lincoln Avenue was too low and would have to be filled
before a permit could be issued, so that plan was out - too much extra money. A church in the Burbank area was rejected, as well as another on Willow St. with a parsonage in the back. About this time, Jack H. and Burt W., owners of Now Realty on Monterey Rd., saw a listing for an old school house on the Eastside and called Cliff Weaver, non-alcoholic, who had the listing. They took one look at it and went back to the members to tell them they had found the new clubhouse.
Even though most of the members were in favor of owning their club, a decision to buy wouldn't be an easy one to come by. Ruth H, one of the earliest women members in AA and a charter member of the first club, had to learn early in her sobriety to fight for her place in the Fellowship, a talent she developed well over the years. There was a saying that if you could convince Ruth, she would convince the others, so Harold took her to the vacant schoolhouse, sat her in a chair in the empty, dirty lobby and began his pitch. Ruth looked and listened, and said "This seems to be the right place for you guys". The battle was won.
The school was owned by The Golden Rule Church Association in Bolinas, and with an asking price of $45,000 and about $10,000 in hand, something was going to have to be done. The board met and decided to offer $40,000 for the property. They took the offer to the deacon of the church. He ranted and raved for awhile, then accepted the deal. The next step was to get formal approval: that came with more than a little discussion at the largest general membership meeting held to that date. To raise more money, box lunches were sold, a White Elephant Sale was held and the members really got behind the effort. Barbecues were held, and the one at a Cambrian Park Church, rib-eye steak and a month's membership were sold at $5 a head. Some of the more well healed members paid ten years dues at $250 to swell the fund. Daily lotteries from $15 to $100 to $300 were run, with 25% going to the fund. In a little more than a month, $6,000 was added to the kitty.
The membership was now well over 300, and on August 22, 1962, the papers were signed. The deal was $10,000 down, and the church would carry a $30,000 note at 6.5%, payment of $261.40 per month due on the 14th, beginning in October. With the extra money raised during the big drive, there'd be almost enough time to get the place ready for the big opening. The old school looked like a beehive, with hammers swinging, brooms pushing fallen sawdust from busy saws and old dirt, getting ready for new paint on the walls.
Back To Beginning
READY OR NOT, HERE WE COME
The excitement of owning their own clubhouse ran high among the members, spurring many to spend long hours in revamping and refurbishing the place, always cheered on by a steady stream of onlookers coming for their first look-see or returning for periodic progress checks. Anxieties built up waiting for the great moment, until the decision was made, "Let's do it!" It was a Saturday, October 20th, and the initiation of the club was to be the eight o'clock meeting of the Alano Family Group. Last minute details found volunteers still scrambling while managers Glenn and Thelma G. made ready as best they could. Secretary Joe C. opened and Chairman Sam B. led the largest meeting of the year for that Group as 110 AA's listened and shared in the topic "AA Participation". The largest collection of the year, $26.00, still left the Group $26.60 in the hole, but the inauguration was complete. Less than a month later, Dr. Earle spoke at the first club dinner on November 17th. The club was open for business.
The new place quickly became the center of Valley AA activity, continuing to support Inter-Group and H&I meetings, adding other specialized meetings, including being host to the NCC Summer Meeting in July of 1963. A small room off the entrance lobby became the local AA library, offering Big Books, Twelve by Twelve's and assorted AA literature. Shortly after opening, several AA's began an attempt to bring about a closer feeling of unity among the increasing number of Groups in the County, and in March of 1963, SCAN (Santa Clara Alcoholic News) made its appearance, issued from the club using the library as an editors office. That lasted until July 15th when the first real Central Office was opened downtown in Room 208 of the Porter Building at 57 E. Santa Clara St. The club continued to serve as the main meeting place for Inter-Group and most other special committees and groups. Another small room across the entry stairs from the library became home for a night watchman after a few attempted burglaries made it an obvious necessity.
General improvements continued to be made, including a barbecue in the back and a pool room in 1966, but membership roles shrank to less than half the over 300 mark reached on opening day. Glenn and Thelma retired in December 1965, being replaced by Ralph A. and assistant Lee L. The five man Board of Directors became engrossed in trying to find ways to promote the club. The 1965 General Membership meeting almost exclusively dealt with ways to gain new members, including inviting people to the club, paying one months dues for new members, courtesy cards with maps on the back, contacting members who had dropped out, and a concentrated membership drive. It was decided to hold quarterly membership meetings, and the final note was "Circulate and Talk Alano Club!". The struggle continued, and at a special Board Meeting on May 15, 1967, the decision was made to lay off Manager, Ralph, as of June 1. They couldn't pay the $400 a month salary.
Even though membership dropped, those that stayed with the club enjoyed many festivities. Regular dances with live bands, beauty pageants, fashion shows and bingo livened the halls. White Elephant sales were combined with socials for fund raising. Raffles were popular over the years, prizes including a color TV, Niagra Lounge Chair, and one year, a brand new car. Parking was a problem, so a wooden water tank and pump house to the side had to go. Gravel was donated, which helped, but the obvious solution was more land. About a quarter acre by the club was owned by the church next door, and was available for $11,000. That seemed the answer, but when the club applied for money the Wells Fargo Bank wanted all members with jobs and property to co-sign for the loan. Jack, one of the members, sold labels to Joseph George Liquor Distributors, one of the largest in the area, and knew Joseph, personally. Jack had told him he was a member of AA and mentioned the difficulty, so when Joe called the bank and threatened to move his accounts to another bank, the loan was approved immediately.
Back To Beginning
The sixties brought a lot of changes not only in the club, but in society, as well. Membership had dropped significantly, prompting many attempts to perk things up. Committees were formed for almost anything, at one point even a committee to oversee the other committees. It got so desperate that outside advertising was solicited for the club newsletter. The newly expanded parking lot became known as Lake Alano, at one point causing a lawsuit to be filed by a nearby landowner. The club won the suit, but Lake Alano required periodic draining.
Society at large experienced a major increase in drug use, and as users became abusers, many looked to AA for help. Meetings at the club began to change as addicts started talking about their problem, often in street language that became annoying to members who viewed their club as a sanctuary. To be sure, foul language had periodically come under fire, including signs posted and warnings given at board meetings, but this
new influx who showed little regard for the sensitivities of others was a bit too much for many.
At an August 1970 Board Meeting, a letter was sent to New York requesting advice on addicts in AA meetings. The September membership meeting addressed the problem, noting that the by-laws stated the club was for alcoholics, but conceded to allow one meeting a week for addicts. The problem hit AA all over the Valley, prompting a special note read before the definition of AA requesting that only alcohol and related problems be discussed. The problem grew and one club member resigned in January 1973 because he felt addicts should have a chance to get clean in AA.
Card games, a mainstay of club activities since the first club opened also came under fire. Many of the younger people coming in didn't join the club, but played cards often winning. Some older members felt there was foul play, and in fact, there seemed to be a general lack of courtesy flowing throughout the club. A struggle began that lasted several years. The older members who had built the club up, although there had
been many incidences of dissention and problems along the way, were losing ground.
In 1968, a five man Board of Trustees was established to supplement the Board of Directors. Although they had no vote, this group served in an advisory capacity, their clout being to call membership meetings for issues of disagreement. At the end of 1972, the Trustees and Board were merged into a 9 man Board of Directors. The new Board was elected, but by Valentines Day, 1973, five had resigned, two of these being replacements of members who had resigned. Manager and worker problems seemed the order of the day, one reason possibly being the low monthly salaries.
The early 70's brought in a range of activities in an attempt to promote interest. Miss Alano pageants pitted men against men to vie for the crown, along with their name inscribed on a trophy. Other trophies were awarded for shuffleboard, golf, bridge, pool and even a turkey shoot. Live bands, always used during most of the 60's, gradually gave way to taped music to cut expenses. Bingo was stopped, then restarted.
In June 1972, Harold P. assumed responsibility as administrator of the club after manager Dean W. resigned. Harold had been on the board since 1959, serving as president during most of the time. Gradually, both finances and the general condition of the club improved until he took sick in November 1974. In December, Al B. took his place. Al was elected to the board February 10th, was elected president May 15th, and now would cover until Harold returned. At the December 15th General Membership Meeting, he announced
that "a certain amount of money is going to be deposited into the savings account to cover Bingo payoffs."
Back To Beginning
January 1975 started on a somewhat positive note. Harold P. was back, Al B. was re-elected president of the new board, a clean up committee was formed and a cuss box with a five cent penalty was put at the coffee bar. Pathways was allowed to bring 10 people to dances and NA was allowed to have a dance at the club on January 25th. Estimates were being obtained for a fence around the property and Al was continuing
to serve as manager in addition to his duties as president of the board. In his report at the January 25th board meeting, he suggested "caution should be exercised so we remain in black ink."
By July, the club had been painted on the outside, the restrooms were being remodeled, the parking lot was being considered for paving and Bingo was improving, showing a profit. The financial statement had been modified, combining some revenue items, poker income from the card room was low and a small deficit was showing up from bad checks. In August, cases of steak and grapefruit were reported stolen, and Andre L. suggested it be recorded in the P & L statement. He also requested an audit to determine the extent of the loss. A lock was put on the back room door, and things settled down.
By the end of the year, dances were being held every Saturday night, live bands the 2nd and 4th Saturdays and jukebox dances the remaining Saturdays. The board had voted in November to raise dues to $5.00 per month effective January 1st, 1976, to help pay for the growing costs of business, management and the several major improvements planned for the club. The December newsletter included a "Special Thank You" to Al
for the fine job being done.
1976 began as usual, activities planned, improvements progressing and things generally going well. There was nothing much different than the past year, until one mid-year morning the club wasn't opened at the normal time. When someone with a key to the office finally arrived, the bad news began to unfold. The floor safe was open, all the cash was missing, and no sign of forced entry. As the day progressed, a call to Security Savings & Loan found a dry savings account. That was bad enough but as the days passed, checks began showing up at the club marked "insufficient funds". Al and the clubs money had disappeared.
Panic set in and an emergency board meeting was called. The first priority was to keep the club going, so volunteer help manned necessary posts, creditors were called to explain the problem and keep essentials coming in and the whole club was stunned. Except for AA meetings, not much else was talked about for some time. Several members had gone to the board asking for their resignations, feeling they had neglected their duty in not paying closer attention to financial reports and the like. None resigned, but each felt a greater sense of caution in any actions of the board.
Law enforcement agencies and bonding companies began their tasks in taking care of such unpleasant matters while another group began to hold discussions outside the club. After the club moved from Minnesota Avenue in 1962, a church group rented the property for use as children's bible school. Coincidental to the disaster at Fair Avenue, the Minnesota building was now vacant. A word here, a word there and before long a large group held a meeting at the vacant building. Topics ranged from the recent theft to the foul language and abuse from addicts to what do we do now. Hard as it was to swallow, the only thing that seemed right was to give up the club many of them had worked hard to build, and start again. A board of directors was elected, volunteers offered help and support and a name was chosen: Alano Club West was born. The doors opened for business in October 1976. Meanwhile, a new manager was hired back
at the Alano Club of San Jose, and Tony B. rolled up his sleeves.
Back To Beginning
A NEW BEGINNING
October became a traditional month of celebration, the first charter received October 23, 1951, the Fair Avenue opening on October 20, 1962. October 1976 was also significant, but in a different way. Alano West opened it's doors, Al B. had been apprehended in Los Angeles and Tony B. was just beginning in his new role as manager. The embezzlement, theft or whatever you called it, had drained the club financially, and an Anonymous Donor had come through with a $2,000 no interest loan to be repaid when things got better. The members of the board had volunteered their services at the counter to defray the costs of hired help. Rough going, but life goes on.
On December 21st, club attorney, Dan O'. brought a check for $4,500 from Security Savings to cover losses, another attorney was handling the other losses for the bonding company that protected the club. $2,100 in recovered checks had been turned over, and arrangements were being made for Al to make restitution. The anonymous loan was repaid, the balance put into savings. On January 18th, money from the bonding company was received, the new board elected and officers selected: Dick P., President, Charlie F., Vice President, Grautzie F., Secretary, Kathy O., Treasurer, all supported by Dave O., Willie K., Buzz S, Katie W. and Manuel M. Later, Katie resigned, replaced by Andre L.
On April 20, Andre made a motion to dismiss the manager, Tony, seconded by Manuel. Kathy, Dick and Willie agreed: Buzz, Grautzie and Charlie voted no. Dave had resigned earlier. Reasons given were 1. Tony did not move the piano back on the stage, and 2. Tony did not fire a bar worker that served someone without a badge. The piano had been an on-again, off-again subject at board meetings, and membership rules had been a bone of contention for several years. Shock waves went through the club, and a special membership meeting was called for May 3rd. At the meeting, eight reasons were given, only one matching the two given Tony, but all were rebuked as Grautzie took the floor. She authoritatively summarized the facts in each case, including that only one board member had followed through on the commitment to help behind the counter. 82 voted to remove the five board members, 26 voted to retain - a clear majority. New board members were elected and Tony was unanimously reinstated with no loss in pay. The years that followed saw steady improvements in the club, albeit membership fluctuations continued. The parking lot was paved, the front lobby tiled, the inside painted several times, improvements in the kitchen and more often than not, enough money was available for hired help. Volunteer effort then, as now and undoubtedly for all time to come, helped smooth over rough spots, but when membership in anything combines involvement with being there, those who become involved benefit to a greater degree whether or not they realize it at the time. Being a part of seems a common lacking for most alcoholics.
Becoming involved in and being a part of was a missing element for some time in my own past. Being allowed the opportunity to research the Heritage of the Alano Club of San Jose has given me many hours of pleasure, at times almost a feeling of having been there when these memories of today were in the making. Duncan Hall, Goble Hall, the basement, the pool room, the back room, lobby - every part of the club stirs a feeling that more than just the memory of the past is alive. The struggles and triumphs, the sorrows and joys, the heartaches and accomplishments all meld into one overwhelming sense of pride in belonging. Regardless of anything else, this clubs and clubs like it throughout the world, hold a very special place in the hearts of many a sober alcoholic. I'm grateful that mine is one of them.
Back To Beginning