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History PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 27 June 2008

This is the history of the Whitehouse Alano Club...

October 29, 1943, Don F. from Omaha met with five Des. Moines men in the office of Ray Harrison, attorney.  This was the first A.A. meeting held in Iowa.  Attorney Ray Harrison later became Judge Harrison, well known for his work with alcoholics.

 These men continued their meetings, becoming the first successful A.A. group in Iowa.  A few early meetings were held at the Savery Hotel.  They then moved their meetings to the Northwestern Hotel where they continued to meet until January of 1944.  At that time the group moved to a room on 6th Avenue across the street from the Polk County Courthouse.  The group met regularly and continually recruited new members.

July 1, 1944, a group of women, wives and relatives of A.A. members started a ladies group calling themselves "Onalo".  As far as it is known, this was the first such group of women in the United States.  In 1949 Lois W., wife of one of the founders of AA started a ladies group in New York named the "Alanon Society".  When the Alanon Society grew and became nationwide, the Des Moines "Onalo" became affiliated and changed its name to "Alanon".

February of 1945 the group moved to more adequate rooms on 5th Avenue east of the courthouse.  The group grew in numbers.  It was at this time that a group of members started going to other cities assisting in setting up new AA Clubs.  These men became known as "The Four Horsemen".  They helped establish clubs in Sioux City, Fort Dodge, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Davenport, Dubuque, The State Penitentiary at Fort Madison and the Honor Farm in Clive.  As the movement grew, additional members of the Des Moines group as well as members from other groups assisted new communities to establish local AA groups.

During the 1947 Babe's Restaurant upstairs room was padlocked because of a liquor law violation.  Arrangements were made to open these facilities to AA and for nearly a year the group met in very luxurious quarters, a former bar room.

When Babe's could again use the facilities in 1948, the group moved to the Crow's Nest, a semi-finished attic room on the top floor of a theater building on the north side of Locust Street between 6th and 7th Avenue.  By coincidence, members had to climb twelve steps to reach this room.

It was the custom at this time for members to have dinner together Thursday evenings and have their meeting after dinner.  The Crow's Nest was not large enough to allow members to meet for dinner so they ate at the Moose Lodge on 4th Street and returned to the Crow's Nest for their meetings.  The customary contribution was $2.00 which included dinner, but members who were unable to pay the usual donation were welcome.

The group moved to 816 1/2 Walnut Street in February of 1949.  Prior to this time the group had a Chairman and Treasurer.  The need for a more formal organization to conduct the Group's business was recognized.  Articles of Incorporation were drawn up, adopted and filed with the Iowa Secretary of State creating the "Alano Society", a non-profit corporation to conduct the financial affairs of the group.  Membership in the corporation was restricted to a"a member of AA who had not had a drink the preceding year".  Thus a member of AA who had been dry the year immediately preceding an election was eligible to vote on matters pertaining to the "Alano Society".  Five officers; a president, first vice-president, second vice-president, treasurer and secretary are elected at the first Thursday night meeting in May and serve for one year.  The corporation's business is conducted by the officers of the corporation.  However, they may bring a matter before the membership for a vote if they wish.

In 1977 the by-laws were changed and approved by vote of the members to include a Board of Trustees.  This consists of five members of the Alano Society elected to a staggered period of five years.  Their duties are to oversee the operation of the Board of Directors, approve expenditures over a set amount and , in general, help with decisions when requested by the Board.  An Alano Society membership application form was also included in the by-laws.

The members of AA (not just the Alano Society members)elect the AA secretary who also takes office after the first Thursday night meeting in May and serves for a year.  The secretary serves as chairperson of the Thursday night closed meetings and approves of chairpersons for the other AA meetings.

During 1950, the West Side Group set up its own group but continues to send monthly contributions to the original group.  Another group started the East Side Group this same year.

An anniversary celebration was held each year on October 29, the anniversary of the founding of AA in Iowa.  Because of inclement weather and conflicts with other meetings, the anniversary celebration moved to the last weekend in September.  The tradition of a "Past Presidents" meeting in connection with the anniversary was started in 1951.

In 1955, the Alano Society purchased a residence at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Members of the Society signed personal notes guaranteeing the mortgages for the purchase price of $17,500.00.  November 20, 1955, the Society moved its belongings to the new location.  The first weekend the group, about 80 men, painted the house.  Because it was painted white and the address was Pennsylvania Avenue, it was referred to as "The White House", a name it proudly continues.

It should be noted that the property is owned by the "Alano Society, Inc.", a corporation whose members are members of AA.  Members of the Society and other AA members meet here at regularly scheduled meetings and give voluntary contributions towards the expense of operating the facility.  These contributions do not meet the cost of operation, and special fund-raising events are conducted to make up the deficit.  Those attending the special events are usually members of AA and their families so the club is supported during periodic "cleanup" days and with funds for financial support.

The large ground floor meeting room was started in February 1956.  The officers of the Alano Society, Inc. serving at that time continued in office until the room was completed in July of 1956.  The interior finish of the room was cement block walls and cement floor until 1969 when the ceiling, paneled walls and tile floor were added.  The parking lot was developed in stages until it was paved in 1965.  Many improvements have been made over the years.  These were nearly always paid for as completed by voluntary contributions from members, reserving the income from contributions at meetings for general operating expense.

Here are some examples of improvements that have been made over the years:

In the 80's the Bar BQ grill was built and its cover, and then the new kitchen was built on replacing the little old kitchen that is now the Women's Rest Rooms.

In the 90's the old garage was torn down and a new garage was put up.  A very big improvement for our storage! Also a big shed was put up right outside the south side of the kitchen, for storage of our mowers and yard equipment.  We've also added some cement parking in the back of the club to help with the Handicap parking.

The newest addition to the Whitehouse is the smoke room.  In February of 2004, the Whitehouse became smoke free.  So a decision was made to build a room for the smokers so they wouldn't have to stand outside to smoke.  Most of the materials and labor were donated showing that the same Spirit of the old days stell remains around the Old Whitehouse!

Other changes to the Whitehouse other than construction was in 2002.  The Alano Society and AA were separated becoming two (2) separate entities, thus creating the AA steering committee.


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