In 1977, Lucy H obtained a job downtown. Her previous place of employment was near the Suburban Group, and she had become used to going there to a daily noon meeting. With her job change to downtown, she was unable to travel from her new place of work back to the noon meeting at Suburban because of the time constraints of her lunch hour. Hence, she began to look for such a noon meeting in the downtown area.
In her search, she found out through the old-timers like Oley L and Searcy W that there had indeed been meetings downtown in the past extending back to the 1940’s. One of these was a group of AA’s who met in the upstairs dining room of the Golden Pheasant Restaurant on Main Street owned by Al B. On most occasions, this was a free lunch sponsored by Al, but this was not a formal meeting, and it came to an end with his demise.
Also, at that time, the Intergroup Office was located on the second floor over a drugstore in a building, now vacant, on the corner of Main and Akard. The secretary was Frieda Y. A group of a1coholics who worked in various places downtown used to meet there, on an informal basis, during their lunch hour. Many of them brought their lunches in brown paper sacks, and, according to Phil P (who attended these daily noon gatherings regularly since October of 1976), they nicknamed themselves “The Brown Baggers”. There were no formal meetings as such, but the comaradery and discussions were important for these people most of whom had home groups at Preston, Alpha, or Suburban. These included Bill M, Fred O, Cathy H, Vige B, and Phil P as regulars, and various other AA’s who worked downtown and would drop in on the lunch hour on occasion.
Through these same old-timers as well as fellow AA’s in the Preston, Alpha and the Suburban groups. Lucy H learned that there was a very successful group in Kansas City who met downtown at a convenient place where lunch was served. Thus began to germinate the idea of a similar noontime meeting in downtown Dallas, where lunch could be obtained, convenient to the many AA’s who worked in that area.
Consequently, Lucy H began to inquire of members of Suburban, Preston and Alpha groups as well as those in the Central Office about the possibility of starting a similar noon meeting where lunch could be obtained somewhere in the downtown region. She was encouraged in this purpose by Searcy W and Oley L, but the idea met with limited success until Lucy H spoke with Gene S. He was enthusiastic about the idea, and had numerous contacts throughout the business community, and knew personally many of the AA’s who worked downtown. Then the ball began to roll.
Tom R, another AA member, arranged for them to meet in his boardroom to have an organizational meeting to plan the necessary steps to get things started. Then Lucy H, Gene S and Tom R began to inquire about various places by phone, and by actually visiting certain locations until they found the Restaurant at Titche’s Department Store, which was on the north side of St Paul between Elm and Main. This is now turned into condominiums as well as the downtown center for various regional universities.
Hence, through their efforts and contacts, there gathered the first meeting at Titche’s in October of 1977 of a group of AA members which included Lucy H, Gene S, Phil P, Roy T, Tom R, Jeny J, Fred 0, Larry B, Morgan N, Charles H, Freda Y, Vige B, and Kathy H. These were followed, in a very short fime~ by Paul Z, John McS, Jack S, Vivian W, Charlie W, Bill M, and Bob P. Initially, they called themselves “The Titche’s Noon Group,” although the unofficial name of “Lucy’s Nooners Group” was more attractive, since it denoted, as one member who was present delicately stated: “The activities we used to engage in while we were drinking!”
The actual physical setup was that the group met in an alcove off the main dining room separated from it by a “wall” made of white latticework! Consequently, they could easily hear the other diners in the main room, and, of course, sound travels in both directions! This caused distractions, to say the least, among the members – particularly when the background piano player lost himself in the exuberance of his playing. One can imagine what effect it had as one shared deep-seated personal defects with the background playing of “Blue Moon”!
Move to Sanger’s
Because of this lack of privacy, the setup did not last long, and, by the end of the year 1977, the group had moved to the Carnation Room on the top floor of the then new Sanger Harris Department Store (The present DART headquarters) on Pacific. This was arranged and facilitated by Tom R, who knew the management at Sanger’s. The meetings were held in a separate room connected to the main dining room with the food being served by waiters. The management allowed the group to meet for lunch only three days a week from Monday through Wednesday. It was during this time from late 1977 to late 1979 while at Sanger’s that the regular membership climbed to over 45. The increased privacy allowed for a formal meeting with prayer, topic discussion, etc., and, although the walls were not made of open latticework, they were not sound-proof. This led to looks of consternation on many of the regular diners faces when the Nooners Group let out and the AA members walked through the dining room proper!
A May 1979 Directory of Meetings put out by the Central Office listed the Group as “Nooners-Sanger Harris-Discussion & Eating 12:00 noon, closed”. Subsequently the name, “Downtown Nooners Group” became established, and was so listed by this same directory.
One of the early members at Sanger Harris was a true opera buff. He invited a few of the regular members over to his apartment to see his opera collection. It was wall-to-wall opera records and tapes! Subsequently, when he was asked to give his story, he brought in a tape recorder containing an opera that he proceeded to play for the other members as a demonstration of his own life’s story. The exact opera is not remembered, but the imagination runs riot if it were “Carmen” or “The Abduction from the Seraglio”!
The meeting at Sanger’s allowed smoking. Indeed, in those days, smokers outnumbered non-smokers at most meetings, and this was true at the Nooners. This attracted many smokers to the meeting, and was very popular with them. However, this led to problems when the group moved to The First United Methodist Church, which was non-smoking. Some of the inveterate smokers dropped out because of this.
While at Sanger’s, the group attracted a number of celebrities who came to town for the Music Hall or for shows at the Venetian Room. The members even sent a letter to a certain famous Welshman who was performing in “Camelot” at the Music Hall, suggesting that he might think of coming to the meetings! That attempt at twelfth step work was not successful. He did not show up, and the rest is history!
Finally, a home at First United Methodist Church
By late 1981, the management became concerned about the bottom line, particularly in regard to tips for waiters. Accordingly, they terminated the agreement, and asked the group to leave. There ensued a period of trying to find a place to meet for lunch. One stopgap measure was to use the club of Gene Spivey, the Metropolitan Club, but this was on the high end, a bit rich for most of the members. The problem was solved by a recently sober member of the downtown United Methodist Church who had come to the S anger meetings just as the group was being thrown out. No one can remember his fill name, but forever he will be known as Bob, The Methodist. On his own hook, he went to the then pastor of the church and set up a meeting between him and Gene S. Subsequently, he came to several meetings, but then Bob, The Methodist, was not seen again.
In any event, Gene S found the pastor to be more than cooperative. He refused any “rent” but would accept a yearly gift, which arrangement has continued to the present. There was and is a large meeting room in the basement of the church in which the Group meets with an adjoining cafeteria (now closed) where the members could obtain food at reasonable prices. With the consensus of the early members, and under the guidance of Gene Spivey, the Downtown Nooners Group evolved into a noon, closed discussion meeting each day, Monday through Thursday, with the Friday meeting being open. On alternating Fridays, there is a speaker meeting occasionally with an outside speaker.
The Group, now stable, becomes active in service.
A direct spinoff from the Nooners Group is the L.C.L. meeting (Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers) started by Larry B, Jerry J, and John McS, original or early members in the legal field. The weekly meeting was initially held at the Dallas Bar Headquarters, and subsequently moved to a room adjoining the main meeting room of the Nooners Group in the First United Methodist Church. It is held on Thursday noon, and is still actively supported by the original founders mentioned above who attend regularly.
For a number of years, a group of patients from Baylor Alcohol Dependence Center attended the meetings regularly. Under the auspices of the Intergroup Office, each year a portion of the first-year class of the Southwestern Medical School is given the opportunity to attend the meetings in groups of ten or twelve. This, too, has proved very profitable both for the present members of the group and for the Medical Students.
Because of the downtown location, there are numerous visits from AA members from other cities and states who are in Dallas for various conventions. For a few, these yearly visits are recurrent, and these people are considered as our out-of-state members who appear for a short while each year! These convention visitors uniformly express deep gratitude for the convenience of the meeting near to the Convention Center, and, they in turn add a great deal to the meetings themselves.
In 1985, Don McL, an early but non-founding member, began a jail visitation program bringing AA meetings to the inmates in the jail itself. He enlisted male members of the group to bring in meetings to male inmates and female members for the female inmates. These meetings have increased greatly in number over the years, and this whole jail visitation program has had a profound effect on the inmates who take part, and on the AA members who bring in the meetings. The group itself usually sets aside a portion of its funds to purchase Big Books and other literature that can be distributed to the prisoners by the members in the program.
1990’s – present day
For some time now a high point of the year has been the annual Christmas Luncheon. This was started by Gene S, who made the initial arrangement with the head chef in the cafeteria. With the closure of the cafeteria, other arrangements have been made, and now it is a catered affair. The attendance has been about 75, and it has afforded an opportunity for many of the past and present members to get together. There is a concurrent meeting usually on gratitude which has been very powerful for all concerned.
The membership of the group has changed, of course, over the years with some of the original members passing away such as Tom R, Morgan N, Charlie H, Gene S, and Bill M (with his pith helmet!). Others have retired or had job changes moving from the central business district to the suburbs, but there is still a core of original members including Phil P, and Roy T, who attend regularly as well as the previously mentioned members who attend the adjoining L.C.L. meetings on Thursdays.
The number of participants in the Downtown Nooners Group has fluctuated, first diminishing somewhat with the egress from the central business district, now increasing again with the rejuvenation of downtown. But what has not changed is the fundamental nature of the meetings: they are centered in the solution, not in the problem, and for that we must thank all the original members for constructing it that way, and for the people who attended over the years for keeping it so.
Gene S passed on November 18, 2000. With deep gratitude for his leadership, the present members of the Downtown Nooners Group affectionately dedicate this brief history to his memory.
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This page last updated: 6/2/11