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Esther E. (shown here with AA co-founder Bill W.)
It was after World War II when American military personnel returned from overseas that AA's population explosion truly began. After the Suburban Group was begun near Lee Park (corner of Dickason and Sale Streets in Dallas, just north of downtown), other groups soon followed.
|A Flower of the South -- Esther Elizardi,
(p. 343 in 2nd edition, p. 384 in 3rd edition.)
by Nancy O., Moderator, A.A. History Buffs
Esther's date of sobriety was May 16, 1941.
She was a very attractive woman, full of pep. She was raised in New Orleans
where social drinking was acceptable. At home they always had wine with
dinner and cordials after dinner. She attended cocktail parties, dances and
The first time she realized what alcohol could do for her was her own
wedding. She was so afraid that everything wouldn't be perfect that she
became very nervous and was really in a terrific state when her father said
Miss Esther is about to faint. Get her something to drink. The servant
came back with a water glass full of bourbon and made her drink it down. The
bourbon hit as she started down the aisle. I walked down that aisle just
like May West in her prime. I wanted to do it all over again, she wrote.
From that day on she used alcohol to ease social situations and didn't know
when she crossed over the line into alcoholism.
She divorced her husband after seven years and went home to her parents, but
couldn't stand living with them and went back to Texas and remarried her
ex-husband. Then they moved to Oklahoma. The drinking got worse; her
husband would come home day after day to find her passed out. She was sent
to a mental hospital where they kept her seventeen days.
When they moved to Houston the drinking continued. She went out one day to
walk the dog. A patrol car passed and saw her staggering and stopped to take
her home, but she got sassy with him so he took the dog home and took poor
Esther to jail. She was only there a few hours. When her husband came to
get her the look of disgust on his face helped her to hit bottom.
He had read a story about A.A. in the Saturday Evening Post a few weeks
before. He finally showed it to her with the ultimatum If you will try this
thing, I'll go along with you. If you don't, you will have to go home. I
cannot sit by and watch you destroy yourself!
She wrote to the GSO office in New York. Within a week a letter came back
with A.A. literature. It was the routine letter they sent everyone, but with
it was a hand-written letter from, Ruth Hock, A.A.'s non-alcoholic secretary.
That personal touch did a lot to help Esther.
Esther was full of gratitude to her husband, and to A.A. members who had
paved the way for her.
During her second year in A.A. they were transferred to Dallas, and started
an A.A. group there in 1943. The telephone number in Dallas that Ruth Hock
had given her had been disconnected when she arrived. But undaunted, she
started seeking other alcoholics to 12th step.
Esther had lived in Dallas from 1927 to 1932 and, according to a letter she
wrote to New York dated March 29, 1943, This is where I had been so sick for
five years. Where I started trying out all the doctors, hospitals and cures
(the Sanitarium three times) so I've lots to do. First off, four doctors to
call on and let them look over 'exhibit A' (me)! My minister (Episcopal) has
two prospects for us. He tried so hard to help me for years, had never heard
of A.A. She added Hope I have much A.A. to report in my next letter.
You'll be hearing from me! They did indeed.
A week later, April 5, she wrote Dear Bobbie [Margaret R. Burger, Bill's
secretary at the time]: The new Dallas Group met for their first time last
night! Three inactive alkies, one active from Detroit and two non-alcoholics
who brought the active one. The group met for some time in Esther's home.
Esther died on June 3, 1960, with slightly more than 19 years of sobriety.
Her copy of the Big Book, which is signed by Bill Wilson, is on display in
the Dallas Central Office.
Thanks to Cliff B. of Texas for providing the letters that are quoted and the
correct spelling of her name and date of death for Esther's biography.