Reading Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers

Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers

This AA history book is the official biography of one of AAs co-founders, Dr Bob, and the rise of AA in Midwest America. It was published in 1980 and covers Dr Bobs life from growing up in Vermont in the 1880s to his death in November 1950.

I was introduced to this book by my sponsor and my curiosity really. Having worked through the Twelve Steps of AA and recovered from a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body, I was enthusiastic to learn more about this fellowship that had changed my life in such a short period of time. The first book I read, other than the Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve, was AA comes of Age. This gave me an overview of the history of AA and how various aspects of the AA Traditions came about so that I could be more informed about AA, as I was shortly able to start sponsoring newcomers. The next book I picked up was Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers.
The first thing I do with books is have a flick through and see if there’s any photos or pictures – and I wasn’t disappointed! As well as the history which is described by people who were there, there’s also amazing pictures of the early names and places involved in AA. They are all there: Dr Bob and his wife Anne at various stages in their lives, Henrietta Seiberling (who first introduced the co-founders to each other), The Williamses who allowed their house to be used for meetings by ‘the alcoholic squad’, St Thomas’ Hospital where Dr Bob and Sister Ignatia worked on many suffering alcoholics, Kings School in Akron where Dr Bobs home group met, and my favourite – Dr Bob and Bill W sat side-by-side.
The book uses accounts and descriptions of what happened, told by people who were there witnessing it first-hand. It charts Dr Bob’s life from school to medical college to his working life, all of which were blighted by his alcoholism. It then goes on to describe how he came to meet Bill Wilson and his and others’ involvement and subsequent departure from the Oxford Group. Working with newcomers is discussed as are the many growing pains and lessons learned by the young fellowship of AA, all of which have moulded the AA that we know and love today – and more importantly for me the AA that saved my life. The book ends by describing the last year or so of Dr Bob’s life, as failing health eventually lead to his death on 16 November 1950, and a sombre picture of Bill Wilson paying respects at his friend’s grave.
I’ve read this book many times over the years and I think with each reading I come to admire, respect and appreciate the people and chain of events that occurred. Using a word taken from the Big Book – I ‘urge’ you to read this book as it will enrich your understanding and appreciation of AA and the sober life that we are now able to enjoy.
                                     Ben B, Road to Recovey Group, Plymouth, May 2014