Bill Wilson (1885-1971), the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was born (aptly enough) in a room behind the bar of this lovely old Hotel in East Dorset, Vermont. After 2 years he moved to Rutland, Vt. until the divorce of his parents.
Then, at the age of 11, Bill and his sister, Dorothy, returned to East Dorset to live with their maternal grandparents, the Griffiths, in the small white house next door to the Hotel while Bill’s mother studied to be a doctor in Boston.
In one of Bill’s memoirs he writes about East Dorset: “When I was a child , I acquired some of the traits that had a lot to do with my insatiable craving for alcohol. I was brought up in a little town in Vermont, under the shadow of Mount Aeolus. An early recollection was that of looking up at this vast and mysterious mountain, wondering what it meant and whether I could ever climb that high. But I was presently distracted by my aunt who, as a fourth-birthday present, made me a plate of fudge. For the next thirty-five years I pursued the fudge of life and quite forgot about the mountain.” *
I always loved that reading and I was anxious to visit East Dorset and to see the two homesteads for myself. I did this in 2003 and I was not disappointed. The Wilson House has been restored and is open as a guesthouse and retreat. Local groups hold several AA and Al-anon meetings in the house each week and seminars are held throughout the year.
I was particularly taken with the warmth that emanated from the rooms. They were all furnished as they would have been during Bill’s young lifetime there. The bar was gone but replaced by a huge room with a stone fireplace and with walls and ceiling hung with memorabilia, photos and old license plates.
My main objective, however, was to stand behind the “Griffith” house and to look up at the mountain that Bill had gazed upon. I chuckled to myself when I did. This rolling hill was nothing like the “vast and mysterious” mountain that he wrote about, but, that was how it appeared to him as a child.
In his lifetime Bill Wilson did prove that he could overcome the “fudge” of life and he was able to climb to the heights that he dreamed of that day. As I stood there I couldn’t help but pay silent homage to that small boy who would one day become the man that so many of us lovingly refer to as “Bill W.”
* “AA Comes of Age” pp 52-53