How It Worked -THE STORY OF CLARENCE H. SNYDER
AND THE EARLY DAYS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS IN CLEVELAND, OHIO
By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
Index of Chapter 5
HOW IT WORKED
Proceed with imagination and real faith- expect things to happen. If you EXPECT things to happen, they DO happen. This is based on FAITH IN GOD, not on our own strength. A negative attitude toward ourselves or others cuts off God's power; it is evidence of lack of faith in His power. If you go into a situation admitting defeat, of course you lose.
Anne Smith's Oxford Group Diary
HOW IT WORKED
The First A.A. Meeting in the World
A.A. spoke to us, not with the accusing voice of those who had never known the tragedy of alcoholism, who had never suffered distraction; it spoke to us out of the experience of those who had suffered just as we had suffered and who had found how to break the chains. It told us simply that we had been trying to meet our problems without surrendering those things that keep us tied to the wheel. We had been trying to pull ourselves together with a will too shattered to be able to succeed.
Cleveland's Central Bulletin, Volume #1, Number 11, August 1943
On May 11, 1939, one month after the book had been published, a meeting was held. It was a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a meeting held by, and for alcoholics and their families only. Historian, Mary C. Darrah, wrote:
"In the years 1935-1939, the Oxford meetings provided a group experience for the early alcoholics. A.A. did not meet as a separate group officially named Alcoholics Anonymous until May 1939 at the home of Abby G. in Cleveland."
Nell Wing* stated in an interview with the author: "Clarence was rightly the first to use the initials, A.A." She was, however, referring to Clarence's use of the initials "A.A." and not to his use of the name Alcoholics Anonymous.
* Secretary of Bill Wilson from 1947 to Bill's death in 1971, and A.A.'s first Archivist
A fellowship of anonymous drunks had in fact existed prior to May 11, 1939. But it was the Cleveland meeting which first used the name Alcoholics Anonymous, that it took from the book. Cleveland's May, 1939 meeting is the first documented meeting which used the name Alcoholics Anonymous, separate and apart from the Oxford Group.
According to the records of the Cleveland Central Committee's Recording Statistician, Norman E. (which were compiled in the middle of June 1942) the following took place:
On 5/10/39, nine members left the Akron meeting of the Oxford Group to form the G. group. The location of the group was 2345 Stillman Road, Cleveland Heights, Cleveland, Ohio. The sponsors of the group were; Clarence Snyder, Al G., Geo. J. McD., John D., Dr. Harry N., Lee L., Vaughn P., Chas. J., and Lloyd T. The first secretary of the group was Clarence Snyder.
The preceding information was taken from a survey form sent out to all Cleveland groups on June 18, 1942. The G. group information was filled out and signed by, Albert R. G., and dated June 24, 1942. These original forms are part of a collection of original Cleveland memorabilia and records in the possession of Clarence H. Snyder and which he delivered to the author prior to his death.
The first A.A. meeting in the world was not uneventful. According to Clarence, the entire group from Akron showed up the next night and tried to "discourage" the Cleveland meeting from happening. Discourage was a very mild term, according to Clarence; and he used it sarcastically. He said:
"The whole group descended upon us and tried to break up our meeting. One guy was gonna whip me. I want you to know that this was all done in pure Christian love.. A.A. started in riots. It rose in riots."
Clarence was often quoted as saying, "If you don't stand for something, you're liable to fall for anything." And on May 11, 1939, Clarence stood his ground, as did the other members of that first A.A. group. Thus A.A., as such, began in Cleveland, Ohio.
In a letter to Hank P., dated June 4, 1939, Clarence wrote:
"Bill J. and I and Clarace Williams, and etc., etc. had a knockdown dragged out affair a couple of weeks ago and they have chosen to leave us alone and confine their activities elsewhere. We lost the activities of three or four rummies but I guess it had to be that way. Life is too short and there is too much to be done to spend any time or energy carrying on any comedy or petting business with any Oxford Group or any other group."
In the same letter, Clarence described how the Cleveland meetings were being conducted:
"...Not too much stress on spiritual business at meetings."
Clarence always felt that overt spirituality belonged between a "baby" and his sponsor. Prayer and Bible reading was a prerequisite, Clarence felt, but only at home. His 1939 letter went on:
"Have discussion after meetings of any business or questions arising. Plenty of fellowship all the time. Leaders of meetings have been chosen so far by seniority in the bunch."
The meetings were very simple. They opened with a prayer or the reading of a verse from the Bible. This was followed by the leader's speaking for one half hour to forty-five minutes. Then the meeting was over.
At least the "official" part of the meeting was over. The remainder of the evening was spent with members and their families in fellowship with each other. "Plenty of hot coffee and doughnuts to go around," said Clarence. In Cleveland, there are still some meetings that are held in this manner - a short "lead," questions, and then fellowship.
The Cleveland meetings continued to grow as the members went forth to "fix rummies as an avocation." In an undated meeting roster for the G. group, which Clarence gave the author and which is probably from the summer of 1939, there is a listing of twenty-six typewritten names, addresses and phone numbers. It contains an additional thirty-five handwritten names in Clarence's handwriting on the bottom. The roster has first and last names in the typewritten part, and most of the handwritten names use only first initials and last names.
Among the names listed are: Clarence Snyder, Dr. Robert Smith, Richard S., Albert G., Warren C., William H., Jack D., Charles J., George McD., Clarence W., Glenn W., Dr. Harry N., and Vaughn P.
The author dates this roster as the summer of 1939 because Dr. Bob's name appeared on it. And Clarence said Dr. Bob attended the Cleveland meetings over the summer of 1939. Also Warren C.'s name appears on the roster and Clarence said he had "12-stepped" Warren in July 1939. By the Fall of 1939, the Abby G. group had split and formed three separate groups.
There was even some local radio publicity that Clarence appeared on in late May or early June which brought inquiries into the New York office for information on "The Alcoholics Anonymous."
In a letter to Clarence, from Bill Wilson's secretary, Ruth Hock, dated June 22, 1939, Ruth attached a listing of inquiries about Alcoholics Anonymous. Some of these had come from as far away as London, Ontario, Canada. Ruth wrote at the head of the list:
Lyndhurst to Canada."
Included in Ruth's letter was a request that, "Something should be done about knockdown dragout affairs at Lyndhurst, Ohio - S.O.S." It is not clear whether Ruth's reference to "knockdown dragout affairs" alluded to the Cleveland break with the Oxford Group or to the fact that Clarence and Dorothy were having severe marital problems at home. Clarence lived in Lyndhurst; and the first meeting was in Cleveland Heights.
Ruth Hock was extremely close to both Clarence and his wife, Dorothy and remained so even after they eventually got divorced. Ruth continued to correspond with, and visit both of them at their respective homes. She maintained this close friendship until each had passed on.
There were many interesting stories connected with that first Summer of 1939 in Cleveland. It was in that first summer that A.A. began to grow. Along with the growth there came success, joy, sorrow and the inevitable growing pains.
HOW IT WORKED
Summer of '39
When we reach 100, we are all going out and celebrate and get good and drunk together. If we ever should get all of these birds drunk at the same time and in the same place, the Russian invasion of Finland would look like bedtime at an old woman's home.
From a letter to Ruth Hock from Clarence dated 12/2/39
...and thus Cleveland became the testing ground for what Alcoholics Anonymous was to be.
Ernest Kurtz, Ph.D., NOT GOD, A HISTORY OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (Mn.: Hazelden, 1979) p. 83
Late one evening, Edna McD., who was a nurse at the local Cleveland Tuberculosis Society, called Clarence. She told him about her husband, George, who was a drunk. George McD. was what Clarence called a "high bottom drunk." Someone who as yet "hadn't gotten down to the skids." Edna had heard about the wonderful work that "the Alcoholics Anonymous" was doing in Cleveland. In her phone call, she became very emotional and started to cry, and the words began to get stuck in her throat. She unfolded a tale of woe to Clarence. A tale with which he was not unfamiliar.
Edna told Clarence George had gone out to a Hockey game drunk. She said, "George blew off his big mouth; and some fellow told him to shut it... beta the socks offa this poor guy, this George. They gave him an awful beating."
Edna said that while she was "pouring" George into bed, after he had somehow managed to get home, she had told him about this group of drunks that was having a great deal of success with men such as himself. She told George she was going to call one of these men that very night. George had told her to go ahead and then proceeded to fall asleep in mid-sentence.
This was the call Clarence had received. Clarence told Edna that unless George wanted help, he (Clarence) couldn't give it to him. Clarence then offered his support to Edna if she ever wanted to talk, and gave her a few phone numbers of the other wives who would be there for her as well.
The next morning George's head was pounding. He was beaten and bruised. Upon Edna's insistence he decided to quit drinking. Edna gave him Clarence's phone number and then handed him the phone.
George dialed the number; and, when Clarence answered, he asked for help. Clarence "qualified" him over the phone, and then made arrangements for him to go into Akron City Hospital.
In the early days, all new prospects were hospitalized for at least five to seven days, depending upon the severity of their physical dependence and condition. Clarence called Doc to finalize the arrangements and then called George back to tell him to get ready to go into the hospital. Clarence George that he was picking him up that evening . Clarence gave George a list of what to bring and what not to bring.
When Clarence arrived early that evening, he asked Edna a question that she never expected to hear. He asked her if she had any alcohol in her home. She was taken aback. "I thought this cure was to stop my George from drinking? What do you want with liquor," she asked?
Clarence explained to her that, on the way to Akron, George would be "hollering" for alcohol every five minutes. Since "this was the last that he was ever going to have, you might as well give it to him and keep him happy on the way down," said Clarence.
Clarence, George and Edna started on the almost forty mile trip. Every time Clarence gave George a drink, Edna made a smart remark. She berated George, Clarence said. She didn't stop talking and nagging all the way down to Akron. There were times said Clarence that he didn't blame good old George for drinking. He thought to himself that if he had a wife like that, he didn't know if he himself would want to stop.
They finally got to the hospital and had George admitted. It was then in the solitude and quiet of the waiting room that Clarence realized that he would have to make the forty mile trip back with Edna. Alone.
This was not a prospect to which Clarence looked forward. For "some unknown reason," said Clarence, he went to Doc's house. Doc wasn't as yet home. However, his wife, Anne was. Anne was sitting in the living room with Arch T. from Detroit.
"A little skinny guy, scared of everything," said Clarence of Arch. Arch had spent weeks and weeks at Doc's. He was being baby sat. He wasn't drinking, but his mental and spiritual condition wasn't improving either. He was in a strange city, with even stranger people. He had already been at the Smith's home for about five months, and he was afraid to leave his room.
Arch and Anne were sitting and talking; so Clarence and Edna sat for a while and spoke with them. Clarence was trying to stall the inevitable; but when Edna kept insisting it was time to leave and to start back to Cleveland, Clarence came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. He told Arch that all of the rummies in Cleveland were driving him crazy. Clarence said, "I am so busy, will you come up with me to Cleveland and please help me?" In the back of his mind, Clarence felt he should take someone along for the ride as self-protection.
"Archie looked at me as if he were hit with a club," said Clarence. Nobody ever asked Archie to do anything because he felt that he was absolutely worthless and useless to society," Clarence related to the author.
Anne, however, thought that it was a great idea. Anything that would help Arch to get out of his room was brilliant. She told Arch, "You heard Clarence. You're going with him. Run upstairs, and get your sweater. You're going with him." Arch was dumbfounded. He nervously looked back at Anne, then to Clarence, and back once again at Anne. "Git," she said, and he ran up the stairs. He got his sweater and came back down. He looked imploringly at Anne who stood her ground. Despite Arch's sad face, she didn't budge.
Arch reluctantly got into the back seat with Edna and settled in for the long ride. Clarence breathed a sigh of relief and sank back into the driver's seat. He relaxed as they drove back to Cleveland. Edna was off his back.
The next day, Arch seemed somewhat different. Maybe it was the fear that Clarence would force him to suffer another long ride with Edna, or maybe it was something else more profound.
Arch got so busy with A.A. in Cleveland that he appeared to change right before Clarence's eyes. Arch went to hospitals and dry-out places, helping drunks all over the place. He got so busy and so far in over his head that he forgot all about his fears and phobias. Surprisingly, he became a big asset to Clarence and became "one of the boys." He eventually went back to Akron a new man. Within a few months he returned to Grosse Pointe and started the first A.A. meeting in Detroit.
It was either in the late summer or early fall of 1939 that Clarence received a phone call from an insurance man that he once known. This man was not an alcoholic, but he had seen the change in Clarence. He had seen what this new way of life had done for him.
This man told Clarence of a friend who was locked up in "this gooney roost way out in the woods." The man's wife had him probated there. He was a journalist, and he had been kicked off of almost every newspaper in Northern Ohio. The Insurance man told Clarence, he "is a good newspaper man, he ought to be salvaged."
Clarence went out to this sanitarium to visit with this other fellow. He brought the A.A.'s Big Book for him to read; and after speaking with him for a while, Clarence realized the man wasn't all that "nuts." Clarence decided that if he were able to get the man out and maybe get him a job on a newspaper, A.A. could get some well needed publicity.
"Jerry," the insurance man "and I went out to see the journalist's wife. We talked her into getting him released," Clarence said. With a car salesperson and an insurance man working their combined sales pitch on her, the wife didn't stand a chance. She signed the release papers, and Clarence went to get him out.
Clarence contacted some people in the newspaper business; and, with some connections, got this man a job at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This man was so grateful, that, on October 21, 1939, the first of a series of seven articles about Alcoholics Anonymous was printed. The first article was entitled, "Alcoholics Anonymous Makes Its Stand Here."
This man was such a good reporter that he was able to have this series printed very shortly after he got the job. The newspaper man was Elrick B. Davis; and he enabled one of the first pieces of major publicity that A.A. ever had.
The articles were written with such sensitivity and insight that many people felt Mr. Davis was a member of A.A. But Clarence would neither confirm nor deny Davis's membership status. There are other stories that have been told about how Clarence met Mr. Davis. But this was the one that Clarence related to the author.
The newspaper series produced Hundreds of inquiries from all over - not just from Ohio. They poured in from all over the country. "'Cause somebody would cut those things out and send 'em up to Uncle Slug up here in Nebraska someplace and, you know, people would write in," said Clarence. Even the New York office got numerous inquiries.
Every Monday morning, Clarence would meet with members of the Cleveland group. Just like a sales manager, he would distribute a handful of the inquiries to each of them. "I'd tell 'em to go out and report to me Wednesday what you did with 'em," he said.
The "rummies" would run wild with these inquiries, Clarende said. The meeting at Abby's home began to fill up with alcoholics. And they were beginning to run out of room at Abby's house. Another problem developed. A problem that had very little to do with the obvious overflow of alcoholics meeting in the house at 2345 Stillman Road.
Some of the more "intellectual" members were offended by Clarence's getting the publicity in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He was accused of getting paid for the articles. They accused him of being paid a percentage for everyone who came in. Clarence never learned where this percentage gossip came from.
No one was making any money on the meetings or from the publicity. Clarence told the author they never had enough money even to reimburse Abby and Grace for the coffee and doughnuts. This even on an occasional good night when they passed the hat and collected some change.
These same Cleveland members also expressed a fear they would eventually have their photographs printed in the pages of the newspaper. They wanted to remain a nameless and faceless society of ex-alcoholics.
Clarence couldn't have agreed with them more. He tried to explain to them that all he wanted to do was spread their message of hope to other still sick and suffering alcoholics. The same kind of people that they once were.
Arguments ensued. Fist fights almost occurred. The very Irish Catholic members who had been the subject of Clarence's arguments with his sponsor about and with whose continued recovery he was concerned, accused Clarence of selling them out to the news media. Several times Clarence tried to reason with them. He told them, "All of this was crap, all hot air." They wouldn't listen. They were having none of Clarence's explanations.
What happened next was another first for A.A. The objectors all got together and decided to take a vote. In true democratic fashion, they voted with closed ballots. The result of that vote shocked Clarence beyond belief. They voted him out of A.A.
"So I'm the first guy ever voted out of A.A.," said Clarence, Fortunately, there was another group of members who didn't agree with the outcome of the vote. However, there were outnumbered and outvoted. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't do or say anything that would change the other's minds.
Clarence pulled no punches. He spoke his mind as openly and honestly as he could. Dr. Ernest Kurtz, author of Not God, A History of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote of Clarence that Clarence had an "abrasive" personality. Clarence had much to do with the early beginnings and growth of Alcoholics Anonymous in its formative years. But Bill Wilson's secretary, Nell Wing, observed to the author, "If he could have not been the kind of antagonistic person that he was, he could have possibly been a tri-founder."
But Clarence's was a perfectionist. He pushed himself in the banking business to be the best. He had made himself "the best drunk" he could, and he pushed for the best A.A. possible, as he put it. But he always tried to live up to the Four Absolutes of Honesty, Unselfishness, Purity and Love. And he believed that he had gotten a message to carry to the still sick and suffering alcoholic both inside and outside of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. And carry it he did.
HOW IT WORKED
Cleveland Continues To Grow
Tradition One: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
Anonymous (Bill Wilson), Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions (New York; Works Publishing Company, 1952,1953) p. 9
Our A.A. experience has taught us that:
1.-Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.
Alcoholics Anonymous (New York; Works Publishing Company, 1939) p. 146
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body...God hath tempered the body together...That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
1 Corinthians 12:12, 24, 25 (The Bible - King James Version)
Clarence was fond of saying "All you need to start a meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot." He said felt that if there were any real unity, all that there would be in the world is one very large and boring meeting. He said, "A.A. didn't start, or grow in unity. A.A. started and grew in riots."
Clarence also said, "When we had our first UNITY in Cleveland, we didn't split into two groups. We did one better. We split into three."
Group Number Two in Cleveland was called the Borton Group. This group met at the home of T. E. Borton, a non-alcoholic friend of the A.A. fellowship. The meeting was located at 2427 Roxboro Road in Cleveland. Its first meeting was held on Thursday, November 16, 1939.
The number of members that left the G. Group was forty. The sponsors of the Borton Group were Clarence, Jack D and Clarence W.
Almost immediately thereafter, in another show of what Clarence sarcastically called A.A. "unity," they split again on November 20th. Out of the Borton group was born the Orchard Grove Group. The Orchard Group met on Monday nights at 15909 Detroit Avenue.
The Orchard Group later changed its name to the Lakewood Group. There were eleven original members of the new Orchard (Lakewood) Group, and its sponsors were William E. B., Warren F. C., William R. L., and Edward H. The group's secretary was Elvira B., William B.'s wife.
According to the records of Norman E., recording statistician of the Cleveland Central Committee, the phenomenal growth of these first two groups was recorded as follows:
Membership of the Borton Group in the first six months- seventy-five members. Membership in the first year one hundred and thirty-eight. Membership of the Orchard Grove Group in the first six months- twenty-five. Membership in the first year was forty-five. The memberships of the meetings was doubling every six months.
A.A. in Cleveland was on the move. Soon after the original split, Clarence received a phone call from a Louis Seltzer. Seltzer was editor of the Cleveland Press, a Scripps-Howard Newspaper. Seltzer knew of the A.A. movement and gave it his support for many years.
Seltzer told Clarence that he knew of a man in whom Clarence might be interested. This man, Clarence was told, was a good news man. He was, said Seltzer, "worth salvaging; and if you can find him and fix him, I will pay for all expenses."
Ever interested in furthering the A.A. cause, Clarence asked Seltzer where this man might be found. Seltzer told Clarence that the man would probably be located on skid-row, in the Eagle Avenue section.
Clarence immediately sent out a couple of the members of the group to look for the man. Armed with a description, they went from building to building. Eventually they found him in an abandoned warehouse. He was lying on a cold damp concrete floor.
It was already winter in Cleveland, and this man was more dead than alive. He had one collapsed lung; and there was a surgical tube sticking out of his chest from the other. He appeared unconscious and was on the verge of freezing to death. He could hardly breath. So while one of the men stayed with him, the other went to call Clarence.
Clarence called Seltzer and told him of their finding his man and told him that they would be taking him to a hospital for help. Clarence got into his car and went to pick up this new prospect. The prospect was then taken out to the Post-Shaker Sanitarium on East Boulevard and Fairhill Road in Cleveland.
Sara Post, who was the owner and superintendent of the facility, had, according to Clarence, turned her family estate into a sanitarium for mental patients. According to Clarence, the building was three or four stories tall and had the capacity to hold about one hundred people.
The State of Ohio had, at that time, recently opened a new facility for the treatment of the mentally ill on the outskirts of town; and the Post Sanitarium was, as a result, losing many of its patients. Sara Post was looking for people to fill the empty beds.
The State had been paying Ms. Post three dollars a day for the housing and care of these mental patients. This came out to a total of twenty-one dollars a week for each of them.
Clarence had suggested to Ms. Post during one of his many scouting missions for new hospital beds closer than those in Akron, that she could get alcoholics in there as patients for about forty dollars a week.
Ms. Post at first didn't want anything to do with the alcoholics and had rebuffed Clarence's offer. Clarence remembered that she had told him forty dollars a week wasn't enough. Clarence had retorted, "We don't bring stars out here. We bring people who are really in a fix." He explained to her that alcoholics were no worse than mental patients, saying "Most of 'em won't eat for the first few days; and it you taper 'em off of booze, they'll stay calmer than those loonies."
According to Clarence, Sara Post did not like alcoholics. She told Clarence that one of her nieces had married an alcoholic and that it had almost ruined the niece's life. The man's drinking had almost killed her, Sara said.
Clarence reiterated his offer of forty dollars a week, reminding Sara that the amount was almost twice as that which the State was currently paying. He also reminded her the State was sending her less and less people all of the time ever since opening their new facility. He pointed out that the State was only sending her people they felt they didn't want to handle. She was, he said, receiving their worst and most uncontrollable patients.
Finally, Sara Post agreed to accept alcoholics at her facility. She did, however, insist that she didn't want to "taper them off" of alcohol.
Clarence took the man that they had found in the abandoned warehouse to Post-Shaker and tried to have him admitted there. But Sara took one look at him and emphatically stated that she didn't want him there at all.
Clarence then explained to her that Louis Seltzer, of the Scripps-Howard Publications, was going to pay for all the man's expenses. Clarence pleaded her that they should and could do all that was necessary to save him. Clarence even offered Sara more money and told her that he would bring in all necessary medical help at no extra cost to her or her facility.
Sara Post held her ground. Clarence increased the money offer once again. But Sara Post, Clarence stated, said it was not the money, nor the physical condition of this man that concerned her. She said she had personal reasons for not wanting him there.
Then Clarence learned that this particular man was the same man who had married Sara's niece and nearly ruined her life. Clarence reminded her that, despite her personal objections, she was getting paid for all of the expenses that this man incurred.
He said this was a business proposition, and that her personal feelings towards this particular man, whatever they were, had no place in the treatment of alcoholics in general.
Clarence then gave her what was to be the clincher. He told her that if she didn't accept this man as a patient, and at the originally agreed upon price, he would pull out all of the alcoholics that were currently there and never send her another one. She immediately put aside all of her personal feelings and reservations. And the man was admitted that same day.
This man spent six to eight weeks in the hospital. At times no one was sure whether he was going to live or die. He did, however, eventually begin to recover physically and then from his alcoholism.
The patient accepted the A.A. program as it was presented to him by the members who came to visit with him. He "took his Steps," as they were given to him by Clarence; and, as his physical condition improved, he began to speak with the newer prospects as they arrived.
When he was well enough to leave the hospital, Seltzer said the journalist could go anywhere in the country that had a Scripps-Howard newspaper. He was promised that all of his expenses would be paid, and he was guaranteed a position on the newspaper.
The journalist was so grateful to Clarence and to the A.A. members in Cleveland for saving his life that he wanted to stay right there in Cleveland. However, Clarence acknowledged that the journalist was, indeed, a good A.A., and was welcome to stay. In fact, Clarence said he would love for him to stay. But he reminded this man that the weather in Cleveland was not conducive to his continued recovery on the physical level considering his weakened lungs. They discussed the options with Seltzer; and the three finally decided upon Houston, Texas.
After a long and drawn out goodbye, with the A.A.'s Big Book in hand, the journalist boarded the train for Texas. While on the train, he had the time to write a series of articles. They were similar to those that had appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
When the journalist arrived in Texas and started his job on the Houston Press, he convinced that newspaper to print this series. The man was Larry J. And Larry - along with a minister whom he had found on skid-row in Houston - they started what was to be the first A.A. meeting there.
The Houston Press series became the basis for the first pamphlet ever published by Alcoholics Anonymous through Works Publishing, Inc. This pamphlet, which was simply entitled, "A.A.," was written by an unnamed Cleveland member and included all of the articles in the Houston Press.
Bill Wilson was constantly amazed at the growth and apparent success that Cleveland was having in sobering up alcoholics. He visited there every time that he went to Ohio. Bill later wrote in A.A. Comes of Age:
Yes, Cleveland's results were of the best. Their results were in fact so good, and A.A.'s membership elsewhere was so small, that many a Clevelander really thought A.A.'s membership had started there in the first place. The Cleveland pioneers had proved three essential things: the value of personal sponsorship; the worth of the A.A.'s Big Book in indoctrinating newcomers, and finally the tremendous fact that A.A., when the word really got around, could now soundly grow to great size.
Clarence was a dynamo. He wanted the best for himself and "his boys" in A.A. He refined the art of A.A. sponsorship to the point that Nell Wing, Bill Wilson's secretary, commented to the author that Clarence was probably the "one man responsible for sponsorship as we know it today."
Clarence wanted the meetings and the organization to run like a top-notch business ( but without the business end of it). So he developed an idea for officers at the meetings, an idea that would not depend upon individual personalities which would eventually get in the way of progress. This rotation of officers was instituted so that everyone could have a chance to participate and give his input. This was done by election and by seniority in the group. Clarence promoted the idea so that no one person, including himself, could possibly take over. At times however, Clarence did try to take charge and control at times. Especially when they weren't going his way. Often, however, the members called him on this behavior and often, though reluctantly, he changed.
Clarence established a standard format for the running of the meetings so that there would consistency from one meeting to the next. This, he felt, would insure that an alcoholic, both the "old timer" and the new member, would feel at home wherever he went. As to this contribution, Nell Wing stated, "It was Clarence who was probably responsible for meetings as we now know them."
Clarence seemed to be a visionary. But Clarence was his own worst enemy. His personality got in the was of his being recognized for these accomplishments. Many felt Clarence was arrogant and antagonistic. But he was steadfast in his ideology and principles. Principles he carried with him until his death.
Clarence was never one to be publicity shy, nor was he one to shun any offer of help. No matter what the source. No matter what the consequence. He was open to anybody if he felt it was for the betterment of A.A. and for the betterment of the quality of life that this way afforded the alcoholic and their families.
HOW IT WORKED
Tradition 11: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion.
A.A. Grapevine, Vol. 2:11, April 1946
Who ever was attracted to a bunch of drunks? We had to sell this thing, permanent recovery. We sold it in bars, in the alleys, in the jails and in the newspapers.
Clarence H. Snyder
During the period Clarence was still drinking, his wife, Dorothy, had gone to Reverend Dr. Dilworth Lupton. Lupton was, at that time, pastor of the First Unitarian Church, located on Euclid Avenue and East 82nd Street in Cleveland.
Dorothy had often implored Reverend Lupton to intervene with, and speak to, Clarence. And this Lupton did, on several occasions. But Clarence, at that time, was unable and unwilling to quit drinking. Eventually, Reverend gave up and told Dorothy to turn her husband's drinking problem over to God. She told Lupton that that was exactly what she was doing when she had asked Lupton for help. But Lupton explained to Dorothy that he could do nothing further than what he had done, and that the only thing left was prayer. Lots of prayer.
When Clarence had left the hospital and begun attending meetings of the Oxford Group in Akron, Dorothy once again went to the Reverend Lupton. This time it was to interest him in coming to observe the miraculous "new cure" in action.
Lupton had explained to Dorothy, that, as far as he was concerned, as long as this "cure" was a part of the Oxford Group movement, it didn't stand a chance and that he couldn't become a party to it. "Nothing good could come out of the Oxford Group," Clarence remembered Lupton's saying to Dorothy.
After Clarence and the Cleveland contingent had broken off all ties with the Oxford Group, Dorothy once again approached Reverend Lupton. This time she brought with her the A.A.'s Big Book and the names of a few Roman Catholic members. One name was that of Joe D., whose story "The European Drinker" was in the Big Book. The fact of Joe D.'s association with this new Cleveland group was to be proof to Reverend Lupton that the alcoholic fellowship had indeed broken with the Oxford Group.
Lupton thanked Dorothy for her continued interest in his meeting with her husband and for her desire for him to see this new "cure" in action. Lupton promised Dorothy that he would look into and investigate this new movement and get back with her at a later date.
Lupton read the Big Book and seeing its potential, called her asking her, meet with him at her convenience. Her convenience as it turned out, was right there and then. The two - Lupton and Dorothy - continued to meet, discussing the possibilities and they began formulating a plan of action. Lupton offered to assist Dorothy in any way he could with this new movement.
Dorothy Snyder was an instrumental part of the beginnings of A.A. in Cleveland. She was close with Anne Smith, Dr. Bob's wife, in Akron; and she was intensely proud of her "new" husband. Sue Smith-Windows of Akron, Doc's daughter, recalled for the author that her "mom (Anne Smith) really liked both of 'em." She was referring to the closeness that her mother had held with both Clarence and Dorothy.
Clarence made an appointment to meet with Reverend Lupton. When he arrived, Reverend Lupton did not at first recognize him at all. There had, of course, been a profound change in Clarence. After speaking for several minutes, Clarence was able to convince Lupton that, indeed, he was the very same man who had visited with Lupton a couple of years earlier.
Clarence told Lupton the story of A.A. and of the trials and tribulations that preceded its formation. He told Lupton of his drinking years, of his meeting Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson, and of the split from the Oxford Group. Lupton listened intently and was almost sold on the idea. But he wanted to know more.
Lupton was invited to and did in fact attend several meetings of the Cleveland group. He even invited nine of the alcoholic members to his home to be "interviewed" by himself and a "prominent physician and a psychiatrist." Apparently all the members passed this "interview" with flying colors. These men and the stories of their changed lives, were proof enough to Reverend Lupton of God's work amongst them.
On November 26, 1939, the Reverend Dr. Dilworth Lupton preached to his congregation a sermon concerning this new "cure." The sermon was entitled "Mr. X. and Alcoholics Anonymous." [See Appendix C]
Dorothy, in her zeal to promote this new movement had informed a reporter friend from the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Lupton's upcoming sermon; and she asked the reporter to attend and possibly write a review. The reporter accepted Dorothy's invitation and did attend the sermon.
On November 27, 1939, the Cleveland Plain Dealer printed the sermon and it was met with a positive reaction by the readership. It also brought about some inquiries about the new movement and cries for help by both alcoholics and their families.
The sermon was later printed in pamphlet form by Lupton's church. It was pamphlet Number Forty-six, and was priced at ten cents. It was titled "Mr. X and Alcoholics Anonymous," the same title that was given to the sermon.
Mr. X was Clarence Snyder and in a letter from the Reverend Dilworth Lupton to Clarence dated June 24, 1942, Lupton wrote, "I am very happy that I was able to have something to do with the beginnings of the Alcoholics Anonymous in Cleveland." This was in response to Clarence's thanking Lupton for the important role he had played in the beginnings of the movement.
The Lupton sermon in the Cleveland Plain Dealer brought in over one hundred inquiries. These inquiries continued through April 16, 1939. This was the day that Rollie H., star catcher for the Cleveland Indians baseball team, held a news conference.
Rollie H. announced to the world that his past erratic behavior was due to excess booze and that he was, in fact, an alcoholic. Rollie also announced that he had been dry for one year "with the help of, and through, Alcoholics Anonymous." This statement was printed in the April 17, 1939 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and in newspapers throughout the nation.
This startling announcement, and the resulting publicity, brought in over one thousand inquiries from around the country. This deluge was followed by approximately eight hundred inquiries when an article was published in Liberty Magazine on September 30, 1939.
The Liberty article was entitled, "Alcoholics and God," and was written by Morris Markey. The Markey article was the first piece of national publicity A.A. had ever received. Many of the inquiries from the Markey article, as Clarence remembered, were from "the over religious in the southern states." The Rollie H. articles had brought in inquiries from around the United States. They were from people coming from all walks of life.
According to Sue Smith-Windows of Akron, Rollie was "a better catcher drunk, than most were sober." She related to the author a story about the way Rollie happened to get into the Oxford Group. She said that the team manager offered a large sum of money to the Oxford Group to "fix" his star catcher. The Oxford Group refused the offer of money, but did agree to help. They explained to the baseball manager that Rollie had to be hospitalized in order to get that help. He did go into the hospital. However, he was definitely not a volunteer.
Sue related how other team members conspired to have Rollie hit by a ball that was to be thrown specifically for the purpose of injuring him. Not seriously, but enough for him to be taken out of the game.
When the pitch came, Rollie was hit. Despite his protestations, he was advised by the team doctor to go to the hospital and get "checked out." When he arrived there, he was placed under the immediate care of Dr. Bob. Within a very short period of time, Rollie began his indoctrination into the Oxford Group and eventually into A.A.
There were several other pieces of publicity that originated from the Cleveland area in those days. Some in the form of pamphlets that the members were having printed on their own and would hand out to anyone who would read them. Sometimes they convinced the local papers to print reviews of the meetings or the pamphlets.
Carl S., who was sponsored by Larry J. from Houston, Texas, had moved to and started meetings in the Miami, Florida area, and Carl requested some of this early publicity in a letter he wrote to Clarence on December 18, 1940. The letter said:
Would be glad to see samples of the printing the boys are having done, if any is available. We are all ready to pounce on the prospects these articles will develop.
We had our first meeting last night, for the Flowing Orange Juice Annual Bowl Session, or whatever you want to call it, there were five of us there. Ruth Hock sent me some names, and we have one guy from the New York Lodge, Charley C., an actor now at liberty. Joe T., a Miami Beach resident, and a good sound self-instructed A.A., is going to be a great force in working up an active gang here.
We called on a man whose wife had sent into Ruth, and found he had been released from jail, but he was now at work on a construction job. He is to be our first convert, and tho he has a colorful history of exploits here, and is well celebrated as a 'hard man to handle when he gets his skin-full' as the police say, he is a fine fellow if sober!
It seems Sunday night, he and his dog went out for a stroll, to replenish his supply after the police had taken it from him owing to a disturbance during the afternoon he figured in, at the Beach. Due to his keen appreciation of religious worship, he and his dog decided to 'take over' a negro church gathering and Prayer, and when they arrived, he was in the middle of an extemporaneous sermon on the evils of Law Enforcement, and also on the middle of the deposed preacher's stomach. He and the dog were removed to his regular cell at the local Ice-house, for some quiet meditation and recovery.
This gives you a slight insight on the local situation as we find it, in launching our first efforts here in Sunny Southland of tropical wonders.
The beginnings of A.A. were filled with pathos and with dissention. There were trials and tribulations as the message of hope was carried to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.
On the other hand, as the previous quoted letter exemplifies, A.A. was made as much fun as possible. Clarence had a great laugh over this story. So did all of the others at the meetings to which he brought it.
Publicity brought new members as well as new tales. Some were funny and some, more often than not, were sad. Publicity was not the only way to which A.A. was enabled to grow by leaps and bounds in Cleveland. It grew due to the personal contact of one drunk with another. One in recovery to one who was still suffering. This was Cleveland's, and Clarence's personal mission.
HOW IT WORKED
Personal Contact - "Attraction Rather Than Promotion"
Certainly we were not in any way psychic or advanced in spiritual growth, but just very ordinary human beings, who had had more suffering and worry than the majority and who had known tragedy after tragedy.
Two Listeners, God Calling (New York; Dodd, Mead & Co., 1945) p. 10
Cleveland, Ohio was a hub of A.A. activity in late 1939. Clarence went about his sales job both in his career as a salesperson and as an A.A. member. Personal contact with prospective members, as well as with those who were attending meetings was what made the membership grow in numbers and in strength of sobriety.
Clarence believed that in order for a prospective member to get well, his entire family had to get well also. Members of the group visited the homes of those who had sent in inquiries arising out of newspaper and radio publicity. A.A.s spoke with the wives and husbands of the alcoholics either prior to, or during their hospitalizations. Family members were invited to attend meetings, were given a copy of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, and were told to read the Upper Room.
Members of the A.A. group shared with the prospective A.A.'s and their families their own personal stories as to how they got well and how A.A. had restored their family life and belief in God. This personal sharing gave hope to newcomers and families that they too, had a chance at a better life.
Clarence went around to the local doctors. Social Workers, lawyers, judges and service organizations such as the Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary. He spoke to all about A.A. and the work the movement was doing in Cleveland. He appeared on local radio stations and spoke about how A.A. was restoring the outcasts of society to the status of productive citizens.
A.A. members roamed the streets and alley ways speaking with drunks, leaving copies of the A.A.'s Big Book with those who showed even the slightest interest in stopping drinking. The A.A.s went into bars and abandoned buildings, seeking out prospective members.
Numerous letters from wives and husbands of alcoholics flooded the Cleveland A.A. post office box after each Letter to the Editor, article, and radio program concerning A.A. Each letter was answered with a phone call and personal visit to homes and offices of writers.
One letter came from a woman in Zanesville, Ohio, and concerned her husband whom she called a "hopeless case." Clarence went to speak with this woman and then with her husband. After Clarence had told each his story and how he had been restored from the ravages of alcoholism, the husband consented to being hospitalized. He was placed in one of the local hospitals and was visited daily by A.A. members who told him their own stories. The man was convinced that he too wanted what they had. He was taken to a meeting upon leaving the hospital and then, in Clarence's terms, was "taken through his Steps."
The man's wife became involved in his recovery and attended meetings with him. She too began to recover, both in attitude and in spiritual reliance on God. In later years, she wrote to Clarence, thanking him for all the efforts he had made in getting her husband better. Clarence responded that it was not he who had restored her husband and their marriage. He responded to her letter of thanks, by giving all of the credit to God and to their commitment to each other and the A.A. movement.
This man never had another drink for the rest of his life and continued to correspond with Clarence, informing him of his A.A. "Birthdays" and of how he too was carrying the message to others.
Another of Clarence's "babies," was Irwin "Irv" M. Irwin was a salesperson who had lost several accounts due to his drinking. He lived on Eddington Road in Cleveland Heights. Clarence had "pulled" Irv out of a bar at the request of Irv's wife and had "convinced" him that he "needed to be fixed." Irv had a difficult time sobering up, but was sold on the idea of A.A. and of helping others.
Irwin sold Venetian Blinds and travelled around the country doing so. Wherever he went, he started A.A. meetings. And Irwin was a high pressure salesperson in and out of A.A.
Irwin was Jewish, weighed 250 pounds, and kept slipping back into active alcoholism. Still, he was a driving force in the early days of A.A. In the book, "DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, Bill Wilson is quoted as saying, "The prospect of Irwin as a missionary scared us rather badly." In a letter to Clarence, dated May 22, 1940, from the Hotel Virginia, in Columbus, Ohio, Irwin wrote, "This is the first trip in one year that I was sober. Thank God." This was the first of many letters that Irwin wrote Clarence in which he told of his "slips," of regaining his sobriety, and of carrying the message by starting meetings.
Irwin, due to his widespread sales territory received constant lists of inquiries from Ruth Hock at the New York A.A. office. Irwin followed up on them with the same gusto he used in his sales pitches. In a letter to Clarence, dated September 18, 1940, he wrote:
You know that list that Miss Hock sent me from New York. Well I Stuck my neck out, because it sure kept me busy, but am beginning to like it now. I contacted two men in Indianapolis and they are starting a group there. I contacted four but 2 stuck, the others were a doctor who wouldn't admit he was alky and another Bozo who could handle it. However I am trying to do my share. I am thankful to providence that I started a few men on the road to health and they are also thankful. That's what makes me feel good.
Irwin, in his travels, also started groups in Atlanta, Georgia and throughout the South. In a letter, dated March 28, 1942, from Knoxville, Tennessee, Irwin's wife wrote to Clarence that "Irwin started another club in Charleston, W. Va." According to a book on A.A.'s history in West Virginia, Fifty Years of Freedom in the Mountain State, "Irwin was recognized as the 'sponsor' of that first Charleston Group."
Personal Sponsorship was another hallmark which came out of Cleveland. Each member and prospective member was indoctrinated with the idea of having and then becoming a sponsor. The idea of sponsorship, as A.A. knows it today, originated in Cleveland.
A.A. members were taken through the steps by their sponsor after being hospitalized for a short period. On their release, they were then taken to meetings and told they were to carry their message of hope to others as an "avocation" without personal monetary gain. In 1943, Clarence wrote a pamphlet on sponsorship which was published by the Cleveland Central Office in 1944. This pamphlet was entitled "A.A. SPONSORSHIP- ITS OPPORTUNITIES and ITS RESPONSIBILITIES" (see appendix D). The pamphlet outlined what a sponsor is and what he or she does. In its conclusion, Clarence wrote, "If you're going to be a Sponsor...be a good one!"
Clarence often remarked: "Who wanted to be attracted to a bunch of drunks?" He pushed A.A. down people's throats if he felt that they needed it. He resumed that A.A. saved his life and the lives of countless others. He was always promotion minded.
And in February 1940, what Clarence characterized as one of the biggest promotions to that date took place in New York City.
HOW IT WORKED
The Rockefeller Dinner
February 8, 1940
January 30, 1940
To Clarence Snyder,
...I am glad to hear of the good work you are doing.
Dr. Emmet Fox, Pastor
Church of the Healing Christ
Hotel Astor, New York, N.Y.
Bill Wilson had once again gone back to Willard Richardson to ask for more financial help. The Big Book had been published. Meetings were growing. Yet no significant money from book sales had been forthcoming.
Henrietta Seiberling had admonished to Frank Amos that "money would spoil this thing." But Amos's report was so glowing and promising for the movement that he again approached Mr. Rockefeller for money; and Rockefeller decided once again to help out.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. promised Bill he would invite all of his friends to a dinner in order that they too, could hear about this wonderful movement which was now officially known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Alcoholics Anonymous had its legal trust, the Alcoholic Foundation and the founder had a book. Mr. Rockefeller therefore told Bill that all of his (Rockefeller's) friends would receive copies of the book at the dinner in the hope they would be able to help the movement out in some manner.
Bill once again envisioned millions pouring into the Foundation. The hope of hospitals, paid missionaries, offices and sales probably flashed before Bill's eyes.
Doc Smith was called so he could make plans to attend this event, and he was asked to bring along "some of the boys." Clarence was told by his sponsor, Doc, that he (Clarence) was to attend.
The well-oiled machinery of the Rockefeller empire was put to work. One hundred eighty-seven engraved invitations were sent out. They read as follows:
Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
requests the pleasure of your company
on Thursday, the eighth of February
at seven o'clock
The Union Club
Park Avenue and 69th Street
Mr. William G. Wilson, author of "Alcoholics Anonymous"
and Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick
will speak on an Effective control of alcoholism
R.s.v.p. - 30 Rockefeller Plaza - Business Suit
Of the one hundred eighty-seven invitations that were sent out, one hundred and twenty-seven people sent their regrets. Sixty people, including among them, members of A.A. responded in the affirmative.
Of the sixty who attended, several were or became, great friends of the A.A. movement. These included: Frank Amos, Gordon Auchincloss, Dr. R. E. Blaisdell, Horace Crystal, A. Leroy Chipman, Leonard V. Harrison, Dr. Foster Kennedy, Dr. W. D. Silkworth, Dr. Leonard V. Strong, Jr. and Wendell L. Wilkie.
Among the A.A. members who attended were Bill Wilson, Dr. R. H. Smith, Fitz M. from Washington, D. C., Bert T. and Bill R. from New York. Clarence Snyder represented Cleveland.
Clarence had boarded a Pullman train in Akron at six P.M. on the evening of February seventh along with Doc for the long trip to Jersey City, New Jersey. Clarence was in car 102 and occupied Lower Berth #4. He paid $3.95 for ticket number 685. He was excited once again to be visiting New York City and with the prospect of meeting John D. Rockefeller, Jr. This was Clarence's first time back in New York since he had gotten sober.
The menu for the dinner which was printed on a Union Club card, was dated, February 8, 1940, and contained the following:
STUFFED TOMATO WITH CRAB MEAT
BLACK BEAN SOUP
ROAST BREAST OF DUCKLING
BROILED SWEET POTATOES
MIXED GREEN SALAD
BOMBE UNION CLUB
After the dinner, Nelson Rockefeller made apologies for his father, John D., who could not attend due to illness. Nelson Rockefeller then turned the meeting portion of the gathering over to Mr. Albert L. Scott. Mr. Scott had been in attendance at the original meeting with Mr. Rockefeller in December 1937.
After making a few brief introductory remarks to those assembled, Mr. Scott introduced Bill Wilson. (Quotes from the dinner were taken from the "Digest of Proceedings at Dinner given by Mr. John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the interest of Alcoholics Anonymous at Union Club, New York City, February 8, 1940" which was made available by the Rockefeller Archives in Tarrytown, N.Y.). Scott said:
"I first want to introduce my friend Bill Wilson, who is at my right. Of this group, Bill Wilson here has been the leader. He is almost, if not entirely, the originator of the undertaking."
Clarence vividly remembered being taken aback by these remarks. He felt his sponsor, Dr. Bob, was once again being demoted to the post of "forgotten Co-Founder." Clarence wanted to get up and clarify this glaring oversight to Mr. Scott; and he indignantly started to rise. Clarence remembered that Doc Smith placed his hand on Clarence's arm and quietly asked Clarence to remain seated. Doc then explained to Clarence that his (Doc's) purpose there was not to receive any applause, but rather to lend support to the movement. He went on to tell Clarence that he was content with taking a back seat, and didn't mind that Bill was once again in the spotlight. Clarence remembered Doc's saying "Bill eats this stuff up." Doc said to Clarence to "Let him have his day."
Clarence was very protective of Doc. He felt that Doc was "getting a raw deal in all of this." Clarence continued to protest throughout his life that Doc always got "the short end of the stick," especially after Doc had passed on and "Bill was left to his own devices." These "devices," Clarence always felt, had been kept in check while Doc was alive by Doc's gentle persuasion which would "calm him (Bill) down."
On any event, Bill began his talk by saying: "If there is one thing that most people would like, it is to recover the good things they have lost. With us who have been alcoholics one of those good things is the regard of our fellow men."
Bill then proceeded to thank all of those present for coming to the dinner as "a mark of renewed confidence." Bill then related the story of Roland H.'s visits with Dr. Carl Gustav Jung in Switzerland and how Doctor Jung had told Roland that he must experience a "so-called vital spiritual experience." Bill then went on to say that Dr. Jung had told Roland:
"I don't know whether the lightning will hit you or not. You might try. Otherwise you may as well shut yourself up, because if you don't, you will die."
Bill then told those assembled of his own experiences with alcoholism and how it had affected all areas of his life.
Bill also related how Roland had carried the message of the Oxford Group to an old drinking friend, Ebby T. And Bill told how Ebby had then eventually, carried the message - "I've got religion" - to him. Bill spoke briefly of his visit with Ebby and of the events leading to his spiritual experience in Towns Hospital.
Bill told of his meeting Dr. Bob, and of their adventures over the summer and fall of 1935. He spoke about returning to New York City and trying to work with other alcoholics, just as he had done in Akron. Bill added, "Meanwhile, as an avocation - and that is what it is with all of us - I did some work here in my spare time." He also related some of the background concerning the writing of the Big Book and its history to date.
He talked a little about what A.A. was doing around the country and of its successes. He began with Cleveland and with Clarence. Bill said:
"One of these fellows was a chap who is here tonight, by the name of Clarence Snyder. Clarence began to work around among people in Cleveland... so little by little a nucleus was formed in Cleveland of people who were getting well."
Bill then briefly discussed the success that they had been having in Chicago and New Jersey.
Bill said: "Of all the people who have been seriously interested in this thing since the beginning, one-half have had no relapse at all. About 25% are having some trouble, but in our judgement will recover. The other 25% we do not know about."
[In comparison with today's recovery rates, these 25 percentages were quite impressive.]
At the end of his talk, Bill turned the meeting over to Mr. Scott, who, in turn, introduced Dr. Foster Kennedy. After Dr. Kennedy's brief remarks, the Reverend Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick was introduced to speak. Dr. Fosdick ended his talk with the following remarks;
"Last of all, I admire the quietness, the anonymity which this movement is carried on. Very small overhead financially, no big organization, nobody making anything out of it, no high salaried staff, people for the love of it sharing with others the experience that has meant life to them - that is good work. No one is a prophet, but I suspect that there is a long road ahead of this movement."
Remembering these remarks, Clarence recalled to the author:
"...It's a far cry from what A.A. is today. What with the millions of dollars in rent and salaries, millions of dollars going to one individual in royalties - where are the people doing it for the love of it, doing it as an avocation?"
After all of the speakers were done, the A.A. members mingled and spoke one-on-one with those present. What Clarence there observed and heard disturbed him greatly. He told the author he felt that the New York A.A.'s were "trying to put the bite on the rich people who were there." He remembered feeling ashamed of their performance.
Later, after all of the guests had left, hands were shaken, thanks were given to Mr. Rockefeller and to his staff for a beautiful meeting and a wonderful meal. All of the A.A.'s went down the street, as Clarence put it, "to one of them Greek restaurants to have a critique."
Clarence remarked to the author that Bill was "walking four feet off of the ground - he knows that he's gonna get millions from these people." Bill told Clarence at that time, "You'll get out on the road and start groups. That will be your thing to do. We're all going to get busy with all these millions."
Clarence then looked at Bill and replied, "Bill, we aren't gonna get anything out of these people." He told Bill he was ashamed concerning the "bunch of bums who you brought in to panhandle these rich guys." Clarence felt that Bill didn't really hear what he (Clarence) was saying, and that Bill was too involved in his "schemes."
Soon after they had returned to Akron, Doc and Clarence were informed that Rockefeller had only given a mere $1,000 to the movement. With the sale of the Big Books to Mr. Rockefeller and to those who "got the hint" in the accompanying letters, A.A. received an additional $2,000. Three thousand dollars in total, all from a group of men, money of whom were worth many millions.
Clarence stayed in New York for another week, attended meetings and spoke. In a February 19, 1940 letter from Bert T., a Trustee of the Alcoholic Foundation, Clarence was told, "Everybody liked your talk at the Sunday meeting, and Bill said he wished you had been able to give it at the regular Tuesday meeting. However, most of your talk has been passed around by word of mouth and I am glad of that."
Even though the dinner was a financial disappointment to the alcoholics, especially Bill, it inspired them to continue full force in carrying the message to the still sick and suffering alcoholic. And Bill felt the ensuing free publicity from the dinner would probably make up in other donations and membership what they had "lost" on the dinner itself. The message was important, the message must go on.
"ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS HAS BUT ONE PURPOSE: TO HELP THE SICK ALCOHOLIC RECOVER IF HE WISHES."
This was the quote that was in the beginning of most early A.A. literature.
THE MESSAGE MUST GO ON.
HOW IT WORKED
Trials and Tribulations of 1940
You know when I came back to Cleveland I thought A.A. here stunk and kept getting drunk to prove it. After I was completely batted around by John B. it finally dawned on me that I never accepted the third step.
From a letter dated Oct. 17th to Margaret "Bobbie" B. at the Foundation in N.Y.C. written by T. Frank B. of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. (probably written in 1942)
1940 was a year of growth and challenge. The original three groups, the G. Group, the Borton Group and the Orchard Grove Group (later called the Lakewood Group), split up into four more groups during 1940.
On May 1, 1940 the West 50th Street Group broke away from the Orchard Grove Group taking four members with them. The West 50th Street Group had their first meeting on May 8th. By the end of its first year, that group had eighty-seven members. They met at 3241 West 50th Street on Wednesday evenings. Its name was later changed to the Brooklyn Group.
On August 27th, the Berea Group formed and met at the home of Bob J. It had nine members and at the end of its first year, had grown to thirty members. On September 3rd, the group moved from the home of Bob J. to St. Thomas Episcopal Church Parish Hall in Berea.
On September 20th the Westlake Group branched off from the Orchard Grove Group and began meeting at the Hotel Westlake. When the Westlake Group left Orchard Grove, it took thirty members with it. The group later became the Lake Shore Group.
On October 15th, the Sunday P.M. Group branched off from the Borton Group and took thirty members with it. The Sunday Group first met at the Hotel Hollenden and later moved to the Central YMCA.
The growth of A.A. in Cleveland was phenomenal. Clarence tried to be the leader but was meeting with a lot of resistance from the members who felt that their brand of A.A. was better than his and therefore started meetings of their own.
In a letter to Ruth Hock, dated January 5th, 1940, Clarence described how Doc led one of the meetings:
Doc led our meeting last night and never have I heard him in such fine fettle. I have noticed a vast improvement in Doc since he pulled his gang out of the Williams'. He now speaks with authority, and without any pussyfooting, and I believe he looks 10 years younger.
In the Hock letter, Clarence continued:
The Akron bunch and us are all still busy. We have over 120 alkys in the Cleveland bunches now, and since the holidays, things are picking up again. We had very few casualties, and most of them minor this past month.
Clarence was working overtime in his efforts to "attract" new members. He continued to speak at various organizations and even contacted one of the local radio stations concerning the possibility of a weekly radio program on A. A.
However, the WGAR Broadcasting Company wrote its regrets to Clarence on April 27th, stating:
We have gone over the possibilities of a series of Radio programs in connection with Alcoholics Anonymous and we find that we are incapable of working out a plan by which these programs could be written and produced properly to maintain audience interest from week to week and at the same time protect the best interests of your organization.
The broadcasters returned to Clarence the Big Book he had sent them and said: "[We] wish your organization a continuation of the fine success which it has had to date."
Clarence did manage to write some radio talks and get them on the air. But he also met with resistance from certain A.A. members regarding this publicity. He gave their complaints no heed, and continued on with his work.
Letters were coming in from all over Cleveland. Clarence followed up on these as best he could and handed some of the inquiries to the others. It was a difficult period in Cleveland, what with all of the people coming into A.A. and the problems that they were having at meetings.
There were those who still believed that hospitalization was a necessary part of the recovery process. Others, like Warren C., who had not been hospitalized, felt that alcoholics could get well by attending meetings without the benefit of being in a hospital. Controversy raged on about this matter well into the middle forties.
The publicity brought about its own problems. Members felt that they should remain anonymous; and the articles, letters, and radio programs were bringing in people who were simply curious about this strange group of ex-problem drinkers. Other members felt that the new blood was necessary for the continued growth and recovery of the membership. These felt that their purpose was to carry the message of recovery to the still sick and suffering. And how better to do this than by continually bombarding the public with facts about the existence of A.A. and what it had done for its members.
Clarence was "called on the carpet" numerous times for using of his full name wherever he went. Some of his programs and flyers said, "Clarence Snyder of the Alcoholics Anonymous will speak on this new cure for Alcoholism." Theses even listed Clarence's place of work so people could contact him.
Arguments over publicity increased when in the later part of the year, Clarence was contacted by the New York A.A. office concerning a proposed article be run in the Saturday Evening Post.
The Saturday Evening Post was sending an investigative reporter to Cleveland to "expose" A.A. for what the magazine thought it was: Another get-rich scheme that was using the alcoholics for the benefit of a few men.
Clarence ran the gamut of inquiries by angry members concerning the proposed article: On the one hand, how were they to maintain their anonymity. On the other, if the article were favorable, how were they to keep up with the assured influx of people it would bring?
Clarence assured members that the article would not endanger their meetings or anonymity. He also told them that they could handle any influx of new members if it were done properly. But there were even more trials and tribulations of 1940 when the article reached the public.
During this time, Clarence was having his own personal problems. His marriage to Dorothy was rapidly going down the tubes. He told the author, "We were more on the outs than not."
Though she liked the changes in Clarence, Dorothy still could not stand what she believed Clarence had become. The long and lonely nights, the phone calls in the middle of the night, the dinners that went cold and uneaten on the kitchen table, and the arrogance she saw emerging. It appeared to Dorothy that Clarence's whole life had become A.A. work. He neglected her and their young son in favor of the sick and suffering alcoholic.
There was no balance in their lives. Despite the fact that Clarence preached family unity to the other members, he had none in his own life. Dorothy was beginning to get fed up with Clarence and his way of dealing with their personal problems. She began discussing divorce with him, and he was having none of that.
A.A. had become Clarence's new addiction; and, as with his drinking, it was beginning to destroy his family once again. Dorothy spoke with other A.A. members, and with Doc and Anne Smith. She shared this problem at meetings with other wives. If Clarence weren't going to change and they could not work out their problems, she would have to leave him.
Clarence was so absorbed in his A.A. work that he could not see that he was once again about to lose his wife and son. He tried to back off in his A.A. work and found he was becoming miserable. Without his family, he would lose; and without his A.A. involvement, he felt he would also lose.
Dorothy was a moving force within the A.A. movement. Yet she found the time to be a mother and tried to be a wife. But Clarence was unable to separate his home life from his A.A. life. Their problems continued and escalated.
And so, on August 20, 1940, Clarence and Dorothy were divorced. In a letter to Ruth Hock in New York, Clarence wrote:
O Well, it is about in line with about everything else I hear about myself, including being engaged to seven different girls, secretly married to four, drunk and disorderly, married to an heiress and engaged to two others, and a wife beater. So what the hell. On the contrary, I am doing fine, officially single, sober (3 years) don't ever expect to slip, don't beat anyone's wife, no heiress' have proposed to me, but just going along. Have been fired out of the finance business and am now selling Fords..." Clarence continued, "Have had a lot of interesting experiences in the past 3 years and have since listened to some screwy ideas. Which convinces me that all the nuts aren't alkies... All in all it's a great world.
About the same time, Dorothy wrote Ruth Hock, saying:
Dear Sugar-Puss, Tell Bill that Prince Blue-Flame is getting a divorce from his '100% I Am' wife - said that a man needed a woman - I gather that spiritual mysticism wasn't enough.
About this time, Clarence's address changed from 1552 Biltmore Avenue in Lyndhurst, Ohio, to his Employer's address: "c/o E.D. Latimer & Co., 5363 Broadway Avenue, Cleveland."
Officially single, Clarence was free to continue on with his A.A. work. Clarence also agreed to pay support for his son. In his separation agreement, Clarence agreed to pay "of his earnings the sum of $40.00 per month, the said payments to be made monthly until the said Richard Snyder shall have attained the age of twenty-one years and/or shall have become self-supporting at which time the said payments for the said child shall cease."
Clarence also agreed to a life insurance policy "in the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company for the sum of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) consisting of three separate policies."
Due to his fluctuating income, Clarence had difficulty maintaining the monthly child-support payments and the insurance premiums. Dorothy had to pay the policy premiums and kept "hounding" Clarence for payments and upkeep on the insurance well into the early 1950's, as Clarence put it.
In a letter to Clarence dated January 23rd, 1949, Dorothy wrote:
I believe, in all fairness, you will agree that I have had the heavy part of this bargain... even to taking over the insurances (which were loaned to the hilt) when you agreed to take care of them. I have consistently made less than you but at no time have I made any demands on you, even when you told me you were making $800-$1000. per month, nor have you ever offered to do more.