The Message Is Brought To
A traveler once saw an old
man planting a carob tree. "When will the tree bear fruit" asked
the traveler? "Oh, perhaps in seventy years," the old man answered.
"Do you expect to live to eat the fruit of that tree?"
"No," said the old man. "But
I didn't find the world desolate when I entered it, and as my
fathers planted for me before I was born, so do I plant for
those who come after me."
Clarence's first meeting, Dorothy invited Clarence to come home
with her. She was so impressed not only with the meeting, Doc
and Anne, and the other Oxford Group members, but also with
Clarence. She felt, within him, a new spirit, a new man.
went back to Cleveland, as he put it, to "fix rummies as an
avocation - for free." That was his assignment, his ministry.
This way of life had been strongly suggested to him by his Oxford
Group sponsor, Doc Smith. It wasn't so much a suggestion. It
was an order!
recalled of these early days: "Now picture this kids. There
was no A.A.'s Big Book, there was no A.A. groups. There was
no nuthin! I'm alone in Cleveland, Ohio. Out of a country of
a million and a quarter people,... there was no shortage of
rummies... I felt that I'd never really be a good member of
this bunch of rummies in Akron until I'd sponsored somebody."
then was nothing like sponsorship as it is known as in A.A.
today. Clarence said that in the 1930's, no one could just walk
into the Ohio Oxford Group meeting from off of the streets.
Nor were the meetings advertised in the newspapers for the most
part, except for the large house-parties and team meeting rallies.
A person had to be "sponsored" into the meetings, just as was
the case for the more select country clubs and what were known
as the "father and son" unions. A person would have to be brought
in by another Oxford Group adherent. You couldn't just walk
had little to show anyone other than himself. There was no A.A.'s
Big Book. There were no A.A. pamphlets, no A.A. history, nor
A.A. groups. There was, of course, Oxford Group's lecture, but
it was not tailored for the alcoholic. Clarence therefore started
out by walking the streets of Cleveland. He went into places
where "rummies" hung out. He certainly knew many personally.
wasn't afraid he would pick up a drink himself because his,
as he put it, his "purpose was right." He said he could go "into
the depths of Hell if my purpose was right." He went every place
that he could think of. Everyplace where, a few short months
before he himself had been. "I went into the joints and tackled
`em," he said! "I walked right in and tackled some rummy and
told him he ought to quit drinking. He ought to be like me."
each and every time he did that, he met with resistance. Some
of it was verbal. Some of it was physical. That, however, in
no way deterred him from trying to fulfill the directions given
to him by his sponsor. "I talked to hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of assorted rummies, dipsomaniacs, drunks and what
have you. Alcoholics," he said.
went into saloons, alleys, and abandoned buildings. He went
even so far as to go back to Kingsbury Run and the "Roaring
Third." He went to speak to, and with, the Associated Charities,
the police, doctors, and the clergy. At first to no avail.
that is, until soon after he had made his "full surrender" in
T. Henry's bedroom. On his knees.
seven months after he had left the hospital, said Clarence,
"I trapped my first one. I got my first baby into the hospital.
I will never forget that experience if I live to be a thousand
years old. Because it did something to me, and for me. I never
figured I'd be a real Indian and win my feathers until I'd sponsored
was in full swing. Many people had lost their homes. They just
vacated them and left the area. Either that, or they had doubled
up with relatives or friends.
were scores of homeless people, a lot of them, "rummies," as
Clarence called to people who were just wandering around. Many
of these homeless people moved into the abandoned buildings,
just as they do today. They went into these buildings to live
and to gain some shelter from the elements. They went to these
abandoned places to avoid the eyes and stares of others and
the shame associated with their situation in life. Most of these
people were men, but there were also many women who were placed
in the same predicament. They, however, somehow didn't seem
so visible. Many of the women had relatives or social organizations
that took them in. More so, than the men.
recalled: "I was way over on Fleet Avenue, in the Polish
section over there. Bohemian section. I went into one of these
houses, and there was probably fifteen or twenty rummies lying
around in various conditions. Some of 'em were up, and some
of 'em were down. Some of 'em were passed out. Some of 'em were
as he carefully surveyed the area, a very large man lying on
the floor. The man hadn't passed out, but he also wasn't moving.
This man was in a condition known as "alcohol paralysis." He
was able to see and hear everything; yet he just couldn't move.
was the perfect man for me to speak with," Clarence thought.
He couldn't get up and leave. He couldn't take a swing at Clarence,
and he couldn't really argue back or make too many excuses.
He was the perfect prospect. A captive audience.
got down on the floor beside this man and proceeded with his
sales pitch. Through this encounter, Clarence learned that this
man's name was Bill H., and that Bill H. had been an auditor
for the Sherwin Williams Paint Company. Bill told Clarence that
he had been employed by Sherwin Williams for many years until
the depression came on, and that they had then fired him. He
also told Clarence he hadn't seen or spoken to his family in
years. This, he said, was because he'd been "on the bum."
then asked him if he wanted to quit drinking for good. Tears
were coming into Bill's eyes as he said, "Yes." This was the
first prospect out of the hundreds with Clarence had spoken
who had given him even the least bit of encouragement. Clarence
said, "So I asked him the next silly question." This man had
been unemployed for years. He hadn't seen or spoken to his family
for an equal amount of time. He was paralyzed, and he was living
in an abandoned building during the depression. I asked him
`Could you get a hold of any dough? Fifty bucks? I'll get you
into a drying out place and get you sobered up.'"
didn't have to wait too long for an answer. From the dejected
look on Bill's face, Clarence knew that he might just as well
have asked Bill for fifty thousand dollars. Clarence too began
to feel dejected. He had finally come across someone who wanted
help and was willing to do anything to get it. Yet Clarence
couldn't do anything to help him.
when Clarence was ready to give up and get up off of the floor,
a broad smile slowly crept across Bill's face. He told Clarence
that his elderly, widowed mother, who lived in Madison, Ohio,
which was about fifty-five miles east of Cleveland, probably
had the money. Bill said that if Clarence were to go out there
and tell the mother that he had found her son, she would give
him anything. "Anything," said Bill, "if she knows that you're
gonna help me."
jumped up, told the man, who lay paralyzed on the floor, to
"stay right there," and ran out. He borrowed a car from one
of the other "rummies" in the Oxford Group, and headed out to
took over an hour and a half. The house where Bill's mother
was supposed to have lived was a farm house about a half mile
at the end of a dirt road that branched off from the main road.
Since Clarence had borrowed the car and the road was quite muddy
and full of rocks and depressions, Clarence decided to walk.
He thought that it wouldn't be such a good idea if he got stuck
and couldn't get out. Off he went down this muddy, dirt road,
not too far distance he heard the distinct sound of gunfire.
"Boom, boom, boom, all over the place," said Clarence. In all
probability, it was the hunting season, and the people with
the guns, he surmised, were "probably some of Bill's pals or
relatives. They're probably all jug heads, and they're running
around there shooting at everything that moves."
had to decide quickly whether or not to continue up this road
and risk his life and limb, or go back to the safe car and "let
the whole thing go down the drain." He decided to continue on
up to the house, ever mindful that the next step he took might
be his last. He prayed, with each and every step that he took,
for God to protect him. After all, wasn't he on a mission for
God? Wasn't he doing God's work? The least that God could do
was allow him to complete the task at hand.
on the door and waited. He knocked on the door again. Eventually,
this little, white-haired, old lady appeared at the door. Looking
at him as if to say, "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
around behind him and, seeing no car, looked him over from head
to toe. She looked down at his muddy shoes and pant's legs and
then back up to his sweaty face. She had an expression on her
face which seemed to say, "You've got to be crazy walking in
the woods. Don't you know that it's hunting season?"
this ran through Clarence's mind as he started telling her that
he had found her long lost son. He told her he was going to
put her son into a hospital to dry him out. Clarence told her
that he, himself was "cured" of this very same terrible disease,
and that all he needed from her was fifty dollars to cover the
expenses at the hospital.
her that her son Bill told him she would be willing to give
him the money. He then asked her what she thought of all this?
She stared at him with a totally blank expression on he face.
Oh, no, Clarence thought. She too was a drunk, and was also
in a stupor.
as it turned out was not the case. If only it had been that
simple. In fact, Bill had neglected to tell Clarence one very
tiny, minute detail. Bill had forgotten to tell Clarence his
mother was Polish, and that she neither spoke nor understood
a single word of English. Somehow, Clarence learned the truth.
was dumbfounded. He knew what he thought were two words of Polish.
Roughly translated, they were "Thank you," and "You're welcome."
Clarence knew, sadly, that he could "thank you" and "you're
welcome" for just so long, and then would run out of conversation.
came a seven or eight year old child, who Clarence presumed
was the lady's grandson. The child spoke broken English that
he had learned from going to public school for a couple of years.
He also spoke fluent Polish. Out of necessity, this child became
the interpreter. Very slowly, the whole story was retold.
lady started to cry and began to thank Clarence profusely. She
kissed him, shook his hands, and hugged him. She chattered away
endlessly in her native tongue, leaving Clarence unaware of
the meaning of her words.
were the depression years, and many people didn't trust the
banks too much. This because many banks had closed and gone
out of business. Many people kept their money at home, close
to where they could get to it. They buried it in their back
yards, in tin cans and in mattresses. Anywhere they thought
it would be safe. Many felt that "no interest" was a lot better
than "no money."
excused herself and left the room. Clarence quipped that she
had probably "cut a lump out of the mattress." When she came
back into the kitchen where she had left Clarence with her grandson,
the mother extended he trembling hand to Clarence. In it was
a large stack of dollar bills that were tied together with a
string. These were the old style bills, larger than the ones
in use today. She started counting these dollars, in Polish.
She was placing them into Clarence's hands, one-by-one.
to insist that Clarence take more than the fifty that he had
asked for. This she explained to him, was to cover any other
expenses that he might have had to incur and for all of his
refused to take any more than the amount that he had originally
requested. "Fifty is all I need to get your son into the hospital,"
he said. She kept insisting, pleading at times. She said that
he was insulting her and her family honor. Clarence held steadfast.
down that long road oblivious to the continued sounds of gunfire.
He got into the car and started back to Cleveland. This trip
that had taken him an hour and a half to get there, only took
about an hour to get back. Clarence was flying, in more ways
he returned to Cleveland, Bill was still lying there. Just where
Clarence had left him just a few hours earlier. After telling
Bill he had seen his mother and that she had given him the money,
he went outside to call Doc.
Doc at his office, Clarence told him that he had gotten his
first "baby." He said he was going to drive him down to Akron
and asked if Doc would meet them at the hospital. He had to
repeat the message a few times. He was talking so fast that
Doc had constantly to tell him either to repeat it or to slow
he got off the phone with Doc, Clarence asked some of the other
"jug-heads" to help him lift Bill up, and to put him into the
back seat of the car. Away Clarence and Bill went. Clarence
had "arrived." He was a sponsor. He had now gotten his "feathers."
Looking back, Clarence remembered that Bill finally came out
of the paralysis in the hospital and that they had a very difficult
time with him.
found it difficult to "swallow" the spiritual program that was
being outlined to him. Clarence remembered that he and Doc had
numerous verbal bouts with Bill. There was even a point in the
treatment where Doc had almost given up on Bill and suggested
that Clarence do the same.
Bill was Clarence's first "success," Clarence refused to give
up. He tried even harder. He eventually convinced Bill to "accept
that he needed new management in his life." He said, "Bill did
get on his knees." Later on in Clarence's sobriety he didn't
force anyone to accept anything. He merely told them that they
were the ones who had come to him because their lives were "messed
up." He told them that if they "didn't want what I had, they
could go on their merry way and come back, if and when they
were ready to go to any lengths to get well. To recover."
managed to stay dry as Clarence remembered, for about two years.
But, as Clarence put it, due to Bill's continued stubbornness,
Bill began to manage his own life once again. Each time he did
this, it was done with disastrous results.
to archival material relating to the "A.A. Association," Bill
had to be hospitalized on at least two more occasions. These
records showed that on March 12, 1940, William J.H. owed a hospital
balance of $34.07. In the records for November, 1940, Bill's
balance was "Paid by the A.A. Association."
Association" was a committee that was set up for the purpose
of recording hospital bills owed by "prospects" and members.
"Prospects" were people who were prospective members, who had
not as yet "taken their Steps." The A.A. Association committee
was comprised of members of the Fellowship who collected money
from prospective members, their families, and other members,
and turned the money over to the "Approved Hospitals."
often paid the bills of those less fortunate who were unable
to do so themselves. The Association kept an ongoing monthly
record of who owed what. These records often showed that patient
- the "prospect" - was "still in house." What this meant was
that the newcomer was still in the hospital when the monthly
report came out.
in some of these reports were Clarence pencilled notation of
the amount still owed. An example of this was; "Charles R. …
3/10/40... still in house." After that was written an entry
of, "$61.28" in pencil. Some of the other notations contain
the name of the sponsor and/or the group into which that the
committee was eventually disbanded in the early 1940's as the
A.A. membership increased. In part, this increase was due to
a series of articles published in the Cleveland Plain
Dealer in October and November of 1939. The membership
increased even more as a result of A.A.'s first national publicity.
This publicity came from an article in the Saturday Evening
Post written by its a staff writer, Jack Alexander.
The Post issue came out on March 1, 1941. Due
to Cleveland's phenomenal success, a large part of the article
covered the experiences of Cleveland members.
the A.A. Association committee was disbanded, it became the
responsibility of A.A. groups and of the "newcomer's" sponsor
to see that his hospital bill was paid. The "prospect" was constantly
"encouraged" until the bill was paid in full. ( See archival
section for "Hospital
H. eventually "got" the program, and, as Clarence remembered,
"stayed sober for the rest of his life."