By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
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Index of Chapter 5

Chapter 5:   HOW IT WORKED 5.4 - Other Publicity
5.1 - The First A.A. Meeting in the World 5.5 - Personal Contact - "Attraction Rather Than Promotion"
5.2 - Summer of '39 5.6 - The Rockefeller Dinner
5.3 - Cleveland Continues to Grow 5.7 - Trials and Tribulations of 1940

Chapter 5.7


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.

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