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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
a letter to Ruth Hock, dated January 5th, 1940, Clarence
described how Doc led one of the meetings:
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
the Hock letter, Clarence continued:
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.
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.
the WGAR Broadcasting Company wrote its regrets to Clarence on
April 27th, stating:
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
so, on August 20, 1940, Clarence and Dorothy were divorced. In
a letter to Ruth Hock in New York, Clarence wrote:
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
the same time, Dorothy wrote Ruth Hock, saying:
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
a letter to Clarence dated January 23rd, 1949, Dorothy
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.