By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
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Index of Chapter 3

3.1 - Home...for just a brief moment 3.6 - On Our Knees
3.2 - The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run 3.7 - At T. Henry and C. Williams' Home
3.3 - Meeting the Doctor 3.8 - The Meeting at T. Henry's
3.4 - Back to Cleveland 3.9 - The Message is Brought to Cleveland
3.5 - In the Hospital 3.10 - Cleveland Begins to Come of Age

Chapter 3.10

Cleveland Begins to Come of Age

Ideas do have legs, and they travel fast and far, for they need no ships to cross the seas! Indeed they move with such speed that the idea conceived and born by the passion of one heart can shape and change the lives of millions, leading great nations on to destruction or destiny...

Peter Howard, Ideas Have Legs (Coward, McCann, Inc. 1946)

Soon after Bill H. came into the Oxford Group, Clarence began to experience some success in his life. Success not only in carrying the message of recovery as an avocation, but success in something equally as important. Finding employment.

Years back, when Clarence was still in the finance business, he had worked with numerous automobile dealerships. Many of whom he had helped to stay in business through some the worst years of the Depression. One of these car dealerships was the E.D. LATIMER & Company. Mr. Latimer had surmised that Clarence had all of the innate qualities for and had what it took to be a super salesperson.

When Clarence approached Mr. Latimer about a position, Latimer hired him on the spot. Latimer didn't ask about where Clarence had been working prior to that time, where he had been or what he had been, doing the previous couple of years.

In an amazingly short period of time, and much to Mr. Latimer's delight, Clarence began bringing in customers faster, and with more success than any of the other salespeople. Past or present, regardless of experience. Clarence had taken all of the old sales and service records from his predecessors and organized a massive list of all of the people who hadn't brought their cars in for service. Or had never brought them in at all. He also compiled a list of all of the customers, past and present, who were due to purchase a new car.

Utilizing these lists, Clarence routed out his course. He arranged his schedule around the locations. He got into his new, demonstrator car and visited each and every one of them personally. He did this mostly in the evenings to help insure that, not only the customer, but his entire family would be present.

He kept only one evening free. Wednesday evening was set aside for Clarence's Oxford Group meetings in Akron. In the fifteen months during which he attended Wednesday night meetings at T. Henry and Clarace Williams' home, Clarence may have missed only one or two.

Clarence was very shrewd in his sales practices. He showed a lot of concern. Yet he often berated his potential customers. He usually did this in front of their families where this practice had the most impact. He scolded these customers, often telling them, "You are not taking care of your investment."

He developed a reputation throughout the greater Cleveland area for really caring for his customers and taking a personal interest in them. "He," many said, "cared so much that he went personally to visit with them at their homes." This practice was something unheard of for an automobile salesperson.

E.D. LATIMER was touted as being "Ohio's Largest Ford and Mercury Dealer," and advertised, "You can always do business with `LATIMER'." But Personal care had never been Latimer's strongest selling point. Never, that is, until Clarence began working there. People came in droves to see Clarence at the dealership. Car owners, families, friends, even "rummies." For Clarence not only sold Fords and Mercuries, he "sold" sobriety and the Oxford Group. And Mr. Latimer didn't care what else Clarence sold, as long as Clarence was selling cars in the volume that he did.

He had not one, but two, demonstrator cars at his disposal and in his possession. One Ford and one Mercury. This special treatment was unheard of in those days. Usually even the best salesperson got just one demonstrator car for his personal use.

Clarence often said, "Now kids, think about this. Think about Divine Providence." After being "on the bum," with no home, no money to speak of, no job, his marriage down the tubes, Clarence had been introduced to a doctor who later turned out to be one of the founders of A.A. He had been introduced to this doctor indirectly through another doctor, who not only lived over four hundred miles away, but who "just happened" to be the brother-in-law of the other co-founder-to-be of A.A. The doctor in Akron got him "fixed." Clarence got his relationship with his wife back and was living back in his home. He was earning a good salary (twenty dollars a week draw on commission). Even more important, he had two cars that were always at his disposal. These cars were used every Wednesday night to ferry alcoholics back and forth to the meetings of the Oxford Group in Akron, Ohio.

"This just doesn't happen to ordinary people." As Clarence stated shaking his head as he thought of the incredible events that happened in his life.

Both of Clarence's cars began rapidly to fill up with "rummies": Clarence, Dorothy, George McD., John D., Lee L., Charlie J., Vaughn P., Clarence W., Bill H., Kay H., Sylvia K., Ed M., Lloyd T., assorted wives, husbands, and other family members. All drove to Akron on a weekly basis. The "Cleveland Contingent," as they were called, hardly ever missed a Wednesday night meeting.

When they did miss a meeting, it was due to extremely hazardous driving conditions which had been produced by inclement weather. The Cleveland Contingent stayed home, only after praying and receiving "guidance" about traveling that particular night.

Sylvia K. was one of the "babies" of Clarence and Dorothy." After living with them for a while, Sylvia returned to her native Chicago, and helped start A.A. there. Her story, "The Keys Of The Kingdom," is in the Second and Third Edition of the Big Book.

Sylvia returned to her native Chicago, and helped start A.A. there.

Clarence was one of the few people who were instrumental in helping to bring women into A.A. He argued strongly for their inclusion into the Fellowship when they were often unwelcome. Many of the older, male members of A.A. felt about women that "they were nothing but trouble. Even Bill and Bob were scared of `em and the trouble they often caused with the old bucks," said Clarence.

Bill V.H., in a letter to Clarence, written January 7, 1951, made reference to the problems with women, even wives. Bill wrote, "You remember Roland and his good looking wife at King School don't you? Don't get too excited..." King School was the location of the first meeting in Akron that followed the alcoholics break-off from the Oxford Group. The break occurred after the original book had been published in April of 1939 (according to the United States Copyright Office, the actual publication date was April 10, 1939).

In the late 1930's, most of the members of the Cleveland Contingent were Irish and belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. Clarence remembered, they were "getting a hard time of things with the Church." The problem, as Clarence remembered, was the Church's concern with the tenets and teachings of the Oxford Group - essentially a Protestant, Evangelical fellowship.

At the early A.A. meetings, leaders read aloud from the King James Version of the Bible. They "witnessed" and confessed their sins openly, one to another. Clarence said this did not "sit too well with the Catholic Church." On numerous occasions, Clarence had to sit down and meet with Roman Catholic alcoholics and the hierarchy of their Church to explain to them that alcoholics were not intentionally violating the Church's teachings.

He remembered telling Roman Catholic alcoholics and the Church hierarchy that the groups were, instead, helping these members of the Church, who, due to their excessive drinking, had become non-productive members of society. Outcasts as it were. He remembered explaining that they, the "alcoholic squad" of the Oxford Group, were working with these drunkards and, through this life-changing program, this "First Century Christian Fellowship," were turning them into "good Catholics." Good Roman Catholic, and productive and income-earning citizens. He also pointed out that many a marriage was being salvaged, thereby keeping members of the Church from getting divorced and risking excommunication. "The Church didn't buy this line, not one bit," said Clarence.

Clarence remembered that the problems with the Church grew in direct proportion to the ever-growing numbers of people in the Oxford Group from the Cleveland Contingent. Clarence often spoke with his "sponsor," Doc, about this increasing dilemma.

According to Clarence, the Roman Catholic members were being warned by their Church not to attend the Oxford Group meetings. No matter how hard Clarence begged, pleaded, and cajoled church leaders, he could not dissuade them. The Church officials, as Clarence remembered, were threatening the newly "fixed rummies" with excommunication. The "rummies" felt this was putting in jeopardy not only their spiritual lives, but also their continued physical well being.

The overwhelming problem as Clarence saw it, was that if the alcoholics left the Oxford Group, they stood a strong chance of returning to their alcoholic drinking. Then, to eventual insanity or death. On the other hand, if they stayed with the Oxford Group and maintained their new found sobriety, they would surely be excommunicated from their Church. Then, they resumed, according to their beliefs, they would lose all hope of ever going to Heaven when they died, or even of having a personal contact with God. A personal contact, which, the Oxford Group stressed, was their only means of maintaining their sobriety.

The Roman Catholic alcoholics were thus in a double bind. Stay with the Oxford Group and be denied the Kingdom of Heaven, or leave the group and be denied their new found sobriety. The sobriety, which, in fact, had returned them to their God after years of alcoholic Hell. No matter which way they turned, Clarence felt, they were lost. And they turned to Clarence for help. This placed him in an equally and confusing dilemma.

Doc was very stringent and outspoken in his loyalty to the Oxford Group. Mostly because the Oxford Group had saved his life, Clarence's life and the lives of all the other "rummies." Not to mention the restoration of all to their families, homes, jobs, and to new lives made out of old discards. Doc felt that since there was nothing else to offer these alcoholics that differed in any way from what they now had in the Oxford Group, he could offer Clarence no solution. No solution other than to keep talking with the Church officials in an effort to change their minds and hearts. "Otherwise," Doc told Clarence, "if the Church did not change their minds, the men had but two choices. Remain with the Oxford Group and probably risk excommunication, or very simply, leave the Church."

Neither of those choices was acceptable to Clarence or to the Roman Catholic members. But Clarence could not offer any alternative choice to them. He was, himself, in a major bind. He felt he had to listen to his "sponsor," the man who had saved his life. He also felt that he needed to pray daily, incessantly, for "guidance" concerning what should be done about this problem.

Events in the following months produced what was eventually to be another choice - a choice that Clarence and the Cleveland Contingent had been praying for. A series of events, Divine Providence, that none of them had any idea existed.

The resulting choice produced the beginnings of a program of recovery. A program that was similar to that of the Oxford Group, yet very different. An option that would be open to all who still suffered from alcoholism. A choice that would eventually become known around the world as Alcoholics Anonymous. A fellowship for, and by, those who had an honest desire to quit drinking.

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