An individual becomes an alcoholic for three
1. As a result of inheritance. He possesses
a nervous system which is non-resistant to alcohol. (In no sense
is a direct craving transmitted from parent to offspring.)
2. By reason of his early environment. Through
the ignorance of his parents or from their own nervous constitution,
the alcoholic was either spoiled or neglected. He was not brought
up to face the world courageously. He is lacking in self-reliance,
no matter how physically brave he may be or how bold he may appear
on the surface. Psychologically, he is unable to stand on his
own two feet. As a result of this, he unconsciously craves a stimulant-narcotic.
3. Because of the effects of his later environment.
That is to say, school, college, economic and social competition,
marriage, and, for one generation at least, the World War.
Richard R. Peabody, The Common
Sense of Drinking, 1930, pp. 185-186
Ohio, December 26, 1902
a cold, gray, winter morning. The forecast had called for snow
with brisk west to southwest winds. Christmas had just passed
without much incident. The Salvation Army had just had their annual
Christmas dinner at the Grays' Armory the day earlier.
2,500 of the city's homeless and destitute were fed what may have
been their only hot meal in weeks. The morning paper said there
were "Pathetic Scenes Witnessed About Big Tables." The Cleveland
Plain Dealer was full of articles concerning suicides,
hangings, and deaths. Page one told of a saloon fight that ended
when the proprietor had shot a man to restore order in his establishment.
Page Five spoke of "forty cripples at a dance."
Snyder, who had been born in St. Clarksville, Ohio, took much
pleasure in reading and hearing about other people's misfortunes.
On this particular day she had plenty to read about as she awaited
the birth of her first daughter. Charles Henry and Jenny Snyder
had already been blessed with two fine boys - Richard Harvey and
Charles William. Jenny was a determined woman. She had made up
her mind to have a girl this time. When she made up her mind that
if something was going to be done, it had better be done, and
her way - or else!
the custom in those days, much time and money was being spent
getting the layette in readiness for the soon-to-be coming arrival.
About six weeks prior to this particular day, Jenny had fallen
down some stairs in her home and had broken her leg. The fall
left her bedridden and in a cumbersome plaster cast.
left with plenty of time left on her hands. With those hands she
had knitted pink booties, pink dresses, pink hats... Everything
was a beautiful shade of pink. All to be presented upon the arrival
of her new baby daughter.
was hurriedly summoned to 64 Breck Avenue (later called 1280 East
89th Street in Cleveland), the house that Charles had
built only a few years earlier. Charles had been born in an old
farm house on Route 113 in Amherst Township, four miles west of
Elyria, Ohio. He had come from a large family. He had three brothers
and four sisters. A couple of years earlier, Charles' parents
had celebrated their sixty-first wedding anniversary which was
written up in the society column of the local Elyria newspaper.
It appeared that "Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Snyder of South Ridge" really
did it up big. Five of their eight children were there with their
spouses. Also present were sixteen grandchildren and five great
grandchildren. The Newspaper article said, "The table where a
seven course dinner was served was beautifully decorated with
carnations and ferns. Several musical numbers were rendered."
gave birth at the Breck Avenue house, it wasn't too difficult
a birth. But when the doctor congratulated the proud parents upon
the birth of yet another son, the matter was of great concern
to Jenny. As Clarence later stated, "I don't think that she ever
forgave me for that. She never fully recovered." It was on this
note that Clarence Henry Snyder was born, the day after Christmas,
in the year 1902.
the ugly duckling, the scapegoat, the black sheep of the family
for the rest of his time at home. His mother had sustained massive
disappointment when he was born. He was, however, very close with
his brother Richard, who was one and a half years older than Clarence.
Clarence and Richard, whom everyone called Dick, were so inseparable
that later on, as they were growing up, if someone picked a fight
with one brother, they had to contend with the other. The two
brothers were a formidable duo. Since they belonged to one of
the families of German descent in an all Irish neighborhood, the
brothers stuck up for each other quite often.
Clarence's second birthday, his mother had left him downstairs
in front of the Christmas tree as she went about her daily household
chores in the upstairs bedrooms. While she cleaned, she would
walk over to the top of the staircase and call down to Clarence
to see if he was okay and out of trouble. The two older boys had
gone out shopping with their father, leaving Clarence and his
mother at home as they shopped for their Christmas dinner.
Jenny called out to him, Clarence would laugh and call out to
her in baby talk, "boken, boken." This routine went on for quite
some time until Jenny had finished with her cleaning and started
back down the stairs to the living room to join her son. When
she had reached the bottom steps, she abruptly stopped. Her mouth
dropped open, and she released whatever she was holding in her
hands. The load cascaded down the steps with a loud crash, startling
Clarence. She appeared to him as if she were frozen, unable to
speak or even move. One of the older boys had received as a Christmas
gift, a tool box, complete with tools. Clarence had somehow figured
out not only how to unwrap this gift, but how to open it as well.
He had taken a hammer out of the box and proceeded to demolish
every Christmas ornament within his reach. He did this with a
glee and purpose that only a two year old could possess.
chaos and debris all over the living room. Bits of colored glass,
unrecognizable pieces of wood. Many had been parts of family heirlooms.
Most of the broken items were irreplaceable, having been passed
on from generation to generation. Then, in a blind rage, his mother
flew down the stairs, wrenched the hammer from his little hands
and, as Clarence recalled with a laugh, "I guess I got boken for
mother had a hairbrush, which consisted of a stone back piece
which was covered with carvings of images of little fish. Clarence
recalled "I had imprints of fish all over my bottom and every
place else that she wailed me with that thing. I can still remember
that hairbrush. It's etched into my memory like the fish were
etched onto my body." Clarence said that much later, when he grew
older, "I stole that damn thing and threw it away. It was a means
father was self employed in the carnival and park entertainment
field. He ran concessions and rides at Luna Park in Cleveland.
Clarence and his brothers were never at a loss for a place to
go for fun and entertainment. Best of all, as Clarence remembered,
they never had to pay either an entrance fee to the park or for
any of the rides.
attended a local kindergarten and first grade. For some unknown
reason, ("I still can't remember why," he related) he skipped
the second grade and went directly into the third. He got along
with everyone in the school. He made many childhood friends and
ran around after school with his brothers playing popular games
of the day.
extremely bright and logical mind, Clarence did well with all
of his studies and in all classroom activities. He was an outgoing,
happy, and well adjusted child. Until something happened that
changed his whole school career and life around. Something so
devastating to him that it had a profound effect upon the rest
of his childhood, adolescent years, and well into young manhood.
occurred in September of 1913. Clarence was in the fifth grade.
His favorite brother, Dick, contracted a childhood disease, the
nature of which Clarence didn't remember. This particular childhood
disease occurring in an era of inadequate medical care and knowledge
- proved fatal. Clarence fell apart. He was devastated and fell
into a tailspin of depression.
his inseparable brother were, by a cruel twist of fate, separated.
They were separated forever. The funeral on November 3, 1913,
was a day of disaster for Clarence. He did not want to attend
it. He cried. He screamed. He was depressed, and he refused to
say good by to the only person in the world with whom he had felt
the most comfortable and best. In one month Clarence would be
eleven years old. A time that was supposed to be special in his
young life. His brother, his friend, and his confidant would not
be there to celebrate or share it with him. He felt that life
was almost not even worth living.
went downhill in a rapid and steady spiral. He became withdrawn,
extremely depressed, and lost most of his former self image and
confidence. A confidence that had been so often bolstered by the
closeness and friendship of his older brother.
father tried to comfort and help guide him through this trying
time in his young life. But his mother had not overcome her disappointment
at Clarence's not being a daughter. Her not yet being resolved
over the death of her son Dick made things worse. Jenny was not
supportive at all. She was lost in her own grief and, as ever,
distant towards her unwanted son, Clarence.
would have it, a couple of years after Dick's death, Clarence's
father was called to go with his concessions. He traveled constantly
around the country. After that, the only contact that Clarence
had with his father was by mail. In a letter dated June 17, 1915,
and postmarked from Lansing, Michigan, Clarence's father described
what was going on and of the new additions to the amusement park:
"We have a lot of shows, an Eli Ferris Wheel, and a 3 abreast
merry-go-round." He also wrote, complaining of something amusement
parks always dreaded: "We also have plenty of bad weather. We
could not show Monday night here on account of rain, and is raining
here now, and don't think we can show tonight." He continued to
write in the letter that he expected to be in Flint, Michigan
the following week. He wrote Clarence: "...Tell your Ma, that
I do not want any laundry sent me till next week." Included with
the letter to Clarence was a book of passes to the Aikes Amusement
Co. This little booklet had been issued by Chas. H. Snyder
and signed over to "Clarence & Strand Theatre." The rides
that were listed inside carried such names as, "Carry-us-all,"
"Fifteen-in-one," "Motordome" and "Musical Comedy."
letter, this one dated Saturday, September 14, 1918, 4:00 PM,
and postmarked Weston, West Virginia, Clarence's father chastised
him for not writing. He wrote, "I sure expected a letter in Clarksburg,
but got none. If you want to make a good business man of yourself,
you must answer letters promptly."
always stressed that Clarence should be a good business person
and always be the best at whatever he did in life. In another
letter dated September 9, 1918, and postmarked Wheeling, West
Virginia, Clarence's father wrote, giving Clarence business directions.
The letter started off, "Well Hello, Mgr. Clarence." It continued,
"You can give Ma $26.50, and pay the charges on the canvass and
the small register when it comes."
age of sixteen Clarence was managing his father's concessions
at Luna Park. This was a formidable responsibility for one so
young. His father wrote on the back of the envelope that along
with managing the business, Clarence should "pay good attention
to school." His father, being a consummate business person, always
signed his letters to Clarence, "C.H. Snyder" or, "C.H.S." He
never concluded his correspondence with "Your father," or even,
"Dad." There was never any love either expressed or implied. Only
business and a request for a "report of what you done etc." But
Clarence acquired a drive for pleasing his father an being a "good
business man" which lasted throughout his life in all of his dealings.
Despite his later drinking, Clarence always drove himself towards
perfection in business. A perfection that his father had always
demanded of him. Eventually, even in recovery, perfection permeated
Clarence's thoughts and actions. Clarence had very little tolerance
for failure, in himself and in others.
school system had, at that time instituted, Junior High School.
Clarence, however after graduating from public school by the "skin
of my teeth," went directly from eighth grade into High School.
He hadn't had the opportunity or advantage of taking preparatory
courses in advanced math or English. Nor had he been able to learn
at the pace of his peers in school. When he did transfer over
to Cleveland's East Side High School, he felt not only at a loss,
but very much out of place. He felt as if he didn't belong there.
His self image and confidence had not yet fully recovered enough
for him to inform his teachers that he had not gone through Junior
High School, had not taken any preparatory courses and felt that
he couldn't keep up with any of the other students in his classes.
All this seemed overwhelming to Clarence at the time, and he began
to withdraw even further into his own little world. Withdraw so
that he could at least begin to feel a little bit comfortable
with life itself, no less with school or with those around him.
was interpreted by his teachers as a sign of ignorance. Some took
it as rebellion. Many branded him and ridiculed him as a "first
class dummy." Some teachers placed a chair in front of the classroom
in a conspicuous position and demanded that Clarence sit there.
This was done to show other students the results of being rebellious,
and it set Clarence up to ridicule. He related, "I wasn't any
great shakes of a student in High School, so I failed almost all
of my classes." After three years as a freshman, another devastating
event began to develop which, once again, had a profound impact
and altered the course of Clarence's young life.
about seventeen years old when his father contracted tuberculosis.
This forced his father to quit his traveling and remain at home,
something that, for a long time, Clarence had secretly been wishing
for. However, not in this way, and not with the fatal results.
in Clarence's life, due to the lack of knowledge by the medical
profession, Clarence watched his father suffer, just as he had
done years earlier with his brother. He watched for many months
as his father's health declined. He watched until his father eventually
succumbed. When his father did pass on, Clarence was afforded
the opportunity to quit school and venture out into the world
of full time employment. Clarence saw no promising future in continuing
on with his education. With the urgent and overwhelming need to
support himself and help with the family expenses, he decided
to leave school. He dropped out and started on his journey into
the world of life and adulthood. A journey that fate had assigned
to him, not one of his own making or choosing.
back, Clarence remembered that one of the most important events
in his High School days was his meeting a young woman and embarking
on his first real romance. Clarence was no stranger to the members
of the opposite sex. Years later, he remarked, "For some unknown
reason I always took a liking to the girls."
that once, when he was about five years old, he had "eloped" with
the little girl from across the street. Clarence and his brothers,
Charles and Dick, were going to Luna Park one Sunday evening to
go on the rides and play the games at the concessions which their
father ran. In accordance with his mother's custom on Sundays,
Clarence was all dressed up in white. A white peanut hat, knee
socks, knickers, shirt, and patent leather shoes. On Sundays,
he was allowed out in the morning to play in his regular clothing,
but by the afternoon he had to return home to bathe and get dressed
up in his all white outfit. Then was ordered by his mother to
stay spotless and clean until it was time for him to retire to
bed for the night. "God forbid that I got one spot on my uniform
of the day," he remembered. If this happened he would have to
answer to his mother and her stone backed hair brush, and he dreaded
remembered that, on this one particular evening, Florence Drew,
his sweetheart from across the street was going along with the
Snyder family to Luna Park. Florence was the daughter of the family
butcher. The Drews were long time friends of the Snyders. After
Florence Drew and the Snyders had arrived at the park, gone on
some of the rides, played games at the concessions, and eaten
lots of cotton candy, Clarence and Florence had disappeared. They
vanished from both parental and sibling supervision. They had
strolled over to Rockefeller Park to play with a "cute little
dog." Until well after dark, they played with and "tormented"
this dog, oblivious to the passage of time. Then, they realized
it was late and began to make what must have seemed to them the
long and scary trek homeward. Home being many blocks away.
time Clarence's parents had sent out search parties. Florence's
parents had called the police. Both sets of parents had scoured
the neighborhood and park. All to no avail. Both families were
fraught with terror, fearing the fate that their respective children
might have suffered. They were also very angry and discussed among
themselves the fate that their wayward children would suffer if
and when they finally did arrive home.
white, spotless Sunday outfit had been through the sand and dirt
of the park. It was covered with muddy little paw prints and it
was, of course, no longer white and spotless.
managed to find his way home and walked Florence to just outside
of her door. However, out of fear for himself, he ran away before
Florence knocked. He, himself stayed out even later, knowing the
state of disarray that his clothing was in. A state that he said,
"was no means in comparison to the mess my mother made of me when
I got home." Florence got her spanking from her parents across
the street, but it was nowhere like near the beating Clarence
suffered that night. The beating was administered by his mother
with her stone backed hair brush. That same brush that, once again,
as it had so many times before, and had so many times after, etched
its impressions of little fish all over Clarence's body.
was not at all unfamiliar with work. When he was five, he had
a paper route. A few years later, he delivered orders for a local
butcher shop (not the one owned by Florence's parents) on his
bicycle. A bicycle that he had purchased with his own money. Clarence
was very industrious and continuously looked for ways to earn
money. Always looking for an angle, he was willing to try anything.
worked for a period of time as an usher at the Metropolitan Theatre
in downtown Cleveland. This was in the days of the five and ten
cent movies. Cliff-Hangers and daily newsreels. Clarence recalled,
"The Metropolitan was a high class joint. They had the nerve to
charge thirty cents when everybody else was charging a nickel."
He had gotten his friend a job there and they both worked for
the manager, Bill Friedman at the theater. On many occasions they
would sneak their girlfriends in for nothing and then would "schmooze"
in the box seats after everyone was seated and the movie had started.
Clarence found out that the Board of Education was paying twenty
cents an hour for tutors. Clarence got a job reading school work
to a blind boy named Larry. Much of what Clarence had missed in
High School, he later learned through this job. He also began
taking violin lessons, paying for them with some of the money
he had earned on his various and sundry jobs. Clarence became
very close to Larry and his family. All Remained close for many
years to come.
enjoyed driving cars and did so at every available opportunity.
Larry's family would let Clarence drive them all over Cleveland
and the surrounding areas and it was on one of those outings that
another profound event occurred in Clarence's life which once
and forever altered the course of his very existence. On this
particular outing, Clarence had his first introduction to "John
at this first introduction that Clarence experienced his first
of many, for-years-to-come, drunken episodes. In his youth, Clarence
was to have only three such episodes, and each ended with his
getting both drunk and into trouble.
first occasion, Clarence had driven Larry's parents and Larry
to their family reunion in Toledo, Ohio. There he was offered
a drink. He didn't like the taste so much, but he did like the
effect the drink was having upon him. He then proceeded to get
quite drunk rather quickly on all the free flowing booze that
was made available. By the time that the party was over, Clarence
was unable to find the car that they had arrived in, and was unable
to negotiate the long drive back to Cleveland.
not at all please Larry's parents, nor Larry for that matter.
From that day forward, they wouldn't let Clarence drive them around
any longer. Despite the disastrous events of that day, Clarence
remained close friends. Much later on, they were even able to
laugh about it.
time that Clarence became involved with alcohol, it was again
at a family reunion. This one in Alliance, Ohio. The parents of
a young woman Clarence was dating offered to take him to their
family reunion. This was as long as he did all the driving. They
were a friendly and outgoing family. Clarence enjoyed the company
not only of the young woman, but of her parents as well.
group arrived at this reunion, there was dancing, party games,
home cooked foods, friendly people, and much to Clarence's delight
- plenty of home-made, Dandelion Wine. In fact, an unlimited supply.
loved to dance and despite the disastrous effects that alcohol
had caused him on the previous outing, he tasted the sweet wine.
He recognized it seemed to make the dancing more enjoyable. The
more he consumed, the faster he drank, and the more he liked the
effect the liquor was having upon his personality. It made him
feel more at ease, less self conscious, and eventually, invincible.
totally different, and he felt, better person. So much so, that
he made a play for his girlfriend's mother. The mother was flattered
and enjoyed the attention being lavished upon her by this young
man. However, the attentions didn't sit too well with the girlfriend,
or with her irate father. Needless to say, the ride back to Cleveland
was tense and very long. Clarence recalled, "I guess that episode
contributed to the ending of that relationship real quick." Clarence
chuckled as he related that story. He thought that many of the
events of his past, despite some of the pathos, had their humorous
his young childhood, Clarence went to Sunday school. Not because
his parents were religious people. It was a way they kept him
out of the house, occupied, and out of trouble. He said he never
felt comfortable with any of the other children who had attended
this school with him. He stated he felt everyone looked at him
as different. He himself felt inferior to, and different from
them. He was sure that the way that his mother had treated him
while he was growing up, had a great deal to do with his distorted
perceptions at Sunday school.
decided that since he wasn't a good student, the other children
would have to look at him differently if he could excel in something
- anything. He felt he then wouldn't feel so different and so
to develop a strong and growing interest in sports. He was slow
at first, but he began to excel. He rapidly acquired an expertise
at the sports he did try, especially those he liked. At first,
it was baseball. Then, as the seasons changed, he was on to master
basketball. Later on, he got the opportunity to play semi-professional
sports. That is until his professional career as full-time alcoholic
interfered. Earlier, however, he used sports, and his obvious
innate ability at them, to improve his flagging self image and
his low self esteem.
sought to improve upon his dancing. He felt he was such a "natural
dancer," that he took only two lessons at the Zimmermans Dancing
School. But he then decided he was wasting both his precious time
and hard-earned money. Money he felt could be better spent on
women and other "fun" activities.
winter day, while practicing basketball for a YMCA Church league,
Clarence noticed a very attractive young blond woman on the sidelines.
She appeared to be watching him intently. Never one to miss an
obvious opportunity, especially when it came to women. Clarence
rushed over to the woman to inquire when he could go out with
her on a date. He knew that if he could take her to a dance, he
could impress her with his dancing abilities. He was sure he would
then be on"home ground." He would feel comfortable and would very
much be in charge of the situation. After only five minutes of
conversation, the young woman told him that she lived on the south
side of Cleveland and she would love to go to a dance with him.
picked her up to go to the dance and they took the streetcar.
They talked all the way to the dance. Clarence charmed his way
into her heart. Always the salesman, he sold himself to this new
had a lovely evening, dancing, talking, and holding each other
tight as they whirled about the dance floor. All was lovely until
it was time for Clarence to take the young lady home. Then it
turned out to be an exceptional evening.
arrived at the girl's home, she invited Clarence in to spend some
more time with her and to talk. In the ensuing conversation Clarence
discovered she was a preacher's daughter and that she had a genuine
interest in sports. This was wonderful. So Clarence had found
out how much she loved to dance, that she loved sports, that she
enjoyed being held close, and that she laughed at his jokes.
when she produced a gallon jug of wine from the cellar, he decided
he had found a match made in heaven. Both drank until way after
midnight, finishing off the entire jug. Unfortunately for Clarence,
the relationship had to end.
it ended before it really had a chance to take blossom. The girl's
father discovered them. Both were extremely drunk, and all the
father's wine was missing. Wine he used in Holy Communion. The
father was perturbed, to say the least, and asked Clarence to
leave. Never to darken the man's doorstep again and never to speak
with his daughter.
of alcohol wasn't as important to Clarence as how it made him
feel inside. It produced in him a profound personality change
that transformed him and made him no longer feel inferior. He
no longer felt different. He had used sports to assert himself
and to become an equal. Equal to his peers and to others, often
playing to the point of exhaustion. But he found that alcohol
made him feel more than equal. And he readily asserted himself
while under its influence. This without the strenuous physical
labor. He had discovered the easier softer way. This was the beginning
of his descent into the spiraling abyss of active alcoholism.
at another dance - this one in the month of January - that he
met someone who was to become very special in his life. Her name
was Dorothy. Clarence swept her off of her feet and danced his
way into her heart, and she into his. In about three months they
had always been reluctant to discuss his first two marriages.
Therefore many of the dates and events are now lost to history.
However, with this, his first marriage- the marriage to Dorothy-
does our saga begin.