HOW IT WORKED
Proceed with imagination
and real faith- expect things to happen. If you EXPECT things
to happen, they DO happen. This is based on FAITH IN GOD, not
on our own strength. A negative attitude toward ourselves or
others cuts off God's power; it is evidence of lack of faith
in His power. If you go into a situation admitting defeat, of
course you lose.
Anne Smith's Oxford Group Diary
HOW IT WORKED
The First A.A. Meeting in the World
A.A. spoke to us, not
with the accusing voice of those who had never known the tragedy
of alcoholism, who had never suffered distraction; it spoke
to us out of the experience of those who had suffered just as
we had suffered and who had found how to break the chains. It
told us simply that we had been trying to meet our problems
without surrendering those things that keep us tied to the wheel.
We had been trying to pull ourselves together with a will too
shattered to be able to succeed.
Cleveland's Central Bulletin, Volume
#1, Number 11, August 1943
May 11, 1939, one month after the book had been published, a
meeting was held. It was a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
It was a meeting held by, and for alcoholics and their families
only. Historian, Mary C. Darrah, wrote:
the years 1935-1939, the Oxford meetings provided a group experience
for the early alcoholics. A.A. did not meet as a separate group
officially named Alcoholics Anonymous until May 1939
at the home of Abby G. in Cleveland."
Wing* stated in an interview with the author: "Clarence was
rightly the first to use the initials, A.A." She was, however,
referring to Clarence's use of the initials "A.A." and not to
his use of the name Alcoholics Anonymous.
* Secretary of Bill Wilson from 1947 to Bill's
death in 1971, and A.A.'s first Archivist
fellowship of anonymous drunks had in fact existed prior to
May 11, 1939. But it was the Cleveland meeting which first used
the name Alcoholics Anonymous, that it took from
the book. Cleveland's May, 1939 meeting is the first documented
meeting which used the name Alcoholics Anonymous, separate
and apart from the Oxford Group.
to the records of the Cleveland Central Committee's Recording
Statistician, Norman E. (which were compiled in the middle of
June 1942) the following took place:
5/10/39, nine members left the Akron meeting of the Oxford Group
to form the G. group. The location of the group was 2345 Stillman
Road, Cleveland Heights, Cleveland, Ohio. The sponsors of the
group were; Clarence Snyder, Al G., Geo. J. McD., John D., Dr.
Harry N., Lee L., Vaughn P., Chas. J., and Lloyd T. The first
secretary of the group was Clarence Snyder.
preceding information was taken from a survey form sent out
to all Cleveland groups on June 18, 1942. The G. group information
was filled out and signed by, Albert R. G., and dated June 24,
1942. These original forms are part of a collection of original
Cleveland memorabilia and records in the possession of Clarence
H. Snyder and which he delivered to the author prior to his
first A.A. meeting in the world was not uneventful. According
to Clarence, the entire group from Akron showed up the next
night and tried to "discourage" the Cleveland meeting from happening.
Discourage was a very mild term, according to Clarence; and
he used it sarcastically. He said:
whole group descended upon us and tried to break up our meeting.
One guy was gonna whip me. I want you to know that this was
all done in pure Christian love.. A.A. started in riots. It
rose in riots."
was often quoted as saying, "If you don't stand for something,
you're liable to fall for anything." And on May 11, 1939, Clarence
stood his ground, as did the other members of that first A.A.
group. Thus A.A., as such, began in Cleveland, Ohio.
a letter to Hank P., dated June 4, 1939, Clarence wrote:
J. and I and Clarace Williams, and etc., etc. had a knockdown
dragged out affair a couple of weeks ago and they have chosen
to leave us alone and confine their activities elsewhere. We
lost the activities of three or four rummies but I guess it
had to be that way. Life is too short and there is too much
to be done to spend any time or energy carrying on any comedy
or petting business with any Oxford Group or any other group."
the same letter, Clarence described how the Cleveland meetings
were being conducted:
too much stress on spiritual business at meetings."
always felt that overt spirituality belonged between a "baby"
and his sponsor. Prayer and Bible reading was a prerequisite,
Clarence felt, but only at home. His 1939 letter went on:
discussion after meetings of any business or questions arising.
Plenty of fellowship all the time. Leaders of meetings have
been chosen so far by seniority in the bunch."
meetings were very simple. They opened with a prayer or the
reading of a verse from the Bible. This was followed by the
leader's speaking for one half hour to forty-five minutes. Then
the meeting was over.
least the "official" part of the meeting was over. The remainder
of the evening was spent with members and their families in
fellowship with each other. "Plenty of hot coffee and doughnuts
to go around," said Clarence. In Cleveland, there are still
some meetings that are held in this manner - a short "lead,"
questions, and then fellowship.
Cleveland meetings continued to grow as the members went forth
to "fix rummies as an avocation." In an undated meeting roster
for the G. group, which Clarence gave the author and which is
probably from the summer of 1939, there is a listing of twenty-six
typewritten names, addresses and phone numbers. It contains
an additional thirty-five handwritten names in Clarence's handwriting
on the bottom. The roster has first and last names in the typewritten
part, and most of the handwritten names use only first initials
and last names.
the names listed are: Clarence Snyder, Dr. Robert Smith, Richard
S., Albert G., Warren C., William H., Jack D., Charles J., George
McD., Clarence W., Glenn W., Dr. Harry N., and Vaughn P.
author dates this roster as the summer of 1939 because Dr. Bob's
name appeared on it. And Clarence said Dr. Bob attended the
Cleveland meetings over the summer of 1939. Also Warren C.'s
name appears on the roster and Clarence said he had "12-stepped"
Warren in July 1939. By the Fall of 1939, the Abby G. group
had split and formed three separate groups.
was even some local radio publicity that Clarence appeared on
in late May or early June which brought inquiries into the New
York office for information on "The Alcoholics Anonymous."
a letter to Clarence, from Bill Wilson's secretary, Ruth Hock,
dated June 22, 1939, Ruth attached a listing of inquiries about
Alcoholics Anonymous. Some of these had come from as far away
as London, Ontario, Canada. Ruth wrote at the head of the list:
in Ruth's letter was a request that, "Something should be done
about knockdown dragout affairs at Lyndhurst, Ohio - S.O.S."
It is not clear whether Ruth's reference to "knockdown dragout
affairs" alluded to the Cleveland break with the Oxford Group
or to the fact that Clarence and Dorothy were having severe
marital problems at home. Clarence lived in Lyndhurst; and the
first meeting was in Cleveland Heights.
Hock was extremely close to both Clarence and his wife, Dorothy
and remained so even after they eventually got divorced. Ruth
continued to correspond with, and visit both of them at their
respective homes. She maintained this close friendship until
each had passed on.
were many interesting stories connected with that first Summer
of 1939 in Cleveland. It was in that first summer that A.A.
began to grow. Along with the growth there came success, joy,
sorrow and the inevitable growing pains.