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 5.3


Cleveland Continues To Grow

Tradition One: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

Anonymous (Bill Wilson), Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions (New York; Works Publishing Company, 1952,1953) p.9

Our A.A. experience has taught us that:

1.-Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.

Alcoholics Anonymous (New York; Works Publishing Company, 1939) p. 146

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body...God hath tempered the body together...That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

1 Corinthians 12:12, 24, 25 (The Bible - King James Version)

Clarence was fond of saying "All you need to start a meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot." He said felt that if there were any real unity, all that there would be in the world is one very large and boring meeting. He said, "A.A. didn't start, or grow in unity. A.A. started and grew in riots."

Clarence also said, "When we had our first UNITY in Cleveland, we didn't split into two groups. We did one better. We split into three."

Group Number Two in Cleveland was called the Borton Group. This group met at the home of T. E. Borton, a non-alcoholic friend of the A.A. fellowship. The meeting was located at 2427 Roxboro Road in Cleveland. Its first meeting was held on Thursday, November 16, 1939.

The number of members that left the G. Group was forty. The sponsors of the Borton Group were Clarence, Jack D and Clarence W.

Almost immediately thereafter, in another show of what Clarence sarcastically called A.A. "unity," they split again on November 20th. Out of the Borton group was born the Orchard Grove Group. The Orchard Group met on Monday nights at 15909 Detroit Avenue.

The Orchard Group later changed its name to the Lakewood Group. There were eleven original members of the new Orchard (Lakewood) Group, and its sponsors were William E. B., Warren F. C., William R. L., and Edward H. The group's secretary was Elvira B., William B.'s wife.

According to the records of Norman E., recording statistician of the Cleveland Central Committee, the phenomenal growth of these first two groups was recorded as follows:

Membership of the Borton Group in the first six months- seventy-five members. Membership in the first year one hundred and thirty-eight. Membership of the Orchard Grove Group in the first six months- twenty-five. Membership in the first year was forty-five. The memberships of the meetings was doubling every six months.

A.A. in Cleveland was on the move. Soon after the original split, Clarence received a phone call from a Louis Seltzer. Seltzer was editor of the Cleveland Press, a Scripps-Howard Newspaper. Seltzer knew of the A.A. movement and gave it his support for many years.

Seltzer told Clarence that he knew of a man in whom Clarence might be interested. This man, Clarence was told, was a good news man. He was, said Seltzer, "worth salvaging; and if you can find him and fix him, I will pay for all expenses."

Ever interested in furthering the A.A. cause, Clarence asked Seltzer where this man might be found. Seltzer told Clarence that the man would probably be located on skid-row, in the Eagle Avenue section.

Clarence immediately sent out a couple of the members of the group to look for the man. Armed with a description, they went from building to building. Eventually they found him in an abandoned warehouse. He was lying on a cold damp concrete floor.

It was already winter in Cleveland, and this man was more dead than alive. He had one collapsed lung; and there was a surgical tube sticking out of his chest from the other. He appeared unconscious and was on the verge of freezing to death. He could hardly breath. So while one of the men stayed with him, the other went to call Clarence.

Clarence called Seltzer and told him of their finding his man and told him that they would be taking him to a hospital for help. Clarence got into his car and went to pick up this new prospect. The prospect was then taken out to the Post-Shaker Sanitarium on East Boulevard and Fairhill Road in Cleveland.

Sara Post, who was the owner and superintendent of the facility, had, according to Clarence, turned her family estate into a sanitarium for mental patients. According to Clarence, the building was three or four stories tall and had the capacity to hold about one hundred people.

The State of Ohio had, at that time, recently opened a new facility for the treatment of the mentally ill on the outskirts of town; and the Post Sanitarium was, as a result, losing many of its patients. Sara Post was looking for people to fill the empty beds.

The State had been paying Ms. Post three dollars a day for the housing and care of these mental patients. This came out to a total of twenty-one dollars a week for each of them.

Clarence had suggested to Ms. Post during one of his many scouting missions for new hospital beds closer than those in Akron, that she could get alcoholics in there as patients for about forty dollars a week.

Ms. Post at first didn't want anything to do with the alcoholics and had rebuffed Clarence's offer. Clarence remembered that she had told him forty dollars a week wasn't enough. Clarence had retorted, "We don't bring stars out here. We bring people who are really in a fix." He explained to her that alcoholics were no worse than mental patients, saying "Most of 'em won't eat for the first few days; and it you taper 'em off of booze, they'll stay calmer than those loonies."

According to Clarence, Sara Post did not like alcoholics. She told Clarence that one of her nieces had married an alcoholic and that it had almost ruined the niece's life. The man's drinking had almost killed her, Sara said.

Clarence reiterated his offer of forty dollars a week, reminding Sara that the amount was almost twice as that which the State was currently paying. He also reminded her the State was sending her less and less people all of the time ever since opening their new facility. He pointed out that the State was only sending her people they felt they didn't want to handle. She was, he said, receiving their worst and most uncontrollable patients.

Finally, Sara Post agreed to accept alcoholics at her facility. She did, however, insist that she didn't want to "taper them off" of alcohol.

Clarence took the man that they had found in the abandoned warehouse to Post-Shaker and tried to have him admitted there. But Sara took one look at him and emphatically stated that she didn't want him there at all.

Clarence then explained to her that Louis Seltzer, of the Scripps-Howard Publications, was going to pay for all the man's expenses. Clarence pleaded her that they should and could do all that was necessary to save him. Clarence even offered Sara more money and told her that he would bring in all necessary medical help at no extra cost to her or her facility.

Sara Post held her ground. Clarence increased the money offer once again. But Sara Post, Clarence stated, said it was not the money, nor the physical condition of this man that concerned her. She said she had personal reasons for not wanting him there.

Then Clarence learned that this particular man was the same man who had married Sara's niece and nearly ruined her life. Clarence reminded her that, despite her personal objections, she was getting paid for all of the expenses that this man incurred.

He said this was a business proposition, and that her personal feelings towards this particular man, whatever they were, had no place in the treatment of alcoholics in general.

Clarence then gave her what was to be the clincher. He told her that if she didn't accept this man as a patient, and at the originally agreed upon price, he would pull out all of the alcoholics that were currently there and never send her another one. She immediately put aside all of her personal feelings and reservations. And the man was admitted that same day.

This man spent six to eight weeks in the hospital. At times no one was sure whether he was going to live or die. He did, however, eventually begin to recover physically and then from his alcoholism.

The patient accepted the A.A. program as it was presented to him by the members who came to visit with him. He "took his Steps," as they were given to him by Clarence; and, as his physical condition improved, he began to speak with the newer prospects as they arrived.

When he was well enough to leave the hospital, Seltzer said the journalist could go anywhere in the country that had a Scripps-Howard newspaper. He was promised that all of his expenses would be paid, and he was guaranteed a position on the newspaper.

The journalist was so grateful to Clarence and to the A.A. members in Cleveland for saving his life that he wanted to stay right there in Cleveland. However, Clarence acknowledged that the journalist was, indeed, a good A.A., and was welcome to stay. In fact, Clarence said he would love for him to stay. But he reminded this man that the weather in Cleveland was not conducive to his continued recovery on the physical level considering his weakened lungs. They discussed the options with Seltzer; and the three finally decided upon Houston, Texas.

After a long and drawn out goodbye, with the A.A.'s Big Book in hand, the journalist boarded the train for Texas. While on the train, he had the time to write a series of articles. They were similar to those that had appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

When the journalist arrived in Texas and started his job on the Houston Press, he convinced that newspaper to print this series. The man was Larry J. And Larry - along with a minister whom he had found on skid-row in Houston - they started what was to be the first A.A. meeting there.

The Houston Press series became the basis for the first pamphlet ever published by Alcoholics Anonymous through Works Publishing, Inc. This pamphlet, which was simply entitled, "A.A.," was written by an unnamed Cleveland member and included all of the articles in the Houston Press.

Bill Wilson was constantly amazed at the growth and apparent success that Cleveland was having in sobering up alcoholics. He visited there every time that he went to Ohio. Bill later wrote in A.A. Comes of Age:

Yes, Cleveland's results were of the best. Their results were in fact so good, and A.A.'s membership elsewhere was so small, that many a Clevelander really thought A.A.'s membership had started there in the first place. The Cleveland pioneers had proved three essential things: the value of personal sponsorship; the worth of the A.A.'s Big Book in indoctrinating newcomers, and finally the tremendous fact that A.A., when the word really got around, could now soundly grow to great size.

Clarence was a dynamo. He wanted the best for himself and "his boys" in A.A. He refined the art of A.A. sponsorship to the point that Nell Wing, Bill Wilson's secretary, commented to the author that Clarence was probably the "one man responsible for sponsorship as we know it today."

Clarence wanted the meetings and the organization to run like a top-notch business ( but without the business end of it). So he developed an idea for officers at the meetings, an idea that would not depend upon individual personalities which would eventually get in the way of progress. This rotation of officers was instituted so that everyone could have a chance to participate and give his input. This was done by election and by seniority in the group. Clarence promoted the idea so that no one person, including himself, could possibly take over. At times however, Clarence did try to take charge and control at times. Especially when they weren't going his way. Often, however, the members called him on this behavior and often, though reluctantly, he changed.

Clarence established a standard format for the running of the meetings so that there would consistency from one meeting to the next. This, he felt, would insure that an alcoholic, both the "old timer" and the new member, would feel at home wherever he went. As to this contribution, Nell Wing stated, "It was Clarence who was probably responsible for meetings as we now know them."

Clarence seemed to be a visionary. But Clarence was his own worst enemy. His personality got in the was of his being recognized for these accomplishments. Many felt Clarence was arrogant and antagonistic. But he was steadfast in his ideology and principles. Principles he carried with him until his death.

Clarence was never one to be publicity shy, nor was he one to shun any offer of help. No matter what the source. No matter what the consequence. He was open to anybody if he felt it was for the betterment of A.A. and for the betterment of the quality of life that this way afforded the alcoholic and their families.

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