HOW IT WORKED
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,
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)
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."
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."
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
number of members that left the G. Group was forty. The sponsors
of the Borton Group were Clarence, Jack D and Clarence W.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Sara Post agreed to accept alcoholics at her facility. She did,
however, insist that she didn't want to "taper them off" of alcohol.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.