By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
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Index of Chapter 6

6.1 - The Saturday Evening Post Article
6.4 - 1st A.A. Newsletter - Cleveland Central Bulletin
6.2 - Cleveland A.A. Grows by Leaps and Bounds
6.5 - Army Life in Fort Knox
6.3 - Cleveland Central Committee Formed
Chapter 7: Decentralization - Promises and Reality

Chapter 6


We are thinking deeply, too, of all those sick ones still to come to A.A. - thousands, surely, and perchance millions. As they try to make their return to faith and to life, we want them to find everything in A.A. that we have found, and yet more, if that be possible. On our part, therefore, no care, no vigilance, no effort to preserve A.A.'s constant effectiveness and spiritual strength will ever be too great to hold us in full readiness for the day of their homecoming.

Bill Wilson, After Twenty-Five Years (AA Grapevine, March 1960)

Chapter 6.1


The Saturday Evening Post Article

From Cleveland, by various means, the movement has spread to Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Evansville and other cities.

Jack Alexander, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, Freed Slaves of Drink, Now They Free Others. (The Saturday Evening Post, Volume 213, Number 35, March 1, 1941) p. 92

In late 1940, The Saturday Evening Post commissioned one of its staff writers to do an exposé on Alcoholics Anonymous. His name was Jack Alexander. Alexander was famous for his articles exposing fraud and wrongdoing in the Post.

Alexander's initial objective was to "get all of the dirt" on A.A. and print it in the Post. But his investigation convinced him of a different story. And he set about writing an article " in a national publication, which would put A.A. "on the map."

In a letter written from Ruth Hock to Clarence which was undated and written in pencil on yellow legal paper, the following was stated:

One of their staff writers is definitely on the job and is now doing the rounds of some of our New York meetings. He will be out here to attend at least one Cleveland and one Akron meeting and is going to look you up for a talk. He is a very thorough person and we all feel that the result will be one exceptionally good article which should mean a lot in many ways. His name is Jack Alexander and I think he will be out here in about two weeks.

Ruth went on to discuss the fact that the Post would not do the article without photographs. She knew that this was a touchy issue with the Cleveland members and wrote:

We would like you to put out some gentle feelers on the picture situation but wouldn't like to see you have people on your neck by trying to force the situation - so, sort of try out the lay of the land and let us know. If the crowd will get together, the Post staff photographer will take the picture. So we are for a bigger and better A.A. very soon.

When Jack Alexander did arrive in Cleveland, he spoke with Clarence about photographs; and Clarence convinced him that a local photographer would probably do a better job with the expected photographs. Clarence reasoned that the Cleveland members would probably feel more comfortable with a local photographer.

Cleveland selected the Art Miller Studios. In a letter to Bill Wilson, dated January 19, 1941, Clarence wrote, "This photographer, Al Miller, is reputed to be one of the best in his line. In fact, there are only three places in Cleveland that have equipment to match his."

There was however, one little glitch that developed. About five hundred of the Cleveland members gathered for a group picture. Clarence wrote Bill, "I saw the negative of that picture & just to make you feel bad, it would have been a dandy."

But the photographer lost the negative and the picture was never printed. When asked why there was only one photo taken, Clarence wrote:

Of course we all like to play safe (since we're sober) and the question has been asked me 521 times, "Why didn't he take several pictures while he was about it?" My answer, because I asked the very same question, & he stated that "it isn't necessary & he never does & nothing can happen."

Because of Miller's loss of the negative, there was a delay in getting photos for the article. Something whether Bill nor The Saturday Evening Post cared for. Clarence wrote Bill, that the Post "wasn't satisfied with the hospital pictures, but for the life of me, I, or no one else can understand why. So we took 5 more hospital pictures, all of which look good, and sent them on." One of these hospital photos appeared in the Post article. Another, showing Clarence, can be found in appendix K of this book.

Clarence asked Bill about the possibility of getting a preview of the article, stating:

I was preparing the groups for any eventuality & would like to have some angles for my own benefit. We have had publicity before & I fully realize all the angles involved, the magazine, the editor, the reader & the subject. I understand all of that & I am in a diplomatic way trying to smooth the path for a lot of objectionable criticism from some of the more touchy or critical brethren, who mean well but have some queer ideas about such things. We have had over 700 contacts here & have prepared a couple more sanitarium set-ups to take care of any possible overflow of inquiries... We are prepared for a rush, if one occurs, in any degree. With all the members we have, it will not be difficult to absorb any amount now.

The New York office was also gearing up for the article. In a "MEMORANDUM TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ALCOHOLIC FOUNDATION," dated February 19th, 1941, Bill Wilson wrote the following:

An article is to appear on March 1st in the Saturday Evening Post. This piece will be the feature number of that issue. The name Alcoholics Anonymous will appear on the outside cover of the magazine. Our message will be brought straight to the whole nation -- nearly every one of at least a million alcoholics will hear of us. Three years ago the Saturday Post published an article called "The Unhappy Drinker", an interesting piece by a psychologist and an alcoholic. The Saturday Post offices were flooded with letters and telegrams -- some 8000 in all. The Post had to hire an additional staff of girls to give these people even a nominal reply, let alone a follow up - as we must. Last week Mr. Sommers, one of the editors of the Post, told me that a far greater response was expected from the coming article on A.A.

Therefore we must base our budget upon at least 10,000 inquiries. This means that this office will have fully three times as much work to do as it had the year past. By no stretch of the imagination could our present office force handle the situation.

The March 1st issue of The Saturday Evening Post was a best seller. Apparently, every A.A. member bought a copy of the article; and it reached the millions of other Post readers. A.A. had become "national," and most of the members were proud of the way that A.A. had been portrayed. Some, however, did not approve of the article; and they expressed their opinions at the groups. Several Cleveland members stated they didn't think that their treasured and precious anonymity would now be protected and preserved. Some actually dropped out of A.A., but many of these did later return.

The office in New York was pleased with the results, stating in a proposal to all A.A. groups:

As anticipated, the Saturday Evening Post article of last March produced a flood of inquiries which, combined with our normal mail, brought the total number of letters received since then to 5,139. Each has received a personal reply. 15,000 pamphlets and 1,749 books have been shipped since March 1st. Besides, an extensive correspondence has been maintained with the groups. A.A. membership has more than doubled, standing now above 4000 members. Office activity continues at a high rate and is thus far in line with our original estimate of 10,000 inquiries for the fiscal year.

The Cleveland membership also grew. In 1941, Cleveland added fourteen new groups. Six of these were established between April and May after the Post article appeared.

A.A., nation-wide, and, especially in Cleveland, was on the move.

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