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 6.3


Cleveland Central Office Formed

The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do all in their separate and individual capacities.

Abraham Lincoln

Being mindful of the need and usefulness of a central committee, our two meetings have been marked by an outstanding atmosphere of fine fellowship and co-operation between the groups. We have had excellent attendance and much interest is being shown by all committee members in the furtherance of our fellowship.

Bulletin to All Groups - regarding the second meeting of the Cuyahoga Central Committee,

August 15, 1941... Clarence H. Snyder, Chairman

In the late Spring or early Summer of 1939, the A.A. Association had been formed in Cleveland so that prospective members could have their hospital and sanitarium bills paid in a timely manner. This Cleveland committee was the forerunner of the Cleveland or Cuyahoga County A/A Committee, or "Central Committee," as it was later called. The A.A. Association kept track of alcoholics in the various centers for detoxification and kept records of their accounts there. If the bills were not paid, the Association either called up on members to pay them, or, in cases where this was not possible, the Association would accept payment responsibility for those members from funds set aside for such a purpose.

That there was still no official Central Committee in operation as of February 21, 1941, seems evidenced by a letter to the editor in the Cleveland Press by Clarence. In that letter, Clarence told what Alcoholics Anonymous was all about and used the address of the Alcoholic Foundation. He listed it as "30 Vesey street, Room 700, New York City." Clarence then also gave his own address at 8803 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland.

In his February, 1941 letter to the Cleveland Press Clarence wrote that A.A members accomplished their sobriety by following a specific pattern. He said the member must:

Have a sincere desire to quit drinking forever.

Recognize the allergy and compulsion for lifetime.

Recognize his ailment as a disease.

Accept God and live by four simple principles: honesty, unselfishness, purity and love.

Clarence continued his letter to the Press, by suggesting that one read "our book 'Alcoholics Anonymous,' a book written by alcoholics, for alcoholics, at the Cleveland Public Library." Clarence added:

The several thousand people, (over 700 in Cleveland alone) who have thus far found life and hope through this means, is ample testimony that the day of miracles has not passed.

On March 2, 1941, only one day after the Jack Alexander article appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, a meeting was held in the office of the Cleveland Switchboard Co. The purpose was to form the Cuyahoga County A/A Committee.

The announcement card for the meeting read as follows:

MOTION by B___, second by C___ - that a CLEARING HOUSE COMMITTEE be formed, and that it be composed of two (2) members from each and every A/A Group in Cuyahoga County. This Committee to have NO AUTHORITY to commit, involve or bind any one or all of the Groups in Cuyahoga County in any manner whatsoever without referring proposed ideas, plans or propositions to each individual Group for its acceptance or rejection.

MOTION was carried.

COMMITTEE MEMBERS: Kindly conform to this important rule.

C. H. Snyder, Chairman.

The meeting was held, and the motion was carried. But there was a movement to oust Clarence from the position of Chairperson. Clarence wrote Bill Wilson on March 4, 1941, asking Bill for help with this "revolution." It seems the Cleveland members were still complaining about what had transpired with the articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Clarence wrote:

They wanted to know how much the Plain Dealer pd. me. Why I didn't put it in the kitty. Where did I get the authority etc. etc. etc. Not one kind thing said in my behalf. This from persons I had picked out of the gutter & worked on & gave unceasingly & unselfishly of fellowship & whatever I could. Experience then, the resentment & hatred has been there. They have gone out of their way on numerous occasions to embarrass me.

These disgruntled members voted Clarence out of office, just as they had voted him out of A.A. during the original split of the Cleveland Group. They elected Bill H. as chairperson and wanted nothing to do with Clarence.

Clarence's ego was wounded. He wrote Bill Wilson, stating that Bill should "pay no attention to this so-called Cuyahoga County committee as yet. Continue to send me the names as always, & they will be followed & taken care of in a conscientious manner as always."

About the same time, a number of Cleveland members who objected to the Alcoholic Foundation's call for contributions; and they refused to support the New York office. As to this issue, Clarence added in his letter to Bill:

About the foundation money plan, don't concern yourself about that here. I wish I had known about it before Bert T____ blew in. After this revolution subsides, I can get you all the dough for the foundation that will be needed from our part of the country. And believe me when I tell you I can get it where no one else can.

Dissention continued in Cleveland for several months. A Cleveland Committee did not develop until August of 1941. A bulletin to all groups, sent out at that August, said:

At the second meeting of the Cuyahoga Central Committee meeting, held Friday evening, August 15th, the following committees were appointed by the chairman.

The "chairman" at that time was once again, Clarence Snyder. Three committees were formed. One was Entertainment, with Al "Abby" G. as chairman, one was Finance, with Wm. "Bill" H. as chairman and one was Hospital, with H. L. M. as chairman. Each of the three committees had six members from different groups around the Cleveland area. The terms of office for committee members was to be three months "or until the chairman's term of office expires, or until replaced by the chairman."

"Rotation" of officers was one of Clarence's ideas. This was to insure an equal and representative voice from within the fellowship. Also introduced at this meeting were the "new A.A. Pamphlets." The author believes these were probably similar in content to the earlier Houston Press articles, by Larry J. whom Clarence sponsored, and who moved to Texas to start A.A. there.

On August 19, 1941, a meeting of the Finance Committee of The Central Group Committee was held. Its minutes suggested to:

The representatives of the groups that they in turn propose to their respective group that they deposit with the Finance Committee the Sum of one dollar each week beginning January 1st 1942." It went on to state that "Such funds are to be used for the purpose of defraying normal expenses of the Central Committee Group such as P.O. box rental, postage and such other incidental expenses as may be required... [And to] make contributions to the Foundation in New York and such other charities as may be recommended to the finance committee by the various groups and approved by the finance committee.

A bulletin to all groups from the "third meeting of the Curahoga (sic) County Central Committee, held Tuesday evening, August 26th," announced plans for a Halloween Party and a New Year's Eve Party which was to include "all the combined groups." The bulletin also announced the availability of two A.A. pamphlets: 1) the Houston Press articles written by Larry J., and 2) the articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The bulletin also asked if anyone was interested in a bowling league. Thus the Fellowship was not only concerned with the meetings and 12 Step work. It was also involved in social activities.

About this time, Clarence proposed a dinner to "Honor Dr. Bob Smith;" and it was planned October 5th. Clarence felt his sponsor, Dr. Bob, should be honored for his untiring efforts in "fixing rummies."

At first the "Dr. Bob" dinner was set for the Lake Shore Hotel at 12506 Edgewater Drive in Cleveland. The Hotel had room for 450 people. Announcements were sent out to all of the Ohio groups, as well as to those in surrounding states. The event was to involve not only the dinner, but "An afternoon full of special events." All of this was to cost $1.35 per person.

The response was overwhelming. The reservations were reaching the 450 person cut off. They had to decide what to do. Would they turn people away? They decided to move the location. Clarence contacted all of the local hotels and found one which would accommodate more than 600 people.

The Hotel Statler was chosen. When built, the Statler had cost over $2,500,000 and was one of the largest hotels in Cleveland. The hotel negotiated a deal, similar to the one with the Lake Shore Hotel. The price for the room and the meal was still low.

The menu was to consist of:

Half Grapefruit -Pan Fried Veal Cutlet - Potatoes Croquette - Peas au Beurre -

Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberry Ice - Cakes - Coffee.

All of this was to cost the committee $1.00 per person. Invitations were sent out to Bill Wilson and others; and local groups contributed to help pay the train fare to bring the speakers out to Cleveland.

Invitations were sent out to once again asking people to attend and informing them of the change of location. In a letter to Clarence dated September 30, 1941, Jim B. of Detroit wrote, "I shall deliver your affectionate message to Archie (Arch T.), but, sorry to say, he told me Sunday, he was not planning on making the trip." Jim's letter thanked Clarence for the invitation and for the information as to the change of location and informed Clarence of other Detroit members who would attend.

October 5, 1941 finally arrived. According to the press release from the Central Committee, "Approximately 850 attended [the dinner]," and "About sixteen out of town groups were represented at this assembly."

A newspaper article about the dinner was headed, "900 Reformed Alcoholics Hold Anonymous Dinner." The turn out had been so great that the article ended with the following:

The Statler's ballroom seldom has entertained a larger crowd than that which attended the dinner. Extra tables were set on the balcony and in the corridor.

As M.C. for the event, Clarence wrote a schedule of events on the back of the card which announced the meeting. It was written in pencil, and read as follows:


Dinner Announcements

Introductory Talk & Welcome to guests

Introduction - Out of town guests

Central Committee

Mr. & Mrs. Borton - Women's Group

Grace G. - Edna McD.

Dorothy S. - Mrs. Doc Smith

Henrietta Seiberling - Wally G.

Bill D. - Bill Wilson

Doc Smith - Closing Remarks


Dr. Bob Smith was overwhelmed by the response. He spoke briefly and tried to downplay his role in the founding of A.A. Everyone was pleased with the outcome. In the Bulletin to All Groups, dated October 17, 1941, Clarence wrote,

Everyone was gratified to learn that we didn't go in the red on our appreciation dinner. In fact we came out .90 to the good.

On October 21st, the Central and Group Hospital Committee met with 14 groups represented and two absent. They adopted the "rules and regulations... or general use by the Hospitals and the Sanitariums accepting A.A. patients." (see Appendix F)

The Committee continued to meet, formulate policy, set social events and inform the groups of current events concerning A.A. members. Clarence had an idea for a newsletter which would inform members of A.A. news and contain a meeting directory. The other purpose for the newsletter, which was to be called the Cleveland Central Bulletin, was to inform the membership of the whereabouts of members who were serving in the Armed Forces.

Eventually, the Central Committee decided they needed an office. On February 8th, 1945, the A.A. Cleveland District Office opened. And, though it has changed addresses many times since 1945, that District Office has continued to respond to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.

In a pamphlet put out by the Cleveland District Office in 1962 the following statistics were given.

Since the Office door opened on February 8th, 1945, more than 12,910 calls for help have been received. Of these, 7,878 were reported receptive and already started on their way back to a New Life. During the same period, hundreds of speakers have been supplied to groups and various organizations... also thousands of packages of literature have been sent out to everyone seeking information regarding Alcoholics Anonymous.

Personal contact, sponsorship, literature, a newsletter, rotation of officers, and a tremendous recovery rate were to become the trademarks of Cleveland A.A. And Clarence had fought for all of this because he wanted the still sick and suffering alcoholic to have the same chance that he had gotten. His sponsor, Dr. Bob, had given him a ministry. To help the alcoholic get well, if he wished to get well. Clarence wanted the best and did his utmost to see that Cleveland got it.

We here set forth the "Aims, Purposes and Functions of the Cleveland Central Committee." The source, an original document, was early and undated:


I. To promote unselfishness, unity and understanding among all groups: E.G .-

As individuals, we should never forget our purpose in being associated with our fellowship. Our membership is composed of persons from all walks of life, many different types of background, various stages of mental, physical and spiritual development; various temperaments, social set-ups, religious beliefs and creeds. All of us have reached the same extremity. All of us are trying to maintain sobriety, and live like human beings are meant to live. We are all interested in helping others like us to share what we have found.

The fact that we are such a cosmopolitan and democratic fellowship accounts for the fact that we have numerous perspectives among the members of our fellowship. No individual or group in our fellowship is perfect, nor perhaps will ever be, and by the same token, no individual or group is one hundred percent wrong. We feel that every one and every group has a place in our plan, and can contribute constructive ideas and suggestions for the benefit of our movement as a whole. We believe that any difference of opinion arising between individuals and groups can be brought to a satisfactory compromise, through the patient application of the principles of Love, Unselfishness, Tolerance and Understanding. By meeting together, we can get acquainted, and come to realize that no matter what our perspectives may be, we all have about the same problems, and in really understanding the other fellow, we find that he is not such a blackguard after all.

It is needless to expound at length on the merits of Unity. In our case, however, a greater unity and understanding can be responsible for the salvaging of futures, homes and lives. A duty rests upon us to discharge an obligation that no person or group of persons but us can handle satisfactorily. By one hundred per cent co-operation, can't we do a much better job of discharging that duty?

II. To establish a uniform hospital technique: E.G.-

Many constructive measures have already been worked out by the Hospital Committee; case histories, group hospital committees, new hospital connections, standard regulations for entering patients; visiting, handling "slips" etc. Much money has been saved the hospitals who co-operate. Our position with the hospitals has been strengthened. Constant attention must be paid to our hospitalization set-up, for the good of the fellowship as a whole.

III. Establishment and maintenance of a suitable promotional program: E.G.-

We want and need new members. They want and need us. Promotion of our plan is very important. It is a discharge of a duty. In the past, most of our promotional work has rested on too few of the members. Some members have done much toward helping, by sending out pamphlets at their own expense. Some groups have also done this.

Many of our members have found us through the medium of newspaper and magazine articles; talks before clubs and organizations; from physicians; members of the clergy; social and civic organizations; the courts, and others. The proper type of publicity is very beneficial to our ends, but the very nature of our work makes it necessary that we be certain, insofar as possible, that all publicity be edited by us, before being released.

Some months ago, the Central Committee appointed Clarence Snyder as a committee to check all publicity. Due to his efforts, a number of items of publicity which were of questionable value, and more than likely, of definite harm to our plan, were suppressed. For the good of all, let us co-operate, and remember to never give interviews for publication without first consulting him on the matter. Publicity seeking persons can do much harm to our groups and members, through ignorance or mercenary motives. One piece of publicity may look helpful to one group, but may cause much embarrassment or harm to individuals in another. Obviously, if every one who gets an idea about publicity is permitted to scatter it to the four winds, pandemonium would result. On sober reflection, we cannot but agree that a "safety valve" is needed in connection with this phase of our work.

We have a Post Office Box, No. 1638, Station C, to which many requests for help are addressed. An effective plan to answer these requests and make equitable distribution of the names among the groups, must be worked out and maintained.

IV. Exchange of ideas and suggestions among groups: E.G.:

No two groups operate exactly alike. Why do some groups have more social times? Some have literature tables? Some have regulations regarding admittance of "slips" outsiders, guests, etc.? Why do some groups boast a better percentage of recoveries? Why are some more successful in putting the "slipper" back on his feet? Why are meetings conducted differently in different groups? How can one group help another in matters of overlapping and hospital visitations? What ideas does your group have, to help one another maintain sobriety?

Hundreds of such questions could conceivably arise, through association of our twenty-three groups.

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