| print this
year 1944 brought a vital development," Bill W. related.
"In New York City a few literary and newsminded A.A.'s began
to issue a monthly publication . . .They called their magazine
the Grapevine. It was by no means the first local A.A. bulletin
or magazine. The Cleveland Central Bulletin, the Los Angeles
Eye-Opener, and several others had preceded it. But the
Grapevine caught on nationally."
went on to describe it thus: "The Grapevine is the
mirror of A.A. thought and action, world-wide. It is a sort
of magic carpet on which all of us can travel from one distant
A.A. outpost to another, and it has become a wonderful exchange
medium of our current thought and experience."
idea apparently began at an informal A.A. gathering in early
April in a member's apartment in White Plains, a New
York suburb. Lois K. recalls that someone pulled a two-page
newsletter out of his pocket. It was gotten out by the Cleveland
A.A.'s, and though it was obviously an amateur effort,
it was exciting. About three years sober, Lois K. had thrown
herself into A.A. activity with great enthusiasm. So the
next day, she hied herself up to Stepping Stones to see
Bill. While he sprawled full-length on the floor in front
of the stone fireplace, she broached her idea, "How
about a newspaper or magazine for the groups in New York?"
She didn't mention that she had no experience to back
up the proposal. After a brief discussion of the possible
benefits, Bill said, "Go to it. And blessings on you."
nights later, after a second meeting with Bill, Lois K.
found herself in a small eatery on Twenty-Third Street with
Marty M. and Priscilla P. Marty M. remembers, "We
had no conception of what was on her mind, but when she
showed us her little sheaf of papers and plans, we were
swept with enthusiasm. We agreed that a monthly publication
for A.A. 's in the New York area was needed. We agreed
that if it was good it might spread beyond New York. (The
same thought had been expressed by Bill.) We agreed to help
get it started, and we agreed on a name - The Grapevine."
The three drew in Chase H., Abbott "Bud" T.,
and Maeve. These were probably the "six inkstained
wretches" referred to in the editorial in the premier
issue—the phrase so often used by Bill W. and others
since. Grace 0. (and her nonalcoholic husband, Fulton, a
noted professional magazine editor and writer) helped also.
Kay M. was next, a key staffer since she worked as a proofreader;
and Felicia G. (later Felicia M.) who was still a frequent
contributor to the magazine in 1985!
World War II was very much in progress in 1944, part of
the original concept was that the new publication would
be a means of communication with A.A. members in the service
of their country, the names of whom were obtained from the
Headquarters office. One complete page in the initial issue
was "Mail Call for All A.A.'s in the Armed Forces."
It was also decided that the first issue would be mailed
to most of the Group Secretaries across the country (about
about two months, the six volunteers worked feverishly—after
doing their own jobs—to launch their new publication.
They also contributed their own money to get it started,
with Fulton 0. underwriting most of the cost of the first
issue. They decided on a newspaper format, eight pages of
three columns each. A printer was located, for economy reasons,
in New Rochelle, New York, 25 miles away. Paper was scarce
in the war years, but an adequate supply was found, of good
quality. Lois K. remembers the six editors as all prima
donnas. "Though nerves were jangled," she writes, "and disagreements
waxed hot, our battles were family fights among people united
by a strong bond of common interest, love - and A.A."
the evening of May 22, they all met in a small midtown apartment
in Manhattan to review and pass judgement on finished copies
of the June 1944 issue of the Grapevine, optimistically
labeled "Volume I, Number 1". It was ready to
distribute. The first print order was for 1,200 copies at
a cost of $125. They had no way of knowing, after the first
month's issue appeared, whether they would sell enough
(at 15 cents per copy) or gather enough subscriptions to
pay for a second issue. But they did, with a heartening
number of subscriptions from outside the New York area.
That was so exciting, the staff would hold letters from
the post office box until they were all present, and then
make a ceremony of opening and reading them. Marty M., who
was just organizing the National Educational Committee on
Alcoholism (later the NCA), began touring the country in
October in support of that activity. (The Grapevine devoted
virtually its whole October issue to the Committee.) She
traveled over 25,000 miles the first year, and everywhere
she went she also talked to A.A. groups - and there, she
was an emissary for the new publication. She carried copies
with her, talked about it with A.A. members, and brought
home material from distant groups and members - and subscriptions
features of the early issues were a "Guest Piece"
by a nonalcoholic friend of A.A.; a "Time on Your
Hands" column designed to give useful hobby suggestions
to help fill the new free time that sobriety had brought;
an "Editorial" by an older A.A. member; a "Points
of View" column of letters from A.A. readers; "Central
Office (i.e., 'Headquarters') Notes";
"The Pleasures of Reading" suggesting books
which might be of interest to readers; and the "Mail
Call" page for service men.
was soon evident from the congratulatory notes and subscriptions
that came in from all over the country that, although the
Grapevine had been started as a metropolitan New York magazine,
it was actually more popular in Texas, Michigan, California
et al than it was east of the Hudson River. In 1945, recognizing
its national appeal, Bill W. and the Headquarters office
sent out a questionnaire to all groups asking the membership
if they wanted the Grapevine as their national magazine.
The answer was "yes", and the December 1945
issue carried below its masthead for the first time the
notice that this was "The National Monthly Journal
of Alcoholics Anonymous." The Alcoholic Foundation
(later the General Service Board) agreed to subsidize the
Grapevine and the first steps were taken to incorporate
early 1946, the FBI challenged the name, because they already
had an internal house organ called "The Grapevine."
This was settled to everyone's satisfaction by the
A.A. editors calling their magazine The A.A. Grapevine.
The April 1946 issue carried this new name for the first
time. In September 1948, the format was changed from a newspaper
to the pocketsized magazine it has remained ever since.
And in January 1949, the descriptive line under the title
was changed to "The International Monthly Journal
of Alcoholics Anonymous" recognizing the international
scope and appeal of the magazine.
behind the scenes, production, editing and mailing the magazine
was chaotic, to say the least. Bud T. recalls: "For
the first several months we had no office. Whether assembling
copy, proof reading or mailing out the paper, we worked
entirely in each other's apartments. This was pleasant
but not very efficient. With perhaps two exceptions, the
staff members at first were entirely vague as the meaning
of such terms as "masthead", "dummy",
"galleys", etc. After several months we found
a one room apartment conveniently located, for an office.
There was no separation of Editorial and Business staffs;
we all pitched in on almost everything." In actual
fact, the head editor and the treasurer-editor worked together
daily on all the details from correspondence and writing
to mailing lists. The entire six gathered twice a month,
once to put together the material for the upcoming issue,
and a second time to proofread the printer's galleys.
"Our venture seemed wild to most of our A.A. friends,"
says Bud, "but we were determined to produce only
a professional looking paper. Alcoholics usually like to
do things the hard way, and we did just that.
mailing facilities to take care of subscriptions were at
first very clumsy, but we enlisted the services of an A.A.
friend familiar with this type of problem, and he made arrangements
with a direct mail house on the outside. A reputable bank
had finally accepted our account. When we leased our office,
we purchased a long architect's table, six chairs, a big
standing lamp—and a big coffee pot. Our first meeting
in our new office was in September 1944, and it was a big
thrill to us. We now found more willing hands to help out,
still all A.A. members: experienced proofreaders, typists,
and the like. Not until the last issues of Volume I came
along did we have one part-time paid employee to type letters
and manuscripts, and help with the subscriptions." That
employee was none other than Bill W.'s younger half- sister
(offspring of their father's second marriage), Helen Evans,
nonalcoholic. Helen was living in Montreal when she received
a phone call from Bill in the spring of 1945 inviting her
to come down and live with him and Lois at Stepping Stones,
share in the new A.A. way of life, and incidentally help
out part time at the Grapevine. "It was hardly nepotism,"
Helen laughed later, "because it paid only $40 a month,
so there were no other takers." She accepted, and after
she had settled in at Bedford Hills, she went into New York
and met the volunteer staff on the day when, to their great
excitement, they had just received their first renewal subscription
order -without even asking for it!
enjoyed the spirit and the people she met, but found the
office in disarray. For every subscriber, three cards were
kept, which compounded the confusion and increased the chance
of error. Helen was able to reduce it to one card per subscriber.
"The treasurer, Bud T., who was a real dear, kept
all the records in his shirt pocket on tiny little pieces
of paper!" A few months after she arrived, the landlord
of the building which house the office told the Grapevine
it had to get out because the apartment was needed for wartime
housing. The whole mess was moved to the basement of an
old church building at 41st and Ninth Avenue which was then
a clubhouse for A.A.'s. It was impossible to get a
phone because of wartime shortages, so they had to use a
pay phone on the corner for all Grapevine calls.
this period the magazine ran into its first anonymity problem.
When checks for subscriptions came in, they were endorsed
"The A.A. Grapevine." Several subscribers were outraged
that their anonymity had been broken. So the stamp was changed
to read (as it does today) simply, "Grapevine." A second
problem was the flood of unwanted poetry that. was submitted.
"I never knew there were so many poets!" Helen exclaimed.
"It seemed to me every alcoholic wrote verse, and I had
to write all the letters saying we were sorry but we could
not accept it We wouldn't have had room for anything else
-and most of it was dreadful anyway So it was simpler just
to say, 'No poetry at all.'" The policy continues today.
Grapevine was growing at a surprising rate, nevertheless
Helen remembers the whoops of joy when subscriptions reached
1,000 Mail began coming from everywhere, including Ireland,
where Sackville M. , the moving force behind Irish A.A.,
was starting a magazine of his own. Tom Y was now the editor
old clubhouse building was sold, and the Grapevine was homeless
again. Leonard Harrison, nonalcoholic A.A. Trustee, was
also Commissioner of Welfare for New York City, and so was
able to find space in a small, old apartment building on
Minetta Lane, in Greenwich Village. The building was so
dilapidated that it had been condemned as unsafe for living
-but Leonard pulled strings to get the City to permit the
basement to be used for an office. Without money for moving
expenses, the editors persuaded an ice-truck driver, who
had delivered ice to the old clubhouse, to move their scanty
furniture, subscription cards, files of correspondence and
other possessions to Minetta Lane.
this time, a second nonalcoholic employee, Katherine Swenzel,
had been hired. The accommodations were marginal. The wooden
floors, doors and windowsills were depressingly dingy, so
Helen bought some red paint and painted them herself. The
floor slanted so badly, the employees had to wrap their
legs around the desk or table to keep their rollered chairs
from sliding away. Derelict drunks congregated on the stoop.
The basement space was dark. An important improvement was
made, however, when Dick S., the second treasurer, persuaded
some friends who worked at Newsweek magazine to look over
the Grapevine operation and make suggestions. What they
may have said to each other in private is not recorded,
but they recommended that an Addressograph machine be purchased,
to get rid of the troublesome subscription cards. A second-hand
machine was located, and the subscribers' names and
addresses were transferred to metal plates - itself an enormous
job. (This manual operation was continued until 1972, when
the number of subscribers forced a change to electronic
data processing by an outside firm. Many errors, delays
and other problems were experienced with subscriptions,
and the decision was made to convert to G.S.O.'s computer
in-house. After some two years of programming and other
difficulties, the conversion was finally completed in 1985.
next move was to larger, lighter and more convenient quarters
on East Broadway. The landlord developed a close, friendly
relationship with his new and unusual tenants, and when
he died his wife joined the Grapevine' s circulation
department in 1954, remaining until 1967. The editor and
an assistant, both volunteers, moved to 141 East 44th St.,
on the floor below A.A.'s Headquarters office, but
all the rest of the operations remained at East Broadway
until the consolidation of all the service functions at
the 305 East 45th Street location in 1960.
is both interesting and significant to note that Bill W.
kept a "big, old desk" in the basement office
on Minetta Lane. He obviously loved the Grapevine. He gave
it his full personal support from its very beginning, and
whenever he spoke of it or wrote about it, it was with great
enthusiasm and affection. And he devoted his time and effort
unstintingly to helping it. For example, in 1946, he wrote
a six-page single-space typewritten document in the form
of a letter to attorney Royal Shepard about the corporate
structure of the Grapevine and the concepts behind it. And
in 1957, he wrote a six-page memorandum of reorganization.
There were several reasons for this special interest. Bill
perceived early that this was a means for him to communicate
directly with the Fellowship without going through the Board
of Trustees - especially when he was at odds with them on
a given issue. And he used the Grapevine for this purpose
frequently and effectively. The Traditions were born and
grew to their present form in a series of articles in the
latter 1940's, beginning with a 1946 piece entitled
"Twelve Points to Assure Our Future." In 1950,
a time when a majority of the Trustees seemed opposed to
the idea, Bill and Dr.Bob wrote in the Grapevine suggesting
that the A.A. membership as a whole should take over, through
a General Service Conference. After nearly 12 years of trying
to bring about the controversial change of ratio of alcoholic
to nonalcoholic Trustees, Bill published an article in the
Grapevine in 1966, and the change was voted into being that
Grapevines of the 1940's were exciting reading. A.A.
had taken root and was growing, and news of the Fellowship
ranged from reports of new groups being formed to an article
on A.A.'s Tenth Anniversary Convention in July 1945.
Along with expansion news, there appeared much that is timeless
in A.A. For example, in 1945, articles covered topics of
"the sleeping pill menace," what to do about
pill problems encountered in Twelfth Stepping, and "Those
Goof Balls" - the latter written by Bill W. himself.
Then there was an article by an A.A. who urged that special
groups be formed for "older members"—those
with over three months' sobriety! The seventh issue,
December 1944, carried Lois W. 's story, telling how
she came to live by A.A. principles for herself, not just
for Bill. The same issue carried several letters from the
children of A.A. members, telling how A.A. had also changed
their lives. These instances presaged the formation of Al-Anon
and Alateen, of course.
was news of the alcoholism field, too. The front-page headline
in the first issue of the Grapevine read, "Two Yale
Savants Stress Alcoholism as True Disease." In April
1945, the magazine published a questionnaire designed by
Dr. E.M. Jellinek, then head of the Yale School of Alcohol
Studies (now Rutgers), to which A.A. members were asked
to respond anonymously. Hundreds did so, and the information
thus obtained was the basis for Dr. Jellinek's familiar
chart tracing "Phases of Alcohol Addiction."
articles by early friends of A.A. enriched the pages of
the Grapevine—Sister Ignatia, Dr. William Silkworth,
Dr. Harry Tiebout, the Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Fulton Oursler,
the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, and Warden Clinton Duffy.
Other notable contributors to the Grapevine over the years
have been Upon Sinclair, Charles Jackson, Mark Keller, Paul
de Kruif, Gerald Heard, Russell Baker, James Thurber, Aldous
Huxley, Dr. Ruth Fox, Reinhold Niebuhr, Dr. Karl Menninger,
Margaret chase Smith, Dr. Marvin Block and Dr. Frank Seixas.
the magazine began circulating among nonalcoholics, many
of which knew little or nothing about A.A., it was desirable
to make clear to others what A.A. is and what it is not.
So the June 1947 issue carried the A.A. Preamble, written
by the first editor, TomY., who borrowed much of the phrasing
from the Foreword to the first edition of the book Alcoholics
Anonymous. Although it is still used often for public information
purposes, the Preamble came to be included, in time, in
much of the other Conference-approved literature. Along
the way, it came to be used at the beginning of A.A. group
meetings and larger gatherings—presumably as a painless
way to inform the newcomer about the nature of the organization
where he found himself. The custom spread until today the
Preamble is read to open literally tens of thousands of
A.A. meetings every day throughout the U.S./Canada and around
original version of the Preamble differed in two ways from
the form which is familiar today. It stated that "The only
requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop drinking."
But in 1958, the Trustees voted to drop the word because
so many members had less than an honest desire when they
came to A.A.—but stayed to achieve sobriety (and honesty!)
The second difference was that the original Preamble contained
only the brief phrase, "A.A. has no dues or fees," which
was shortly expanded to include, "We are self-supporting
through our own contributions."
the best known work of art in AA., "The Man on the
Bed," appeared first in the Grapevine as a center
spread in the December 1955 issue, where it was titled,
"Came to Believe." It proved so popular that
four-color prints were made available and have been selling
briskly ever since. The artist, Robert M., a volunteer illustrator
for the magazine, presented the original painting to Bill
W. who hung it in his studio at Stepping Stones, where it
has remained. The scene is widely believed to represent
the Twelfth Step call on A.A. #3, Bill D., by Bill and Dr.
Bob., but this is only in the eye of the viewer, for it
was intended as a general representation of sober A.A.'s
helping the still-suffering alcoholic. As Bill W. wrote
the artist, "The whole heart and essence of A.A. can
be seen just by looking at it..."
A.A. Grapevine is also credited with being the prime means
by which the Serenity Prayer became widely known in the
Fellowship. As is related in A.A. Comes of Age, an early
A.A. member saw it in an obituary in the New York Times
in 1939 and brought it to the Headquarters office to show
to Bill W. and Ruth Hock. "Never had we seen so much
A.A. in so few words," Bill wrote. It was immediately
printed on cards which were enclosed in letters from the
office and distributed in other ways, and was thus adopted
by the tiny Fellowship. It was also printed in A.A. pamphlets.
After the Grapevine commenced publication in 1944, it carried
the Serenity Prayer regularly, as it has ever since, and
the prayer became widely and spontaneously assimilated into
the group meetings, where it has been a source of help and
comfort for millions of members.
specific origin of the Serenity Prayer is unknown, as versions
of it appear to date back several centuries. However, the
prayer as it is used in A.A. was written by the eminent
theologian, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, in 1932. More than 30
years later, in response to an inquiry, Dr. Niebuhr explained
in a letter: ". . . The circumstances back of the
prayer are rather simple. I composed it for our summer church
in Heath, Massachusetts. A member of the congregation was
the late dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Dr..Howard
Chandler Robbins, who was chairman of the workshop committee
of the Federal Council of Churches. He asked whether he
could use the prayer in his monthly report. The prayer was
lifted by the Federal Council and was printed on cards for
the soldiers in the Second World War. After that (actually,
as seen above it was before that), Alcoholics Anonymous
adopted it, so the prayer has had wide circulation . . .
I have never used it in any of my books."
history of the editorial staff and its relation to the Grapevine
Corporate Board can be divided into three eras. Titles and
functions changed over the 41 years, 1944-85, but the years
fall into three major divisions. From 1944 to 1962, the
Editors were part-time volunteers who were also President
of the Corporation, Chairman of the Corporate Board, and
usually a Trustee on the Alcoholic Foundation (later the
General Service Board) as well. From 1962 to 1969, the Editors
were paid, either full-time or part time, and were the operational
heads of the magazine and the office, but did not hold corresponding
positions on the Corporate Board or the General Service
Board. From 1969 to 1985, the Editors were paid, but the
chief executive was a person other than the editor, with
a different title. Except for the first couple of years,
paid back-up help—i.e., assistant editors, art directors,
copy editors—was provided.
the first era, the circulation rose from a' few hundred
to 38,000. Besides Tom Y., the Editors included other memorable
figures. Al S. ('48—'52) was used by Bill W. at the
Headquarters office as well, and composed the Responsibility
Declaration which climaxed the 1965 International Convention
and was then printed in many of the Conference-approved
pamphlets. Sig H. ('52-' 54) and Sig S. ('54-'55) were strong
editors and good businessmen who helped in the financial
crises. Don G. ('55-'58) was a noted broadcaster (CHK) and
a respected leader; he strengthened the staff. Gurney W.
('60-'62) in his outside - A.A. life was humor editor of
the old Life magazine and later of Colliers magazine, and
so brought true professional experience to the Grapevine.
Jack H., art director and creator of the cartoon feature
"Victor E.," and later a co-editor himself, was hired during
era was a time of the Grapevine finding its way in attracting
subscriptions, in improving mailing methods, in determining
how much staff was needed and how much they should be paid,
and even in examining what its function should be. Even
though the circulation increased tremendously, income never
seemed to catch up with expenses, so the magazine consistently
ran a deficit, which the Alcoholic Foundation or General
Service Board was able to offset from the Reserve Fund.
It was generally agreed that the magazine was a service
which should be underwritten for the benefit of A.A. as
a whole—though it was hoped it would eventually make
a profit. In 1953, jobs were classified and maximum salaries
established for each category. The same year, the Chairman/Editor
declined to publish a letter signed by Bill W. appealing
for support for G.S.O., on the grounds that it was an improper
intrusion into the Grapevine's editorial independence—thus
confirming a policy (established by Bill himself) that has
been followed ever since. Another important policy was established
in 1954 when it was decided the magazine should not operate
on "deferred subscription cash." As an economy measure,
the Grapevine Board considered reducing the number of pages
at least twice -but rejected the idea both times.
era also saw the beginnings of the Editorial Board, which
remains an integral and valued part of the Grapevine operation.
The possibility of forming an Editorial Board was first
recorded in the minutes of a 1953 Corporate Board meeting:
"It was pointed out that such a board...would protect
the volunteer Editor, who heretofore had assumed sole responsibility
for deciding what material should be published in the Grapevine
. . .The board should be small in number...Their duties
should be strictly as prescribed by the Editor..."
This discussion was apparently not followed up for the Editorial
Board was actually established in September 1958, and since
then its structure has undergone various changes. At first,
it was tied closely to the Corporate Board, with whom it
met jointly once a year. It was also the task of the Editorial
Board to select the volunteer Editor, subject to Corporate
Board approval. Soon after it became possible to hire a
paid editor, this practice died out.
Editorial Board, an advisory body of five to ten members,
has had varying degrees of impact on the magazine, depending
on the Editor. During the decade and more ending in 1985,
its role gradually increased and Ann W., the 1985 Editor,
characterizes it as "an exceptionally capable, creative
and active group of publishing and communications professionals."
From its formation in 1958 for about nine years, the Editorial
Board did not practice rotation. In fact, no firm policy
of rotation was established until 1983, when a four-year
term was specified. (Felicia M. and Jack H. were accorded
emeritus status.) The Editorial Board meets every other
month to review current issues, discuss article ideas and
contribute suggestions of their own, and to critique special
sections, illustrations, typography and the general tone
and editorial direction of the magazine. It also provides
input for the staff on special projects such as tapes, anthologies,
etc. Its functions are advisory and it makes no formal recommendations
to staff or the Corporate Board. As several of its members
are volunteer writers and artists, they make themselves
available for assignments when needed.
"Jerry" E. became the first paid Editor in January
1962, but lasted. only 15 months. A talented editor, he
was also strong willed, sometimes contentious and caused
problems. He had been in office barely six months when he
suggested, to the Corporate Board that the Grapevine explore
the possibility of publishing books—which they approved
and to which the A.A. World Services Board offered no objections.
The first book to be specifically proposed was a reprint
of a series of articles written by Jerry E., which the Grapevine
had published, entitled "Twelve Steps and the Older
Member." Before this could be accomplished, he was
asked to resign, for reasons not entirely clear today. Jerry
E. subsequently published the book independently. He also
authored a muckraking expose article in The Nation, which
caused considerable unhappiness.
W. was brought back for about a year on a volunteer basis
until a new part-time paid editor could be found. He was
Tom W., who served for three years ('64-'67),
but also turned out to cause problems with a strong alcoholic
ego, he was inclined to issue abrupt commands to his back-up
staff and, in their view, to make hasty, pressured decisions.
He also failed to consult the Corporate Board on some editorial
decisions which finally got the Grapevine in trouble with
its subscribers, and through them, with the General Service
Board. Things came to a head with a section of articles
entitled "Winds of change", which violated several
Traditions (principally the Sixth and Tenth), and which
resulted in Tom S. being let go.
back in 1962, Paula C. had joined the Grapevine staff and
had been serving in various capacities. She had proved herself
to be extraordinarily strong, capable, compassionate and
wise. In addition to an intuitive editorial sense, she was
superb in her relationship with people—staff, board,
contributors, everyone. Trustee Bayard P. says, "I had great
admiration for Paula. She was a wonderfully sensitive A.A.
member, which helped make her a great editor." So in January
1968, Paula C. was appointed Managing Editor, with administrative
responsibility for the entire operation. As noted above,
Jack M. had served since 1960, at first part-time and later
full-time, as artist, art director and production person.
He also had an excellent "feel" for material that would
appeal to A.A. readers, but, by his own admission, was not
an administrator. The Grapevine Corporate Board, wisely
recognizing that they had unique abilities in-house, in
March 1969 gave Paula C. and Jack M. joint responsibility
for the Grapevine. In actual practice, Paula selected the
material (subject to Jack's agreement), corresponded with
contributors and others, and dealt with the Board \and the
Conference. Jack designed the magazine (with Paula's agreement)
and carried it through production. They were ably assisted
by Janet G., a part-time copy editor and proofreader. Janet
had a lifetime of magazine experience and had such an eye
for mistakes that she literally made the Grapevine (and
other work she later did for AAWS publishing) almost error-free.
followed a six-year period that is sometimes referred to,
in retrospect, as a "Camelot." The quality of
the magazine was consistently excellent; the articles were
thoughtful and helpful. The circulation nearly doubled,
from 53,575 to 103,600. The staff functioned smoothly and
relations were harmonious with the Corporate Board. The
latter included during this period:
A Trustee Austin MacCormick, who served on it from '61
to '79; Milton Maxwell, who was named a Director in
'67 (the only nonalcoholic, not a Trustee, ever to
serve thus) and became a Class A Trustee in April '71,
continuing on the Grapevine Board until '72); and
General Service Trustees Ralph A.; Bob P. (who served simultaneously
as a Director on the AAWS Board); and Ruth W. Other outstanding
General Service Trustees who left their mark as Chairmen
were Chuck H., Ed S., and Don D.
W. was hired in 1973 as a "maid of all work"
(her words) and became a full-time staff member in November
1975. The following year, Paula and Jack both announced
their intentions to retire. Paula left in mid-1976, and
Jack was in full charge until his own retirement in 1978.
Paula's departure, the Corporate Board designated
the next two years as a "transition period"
in order to plan for future staff. Although a good idea,
this did not work out as well as anticipated because Paula
and Jack had styled their jobs to fit their individual capabilities,
regardless of title. Also, they had naturally come to regard
the Grapevine as "their" magazine and tried
to find replacements who would continue their practices.
As neither the staff nor the Board evaluated the operation
as a whole, and careful job descriptions were not worked
out, the selection of people to fill jobs was rather a hit-and-miss
operation, according to Ann. W., who lived through it. Over
a period of about a year, three people were hired, and then
fired, as Managing Editor, replacing Paula. Finally, in
1978, Retha C., a past-delegate Chairman of the Conference
Grapevine Committee with a business background but no editorial
experience, filled the position on a permanent basis. Upon
Jack's retirement at the same time, Ann W. was appointed
Editor. Six months later Ann had an alcoholic slip and had
to be let go!
Retha C. had no publishing experience, she was left in charge
of the magazine. Lucy W., a young woman with magazine experience
but little knowledge of Alcoholics Anonymous, was hired
to replace Ann, but with the title "Associate Editor."
Tom N., an older member who was a seasoned art director
and production man, had been working part-time to pick up
the void left by Jack M.'s retirement. He was now
put on full-time, also with the title "Associate Editor."
Thus the two people actually putting out the magazine had
virtually no responsibility or authority. Lucy found it
difficult to cope, and by 1982, was discharged. Ann W.,
who had gone immediately into treatment after her slip and
had been sober ever since, was now hired on a free—lance
basis as an interim editor, since she did not yet have the
full four years' sobriety to qualify once more as
a staff member. During all this chaotic period, Janet C.
had continued part-time to anchor the tasks of copy-editing,
proof-reading, compiling "About Alcoholism"
and writing "About A.A.", providing a measure
of stability and continuity to the editorial operation.
Ann W. returned free-lance, Retha and the Chairman of the
Corporate Board, Don D., sounded her out as to whether she
would be interested in returning to the editorial job full-time
when she had the requisite sobriety. She said no. "Having
turned down the position," Ann recalls, "I then
felt free to express my opinion about it as an 'outside'
party. I told them that both the title and the job had been
so denigrated that no editor worthy of the job would be
interested. I was pleasantly surprised to find that once
the publishing realities had been pointed out, Don and Retha
agreed!" Ann assented to come back as Associate Editor
on a four-day-a-week basis for a year, and was hired full-time
as Editor effective January 1983, in full charge of the
magazine while Retha had administrative responsibility.
changes had been taking place at the level of the Grapevine
Corporate Board, as well. In 1966, Ruth W. had been given
the job of reviewing the by-laws and suggesting changes,
which the Board had then approved in 1969. In 1967, committees
from the Grapevine Board and the AAWS Board respectively
met to discuss and clarify the publishing operations of
both entities. A seven-point policy agreement resulted,
which was set in writing and approved by both Boards. In
1970, Dr. Jack Norris discussed with Ruth W., then Chairperson
of the Corporate Board, the desirability of changing The
A.A. Grapevine, Inc. from a stock corporation to a Membership
Corporation with the Trustees as the Members -the same structure
as that of A.A. World Services, Inc. The Grapevine Directors
gave their unanimous approval to the restructuring which
was accomplished in1971. The Corporate Board, which met
quarterly, had nine Directors until 1978, when the size
was increased to 11 in order to add two Regional Trustees.
This change was intended to counter the charge that was
sometimes heard in the Fellowship that the Grapevine was
run by "New York"; and to give the out-of-town
Trustees participation in the management of the magazine.
It turned out that two or three of these Regional Trustees
were highly critical of the subscription performance and
the financial problems of the magazine, and of its staff.
As part of the Board's efforts to revitalize the whole
operation, it was decided to add a Controller, to ride herd
on costs and help the Managing Editor with administration.
The choice was Don Muerer, a nonalcoholic who was thoroughly
familiar with all aspects of A.A., having been an auditor
with Bud Flanagan's firm.
regional activists on the Board antagonized the staff, which
resulted in a split among the Directors according to whether
they were pro-staff or anti-staff, and morale sank. Dr.
Bill Flynn, a Class A Trustee, was named to the Grapevine
Board in 1982 to bring perspective and, hopefully, to restore
1981, the so-called miscellaneous items sold by the Grapevine
came under Board scrutiny. They had been a part of the operation
since "The Man on the Bed" painting offered
in 1955, and included wall-plaque reproductions of the slogans
in antique lettering; the Serenity Prayer in similar lettering;
a series of "Best of Bill" articles on Faith,
Fear, Honesty, Humility, and Love published in a little
booklet; the "A.A. Today" book first published
in hard cover as a commemorative item for the 25th Anniversary
International Convention in 1960, and then reprinted in
soft cover by popular demand; and Grapevine calendars. Although
the combined sales of these miscellaneous items was large,
they were priced so low they lost money. A decision was
made to raise the price to make them fully self-supporting.
When this did not adversely affect sales to a significant
degree, the Grapevine embarked on new items including several
audio cassettes of popular articles and a book, The Best
of the Grapevine. These have proved both popular and profitable.
the prices of the miscellaneous items, the subscription
price of the magazine had been increased periodically over
the years to keep pace with rising costs. This step was
always taken reluctantly, over strong objections in some
cases, and frequently too late to avert operating losses.
The original subscription price of $1.50 was increased two
years later to $2.50, further increases came along as follows:
staff suffered two tragic losses in mid-1985. Janet C.,
the stalwart and perfectionist part-time copy editor, had
to stop working because of what turned out to be terminal
cancer. And Tom N., the art director and Associate Editor,
died suddenly. An artist was quickly obtained to replace
Tom, but did not work out. The job was re-evaluated at that
point, and it was decided it was basically not a full-time
job, so a part-time art director was hired. And it was decided
to replace Janet with an Associate Editor who would not
only perform the copy-editing and proof reading functions,
but would also become the production coordinator and participate
in manuscript evaluation and part of the correspondence
load. Ames S. was found to fill the bill with distinction.
(After 1985, and therefore beyond the purview of this history,
Retha C. was allowed to resign, with suitable separation
provisions, and Ann W., as Editor, was given overall charge
of the Grapevine operation, thus restoring the position
to its original responsibility. As part of this change,
Ames S. was designated Managing Editor (still with the functions
described above), reporting to the Editor.)
the Grapevine reached its 41st year of publication, it had
mirrored all the progress and the growing pains of Alcoholics
Anonymous as well. The earlier controversies over the Traditions
and the Trustee ratio question had given way to hot debates
in its pages over dual-addiction, the influx of drug addicts
into closed meetings, and A.A.'s singleness of purpose.
Problems such as smoking and bad language were discussed
in articles and letters from readers. It covered the continuing
differences between atheists and believers, between those
who want to talk about booze and those who want to air their
other personal problems. The grouping of several articles
around one subject or one theme had special appeal. Humor
continued to be stressed; laughter has a healing quality.
It was once again projecting a healthy financial condition.
Although its circulation of just over 123,000 was not nearly
what it should be, in the eyes of many, it was healthy.
The magazine was distributed to 78 foreign countries, and
A.A. in many other lands had Grapevine-like magazines of
short, the Grapevine today is essentially what it has always
been—a "meeting in print," a sharing of
A.A. experience, strength and hope, and one of the Fellowship's
important tools for sobriety.