Revisiting the Plans to Enhance Memorialization of Dr. Bob’s Akron Home
By Dick B.
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved
[I’d like to think that, as I began my historical research of A.A.’s origins, history, founding, original Christian Fellowship, and successes, I was among those most thrilled at making my early trips to Akron, Ohio.
On those trips, I: (a) attended Founders Day events. (b) attended a meeting of Akron Number One–the King School Group, and in the company of Dr. Bob’s daughter Sue Smith Windows. (c) saw Dr. Bob’s Bible at that meeting–inscribed by Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill Doston—brought to the podium at the beginning of the meeting. (d) visited Dr. Bob’s Home. (e) attended, as a guest of Dr. Bob’s daughter, a board meeting of the founders foundation. (f) visited St. Thomas Hospital. (g) interviewed Dr. Bob’s daughter in her Akron home. (h) interviewed Congressman John Seiberling at the Akron University Peace Center where he was teaching. (g) visited the Bierce Library at the University of Akron where Akron newspapers and other memorabilia were housed. (h) visited the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens (70 acres) is a notable country estate, with gardens, located at 714 North Portage Path in Akron, Ohio, where the Seiberling Gate Lodge was located and where Henrietta Seiberling lived and introduced Bob and Bill to each other. (i) visited the King School itself where the early A.A. meetings were held. (j) drove by the home of T. Henry and Clarace Williams where the “regular’ A.A. meetings were held on Wednesday nights. (k) visited the Summit County Library in Akron to do further research. (l) visited the Akron Beacon Journal offices to be interviewed and to find further records. (k) met with the gracious Chairman of the trustees for Dr. Bob’s Home. (l) stayed in the home of Ray and Ginny Grumney in Newton Falls, interviewed Ray who was the archivist of and a member of the managing directors of Dr. Bob’s Home. (m) went to an A.A. meeting with Ray. (n) had lunch with Sue Smith Windows, Ray and Ginny Grumney, and Gail LaCroix—then the Founders Day archivist. (o) visited the home of Gail La Croix to gather further historical facts. (p) was given leave to copy and did copy some of Gail’s archives containing a note to Lois Wilson by Bob E. about the First Century Christian Fellowship, and the use of The Runner’s Bible by the old-timers. (q) was apparently the first to see a portion of the books which were in “Dr. Bob’s Library” and then located in the attic of Sue Smith Windows’ Home. (r) believe I met with John R. who knew Sue and knew of Anne Smith’s morning quiet times. (s) interviewed A.A. historian Dennis Cassidy and learned that John R. had both written and stated to him that Dr. Bob’s wife had shared from her journal with early AAs and their families each morning at the Smith Home. (t) learned from Sue Smith Windows that her mother had kept and shared from her journal from 1933-1939 and that Sue had typed portions of it for her mother. (u) learned from Sue Smith Windows that it was “Mother G.” who brought copies of The Upper Room to Anne’s morning meetings where they were used for Quiet Time discussions. (v) learned from Sue Smith Windows that, even though some of the pages were missing, the original “Anne Smith’s Journal” manuscripts were located at A.A. General Service Archives in New York, and that she would help me obtain a copy—which she did. went to the Akron Intergroup Office and found the four AA of Akron Pamphlets commissioned by Dr. Bob for use by early AAs. (x) visited the Akron Intergroup Office, saw some of the missing pages from the Anne Smith Journal. (y) at the Akron Intergroup Office, saw some of the early A.A. books. (z) saw the entire Founders’ Day archive collection at the Founders Day events on the University of Akron campus. (aa) visited St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Akron where Dr. Bob became a communicant shortly before his death. (bb) interviewed the Rector Dr. Mc Candless who showed me the church record of Dr. Bob’s “membership.” (cc) with Dr. Mc Candless’s help contacted the West Side Presbyterian Church and found that Dr. Bob and his wife had been charter members of that church from 1936 to 1942, and had joined by letter of transfer from the earlier Presbyterian Church in Akron. (dd) visited the St. Paul’s Church archives and was able to see extensive newspaper articles and church records of the 1933 Akron Oxford Group events celebrating the continued sobriety of Russell Firestone as an Oxford Group member, Christian, and student of the Bible. (ee) found records of the role that Russell’s friend, James Draper Newton, played in the design and erection of the new Episcopal church. (ff) established a library of AA historical books at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in its own library.
My Former Article Revisited and Expanded Here
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Let’s See the Real Akron A.A. Story Come Alive.
It is very important to highlight not only the significance of Dr. Bob’s Home, but also the entire Akron history. My contribution to that began with The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous http://www.dickb.com/Akron.shtml. It was and is supplemented with my titles Dr. Bob and His Library, 3rd ed., http://www.dickb.com/drbob.shtml and Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939, 3rd ed. http://www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml.
Further progress was made when I persuaded Dr. Bob’s son Robert Smith (“Smitty”) to donate his approximately one-half of Dr. Bob’s actual library to Dr. Bob’s Home, and it is now there and can at least be seen. I also was later asked to speak at the dedication of the Gate Lodge on the Seiberling Estate and then published Henrietta B. Seiberling: Ohio’s Lady with a Cause. I addressed some in attendance, was recorded, and turned over some A.A. history materials to the Gate Lodge curator. These are just a few of the A.A. History treasures that are related to the Akron story and are now being featured on the Akron scene after all these years.
My point is this: Several of us have honed in on the importance of the Akron story; and a good example of the still existing lacuna is the new movie Bill W. which eulogizes Wilson, dotes on his adulterous relationship with Helen, but just plain ignores almost all the facts at Akron.
I would hope as part of the new Akron memorialization project and presentation that its promoters would point out that the Akron story is enciente. Thus, it needs the contribution of Mary Darrah on Ignatia, Mitchell Klein on Clarence Snyder, The Our Legacy book by the three oldtimer Clarence Snyder Sponsees, Children of the Healer by Dr. Bob’s two children, The Good Book and The Big Book, and several of my books that are mentioned above, along with New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials, and Good Morning!: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.; When Early AAs Were Cured and Why; and The Golden Text of A.A.. See http://www.dickb.com/titles.
You may not know it but some of these books were rejected and then banned from Dr., Bob’s Home for about ten years. This by action of the Board of Trustees; and, but for the efforts of the archivist Ray Grumney (who was finally and abruptly “retired” after years and of service—all as a volunteer), they never would have been seen.
It has always been important to present the whole Akron story because the whole truth shows how and why the Akron Fellowship founded in June of 1935 established the simple program set forth on page 131 of DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. Especially because, as the last twenty years have passed, more and more people have added pieces to the picture.
The same situation is true with reference to Dr. Bob’s birthplace and boyhood Vermont house and the whole St. Johnsbury Story where we have there established the Dr. Bob Core Library at North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury (the Smith family church) and written the book: Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous. http://www.dickb.com/drbobofaa.shtml.
Today’s Akronite activists have my best wishes for whatever historical facts their memorial project brings to light. They also have my suggestion that it is a time long overdue for a coordinated historical emphasis on each aspect of the Dr. Bob–Anne Smith–Bill Wilson–Henrietta Seiberling–Clarence Snyder–Sister Ignatia picture. And I hope their efforts will point up history and not just an historical monument.
Such a broadened effort would bless the thousands of drunks who come to Akron each year hoping for a real understanding of the depth and variety of A.A.’s beginning principles, practices, and successes in Akron.
Sincerely, Richard G. Burns, J.D., Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, long-recovered and active fellowship member, author of 44 titles and over 1000 articles on A.A. History