By October 1942 the United States had been an active participant in World War II for ten months. Many members around Cleveland, Ohio had volunteered for, or been inducted into, the armed services and were moving to training camps for eventual warfare overseas.
Three years prior to this, the Cleveland AA groups had formed a service committee, the first Intergroup per se, named the Central Committee. How might we stay in touch with these members around the world? The Committee chose a newsletter, its working title the Central Bulletin, and the first issue requested suggestions for a better name. None appeared. A local printer, Harry D., became its editor and publisher. Issue 1 started with these words:
For some time it has been the conviction of several A.A. members as the result of the expansion of our fellowship in Cuyahoga County, that some means of wider communication of our activities to our members is needed.
To that end, the efforts of this bulletin will be dedicated.
Many of our members are leaving the city to take jobs elsewhere and many are going into the armed services.
To these members we think we can fill a definite need.
We shall strive to maintain an interesting and lively contact between these absent members and us at home.
A popular column of these early issues was “News from the Camps,” a section of notes sent to them by our member-soldiers. The first issue listed the meetings in and around Cleveland and highlighted a dinner with Bill W. to occur the next month at Cleveland’s Carter Hotel downtown. It ended with a stamp urging us to “buy defense bonds”—this was years before our acceptance of the tradition barring related facilities or outside enterprises. Another like section, soon following, listed the “Accredited A.A. Hospitals.” Early issues touted an A.A, bowling league and yes, gasp, a Central Committee Minstrel Show. Times have changed!
The February issue contained an excerpt of a letter from New York:
“Bill and I are avid readers of the Cleveland news-pamphlet. You people are surely doing one grand job with it. Some of the boys in service write their appreciation in getting it. Who does the actual writing of it? Certainly wish we could get all the A.A. boys in the armed forces on our list, for those to whom we write are so appreciative.”
So it surely was no surprise to Bill when a year later the six “ink-stained wretches,” as Bill called them, approached him about starting the Grapevine. One had a copy of the Central Bulletin under his arm.
This same issue expressed surprise that only 410 of the estimated 2000 members in our area had paid subscriptions to the Bulletin. They expected about 1000.
Harry D. continued as editor until his demise in 1968. Dick F., Imogene Z., and a host of others followed. I was the reluctant summer fill-in for Terry W. That “summer” lasted about a year and a half. When the Central Committee dissolved in the early 2000s, the Cleveland District Office, our central office, assumed responsibility for it.
In 1998, Gail L. hosted the National AA Archives Workshop in Akron. She sat me down with historian Ernie K. and Stepping Stones Archivist Paul L. who implored me to get the early newsletters digitized, noting the wealth of historical information contained therein. Kevin S. did the vast bulk of the work, scanning the newsletters and creating Acrobat® files from them. Thus “CB on CD” was born containing the first 50 years of the newsletter. This is available through the Akron Intergroup Office.
On October 25th the Cleveland District Office will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of this publication. Come join us. Maybe write an article? Or subscribe!
Source – By Bob M.