Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who Authored DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers

Who Authored Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers?

By Dick B.

© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

In case after case, people have played “Ring around the Rosie” with A.A. history without ever doing the research necessary and the inspection necessary to get the real answers.

The A.A. General Service Conference-approved book, DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980), was published after extensive investigation, some repeat trips, and the not-unusual alteration of meaning by some A.A. editor.

Niles Peebles was engaged to write the biography. Nell Wing phoned Clarence Snyder in Florida and told him that the people in New York simply didn't know the old-timers and that Clarence did. She asked for his help and sent Niles down to interview him. Niles did so, and on how many other occasions or by what means of communication he gained information from Clarence, I do not know. I do know that Grace Snyder informed me of the foregoing details. I also know that Mitchell K. took almost all of the Clarence Snyder papers from Grace Snyder, promising to return them after Mitchell completed work on a biography of Clarence Snyder. Years went by. The papers were never returned to Grace. And I have her affidavit to that effect.

There are several documents in Clarence's handwriting in which he proposed to write such a history; but when DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers finally came out, Clarence was satisfied with the results and wound up passing out free copies to those who attended the spiritual retreats he founded and continued. Whether the actual papers in Clarence's possession would have added to the story of how DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers was written and to what extent Niles collaborated, I do not know.

I do know that Peebles visited Dr. Bob's son in Nocona, Texas, and wished to interview him on the matter. Smitty asked him if he was going to write anything about his mother (Anne Ripley Smith). Peebles said, "No." Smitty replied that he therefore was not going to tell him a "damn thing." Smitty phoned his sister Sue and asked her to do likewise, which she also promised to do. A long time later, Peebles returned to Smitty, said he would write about Dr. Bob's wife, and an interview was granted.

Now, who else contributed? Dennis Cassidy, a veteran A.A. historian, left me a printer's manuscript of DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. It contains the full names of the people interviewed. It contains an inscription indicating the book was written by Peebles. But it also contains other written changes indicating that at least Barry Leach was telling Peebles certain things about the draft. I have that manuscript and have very much tried to have it acquired and donated to "The Dr. Bob Core Library" at North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont--where Bob was born and raised, and where he received his extensive biblical training as a youngster.

This valuable piece needs to be acquired and made public. One A.A. veteran had plans to acquire it but has fallen short of the needed funds. And it sits in limbo.

Just as with The Book That Started It All: The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2010) and questions it left unanswered about the first edition of the Big Book, the “printer's manuscript” of DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers may not tell the whole story about Dr. Bob. But it can provide lots of information still being garbled by those writers and historians who have never seen the manuscript, the names, the changes, and how the manuscript stands in relation to book ultimately published by A.A. in 1980.

One thing is sure. There are still people on at least one history site trying to answer questions about DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers without the information about it contained in the “printer’s manuscript” of that book. As a result, they speculate that Peebles got his information in Akron. But many facts—as opposed to guesses—are available within the covers of the “printers manuscript.”

For those devoted to unearthing all the principles and practices of the "old school" A.A. program and applying them in A.A. today, there is no better starting place than the important DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers manuscript given to me by Dennis Cassidy--who was also a good friend of Sue Smith Windows, of Ray and Ginny G. of Ohio (Ray being the long-time archivist at Dr. Bob's Home), and of Dr. Bob's son Smitty and his wife Betty.

Gloria Deo

No comments:

Post a Comment