Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who Authored Dr. Bob and the Good Oldimers?

In case after case, people play ring around the rosie with A.A. history without ever doing the research necessary and the inspection necessary to get the real answers.

A.A. General Services Conference-approved book DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers was published in 1980 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 oldtimers and that Clarence did. She asked for his help by sending 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 the work. Years went by. The papers were never returned to Grace. And I have her affidavit to that effect.
There are several pages in Clarence's handwriting in which he proposed to write such a history; but when DR. BOB 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. Would the actual papers in Clarence's possession have added to the story of how DR. BOB 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 wishes 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." Smitth 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 it 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 lingo.

Just as with the "Original" Printer's Manuscript recently published by Hazelden, it 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 the ultimate book published by A.A. in 1980.

One thing is sure. There are still people trying to answer questions on at least one history site when they don't know the answsers about this book. Thus they imply Peebles got his information in Akron. But the facts--including those above--establish a far different picture.

For those devoted to unearthing and using all the "old school" A.A. program and applying it 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, Ray and Ginny G. of Ohio--Ray being the long-time archivist at Dr. Bob's Home, and also Dr. Bob's son Smitty and his wife Betty.

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