Wednesday, March 10, 2010

funeral homes

Somewhere along the line, funeral homes, became parlors, then became mortuaries. Decca Mitford probably had something to do with that by the publication of "The American Way of Death". In typical Mitford fashion, she set off on the funeral industry like a wild dog confronting the funeral industry abuse of aggrieved families, she saw behind every funeral.

She had an impact for a while. To distance themselves from their shady competitors many "parlors" went from family enterprises to chains.

At the top of our street, next to the high school, is a mortuary. They have, what Mrs. T and I disrespectfully describe as, maybe 3 shows a month. How or why they stay open is a mystery, but every time I pass I'm reminded of Decca.

Passing there often makes me wonder what they could do with their free time, that is when they aren't having shows. I've gotten fairly creative at times. Seems like a wonderful junior prom space, art gallery, chauffeuring business, church. Who knows.

It seems as long they are empty, and probably have bills to pay whether or not they're working, it could be a great community resource, so long as you could deal with sudden cancellations.

Out of the blue, Number One Son sent me a link to this story in the Topeka, Kansas Capital-Journal, originally published in the Berkshire Eagle.

Mass. mortuary hopes chili cook-off brings 'life'

The Associated Press
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Western Massachusetts funeral home is trying "bring life" to business with a chili cook-off, a murder-mystery show and free limo rides to couples on their 50th anniversaries. Terry Probst, the new managing partner of the Devanny-Condron Funeral Home in Pittsfield, hopes the events will remind people that the funeral home is a center for community life.

He said if customers know that the funeral home also can be the setting for other, happier activities, they might take some comfort in the place later when dark times come.

Among other other events sponsored by the funeral home are an art walk, a visit by the Easter Bunny, and monthly birthday cakes to the Pittsfield Senior Center.

For all my joking about it, this kind of creeps me out, but I'm unsure why. Any ideas?



OldSchool said...

Such well-dressed mourners.
No t-shirts or jeans there.

Kathleen said...

The thought of using a mortuary for anything but the regular show creeps me out, too.

Growing up, a mortuary was at the other end of my block. At about age 9, a friend and I witnessed the arrival of a body. The hand was hanging off the side of the gurney. The mortuary workers didn't see us watching. Clever nine-year-old ghouls, we were hidden with our bikes amongst the big oleander shrubs.

I'll never forget it.

Shelley said...

Aren't you a hoot!? I shall have to write about my experience with the funeral people I dealt with when my Dad died. He'd have turned over in his grave to congratulate me, except he wasn't buried yet. It is true that these should be community resources, but probably most people aren't keen to remind themselves of death very often.

M.Lane said...

My minister's family owned a funeral home. He tells a great story about how his mother finally demanded of his father that they move out of the upstairs of the funeral home where they lived the first five years of the minister's life because "it was ruining the boy...he keeps buring his teddy bear in the back yard...over and over..."

He became a wonderful minister, nonetheless.

David said...

Helping the senior center celebrate birthdays does seem to be a bit of a conflict of interest.

Patsy said...

Pittsfield is, um, different. I wonder if the 50th Anniversary limo ride goes by the cemetary.....

Toad said...

When I was a lad my family rented a house from the caretaker of a cemetery. He would always drag me around to watch how things were done. I went, but without much enthusiasm.

Toad said...

But David, what a great place for a seniors bridge club, eh?

David said...

Well, you can't blame them for trying.

I suppose it would make sense that a mortician would have a morbid sense of humor in marketing.

It's creepy because they're trying to ease people into becoming comfortable with death. I think it's not only okay, but healthy to fear death; it's what keeps us alive.

ADG said...

zackly why I'm being cremated.

Toad said...

Dude you gotta give yorself away at the end. How else we gonna find what makes you tick?

Free Kansas said...

I think that it's a great way to speed up business.

Chili cook-off (bad gas and cramps)

Murder Mystery (scare em to death)

Limo Ride for 50th (Now you have both done it all and led a long and happy life. You can now go in peace.)

Art Walk (death march)

Easter Bunny (diabetes)

And there has to be a LOT of candles on that cake. Hope that they don't hyperventilate.

Anonymous said...

Last time I burned out one of my garbage disposals, I spec'd a 1 hp Kitchen-Aid.

When the plumber showed up with a 3/4 hp model, I was initially annoyed. Then he told me that the 1 hp model would take 10 days to get in and besides, he said, "the only people who use those things are mortuaries."

I'm reconsidering cremation.

ADG said...

Bossman...there ain't a scalpel or a microscope that will unearth any insights of value to society or medicine. And I don't want a bunch of medical students standing around giggling at my you know what.

Toad said...

I always thought you had very nice ears.