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When I first joined our Association in 1889, like all new members, I was anxious to learn something of the ways and doings of our society, and on making inquiries of a brother member with whom I was acquainted, he told me that certain gentlemen, mentioning the names of some half dozen or so, were the heads and brains of our association. I at once began to watch those gentlemen, and to the best of my ability scrutinizing, and soon found that the opinion and remarks of our brother member alluded to, were strictly cor. recto
Before, and since that time, we have received from those gentlemen, at our annual conventions, papers almost innumerable, papers embracing every known topic necessary for the proper and satisfactory management of a Modern Cemetery, and I ask “Sir, where are now those papers and what benefits have we as members of this association derived from them?”
The first of those questions I would answer myself: here are the papers referred to. Between the covers of this volume are contained papers, scientific and practical, well and properly written, to stand out as the practical experience of good and practical men; papers that would do credit to an association of much higher pretensions than our own; papers rich in language, explicit, exhaustive, exhilarating and instructive, calculated not only to benefit members of our own association, but the people of our country and the world generally: full of negative arguments, denouncing vigorously everything opposed to progress, general culture and common decency, and advocating with determination everything favorable towards the enhancement of science, Christianity, beauty, integrity and humanity; touching upon subjects of a delicate nature, deferentially and sympathetically, and with that tact and display of a knowledge of human nature and human kindness, essential to the duties, life and character, of every cemetery superintendent. The ability to produce such papers cannot be attained on the lower, or common stage of things in general, the writer of such must occasionally soar to the upper and higher and inner circles of life and love, and there commingle with kindred spirits, in order to himself obtain, before he can properly diffuse, and disseminate knowledge. Within these papers, Mr. President, like milk in the cocoa nut, lie the practical ability of the writers, and the Derivative Benefits of our Association.
And now comes our second question, what benefits have we as members of this association, derived from those papers. Have we laid hold of those benefits? I am afraid not do we understand them and their value? I am afraid not. Have they been properly explained to us? They have not. I am aware that it may be contended, that these papers are printed and preserved, as the records of our association, and may be read and studied by every member. But I maintain Sir, that we as babes must have milk as food and that notwithstanding the embracing and exhaustive nature of those papers, they are without distinct and definite explanation, to many of us indigestible chunks. To remedy this we must alter our mode of procedure; during the year our Secretary and Executive Committee arrange with as many of our members, as they deem necessary for the preparation, and submission of papers on various subjects, at our annual convention, previous to which time a program is arrived at and each member furnished with a copy, or otherwise informed of said program. Conspicuously on such program is set forth the fact that Mr. so and so will read a paper on a certain subject, and having frequently heard him before, we conclude that we must hear him again. The day of our convention arrives, we meet Mr. so and so, and his paper is announced. He reads it oratorically and complacently we listen to his peroration, with ears and eyes, and it may be mouths extended, at its conclusion a dead silence prevails. We smaller fish dumb foundered by his eloquence flounder back to the shallow water of our own incapability and with feelings of amazement exclaim within ourselves, "O my, what a clever man Mr. so and so is." Finally our President for the time being inquires what disposal we shall make of the paper just read, when someone proposes, that it be printed and placed on the records of our association, and it is disposed of accordingly. I admit, that for such a mode of procedure there can be no individual blame, but maintain that such disposal of a paper is, comparatively speaking, to shelve it, and is in the first place unfair to the writer, who may have given long and studious thought to the subject touched upon and by said paper, merely given an epitome, or outline of his ideas thereon, while within himself, by way of an appendix is in possession of consummate proofs of his assertions, and is fully ready to explain his own, or combat opposite opinion, but by such a mode of procedure is deprived of the opportunity, to indorse by additional argument the force and correctness of his paper.
And secondly, by such a mode of procedure and disposal of papers we as members of this association are deprived of the "Derivative Benefits" thereof. We simply have sermon without text, effect without cause, power without motive estimate without detail. I admit that we may all read for ourselves from the records of our Association, but every man does not understand that the phrase, "an opulent oriental potentate," means a rich eastern monarch, or that an "emaciated mendicant," means a poor and lean beggar; what we require is the root of the arguments set forth in each and every paper, the why and the wherefore, and how the writer arrives at the conclusions he puts forth; and such knowledge Mr. President, we can only obtain by proper definition, explanation, and discussion.
In order to arrive at this, I would suggest, Sir, that in future, instead of reiterating old subject matter under new headings, that we take from the shelves of our records, questions or subjects for discussion, (seriatim or otherwise) as questions for and against, as subjects negatively and positively. Our records teem with subject matter sufficient to last us for years, embracing every topic of cemetery management, and containing ideas we would all do well to thoroughly understand. The necessary subjects for each years discussion could be chosen by our Executive Committee, listed, and sent by our Secretary to each member, in shape of an addenda, say six months previous to the date of our Annual Convention, this would give ample time to read upon the subjects for discussion, would arouse a more lively interest on the part of our members, and would bring out ideas and information, that we fail to get under our present method. By such a system we would, "the most beneficially, at our annual conventions, carry out Article 2 of our Constitution," and by a thorough expounding and improvement of each paper or subject brought before us, we would become alike, recipient of their "Derivative Benefits."
And now Mr. President, in submitting this paper, I wish to be understood, that its purport is the promptings of a mind anxious for the welfare of our association, written not to condemn but encourage, not to mislead but to guide, not to cast down but to elevate, and I trust, Sir, that it will be received with the same spirit as that in which it is written. I respectfully throw it into the thought of the new system it suggests and desire, invite, may urge discussion. It is but the limited opinion of a humble individual, but it seeks to acknowledge the broadest principles of free argument, difference of opinion, criticism and even good natured sarcasm, such influences being best calculated to draw out information and promulgate knowledge.
In conclusion; I maintain that if such a mode of procedure as the one suggested be adopted and adhered to, it will not only be beneficial to every member of our Association, but beneficial to every Cemetery Association throughout this our great country, and throughout the world generally. By it we will carry out the best object of our association. The superior knowledge of the few will become the common property of the many, and thereby make plain the "Derivative Benefits," arising there from.
From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 9th Annual Convention
September 18, 19 and 20, 1895