Last week I spent a day teaching out at the “Farm” in Batesville. I have lost track of the number of trips I have made to the “Farm” over the years, but suffice to say I have been making that journey many times over the past thirty years.
It all started out when I was teaching merchandising at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and way back then we took two classes a year to Batesville (I think they still do this) to have the grand tour, and to let sink into the minds of the “baby undertakers” just what it took to make one casket – let alone seven hundred caskets a day. To say the least, it was and still is mighty impressive stuff to take that tour. Then for a decade I was involved with a large corporation who had a close relationship with Batesville, and since that experience went belly up, I have made a trip most every year for other funeral service companies who were having their annual training programs out at the “Farm.” I have seen the “Farm” move from a small assembly of cottages to a terribly impressive training and conference center with a splendid lodge, and gorgeous surroundings. Batesville, as with most everything, like it or not, has done this right, no doubt.
This last trip as I was driving from the Cincinnati airport and meandering across the country roads outside of Batesville I was just struck at what insight, vision, tenacity of purpose, and just good management the Batesville Casket Company has exhibited consistently over these many years.
Say what you want about the Batesville Casket Company, and there certainly have been detractors, but to be honest this company I believe has changed the methods of burial and now cremation across the globe. I take my hat off to them and their leadership but particularly for their creativity. Batesville I believe did not compete; instead, they created.
There was a time in funeral service when countless casket companies abounded in the field. Looking back, there were probably just too many of them. When I started one powerhouse company was the now defunct Crane & Breed Casket Company located in Cincinnati. There was Belmont, Merit, Chicago, National, Springfield Metallic, Boyertown, Marsellus, Clarksburg, Connersville-Franklin, and Comet - well, the list went on and on. In their own way each of these companies did an outstanding job, for the time they worked in. However, it often took a month to get a casket from some of these fine casket companies, and Batesville, along with other things, changed all that.
I remember the first time we were able to get a replacement casket from Batesville in a couple of hours. We were stunned, and to tell the truth that experience alone changed the way we looked at casket companies. Of course quick replacement of caskets is nothing new today, and if a casket company can’t replace them quickly, well then the individual funeral homes will no doubt determine, among other things, who sells caskets and who does not.
However beyond the reformation of the casket industry, Batesville had something else, I concluded on my last trip to the “Farm.” The company clearly succeeded in implementing and leading a new vision of what a casket was, and more importantly what a casket could be, and that one aspect, I personally believe, changed the way the funeral profession viewed the casket.
Certainly our profession has learned much from Batesville’s Options program, and I remember when that program was rolled out the reaction many times was not supportive or visionary. I remember hearing “Batesville is endorsing cremation!” I don’t hear that comment much anymore.
There have been a few, not many, just a few movements in our great profession that literally changed things. Cremation is of course one of them. The movement from home funerals to the mortuary concept is another. Going from using ice to embalm with to accepting arterial embalming is another. Government involvement is yet another. And I would suggest that the work and success of the Batesville Casket Company ranks right up there with the other permanent changes in funeral service.
To be sure there are other great casket companies – no question about that. But thinking about my most recent trip and looking back at these many years, I cannot help but conclude that Batesville just changed the way the funeral profession viewed caskets, merchandising, and now cremation possibilities.
Anyway, I was just thinking about Batesville; my small brain was jogged by my trip out to the “Farm.” As always, this is just one old grumpy undertaker’s opinion. TVB