Flower Container Menace

Date Published: 
October, 1926
Original Author: 
S. L. Landers
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 40th Annual Convention

Now, when I took hold of Hamilton Cemeteries—we have two cemeteries, 100 acres each. One is a new one. Naturally you can always begin right in a new cemetery, where you have a great many problems in an old one. Our cemetery began in 1846. When I came into that cemetery my friend from Ohio said last night, or the other night, that he could supply a modern milk dairy with all the bottles they wanted, that he could collect from his cemetery. Well, I could beat that a mile; I could supply two modern milk dairies and a horseradish factory, pickle factory and a jam factory with enough to last for two years. We had every conceivable thing you could think or in our cemeteries, bottles, jars, loving cups, bowls, beautiful cut glass receptacles—sometimes they have similar ones now in automobiles, but larger size, some running up as high as a dollar and a half to two dollars apiece. Our cemetery was literally covered with those jam tins, lard pails, honey pails, jars and tins of every description. I decided I was going to get rid of all that junk. You know, as well as I—you have all had experience in every city—down at home they have a beautiful loving cup up on the piano. Little Mary knocks it off and breaks off the handle. They have a beautiful milk pitcher and Susan breaks the handle off and out to the cemetery with it. Uncle John is dead, he don't know the difference anyhow, whether it is broken or cracked. And we used to get the junk of all the homes in the city—something that was broken and they didn't want around the house, up to the cemetery with it. Now, when it comes to clearing up this stuff—ours are municipal cemeteries and the prominent citizen and tax-payer and the fellow who writes his letters pro bono publico, it is a hard thing to deal with the public when they have been used to a thing for so many, many years and to innovate a system to do away with that which they have had a right to do as public citizens is a very difficult problem. But do you know that even the general public, who are usually hard to handle, if handled diplomatically, carefully and with a great deal of judiciousness—and they are all from Missouri—you have got to show them—but after you have once convinced them that what you are trying to do there is no selfish motive behind it, but it is in the general interest of beauty of the cemetery as a whole, why you can handle the general public like clay in the hands of a potter, after you have convinced them that you are right.

The first problem that presented itself in getting rid of this stuff was how; and the substitute. What are you going to give them in place? We had a flower holder there, receptacle similar to the Winona, similar to the many flower holders we saw the other day and we see in every cemetery. But I immediately began to figure it out, that you couldn't get the people to buy flower holders for sixty cents to a dollar apiece when they can buy the cornucopia tins, with handle attached, funnel shaped, that they come and put in the ground—our cemetery was literally covered with them, all over. Some people would come up and buy one tin for 25 or 30 cents, bring them up, put in one bunch of flowers and then they wouldn't come back again the whole season. They get rusty, dirty, and throughout our whole cemetery we had thousands of these cornucopia tins sticking up, bent and broken, standing there like a lot of drunken soldiers. Well, I shouldn't say drunken soldiers, because soldiers never get drunk; I should say sailors—drunken sailors. That is better.

We changed our rules. We used to say, "Please don't put any more bottles in the cemetery. And we changed our rules from "please" to "must"; you must not put any papers in the cemetery. And we had some beautiful printed cards, had them framed and we fastened them at convenient places throughout the cemetery, advising them that the cemetery was run for the benefit of everybody, and that we desired to make it beautiful and that they must not use any glasses, china, tin, iron, or anything but a particular double receptacle, in the ground one inch below the sod. I said a moment ago, "What are you going to substitute?" We sell the double tin flower holder at 35 and 45 cents. Now, I said the people won't pay 45 cents when they can get a cornucopia tin down town for 25. I took that flower holder that we had, it was the usual length, which I thought was a little too long; it had three small feet soldered or riveted down about an inch and a half from the bottom, for the inside receptacle to rest on, I immediately said, "Those three little feet are superfluous—not necessary—galvanized iron. I don't know the weight or degree, or class or the sheet-iron. I said, "What is that worth?" I said, "That inch and a half waste can be eliminated." I got a pair of snips, went around and snipped off the feet and an inch and a half of galvanized iron. Then I went down to the American Can Company, of which we have a branch in Hamilton that turns them out by the millions. I said "What can you give me 5,000 of these sleeves and 5,000 of these inner tins at?" Well, they said, "The outer sleeve, bottomless, we don't make that at all. We are a can company. You will have to get that from some tinner or some sheet metal place. And they took the can and sent it in to their cost expert and he figured a few moments and they came back and said, "We can give you that inner tin, but we haven't that diameter, or circumference. We have one just a trifle smaller and we make then in styles and sizes, that it would mean some new machinery to make one exactly the size you want." It was a little smaller than the one I wanted, but their price was so ridiculously low in large quantities that I thought I could use their size. I even found out another thing. I conceived the idea that I could save an inch of my outer sleeve. And you know the saving of material is a great matter in trying to reduce costs. I said. "That will do."  We got these inside tins; they were in sheet iron, japanned, and green. I went to another, the McCarley Co., a very large institution there in Ontario. I got a price from them on the outside sleeve. When I got the two of them finished they cost 17 cents the double set. We immediately decided we were going to sell them to the public for 15 cents, including the setting in the ground. Now, in case Michelson is here, he will want to know what we charge up the other two cents to. I will tell you, Michelson, we charge the other two cents up to profit and loss, in case you might want to ask the question. So we sell them for 15 cents apiece, including the time of our men setting them in the ground and we pay our men 50 cents an hour. We immediately begun to eliminate these other things, and sell these flower tins. Now, we don't give any away, like Kincaid does, and I don't intend to start it. I will tell you why.

Now, you would be surprised to know that, after one year, with a great deal of care in handling the people, that a glass bottle, china or porcelain jar, tomato can, jam can, cornucopia tin, or anything other than our original receptacle is not to be found. I have ordered two and three lots, of 5,000 each since and the finding of a receptacle, outside the one we furnish, is as scarce in our cemetery as a perfumery bottle in a glue factory. We haven't any. We have cleaned them absolutely clean. They say, "How do you manage it?" 'We simply say to the people, "Now, here, our soil is all sand and gravel. You bring these cornucopia tins in here, and as soon as you place them there they are bent or broken, and they look very bad; you put your bouquet in there that you paid 50 cents for, more or less and a little while afterwards a sweeping wind comes along and blows your beautiful bouquet over in the shrubbery, or against the fence. You take our flower tin—we give them a concrete example we said to some of the women folk, put your fingers in that water in that standing tin, with the wind and sun and heat against it, and then come put your fingers down in these tins an inch below the ground, where the men can walk over and pick out the inner tin, whether it has a bouquet or not. If not, he can run his lawn mower over; if there is a bouquet in it, he simply picks it up runs his lawn mower over and puts it back in. We say "Put your fingers in that water. They put their fingers in, and the water in there is cool, while the weather above is warm. We say, "your bouquet will last twice as long." They say, "There is something in that. We want one of those tins."

We used to tell them with glass containers just as soon as the first frost set in that frost expanded and burst them, and they were hard on our men's fingers, and our mowers and the general public's feet and shoes. We had to clean up car loads of glass in the spring, and we wanted to eliminate that, and get rid of it. And, by using a reasonable argument with the public there was no difficulty in convincing them that we were right, and no more glass bottles are brought up to our cemetery, unless—if there is one brought up it is on a new grave, where the family hasn't had a lot in the cemetery previously, and don't know much about it. Then they will bring up a bottle the first time they come up to visit the grave, but we have our men so well trained that we do exactly what Michelson said the other night, if we see them coming in with a glass jar we say, "Madam, that jar is not permitted; you can go to the office and buy a tin for 15 cents." And they know we are not making a tremendous profit when we sell them for 15 cents. So they know it is not a financial matter, or a revenue matter, when we ask them to go to the office and buy from us. If they happen to put it in and we don't see it, if it is only five minutes after we put it in the flowers are taken out and water poured over the flowers and the glass jar goes into the refuse box, even if it is only five minutes after it is placed there.

I don't know what your opinion is about prohibition. I have mine. They say it can't be enforced. Yes it can. The prohibition of glass bottles in cemeteries can be enforced, because we enforce it.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 40th Annual Convention
Memphis, TN
October 11, 12 and 13, 1926