Little Things Indispensable In Cemeteries

Date Published: 
September, 1921
Original Author: 
S.J. Perrott
Ferncliff Cemetery, Springfield, Ohio
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention

As one of the newer members of this Association, and with memories still fresh in mind of the education gained from the Conventions of the last few years which it has been his privilege to attend, and of previous conventions about which it was his privilege to read, the writer has been nursing the hope that he might again, in attending this convention, come as a student who is permitted to pursue a post graduate course in the profession of his choice and receive instructions from teachers of long and active experience in the courses which lead to an understanding of better methods, better and more complete equipment, and newer applications. As a human sponge, if you please, absorbing all the good things given out by others and hoping to retain them until such time as his own problems might call them into use.

However, we can learn that the plans and devices of men are never certain, and often, what we have accepted as facts prove to be but visions and without foundation.

Thus were we impressed when our good friend, upon whom was imposed the chairmanship of this Convention Committee, asked for a contribution to this program, even though extending to the writer the privilege of selecting his own subject.

At the same time this (favor) was extended, we observed an article which appeared in the Public Press reciting a request made by a leading magazine publisher in which Mr. Roger W. Babson was asked to write, detailing some line of business or experimentation which had not been thoroughly tried out and traced to a successful conclusion.

In comparison, it seems that the various questions with which the Superintendent deals have been as thoroughly covered at one time or another in the history of this Association as have other lines of business and experimentation in the rest of the business world.

For this reason may we be permitted to digress from dealing with any subject, singly, but rather to touch upon several little things which enter into the work of caring for a cemetery.

In the discharge of the manifold duties of the Cemetery Superintendent and in variety of equipment needed in his work there are several things which might be referred to as Little Essentials. Many of these which we will mention are, on doubt, employed by all Superintendents, and all are perhaps employed by some; many little conveniences which when once adopted and used are considered by the user as indispensable.

These are being added to as conditions in various sections and at various times require and as methods improve in the general conduct of business.

Changes may seem to be taking place very slowly, yet, always abreast with the times and one need not have been connected with the work for many years in order to note marked improvements.

Road building, sewer construction, grading, concrete mixing and other lines of work have called into use a new and extensive line of power equipment.

The power lawn mower is fast coming into favor where areas of unobstructed lawn permit its use, and it may be safe to say that its introduction into the Cemetery will have its influence toward the elimination of obstructive mounds and raised markers in Cemeteries where these obstructions still exist.

The little edger, or trimmer, for cutting closely around monuments and trees, or on borders where the lawnmower fails to reach, taking the place of shears or sickle is one of our best time savers.
For many years the dump cart had its place as an indispensable tool in the Cemetery but has been displaced by the dump wagon, and for much of the work the dump wagon has now given way to truck and trailers.

The trailer will also, in a general way, displace the wheel-barrow taking the place of that long used tool by the side of the excavation and the soil or debris will be conveyed directly to the dumping grounds, and the driveways will no longer be marred by particles of clay or suffer loss of material through shoveling from their surface.

To how many other uses trailers may be put, and how much time will be saved in handling material we will not attempt to enumerate.

Protection of the lawn at the time of a burial has long since been taken care of by the use of the earth-cabinet placed by the side of the grave, keeping the earth which is to be used for refilling in a neat and compact form and leaving the lawn unsoiled after the burial has been completed. This cabinet was introduced to this Association by means of an illustrated talk given by one of its members several years ago, and we believe has now come into very general use.

The canopy with side enclosures protecting patrons against the heat of the sun or against cold winds and storm, or used as a means of giving privacy to those who are laying away their dead; this, with the heavy ground covering of matting or other suitable material to be used when the ground is cold or damp provides a means of safety and comfort and has become a Cemetery necessity.

The lowering device, adding dignity to the burial service by its slow and noiseless operation and if desired, permitting the casket to rest in view of relatives and friends of the deceased, thereby saving them the severe nervous shock which we have all many times witnessed when the casket was lowered from sight by means of straps, accompanied by their addending noises, and handled by pall-bearers unfit because of age or lack of experience.

Grave decorations or linings which may be more or less elaborate with settings of ferns and palms and other hot house plants, or a simple covering of the earth with boughs and draperies which hide the walls of the grave; but whether the lining be elaborate or simple, much has been done toward softening the harshness of the old time mode of burial and your people are permanently impressed and their minds are eased by the beauty of the picture.

The public is being educated in recent years to expect the best in service and is pleased to pay a reasonable amount for it.

Debris baskets placed convenient to the avenues for the deposit of papers and withered bouquets and partially hidden by low plantings are not conspicuous and do much toward keeping the grounds free from those unsightly objects which would otherwise be blown about to lodge in the shrubbery or to litter drives and lawns. Lot owners with scarcely an exception take pride in helping to keep the grounds clean and instead of throwing trash upon the avenues will go out of their way to use the baskets.

Tomato cans, milk bottles, and the old china pitcher as receptacles for flowers have been replaced by the double cylindrical bouquet holder which is set into the grave or at its foot the top level with the sod, out of the way of the lawn mower, and when not in use is also not in sight.

Still fresh in our minds is a very minute description of the uses and advantages or the alarm and telephone system as operated in not a few Cemeteries. By their use communications are quickly established between the office and workmen on the grounds: attendants are notified of the approach of the funeral cortege and know from the signal where to meet it. The Superintendent, if out on the grounds, may be called or he may readily get in touch with any workman to whom he wishes to deliver a message through a signal from the bell and the use of the phone.

The advantages of this equipment can be fully appreciate even in Cemeteries which do not cover large areas.

We may not be predicting too much, perhaps, in the presumption that future equipment for this purpose will be minus the troublesome wires which if strung on trees are sometimes grounded by the winds, but radio stations will be installed and workmen will be equipped with vast pocket editions of the wireless phone.

Numerous other articles of equipment which might well be classed with essentials could be mentioned, not the least of which from point of time and frequent service are the pick and shovel. Little need be said except their having been used since the burial of the Patriarchs, and the probability that they will not be displaced so long as immigration laws permit the landing of men to use them.

Turning now to the office, we find in. a steel sectional cabinet all the paraphernalia for quick reference and for permanent and compact record, Use of the card system of indexing deeds and interments facilitates locating lots and graves, plans of lots drawn to a scale, and showing location of all graves, memorials and trees make it possible to give exact information and to transact business with dispatch. This is especially appreciated by the patron when he is waiting for information on the phone, or when planning for an interment and manifests a nervous anxiety to avoid delay that he may the sooner return to his family and home. Duplicate plats for the owner of the lot may quickly be traced and plans for the future use of the lot be indicated.

Printed forms upon which all orders are received, uniform in size for convenient filing; the autograph, making duplicate copies for office and grounds. Filing cases for standing orders such as Special and Perpetual care. Cost sheets, distributing time for various items of labor, and last but of much interest to the Superintendent, a cabinet for his literature, his books on subjects of horticulture and landscape gardening, Rules and Regulations, which are always convenient for reference, Convention reports, and the Superintendents Digest, which comes to our desk every month, "Park and Cemetery".

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention held at Detroit, Michigan
September 13, 14 and 15, 1921