Cemeteries in Smaller Communities

Date Published: 
September, 1940
Original Author: 
E. Clovis Hinds
Memphis Memorial Park, Memphis, TN
Original Publication: 
1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers' Guide

Being from "Down in Dixie" where we work only about half time to have more to eat, longer mint juleps and less clothes than you folks; where Congressmen get elected by promising to vote for all appropria¬tions, and against all taxes; where we spend the time saved admiring our beautiful women, and taking everything easy except our politics - I am going to ask you to drop your war hysteria, forget all your troubles (be¬cause there are a lot more coming), and think about your blessings, for if there ever was a country that should be profoundly thankful it is America. We, without question, are the most favored people on Earth. More than ever before, I appreciate Uncle Sam has become the hope of the World.

My faith will not permit me to believe the suppression of freedom will engulf the World, forcing us to live under despotic un-Godly Hitlerism. All Dictators have their day and cease to be - Hitler will never rule the whole World, nor the New. While it is true America never won a con¬ference, it is also true she never lost a war. If we should unfortunately be drawn into the conflict, and mankind has a future, that future rests, with Democracy, and it will not be the Democratic faith which is finally vanquished. Now, that we have settled the war, let's relax and get "Down to Earth in the Cemeteries in Small Communities".

Why is it more difficult to operate a successful Cemetery in a small community than in a larger one? The location and man power has so much to do with creating sentiment in the building of a successful Ceme¬tery that this question opens up a rather large field. In towns of ten to twenty-five thousand people, surrounded by a good suburban population, this should not be true, especially if you are fifty to one hundred miles from a city. We know we are living in a changing age, and nothing is certain in the world except Progress. Failures are due not to changing conditions, but to the failure of men to change with them.

Progress has reached the age-old institution, the "town-graveyard". The spooky tombstones and gruesomeness of the old graveyard are on their way out - "Old things are passed away; Behold! All things are become new".

What Can Be Done to Make the Small-Town Cemetery Play an Important part in Community Life?

One of your greatest problems is your Superintendent. Get the right man with the right attitude toward his job, and the rest will be easy. If you should fail to find a home-man equipped for this work, try an ad in our official publication and you will probably find an experienced man. Have your Business Men's Club call a meeting of your worthwhile men and women, be sure to have your Mayor and Board of Aldermen present and let the public know your town is interested in creating or improving your Burial Grounds so their Cemetery will be the pride of the community. In other words, tell the people you are going to turn a public liability into a public asset. If you want to enough, you will.

The Cemetery that would survive must provide lasting appeal to the living, for you secure your lot buyers from the living, and they are the ones 'who sustain the interest which makes a Cemetery successful. Ben¬jamin Franklin was right when he said: "I need only to visit the Cemetery of any community to learn the character of its people”.

Is it any wonder that right in the midst of the growth of progress the idea of the Memorial Park should be born? It was inevitable, the public demanded it. They quickly recognized that class distinction of property and social position so evident in life should end m death, and that competition between families in the erection of costly tombstones should be eliminated, and in the last resting place there should be real Democracy. The Park Plan with its Naturalistic Beauty and Economy was the answer. There is nothing so powerful as an idea that arrives in its day. Now, you don't have to be rich to build a beautiful, attractive Memorial Park. I’ve seen many cold, forbidding Cemeteries that represented large investments and years of effort that were only forests of tombstones - Just burial places for the dead - truly a bush and grass graveyard. How different it is when the same ground is transformed into a beautiful Memorial Park, with velvet lawns that are a shrine of loveliness and a living asset to the culture and sentiment of the community. Beware of frequent close-cut¬ting of lawns as you may injure the root structure, moisture and plant food available to the grass, and thus subject it to greater damage from drought, insects and cold weather.

There Can be No Plan Without a Planner

Forget you have ever seen an old Tombstone Cemetery. Work out a plan that will fit the contour of your grounds, eliminating all depressing features of an ordinary graveyard, and you will have an atmosphere of Peace and Quiet that only Naturalistic Beauty can contribute.

Layout your roads twenty feet wide - keep as many as possible m the valleys and low places. Never plan or design lots or graves before staking out your roads.

Memorialize All Improvements

Name your Entrance, Tower, Fountain, Lakes, Roadways, Gardens, etc., after historical and community citizens who have made definite contributions to humanity and your locality. Have unveilings for each, with appropriate exercises. When possible, have some relative of the family do the unveiling - this will pack a lot of sentiment into your Park, and bring Good Will with much needed interest, which is the best asset in any business.

Can you think of anything that would create more interest in your property than the history of your community, and a more appropriate place than a beautiful Park? It is by far the finest opportunity to pay tribute to those who have served their community.

Beautiful Lawns

The new Park Plan, with Beautiful Lawns, and Artistic Bronze Mark¬ers, offers the only Democratic way for the rich and poor to fulfill the divine plan of everybody being equal in death by having Burial Estates "Where it costs less - To have the Best".

Build a lake and sunken garden for your first features. If you have no natural stream, dam up a low point where natural drainage will help out in providing water supply-three feet in depth, with a privet hedge border will give you a beautiful sunken garden.

Cemetery Sentiment has to be religious because it has to do with something beyond this life. Stay with Nature. Keep away from modern¬istic designs, and keep in mind artists are just copyists, whether painting a beautiful landscape or sculpturing a beautiful woman, the better the copyist, the better the artist, for Naturalistic Beauty so far surpasses all the Earth's other wonders in majestic dignity and Beauty that comparison is futile.

Make the Park Brighter and More Cheerful with Color

The days of drab Cemeteries, remindful of death (when a visit was a depressing event) we have outgrown - we have reached a saner idea of providing our departed loved ones a resting place surrounded by Beauty. We all love Beauty, and without colorful flowers we cannot have a Memorial Park. Naturalistic Beauty is the Greatest Memorial Ever Created.

The Cemetery is the Birds' Haven

It offers more ideal conditions for attracting birds. Here they find quiet, seclusive shade - protection from their enemies - food and water are always necessary, and may be easily provided by planting certain shrubs, vines, fruit trees and small amounts of rye or barley for quail, pheasants, etc. Then provide a few homes to attract wild birds from the woods. You will receive a great dividend from any effort along this line as the birds will destroy insects far in excess of their keep.

Select shrubs for their year-round beauty. Evergreens and American holly are beautiful, but often overdone. You can capture a lot of Beauty with flowering trees. Privet hedge gives more display for the cost and upkeep than most evergreens. Use native trees liberally.

Don't overlook Memorial Days - get out the band and have all the boys around the flag. Encourage the children to pay homage on these occa¬sions. Such deeds of reverence help build the Memorial Idea, love for the Flag and Patriotic Sentiments.

Why the Small Cemetery Needs a National Association

You remember how hard it was to work examples in long division when you did not know the multiplication table. The small Cemetery's need for the National Association service is just as simple and important. Trying to succeed in building a profitable modern Burial Estate without being associated with and attending the National Association Conven¬tions would be like trying to build a home without tools – It Can't Be Done.
So if you want to be a sound thinker, a wise Cemetery leader, capable of building for your community a Burial Estate that will satisfy a dis¬criminating buying public, don't think of the annual dues and cost of attending the conventions, but count the few dollars as the best investment you can possibly make. Study will help you, provided you are willing to work to make it work - an adding machine has no value unless you work the right keys.

Let's be honest with ourselves. It is not the fault of the public or the Association that some of the poorly managed Memorial Parks have failed to make good - the fault is with those of us who have not kept faith with the public, and worked hand-in-hand with the new ideas created by the progressive and successful Memorial Parks. When cooperation is lacking, the individual and institution must suffer. Our enthusiastic Secretary has been telling us over and over again for five years how we can get ahead by using the National Association. In fact, he has been about as persistent as Mr. Brisbane who has not been able to write a column since 1934 without telling Uncle Sam to get busy building airplanes if he expects to hold his important place in World Affairs.

The ACOA meets more of the progressive problems which Cemetery builders’ need, and gives its members more for their money, than any other business organization with which I have ever been connected.

"If one element in business can do a thing better than another, per¬form a service of equal or greater worth to the people, at a lower cost, then that is the element that is going to prevail". - Printer's Ink.

It was our National Organization that brought the New Idea Me¬morial Parks into existence, and continued Progress will keep this Progres¬sive Idea growing in Beauty and Popularity every year.
The pooling of knowledge is the surest step forward to Progress. The problem that worries you most today may have been solved by a fellow member yesterday. If experience is a very expensive teacher why not take advantage of “the other fellow's experience?" at less cost by getting busy working with and for the National Association, you will be happier and more successful.

Cooperation is not a sentiment - It is an Economic Necessity. Improve your knowledge and your Cemetery will improve.

Your Committee is hopeful this discussion has developed some ideas which you can enlarge to your benefit.

From the publication:
“1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers’ Guide”
ACOA 11th Annual Convention & Exposition
Hotel Statler, Buffalo, New York
September 8-11, 1940