I may earn money from the participating companies linked in this post: Bookshop.org (supporting my nearby independent bookstore Bluebird & Co, in Crozet, VA) and/or Audible. My podcast is sponsored by Audible and Care/Of.
They’re the Wal-mart of burning people.
Before I begin with my funky version of clutching my pearls and being aghast, I must bring this to the forefront. Remember my special tag Americans love merch? Americans fucking worship merch. I have proof. If you subscribe to Mortuary Management Magazine for three years, you get a. . . wait for it. . .a tiny casket! A tiny! fucking! casket! to do what? put your business cards in? to hold your margarita salt?
For things like this, I need a soundfile of Gareth saying “What the actual fuck?”
Lookee lookee I have prooooooof:
Okay, I have contained my glee at this unexpected gift from the universe, and I am restraining myself from subscribing just to get the tiny casket.
Back to the little lost Lambs…
Good God, this funeral home started out traditionally (1928), with a family flair and slumber rooms, and ended up with everything on the horror movie checklist but necrophilia.
I was unable to find the Lamb family’s Maytag ad (if you do, please let me know), but, I found some others, so please allow me this interlude to share the weirdness. Enjoy this walk through early Americana advertising with me.
Surfuckingreal. Are you guys certain that John Waters and David Lynch didn’t do advertising before getting into film?
Sorry, I was distracted by shiny things. Family funeral home. Mayhem. Like a bordello of vampire prostitutes in your funeral home mayhem. Only no Crypt Keeper and no Dennis Miller. And more broken legs.
So Charles Lamb built his mortuary in 1929, slumber room and all. He followed all California laws and existing Funeral Directors’ Association edicts. Everything was peachy. . .and hushed, and covered in tasteful plush upholstery, with canned instrumental music playing in the background. Just lovely, and coated in euphemisms.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, cremation was becoming hot.
Sorry, I am so sorry, that was too easy. I shouldn’t have, I’m just gonna–yeah. I am embarrassed for myself, if that helps. Yeah.
1876–Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne opened a crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania after discovering that several members of his community were dying from the same disease, which was be contracted from improper and/or unsanitary burial practices. Not to mention grave robbing.
Dr. LeMoyne was actually the third person cremated in his own oven. That is an oddly American fact, and gives me, your weird librarian, much satisfaction.
You can visit Dr. LeMoyne’s home, which is now a museum thanks to the Washington County Historical Society:
WCHS, 49 East Maiden Street, Washington, PA 15301
1913–Other people finally caught on that cremation was less costly, more tidy, used less real estate, and, if done properly and ethically stinkeye at the Sconce family could be done with quiet dignity. The Cremation Association of America was founded. It’s now the Cremation Association of North America, because, sometimes, we really do play nicely with others. Not usually, but sometimes. There’s even a profession organization for crematoriums that handle pets. It’s international, so I assume in that case that we are also behaving. I hope.
And then there’s the California government’s Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. Their website banner, for some reason, looks like a collection of Zen Buddhist rocks, as if a monk had been meditating, and then a kid knocked them over? Somebody at ca.gov probably thought it was the website version of plush upholstery and hushed tones?
I love that little girl. She gets me.
So, David, Charles Lamb’s grandson, decides to continue the family business, and expand into cremation. And everything goes sideways.
When your employees call you “Little Hitler”, and you run a crematorium, red flags should be smacking you in the face. But no. Not when you’re this guy:
This was my reaction to this guy:
Bands from this episode:
- Slumber Room
- Body Clog
- Popping Chops
Cultural references from this episode: