Stella Cretek
A Dem Bones Fairytale

Basking in a Batesville

By - Oct 28th, 2009 09:16 am
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee

October  2009
Dear Cousin Bitsy,

It’s been two decades since our family reunion, so I guess it’s high time to catch up now that we’re both getting up in years. No one likes to talk about the end game, but it seems it’s almost here, never mind that our cousin, Ole Oleson lived to be 101. I do hope I make it for another year, if only to see the Vikings whip the Packers.


The Promethean – Batesville Casket Co.

I’m sad to report that Michael Jackson’s recent burial in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA, has caused a crisis of sorts in our family. A relative (dare I say who?) in a frenzy of post-Jackson nuttiness, actually went online and purchased space (for four, no more) in Forest Lawn’s Columbarium, which is where ashes go provided that you have the dough. But I’d never stoop so low as to inquire what said relative paid. Plenty, I’ll bet.

Need I detail my shock when she invited me to join her in the building known as “Dawn,” and need I say, I declined? Even if I was ready to check out pronto, California wouldn’t be my destination. I’ve never even been there and don’t intend to go to the land of burning hillsides and mud slides. Who needs that besides Arnold S.?

Anyway, I trust my ashes will mix and mingle with some high-octane gin (Level 1, shaken, not stirred) and be forthwith poured into the middle branch of the Nodaway River  near the Iowa town where I was birthed in 1936. It wouldn’t be too bad to be buried in the town cemetery, but only one plot remains, and I refuse to pay be laid next to a former Buick salesman, as my dearly departed dad always was a Chevy man; it would be a discredit to his memory.

Okay, so a few years back, do you remember when I wrote you about an Indiana casket company? Unable to resist knowing more about a casket company named “Batesville,” I sent away for a fat packet detailing various models of ways to depart earth in style. You do recall Norman Bates in Psycho, don’t you? Anyway, there really is a town named Batesville, just so you know. Well, a decade has passed and frankly, I started wondering what’s new in caskets.

Dear cousin, this is a good spot to mention that the aforementioned Jacko was center stage in a casket (The Promethean) at his Forest Hills send-off. It was a Batesville, the very venue that provided the works for a number of presidents and a number of stars, including (most recently) Farrah Fawcett, and back a’ ways, Bob Hope and Fred Astaire. Wilt Chamberlain too, though maybe he paid more because of his height. Did I ever tell you that your cousin Sharon tutored the Wilt when he was a student at the University of Kansas?

The Promethean will set you back $25,000 to $30,000, though it’s unclear what extras are provided in that package. Yes, you can have air conditioning, special mattresses and (this must be a bad joke!) cell phone hook-ups so your loved ones can stay in touch; it’s strictly one-way, though. James Brown was laid to rest in a Batesville three years back.

So what is new in the world of the otherworld? Quite a bit.

Since I quit smoking five months ago, I’ve gained 20 pounds, so my eye was naturally drawn to several Batesville models from their “Dimensions” line. Think of them as plus sizes, and I’m not being rude here. Likely I’d need one in the event that I changed my mind about the joys of cremation. Some of them are designed to fit into a regular-sized burial vault, but you have to know that the bigger the body, the larger the casket and burial vault, and in some scenarios, the burial plot itself. I mean real estate is expensive, never mind that you won’t be above ground enjoying it. If you go to the Batesville website and click on Dimensions, you’ll read that the purveyors are interested in finding a comfortable fit for large loved ones. That doesn’t include you, dear svelte cousin. I’d be the last one to call you fat! Pleasantly plump perhaps, but God forbid, you’ll ever need Dimensions. I don’t see that happening.

Of course, finding a comfortable fit is no problem if you are ashes to ashes, where one size fits all. But I have yet to hear of anyone being charged extra for the cremation of a 200-plus pound grandma or grandpa. Did I write you about the cheesy way our Uncle Art Cretek saw fit to bid adieu? Imagine! He owned quite a bit of South Dakota when he died two years ago, but frugal to the end, he had his favorite horses hitched to a Victorian hearse. It then hauled his weathered body in a plain pine box to a modest plot in the family cemetery, way out on the plains where the wind blows freely across them. Did I mention that he owned a bank or two and his sheep ranch extended into Montana? But I guess you know that. Art was not my favorite uncle by any shot.

The newest rage in burial boxes is cardboard. Some cemeteries have gone “green” and set aside special areas for greenies, aka the eco-friendly. Well, certainly this beats resting in a fly-by-night place where your bones can be moved around until no one really knows where you are located. That happened (allegedly) at a California cemetery known as “Eden.” Doesn’t that state take the cake when it comes to weird behavior?  Devotees of the cardboard boxes point to the fact that they disintegrate in about six months, unlike fiberglass and metal caskets that last forever. But truth is, the cardboard containers don’t hold much weight, so keep your svelte figure if you are thinking of getting one. Oh yes, another plus is visitors to the viewing can write on the cardboard casket, perhaps leaving a few Magic Marker messages with the dearly departed. A nice touch, very Midwestern, don’t you think? Poetic almost.

Of course, cremation has cut deeply into the revenues of casket makers. In fact, claims the parent company of Batesville has lowered its outlook for fiscal 2009, citing ”weak casket demand.” The Chinese are heavily into cardboard caskets, so eventually that’s also going to hurt the sales of metal, plastic and high-end wooden models. Perhaps the Promethean reached it’s nadir during Mr. Jackson’s funeral.

So be it. I’m an ashes-to-ashes type. Let me know what you decide to do when it’s your time. Write xxxxxooooo.


Categories: Dem Bones, VITAL

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us