View Full Version : Burial Proceedures in the 1937?

04-10-2009, 09:05 AM
I have searched on line and I cannot find what I am looking for.

In the movie, Places in the Heart, Sally Fields has to prepare her husbands body for burial (he is on the kitchen table) the setting was during the depression and I distinctly remember my mom telling me during that scene (this was in 85) that the family had to prepare the body in the home.

Does anyone know if this is true? If you know of any sites that would give greater details please pass them along.


04-10-2009, 10:07 AM
Basically, yeah. Professional funeral arrangers have only recently been affordable by the poor; prior to that, the family had to prep the body for funeral, arrange for the priest (if desired), and even bury the body.

Only when limited land and more science (especially re: blood-borne pathogens) became prominent were morticans a requirement rather than a luxury....

If it helps...

04-11-2009, 04:22 AM
I know that both of my parents talked about how scary viewings (wakes) were when they were children, born in '38 and '40. The viewings were in the family's house, and there was a smell, and it could be up to 3 days after death, I believe they said. (Their parents made them kiss the body, btw - a custom they were both intent on not forcing their kids to do!).

I don't know if that helps. Words to add to your search might be Wake and "Viewing of the Body", because that's the first event the body is prepped for. Other regions/religions in the US might use other terms/customs for this, too, but I can't think of more terms at the moment.

04-12-2009, 01:58 AM
Depending on the setting - urban or local - the laying out of the deceased and wake could be at home or at a funeral home.

My urban ancestors were laid out at funeral homes as early as the 1910's but some rural relatives were still being washed, dressed, and buried at home as late as the 1930's.

04-12-2009, 06:11 AM
My grandfather died in the early 40's and I know a funeral home handled the service because we tried to get copies of information after the funeral home burned. I'm not sure what part they played in taking care of the body. Many people still transported bodies to the cemetary via wagon. I know families still "cleaned up" the body, but if they were enbalmed I'm not sure if they took them to the funeral home & then brought them back for the wake at home or what. There is a link below that may give better details and I don't know if that applys to rural folk or mostly people that were better off in those days.

As a very small child in late 50's, I remember a friend who was very old dying and was laid out in her home for viewing and people sat at the home all night with her husband. I remember her being in a lilac gown, which my mother called her shroud.

Check out the link below & see if it is of any help.


04-13-2009, 07:10 AM
Thank you everyone. I really appreciate your post and links. I have a lot more leads now than I stared with.

And do I ever have the hebegeebees when I think of a dead body lying on my kitchen table. I don't care who it is, the whole death thing freaks me out!