Funeral vehicle

By Harvey Tobkes

This story goes back about 40 years, but I still remember it all so clearly.

My brother-in-law Murray owned a factory located in Pittman, a small town in New Jersey, just off the Cherry Hill exit of the Jersey Turnpike. He was, I assure you, a very enterprising guy, always hustling and trying to make a buck. In those days he was a contractor in knit goods, and was doing quite well manufacturing sweaters for a well-known company located in Manhattan.

He had a family station wagon and he would drive, helter skelter to New York and back to Jersey, delivering the completed orders for his sweaters.

I had a used car operation in the Bronx, and my daily routine took me to Jerome Avenue (a wholesale mecca for used car dealers) and I would shop, looking for bargains, almost on a daily basis.

One fine day, I came across a pristine Cadillac hearse offered for sale at a ridiculously low price. I saw an opportunity and bought it, and after thinking who would be a customer for such a vehicle…Bingo!

I thought about Murray. It was perfect. Much more interior space than any station wagon — more power, reliability, and durability. A Cadillac…King of the road (in those days). Best of all, it was “ticket-proof.” Once he was stopped by the Highway Patrol who clocked him at 90 mph. Murray put on a worried face and said, “Sorry officer, I’m late for a funeral.” The officer sympathized, “Go ahead, but take it a little easier or you’ll be riding in the back of that thing instead of driving.”

Murray loved the hearse. He loved it so much; he stopped driving the station wagon and gave that to my sister Doris.

Ugh Oh!!! Here it comes — One Sunday morning, Murray went to the supermarket to buy some bread and milk, and as he was driving home, he glanced in the rear-view mirror of his Cadillac hearse, and he did a double take, as he saw what was obviously a funeral procession of cars in back of him with their lights turned on.. just following…the hearse.

As I said, Murray was an enterprising fellow and what he did was to change course and drive to the one and only cemetery in Pittman…checking every 20 seconds to see if the cars were following…he did not want them to get lost, as they probably had already done so once that morning.

Success! He stopped at the gate and explained the situation to the guard who was not the least perplexed. He told Murray that the original hearse was already at the grave site. So Murray drove right through quickly, and kept going until he got home.

The bereaved mourners never knew what a good deed Murray had done that Sunday morning.

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