Heck, forget 1969, let's talk 1883.
Mark Twain writes about the funeral trade and its avarice in Life On The Mississippi.
Then, with a confidential wink, a dropping of the voice, and an
impressive laying of his hand on my arm; 'Look here; there's one thing
in this world which isn't ever cheap. That's a coffin. There's one
thing in this world which a person don't ever try to jew you down on.
That's a coffin. There's one thing in this world which a person don't
say—"I'll look around a little, and if I find I can't do better I'll
come back and take it." That's a coffin. There's one thing in this
world which a person won't take in pine if he can go walnut; and won't
take in walnut if he can go mahogany; and won't take in mahogany if he
can go an iron casket with silver door-plate and bronze handles.
That's a coffin. And there's one thing in this world which you don't
have to worry around after a person to get him to pay for. And that's
a coffin. Undertaking?—why it's the dead-surest business in
Christendom, and the nobbiest.'
'Well, in ordinary times, a person dies, and we lay him up in ice; one
day two days, maybe three, to wait for friends to come. Takes a lot of
it—melts fast. We charge jewelry rates for that ice, and war-prices
for attendance. Well, don't you know, when there's an epidemic, they
rush 'em to the cemetery the minute the breath's out. No market for
ice in an epidemic. Same with Embamming. You take a family that's able
to embam, and you've got a soft thing. You can mention sixteen
different ways to do it—though there ain't only one or two ways, when
you come down to the bottom facts of it—and they'll take the
highest-priced way, every time. It's human nature—human nature in
grief. It don't reason, you see. Time being, it don't care a dam. All
it wants is physical immortality for deceased, and they're willing to
pay for it. All you've got to do is to just be ca'm and stack it
up—they'll stand the racket. Why, man, you can take a defunct that you
couldn't give away; and get your embamming traps around you and go to
work; and in a couple of hours he is worth a cool six hundred—that's
what he's worth. There ain't anything equal to it but trading rats for
di'monds in time of famine. Well, don't you see, when there's an
epidemic, people don't wait to embam. No, indeed they don't; and it
hurts the business like hell-th, as we say—hurts it like hell-th,
health, see?—Our little joke in the trade.