Julius P.L. Fielding’s work required him to carry a black bag, like a doctor did in those days.
Especially when he went to places such as James, Johns and Wadmalaw islands.
The undertaker would head out to the islands with the tools of his trade when someone died.
The trip meant getting on a rowboat; there were no bridges back then.
Embalming was done in the home, and the refuse dumped in the yard. There was no indoor plumbing.
The body would remain in the home, and the next day Fielding would return with a coffin in tow for the burial.
That was one of the rituals in 1912 when he opened Fielding Home for Funerals, which is marking its 100th anniversary.
The art of Fielding
Now Fielding is a household name around these parts. Most everyone has heard of the funeral home and its well-known family members.
A whole lot of Fieldings were out and about Saturday celebrating the centennial of the family business.
About 250 to 300 people attended an anniversary reception at Mount Moriah Baptist Church’s Family Life Center.
As the story goes, the business was started with a blind horse, a wagon and a buggy.
Today, it is “still the leading African-American funeral home in the area and one of the leading ones in the state,” said son Bernard Fielding, president and CEO.
The Judge, as many call the retired probate judge, turned 80 recently. His older brother, Herbert Fielding, a former state senator, is 89 and is vice president. Two siblings who also ran the business are deceased. Three generations of Fieldings have worked there.
“We hope to be here for another 100 years,” said Fielding, adding with a smile, “Not me, perhaps.”
‘We ain’t going nowhere’
In a span of 10 decades, the business has seen many black burial customs disappear.
Fielding himself can remember when people would put eggs in the casket or place medicine bottles upside down to ward off evil spirits. Trinkets and personal items were put on top of caskets.
Some still practice passing children over the casket, but that too is fading.
And few wear all-black for a year anymore to mourn the dead.
Other practices are still around. Funeral notices are placed in the newspaper the day before so people can attend a wake service that night.
Honoring the dead and recognizing family members are a big deal in the black community. “Blacks revere their dead,” Fielding said.
Many honor dead relatives by placing their pictures in the newspaper — in memoriam. Blacks wait longer to hold funerals to make sure out-of-town relatives can attend.
And getting the names of all relatives in the obituaries is most important.
“If Aunt Lucy don’t see her name, she is going to raise hell,” Fielding said. It’s all about recognizing family. As for the next 100 years, Fielding said: “We ain’t going nowhere.”
Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.