Saturday, October 13, 2007

Outhouse memories

Toni, over at "In the midst of this season" was pondering outhouses in her latest entry, having been forced to make use of one recently.

Until I was twelve years old and we moved to Kansas City, my family didn't have running water in the house. There was no kitchen sink, no bathtub, and no commode.

Toni wondered why the old outhouses were equipped with two holes: Well, I can tell you that many good conversations were held in the "toilet", as we called it. My mom bought toilet paper as far back as I can remember, but I had aunts and uncles who considered that a waste of money: so they kept expired catalogs and magazines in the outhouse to use as toilet paper. The pages of these were slick and not very absorbent, but if you took a page and wadded it up tight, then stretched it back out to size, it was a little softer and more effective for the intended purpose.

Anyway. I recall sitting in an outhouse on one of the holes while a cousin sat on the other: we were looking at what was left of a year-old Montgomery-Ward catalog , discussing the dress styles therein.

Once a friend came home with me after church; rather than sit on the hole in the outhouse, she actually stood over the hole and then squatted, so she wouldn't be sitting on that wood where everyone else had sat! That seemed strange to me, and I considered her a little "uppity" after that. She was originally from Tennessee, and I remember wondering if that was how all southerners used the toilet.

As Toni mentioned, outhouses do have a certain "stench". Let's face it, anywhere poop is piled up, it's going to smell bad. However, most folks kept a bag of lime handy in the corner; sprinkling this on the waste below really helped a lot with the odor. After my mom was done mopping floors in the house, she usually took her bucket of mop-water to the toilet, freshening it up with a little extra Stanley Germ-trol (similar to Pine-sol) in the water for good measure. Mother was big on Stanley home products. (But I'll save the Stanley-party memories for another post.)

This is Skinner school in Iowa, the first school I attended. I remember that the toilet was just to the right of where those kids are standing. I thought the accommodations at school were really fancy, because there was one outhouse for boys and one for girls!

If you think outhouses are gross, there's another aspect to remember: The old chamber pot under the bed! Yes, when the weather was bad and I awoke in the night having to "go", there was a covered enamel pot to use. Mother had the pleasure of emptying this in the morning, and washing it out. I believe there was one in my parents' room, too. (I swiped this image from Ebay, where people are actually bidding on these relics!)

When we moved to Kansas City to a tiny three-room apartment, I felt we were in the lap of luxury: there was cold running water in the kitchen, and a bathroom downstairs that we shared with another family. No more having to go outside on cold or rainy nights when nature called!

Ah, the good old days.

And while we're on the subject, here's a gross and disgusting, but pretty darned funny, website about POOP. Appropriately, the URL is


BarnGoddess said...

before we put indoor plumbing in at deer camp we used an outhouse, talk about COLD!!! brrrrr

This was a good and informative post.

Astaryth said...

I remember the summer my grandparents added the little room to the back of their house and it became the bathroom! We helped Grindad lay the foundation, but had to go home (we usually spent several weeks every summer)before the bathroom was finished and didn't get to enjoy its 'comforts' until Christmas time. My parents always had houses that had bathrooms when I was little, but I remember other 'firsts' at my grandparents... for instance when they got 'city' water and stopped using the old water pump out the back yard. That was actually sad/happy time as the water out of the well was always ice cold and tasted sooooo good. Especially to a city kid who thought it was cool to drink out of the little cup on the long handle! But, it did mean that my grandparents got a hot water heater AND the aforementioned new room with all the facilities!

toni in the midst said...

Ah, the good old days. I loved this post, Donna. In my post, I mentioned that my husband's grandmother's outhouse was no longer, uh hem, in service. However, she didn't get running water until the late 70's. Dh recalls taking baths in the creek across from her house, using Ivory soap because it doesn't sink.

She (grandma) raised 13 kids in a 3br TINY house, so I'm certain the two holer served its purpose. And there were Sears magazine pages on the walls in there. Now I know why, lol.

And the poop website...bahahahaha!

toni in the midst said...

Oh, and I forgot to add that while my grandparents always had indoor plumbing (in my time, that is), my maternal grandparents still had the outhouse out back. They used it for a shed.

Puteri said...

Ahhh ... I enjoyed this post! :-) Reminds me I should write about using the chamber pot, the asian version of the chamber pot.

Thanks for dropping by my blog. It has been a while since I really went blog hopping. :-)

toni in the midst said...

I nominated you for a FABULOUS award. Stop by.

Ann said...

What an interesting post. My grandmother lived to be 93 and died in 1975. The only time she had an inside toilet was when she stayed with her kids. We visited her and stayed in the summer. I didn't like the "outside" toilet so I usually chose the chamber pot! Memories!