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 smellypoop.com.