Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Little House Out Back

While visiting relatives in Indiana this past April we were out in the yard admiring all the flowers coming into bloom and I had been taking some pictures when I glanced over into the neighbor's backyard. I quickly did a double take and disgreetly took a picture. A different kind of yard art wouldn't you say. As disgusting to some as it may be outhouses dotted the American landscape for years. In many places it was well up into the 1960's before water and sewer service reached many places in rural America. I can remember sitting in a school assembly (there were two - one for girls, one for boys) and our guidance counselor discussing hygiene and mentioning the fact that she knew many didn't have indoor bathrooms and the need for cleanliness. I never forgot it.
At first glance one might believe the image above was taken years ago. The fence, the outhouse, and the train track out back could well depict a slice of long ago America. The only thing that spoils it is the markedly modern two-story house in the background.
Not many of these old structures are still standing. Did I just hear a collective sigh of relief? On August 29, 2007, the highest outhouse in the continental United States — which sat atop Mount Whitney at about 4,418 meters (14,494 feet) above sea level, offering a magnificent panorama to the user — was removed.
However, in 2007, Europe's highest outhouses (two) were helicoptered to the top of France's Mont Blanc at a height of 4,260 meters (13,976 feet). The dunny-cans as they are called are emptied by helicopter. (I'm not sure how that works and I'm not sure I want to know.) The facilities will service 30,000 skiers and hikers annually.
The old structure in the picture above has been standing in the same place since I was a child. It sits on the grounds of a country church. The church has all the amenities of modern day conveniences in the basement so its hard to say why the old outhouse was never torn down.
This one sits beside an abandoned country store that served customers during the 50's and 60's.
We can all be thankful for modern amenities!
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20 comments:

Thom said...

Your posts are always so informative and so full of life no matter what your subject is. This is just wonderful. Aloha my friend :)

Vita Stunder said...

Great informative post and lovley sepia too! :)

Happy Sepia Scenes!

James said...

Very nice sepia picture. Nice to here Donovan too.

quilly said...

I know of a couple of homes in rural Montana that still use outhouses to this day!

I absolutely love coming to your blog. I am always entertained and often educated as well.

ewok1993 said...

I learn something today. Thanks. Nice sepia.

Paz said...

Had to use an outhouse years ago when I was little and went to visit my grandfather. Didn't like the outhouse experience. ;-) Yes, thank God for modern amenities. Love the photos, though. Great shots. ;-)

Ralph said...

The sepia building looks classical and the monotone works well with the washed out board siding. I wonder about the lack of a half-moon on the door. We modern dwellers do have it much softer, I wouldn't want to have to trudge through the snow on a winter's day...

Rose said...

Wonderful post, Carletta. Seen this earlier but had Lorelei so couldn't type. (She is not fond of sitting at the computer with me for even a minute most of the time.)

Karen ~Georgia Angel said...

Great photo! And very interesting history. Thanks for sharing.

Robin said...

Ah yes, the little house behind the little house...

When I was growing up we used to spend each Fourth of July visiting friends whose lakehouse still had an outhouse. The other day I tried a different bathroom spray and suddenly thought of those outhouses. It's been decades since I was there, but I guess they used some kind of air freshener with a similar scent. Funny what sticks with you...

Patti said...

Yep, I enjoy indoor plumbing. No doubt about it.
Great post with lots of info. I was startled to suddenly hear Donovan!

P.S. I'm glad I could bring back some "clown" memories for you, Carletta.

Tricia said...

A great subject for an old time sepia shot - long ago!

Nessa said...

We grew up with outhouses. i love them. We have a modern outhouse in our backyard.

Twisted Fencepost said...

Love these pictures, Carletta. I have been thinking about building one to serve as a garden implement shed. Maybe a double one. One with the quarter moon and one with a full moon on the door. I'd like to get some old wood to build it with.

Craver Vii said...

Modern plumbing is the number one reason I am sooooo glad to have been born in this age, rather than former times.

kaye said...

great shots of the old commode, enjoyed your narrative as well.

Bird said...

I think sometimes it's good to be reminded of the past and how we used to live - maybe the outhouse was left there deliberately? There are so many things we take for granted - like plumbing - which are kind of like luxuries when you think of what we had a couple of generations ago. It's really fascinating.

In the UK which is pretty small, plumbing reached most people in the last century but indoor bathrooms did not. So we too had outhouses right up until the 1960's, although they were plumbed in ones. They are incredibly rare now and those that survive are considered antiques! A friend lives in a house with an intact outdoor toilet and it has a really ornate bowl, with pretty flower designs on the side :) I still wouldn't fancy having to use it on a cold winter night...

Rita said...

I was in high school before we got our indoor plumbing (1962). Even with the indoor "water closet" available, the privy continued in use until we moved to the city many years later. The continued use of outhouses was common because many homes main water source was a cistern, so water conservation was a must. I have 12 siblings. Often, the lone toilet was in use and, thank goodness, we still had the other, more familiar little house available when we needed it.

These comfort stations are still very much in use in our society today. In fact I still know families today who only use their indoor facilities in bad weather or at night to conserve water.

And what about those porta-potties that are just everywhere these days. They are just the modern update to the privy. On the same level with the connivence of cell phones versus carrying around a 1900's style telephone.

George said...

i remember visiting my grandparents in southern Indiana. They never did get the indoor conveniences. Thanks for the memories.

Janet, said...

More people than not had outhouses when I was growing up in the 1960s. My grandma, who died in 1984, never had indoor plumbing. Our country church just had a bathroom added to the building, the outhouses are still there.