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Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 097: Outdoor toilets

It's Just Me Again No. 097: His early home in Wymore, NE, had a beautiful indoor bathroom with one problem: the disposal system was too slow for a family of five, necessitating a familiar outbulding for the 'Hinman men.' And, of course, this coarse subject brings to mind another male practice of the era, putting outhouses on top of other buildings, as some unknown miscreants did, leaving behind a standing mystery about who put one of the structures on top of the Liberty School Building that Halloween night.
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 325: Chan Bush: Chat Room Friend

By Chuck Hinman

Just to say the words "outdoor toilet" or "the privy" brings a wry smile to the faces of oldsters. All of us with rural backgrounds can cone up with a humorous story or two about that subject. What is yours?


In writing my memories, I have started to write on the subject and then deleted what I had written concluding what I had written was insensitive to most tastes.

But going to the toilet is a fact of life. Outdoor toilets are a part of my early life on the farm near Wymore, Nebraska. I will try to be discreet yet honest in writing on this subject again.

Our home was new, large, and had all the bells and whistles including an inside bathroom. It was beautiful with a footed bath tub, central heat, and the works. The walls were faux tile. No one had anything better.

With all this finery, there was a problem. The septic system didn't function fast enough for a family of five. As a result, sewage frequently backed up in the basement. The solution to that vexing problem was to pump out the cesspool frequently into a nearby field. Any one knows that isn't the way a bathroom is supposed to work, especially a nice one.

Dad discovered that if less use was placed on the system it would operate without incessant pumping.

So, rather than biting the bullet and building a new septic system, a much cheaper solution was to build an outdoor toilet for the use of the "Hinman men." Except for Saturday night baths this state of the art bathroom was off limits to the men of our family.

So now what is there to say about an outdoor toilet that makes the users smile and shake their head as they remember the "good old days."

For one thing, toilet paper was on the market. It was used in the indoor toilet but the outdated Monkey Wards and Sears catalogs were the choice in the outdoor toilets -- the women's lingerie section providing lurid viewing for healthy farm boys.

Of course, there was no daily maintenance of the outdoor facility like the indoor. The decor would not have been so primitive if the outdoor toilet had been co-ed.

For example, when we visited Uncle Bert's and Aunt Maggie's place on Sundays in Washington, Kansas, their outdoor toilet featured toilet paper and crocheted seat covers. The magazine rack contained current issues of National Geographic and the Atlantic Monthly. There were no catalogs -- just pure class!

And no dissertation on the subject would be complete without someone recalling the Halloween prank of overturning the privy of someone you didn't like. The blue ribbon, of course, went to the one who told of turning a toilet over with someone inside and watching them escape!

Of course the all time unsolved mystery in Liberty, Nebraska, is WHO put the outdoor toilet on top the two story Liberty school building and HOW in the world did they do it?

Mark it down, I wasn't involved!

- Chuck Hinman, emailed September 16, 2008


This story was posted on 2012-04-29 03:39:08
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