Memories of the outhouse.
You again sent me scurrying down memory lane (or path) with Leonard Lee Rue's article on outhouses (Farm Collector, May 2014). It took me back to the days I spent on my grandfather Johnson's farm in Illinois. One night a tornado hit the area. The next morning the outhouse (we called it the "Aunt Mary's") was gone. We found it on the other side of the cherry tree. Afterward they decided it was time to make some upgrades. They would never call in "honey dippers," but would dig a new pit.
We never had corncobs or Sears catalogs in there. The milk inspectors would not have allowed them on a dairy farm. And yes, they did inspect the outhouse.
There were three holes with hinged covers. The multiplicity of holes was not to encourage social activity but to distribute the load in the pit. One of the holes was for small children. It had a step at the floor to aid access.
The door always swung out, not in. My grandfather found this out when the milk processor shut him down until the problem was corrected. They apparently believed that if it swung out, fewer flying insects would enter. Others said it was one of their ways to renege on milk contracts when there was a surplus.
I also heard stories about kids throwing a live chicken down one of the holes. I don't know how the adults got the chicken out. Of course, we kids never did anything like that. We preferred to turn a chicken loose in the kitchen and watch Grandma Johnson chase it out with a broom. Such antics were often inspired by some adults in the family. Once, to our delight, Uncle Amos brought a pony into the house.
After World War II, the outhouse moved indoors; septic tanks and leach beds became new problems.
About 50 years ago when we were in Ohio, we moved from the city to the country. A nearby farm had a genuine brick outhouse. When they sold the place, I almost bid on the outhouse but was afraid that moving it would be too much of a logistics problem. I had to settle for smaller farm collectibles.
A. Clyde Eide, Bryan, Texas