Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Backyard Privy

How many of you remember the backyard outhouse of yesteryear? One of the strongest (and I am using that word for a reason!) memories I have of my great-grandparents farm is the outhouse. There is nothing quite like the smell of an outhouse in the middle of summer. But, worse than the smell was the caution given to always look before you sit down because snakes and spiders like to hang around the outhouse. Well, can’t say I am surprised. But snakes? I can’t think of anything that will keep me from going to the bathroom more than the threat of snakes!
I have tried to explain the experience of outhouses to my granddaughters, but the whole subject just “grosses them out”. It may you too, but I think that we wax poetic about the “good ole days” with out remembering some of the aspects that nudged us into improving our lives quite like indoor plumbing. I know there was no way I was ever going to go out to that little house behind the house in the middle of the night, and neither was great grandma. She kept a chamber pot under the bed for just such emergencies.

In romanticizing life in yesteryear, people have begun collecting strange things. I know a woman who is ga-ga over chamber pots, and has quite a collection of them. She even has an oak chamber-pot chair, otherwise known as the “Thunder Throne”. Now, to me that is just gross, and I think they just plain smell bad. It is probably just my imagination, but I think they hold a distinct odor that refinishing can’t seem to dispel.

Tradition has it in that bygone era, whenever a lady went visiting, and needed to use the facilities, because they didn’t want to ask where the outhouse was, they would say they were going to look at your hollyhocks. I’m not sure which came first, but people began growing hollyhocks around their out-house so that people could distinguish easily which out-house was “the” out-house.

I have begun to think how charming an old rustic out-house would look in our backyard. I would love to have one to use as a potting shed, and to further the ambiance and the illusion, I would plant hollyhocks around it. In fact, I could see where having one would be almost like a blank canvas to be filled. I could paint it a wonderfully wild color to mimic a lot of Austinites attempts to “keep it weird” not to mention colorful in their backyards. But, I think I would rather keep it natural, and rustic. I think a part of it is to kind of thumb my nose at our neighborhood association, and do something our neighbors would never do. I may have to adhere to the associations by-laws on acceptable landscaping, but the backyard is mine to be an extension of my personality.

Just as I began to think of this, I saw one for sell in Princeton, Illinois this summer on vacation,. It was a beauty, complete with the half-moon on the door, and the seat had been replaced with a nice bench, that would be great for potting plants. The price was right too--it was $130.00! A small price for pure Americana! But alas, I couldn’t think of a way to get it home--although the vision of it trailing behind our Toyota, made me smile. So, if any of you out there in blog-o-sphere know of anyone around the Austin area in need of “dumping” (pardon the pun) an out-house. Let me know, I would love to take it off their hands!


Nola @ AlamoNorth said...

Oh, I love your spirit, lady! Get out the hammer, nails, and saw, and get to making your own! It would take forever to find one; may be impossible. But you or the mister could make one. My first husband made one for my parents' farm, and it was very simple, nothing fancy, well, I take that back, it was a 2 holer! And he bought the toilet seats at WalMart (easier on the tush), so that's about as upscale as a privy can get. I remember using my grandma's outhouse, too, and that's the part of the "good ole days" I don't think were very good!

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

I may have to Nola (build one). I would love to find an original one if possible. But you may be right about having to build it myself--and that would probably be the extent of my carpentry skills. Just hope that Pepe Le Pew doesn't decide to take up residence. LOL!

Roses and Lilacs said...

What a cute post. I didn't have one as a child, but my best friend's grandparents had one on their farm. And all the parks had them back then too.

Would make a wonderful potting shed. You could put your compost pile right behind. Hollyhocks and morning glories climbing up the sides. Perfect.

Eve said...

Oh, I do remember using one of these at my Grandmother's as a child. She didn't have toilet tissue either. She had the Sears Roebuck catalogue and it sounds every bit as bad as it was. Was toilet tissue unknown then or were my Grandparents just thrifty?

An outhouse would be so cool...maye with a half moon in the door and holly hocks sound so pretty. And of course, morning glories for the mornings and moon flower vine for the night trip. LOL

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Marnie, your right! I hadn't thought about moving the compost pile to behind the outhouse/potting shed, but you are right! A perfect spot! And yes, I would have to have Morning Glories too.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Eve, toilet paper has been around a long time. I will try to do a post today on the history of toilet paper--it's very interesting, and we all have such inquiring minds, we need more useless information (LOL). I think the catalog was more a comment on our ancestors frugal nature. Having lived through the depression, buying toilet paper was wasteful to their way of thinking. My father used to laugh about using corn cobs--ouch!

Of course I would have to have morning glories, and I love your idea for moon flower vine!

beckie said...

So that's whay there were always hollyhocks around the out houses! The things we learn from blogging. I'm wondering too, if it wouldn't be easier to build rather than try to move one. Could be lots of complications invloved. Whichever way you go, I hope you get one and have fun with it.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Beckie, I probably will have to build one (big sigh), but it just won't be the same as an old weathered outhouse.