Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2005

Outhouse memories

December 1, 2005

All homes in Lansing had outhouses until the water lines were installed in the early 1940s.

I can still remember what it was like to go outside in the middle of the night, in cold winter weather to a little house in the back yard.

Some of the diversions were reading the Sears, Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalog and pondering the big black and colorful spiders in the upper corners. You had to work hard to find the softest pages, and some of them were too slippery for good use.

Fancy store-bought toilet paper was available, but in those days it was considered a luxury that we could not afford.

Most outhouses had a cutout of a moon or a star. Early on, the moon was for women and the star was for men. This was mainly for ventilation purposes as well as looks. Schools and churches had two outhouses, one with a star and one with a moon.

At that time, WPA workers built some of the outhouses. Most were two-seaters, and the holes were beveled to make them more comfortable.

We were fortunate in Lansing in that the two schools built in 1923 had indoor bathrooms. The water lines came from the prison, and only the schools and a few houses that belonged to the prison had running water.

Halloween was always fun for teenagers to try to tip them over. My dad made sure that would not happen in our yard. He bolted the outhouse to the garage, which made it too much work to bother with. It was tried on numerous occasions.

Before the original sewer system was installed, houses with indoor plumbing used septic tank systems. It took many years for all the homes to be finally hooked up to the sewer system. All the sewer lines were dug by hand with a shovel, as backhoes were not available then. Also, it was a big-ticket item to get hooked up to the main line.

The next time you use your nice indoor bathroom, think about what it was like to have to go "out back," and count your blessings.

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