Archive for Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bathing through the ages

December 7, 2011

­If any room in the house has changed, it is the bathroom. When we were planning to remodel our kitchen, I glanced through some plan books and the once- forgotten and unmentioned room in the house has had a major makeover. Now bathrooms are large, functional and well-decorated.

In days of old, bathrooms had a claw-foot bath tub, a commode and a sink. They were plain and utilitarian, and until the last four decades, there was only one bathroom per house. Now two or more bathrooms are common for homes and are probably necessary due to today’s hectic schedules. Thinking back, I don’t believe I could have existed with one bathroom and a wife and three daughters.

Of course, there was a time when many, if not most, houses didn’t have indoor plumbing and that made bathing a real challenge. Yes, I am one of those who grew up “in a house with a path.” Bathing in the “not-so-good-old days” was a Saturday night ritual for many. We had running water to our house but no hot water heater. This meant heating buckets of water on the stove and dumping it into a galvanized tub. In my case, I always remember listening to the live country music radio show on WIBW.

After the scrubbing, the second half of the bathing problem was that the tub had to be emptied, wiped dry and then taken to the back porch. In the winter, bathing was a cold event and in summer, it was hot. At least we had running water to the house. Jean grew up on a farm and had to carry water from the well. Don’t believe it when someone tells you those were the good-old days.

In my case, since my father was a grade school janitor, I was soon making use of the showers near the gym. In fact, cleanliness was a far different situation in those days. Now, there are many days when I take multiple showers. But back then, a bath or shower was a weekly event. Old-timers remember when you had to take a shower after physical education class. Normally that was required to help improve student hygiene. I cannot imagine riding home on the school bus after playing a football game without a shower like players do today. Of course, we traveled 80 or 90 miles to games and that distance might make a difference.

In the very old days, folks tell me they took a bar of soap and a washcloth and jumped in the creek to wash off. A weekly bath was thought of as good hygiene in those days. Some only bathed and changed clothes once a year, usually in the spring, in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The ancient Romans really loved to bathe and it is suggested that they developed the shower. Sometimes the Romans would bathe a couple of times a day. At Bath, England, you can walk through an ancient Roman bathhouse, and I was surprised at how modern the facility seemed to be. Of course, the bath house was just for the Romans and the elite of society. The commoners were left to make a periodic visit to a nearby stream. Even with the Roman influence, the ancient world had its cleanliness issues.

The revolution in bathroom fixtures started in 1928, when the first colored bathroom fixtures were introduced. In the 1950s, multiple-bath homes were put on the market. Original thinking was that every home needed an indoor bathroom — now all homes must have two at a minimum.

There are many, many designs, fixtures and features available in bathroom design. In fact, bathroom décor is almost as important as the kitchen is now.

If you recall in the old days, the only decoration on a modern, three-station outhouse was a half moon cutout on the door. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to bathrooms, I’ll take the modern version over the good-old days anytime.


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