More Outhouse Memories
A privy in need of a license plate
The outhouse stories in previous issues made me chuckle. I was born in East Marion, Long Island, New York (winter population 300) in 1943. We lived in the village and had a two-seat privy which was only used when the power went out, during hurricanes and blizzards. We had indoor plumbing for cold water only. Hot water was by kitchen stove (two full pails for a bath).
In the mid-1950s, we moved 1/2-mile west – and the outhouse came with us. My father thought it was part of his estate, so he moved it.
After university in 1967, I lived in Riverhead, New York, 25 miles west. The privy was moved from mom’s house in East Marion to my home in Riverhead.
In 1996 we sold our house and moved into grandpa’s house in the same town. The outhouse came with us.
Then we retired and moved to Eastville, Virginia, on the Eastern Shore and, yep, the privy came also.
As an obsessed tractor collector, I owned a Jer-Dan tow truck. The outhouse came to Virginia 450 miles away on my tow truck via the Long Island Expressway (also known as the longest parking lot in the country) then the Cross Bronx Expressway and the New Jersey Turnpike. The looks that we got ranged from “what is that thing” to “is this for real?” I wonder how many privies ever went through New York City.
Anyway, my outhouse is still with us and sits amongst my 120 tractors, and the family loves it.
Garrison Brown, Eastville, Virginia
It’s all fun and games, until …
I got a laugh out of the two stories about outhouses. A couple of quick ones from my youth:
My father was a World War II veteran. During training, he was sent to (I believe) Camp Campbell in Kentucky. He was not in the tank corps, but he became friendly with some of them and talked his way into going along on some tank maneuvers.
They were out in the field in a Sherman tank and he was having a great time. He drove and helped with the gun. When he was given a chance to fire the gun, they were in the middle of nowhere, yet an outhouse was a couple of hundred yards ahead. He said it was great sport using the .50-caliber training gun, walking the rounds up to the outhouse and hitting the trigger for the .75mm gun.
Needless to say, the outhouse evaporated in a cloud. When they returned, he was summoned to the colonel’s office. After being chewed up one side and down the other, the colonel asked him how he’d have felt if he was in there utilizing the facilities and gotten blown up! I never asked him if, in the cloud of dust, there were pages of the Sears & Roebuck catalogue flying about.
The second story involved an outhouse in a small settlement on one of the barrier beaches near Cape Cod. We would pack our fishing gear and a picnic and my father would take us in the jeep out on the sand for the day.
In the small settlement of a few houses that we would pass was an outhouse built out of four old doors. The doors were wide enough that it would have been of reasonable size for usage. The running family joke was if you were a visitor to the house, would the owner have told you which door was the one that opened, this being important information if you were caught short. We also wondered if, now and again, the owner would rotate the house as a practical joke to confuse others.
Thank you so much for the stories and information you provide.
Tom Sullivan, Braintree, Massachusetts
Happily ever after
When my bride and I moved into the Sears & Roebuck American four-square home my grandparents built for $2,000, she announced that she would not have an outhouse in “her” backyard. I personally thought it was a good place for garden tools and a reel mower and could come in handy sometimes.
So we loaded the outhouse on a flat hay wagon and delivered it to a neighbor with six kids and a rotten one. We backfilled our hole with rocks and field dirt, planted bluegrass and stomped it down good. We put in a modern septic system and all was well, or so we thought.
Come a spring freshet and we had water in the basement. Black water; stinky water. I had neglected to cap off the terra cotta pipe leading to the abandoned pit. We are still married 60 years later.
Robert L. Frey, Phillipsburg, New Jersey
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