No, we’re not kidding!
Outhouses were, after all, very much a part of the American West. Actually, to be more succinct, they’re part of all history. However, these old structures, in all their glory, are quickly becoming extinct. We just couldn’t help but add a little something about these important Western Icons! ‘Sides, we took a whole bunch of pictures of these “necessaries,” which were also referred to as privies, toilets, loos, thrones, and crappers.
While doing a little traveling around the Web World, we were surprised to find there are apparently a whole lot of people who like to read and/or write about Outhouses. We found outhouse tours, outhouse jokes, outhouse races, outhouse books, and lots of outhouse pictures! Hmm, perhaps we’re not so impaired. We’ll let you decide as you check out the Outhouse Links.
“To Westerners, the outhouse had always seemed a fitting memorial to the ingenuity and practicality of their founders, those restless, imaginative spirits who first caught the scent of opportunity in the Western breeze.” — Silver Donald Cameron, Outhouses of the West
Outhouse Facts & Trivia
Outhouses With Two Holes: No, these old vintage structures weren’t usually doing double duty. Rather, most contained two holes of different sizes – one for adults and one for children. Don’t think those kids wanted to sit on the bigger hole and risk the consequences. However, that being said, some large families would have multiple holes for use at the same time. In Montana, there was once a hotel that had an outhouse with 12 seats.
Crescent Moon: According to many, the crescent moon cutout and the star cutout on the door of many outhouses go back to Colonial times. In a time when few people could read, the crescent moon was the symbol for women while the star cutout was for men. The cutout also let light into the outhouse as there were usually no windows. However, that is probably false, as there appears to be no evidence of the crescent moon cut out before 1900. (updated 6/2020)
Outhouse Builders: During Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration – the WPA – there were teams of outhouse builders who built most of the outhouses in rural areas.
Toilet Paper: Considered a luxury by most rural families, newspaper or pages from old catalogs was more often used.
Average Outhouse: Usually they were 3 to 4 feet square by 7 feet high with no window, heat, or electric light. Due to the odor, most were built between 50 and 150 feet from the main house, often facing away from the house. So that didn’t have to smell the unpleasant odor, many people left the door open while they were using it. Old-timers will admit that they had trouble breaking this habit with the invention of indoor bathrooms.
Two Story Outhouses: How in the heck did that work? Well, the upstairs facilities were situated a little further back so that the “materials” released from the second floor would fall behind the wall of the first floor. There are a few of these old relics still around. The one below was built next to a large store in Gays, Illinois. The store has long since been torn down, but thanks to those fine citizens of Gays, the “skys-crapper” was preserved.
Thomas Crapper: It is a myth that Thomas Crapper invented the toilet. Though the man held several patents for plumbing related products, he did not invent the water closet.
Interesting Outhouse Links
Architecture of Outhouses and the Smallest Room
There was once a country boy who hated using the outhouse because it was hot in the summer and freezing in the winter…plus it stank all the time. The outhouse was situated on the bank of a creek and the boy determined that one day he would push that outhouse into the creek.
So one day after a spring rain the creek was swollen so the little boy decided today was the day to push the outhouse into the creek. He got a large stick and started pushing. Finally, the outhouse toppled into the creek and floated away.
That night his dad told him they were going to the woodshed after supper. Knowing this meant a spanking, the little boy asked why. The dad replied, “Someone pushed the outhouse into the creek today. It was you, wasn’t it, son?”
The boy answered yes. Then he thought a moment and said, “Dad, I read in school today that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and didn’t get into trouble because he told the truth.”
The dad replied, “Well, son, George Washington’s father wasn’t in that cherry tree.”
A woman living in a rural area wanted to have an outhouse that wouldn’t stink. She advertised it in the local papers for a contractor that could build such a structure.
After some time, a contractor applied for the job and guaranteed that the outhouse would not have any odor. He got the job.
Sometime after completing the construction, the man got a frantic call from the woman, “You’d better get here fast! That outhouse has a terrible smell!”
He rushed over, went to the outhouse, poked his head through the door and exclaimed,
“No wonder it stinks! You pooped in it!”
Ma was in the kitchen fiddling around when she hollers out…. “Pa! You need to go out and fix the outhouse!”
Pa replies, “There ain’t nuthin wrong with the outhouse.”
Ma yells back, “Yes there is, now git out there and fix it.”
So……Pa mosies out to the outhouse, looks around and yells back, “Ma! There ain’t nuthin wrong with the outhouse!”
Ma replies, “Stick yur head in the hole!”
Pa yells back, “I ain’t stickin my head in that hole!”
Ma says, “Ya have to stick yur head in the hole to see what to fix.”
So with that, Pa sticks his head in the hole, looks around and yells back, “Ma! There ain’t nuthin wrong with this outhouse!”
Ma hollers back, “Now take your head out of the hole!”
Pa proceeds to pull his head out of the hole, then starts yelling, “Ma! Help! My beard is stuck in the cracks in the toilet seat!”
To which Ma replies, “Hurt’s, don’t it ?!”
Two rednecks, Hank and Jenny Sue went for a walk in the countryside. After a while, Hank had to answer a call of nature. Spying an outhouse, he excused himself.
Jenny Sue waited for Hank…and waited, and waited. Finally, she looked inside and saw Hank stirring around in the outhouse muck with a stick. “Hank, what the hell are you doing, stirring in the shit?” she yells.
“I dropped my jacket down the hole, ” he complains. “It’s the one my momma gave me.”
Jenny Sue shakes her head. “You’re crazy … you’re not gonna wear that thing now, are you?”
“Hell no, ” Hank assures her, “but there’s a baloney sandwich in one of the pockets!”
THE OUTHOUSE POEM
The service station trade was slow
The owner sat around,
With sharpened knife and cedar stick
Piled shavings on the ground.
No modern facilities had they,
The log across the rill
Led to a shack, marked His and Hers
That sat against the hill.
“Where is the ladies restroom, sir?”
The owner leaning back,
Said not a word but whittled on,
And nodded toward the shack.
With quickened step she entered there
But only stayed a minute,
Until she screamed, just like a snake
Or spider might be in it.
With startled look and beet red face
She bounded through the door,
And headed quickly for the car
Just like three gals before.
She missed the foot log – jumped the stream
The owner gave a shout,
As her silk stockings, down at her knees
Caught on a sassafras sprout.
She tripped and fell – got up, and then
In obvious disgust,
Ran to the car, stepped on the gas,
And faded in the dust.
Of course we all desired to know
What made the gals all do
The things they did, and then we found
The whittling owner knew.
A speaking system he’d devised
To make the thing complete,
He tied a speaker on the wall
Beneath the toilet seat.
He’d wait until the gals got set
And then the devilish tike,
Would stop his whittling long enough,
To speak into the mike.
And as she sat, a voice below
Struck terror, fright and fear,
“Will you please use the other hole,
We’re painting under here!”
Offbeat Roadside Attractions, Trivia, & More