Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Sour Grapes" - Story from Abraham Lincoln

Back in the War Years, there were only a handful of homes with inside toilets in Gordon. The rest of us had outside toilets variously referred to as, “privy” and “outhouse.”

The outside toilet was always a kind of dirty place. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. You could look through the seat hole and see maggots enjoying a meal and if you looked carefully you could also see a lot of big spiders under the seat just setting there on their webs around where you sat.

Men usually peed in the toilet and often used one hole for that purpose. They did it to avoid having to keep the surface clean as it was always splattered with urine. So the hole next to that was about 18 inches away and it was clean and was where you sat to “poo_” (as we called it).

Either hanging on a nail, with a piece of twine, or left on the seat opposite the pee hole was an old Sears or Roebuck catalog. The catalog was the toilet paper we used. It was about as good as it got in those days.

Sometimes people tried to use the “slick” or shiny paper in the catalog but it was not as good as the matte paper. If the catalog was about out of matte pages then people would choose a slick page and wrinkle it up in a ball to make it suitable for toilet paper and if you didn't do that then it was useless.

We never had toilet paper in the outside toilet. I guess mom couldn't afford it and my dad was dead set against it. The stores in town sold toilet paper but very few people bought it. My dad used to say you might just as well “wipe your a_ _ on a dollar bill and throw it in the toilet if you are going to start paying good money for toilet paper.”

Now and then people would put a can in the sack of lime setting in the corner of the toilet and dip out a can full and sprinkle it through the hole. This was a kind of perfume and masked the odors and also sped up the process of turning the stuff into liquid that melted into the ground.

If the toilet pit was cement then the liquid could not soak in the ground. Then you had to depend on “toilet cleaners” who came around and dipped the muck out. Boy that was very smelly and stunk up the whole neighborhood but it had to be done.

Chess Schultz, in Greenville, for a time, came to Gordon and cleaned toilets. In the beginning he had a tick with a can on the end and dipped it. What a stink that raised. The last time he did our outside toilet he had a new pump that sucked the stuff up. Less smell and a lot quicker.

My dad and mom were divorced when I was young and my dad lived for a time in John Hane’s tobacco barn strip shed. When he got enough money saved he bought a house on Main Street and it had an outhouse.

I always thought it was interesting that everyone walking up the alley would stop and eat some of his Concord grapes from the vine that grew beside the toilet.

That grape vine flourished as its roots were in the toilet pit. I wonder if the people knew or cared where the vines roots were getting nourishment from? It never bothered me and I ate a lot of those grapes.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I'm about your age, There were always Hollyhocks growing around almost all the Outhouses in Bradford when I was growing up, now my wife can't grow hollyhocks to save her life, guess we need an outhouse!


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