Outhouses -- 12/20/06

This entry was inspired by Nance of Disfunction Junction who asked earlier this week "Does anybody know why some out-houses were made with two seats?"

Well, duh, so two people could use it at the same time.

When I was a kid we sometimes went swimming at Spring Lake, just outside of Kingston, NY. There was a sand beach, a wooden dock (Charlie, isn't that the dock I threw you off? I certainly remember being tossed into the lake from that dock when my swimming proficiency was barely at the dog-paddle stage and I've always thought that was where I, uh, "helped" you learn to swim.), some kind of snack bar... and the facilities included two outhouses on a hillside overlooking the lake. One for men and one for women. The men's outhouse, if I recall correctly, was a three-holer.

There was another place I remember with outhouses -- except I can't remember the name of the place (Hey, Charlie -- some place we used to go with Tommy Quinn and Charlie Shoemaker, somewhere between Kingston and Saugerties and Woodstock, kind of way off in the boondocks -- do you remember it?) It was a gas station and general store and restaurant. We went there because it was in an area where there were a number of rustic summer cottages and this was where the teenage girls from those vacationing families would go to be able to feed coins to a jukebox and hang out. You could order a hamburger in the restaurant, step into the general store and buy a bottle of beer and then come back into the restaurant and drink it with your hamburger (which was, I am sure, a violation of various state alcoholic beverage rules, but country folk don't worry much about bureaucratic rules and regulations). The restroom facilities were about thirty feet behind the restaurant... two outhouses.

And, of course, our family also had an outhouse.

No, not at our house. We lived in the city of Kingston and had indoor plumbing. Of course in those days everyone had just one of everything -- one telephone, one automobile, one television (once we got television, that is -- before that it was one radio), and one bathroom. I would have been astounded as a child to think that one day I would live in a house with two and a half bathrooms -- not to mention four televisions, four automobiles, and more telephones than people (also more computers than people).

Sometime in the 1950s our parents bought some land off "in the country" -- a few miles outside of Kingston, in a hilly, out-of-the-way area, up a hill and down a dirt road, three acres of woods. The plan was that someday they would build a house there for their retirement.

There was an old abandoned house on the property, a dilapidated 19th century wood building, unlived in for decades. (We tore it down and were surprised that it took some effort to do that; to look at it you would have thought a good push would have knocked it over.) We would drive up there on summer Sunday afternoons, clear away brush and weeds, and have a picnic lunch. Sometimes we would pitch a tent and spend a night there.

My father built an outhouse.

Then -- in 1958 and '59 -- he built a one room cabin.

This was not a rustic shack. It had a solid foundation of fieldstone and a huge fieldstone fireplace and chimney. (Dad taught himself how to build with that stone and when he finished that chimney was a work of art.) We cannibalized the foundation where the old house had been as well as some old stone walls and I spent many a summer afternoon pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with stone a couple of hundred yards through the woods. (And to this day my left thumb bears the scars of a mishap with a hand saw.)

Once the cabin was completed, my parents would often stay there overnight on summer weekends and my brother and I would stay at home in town (by that time we were teenagers with jobs) and neither of us complained about the freedom that gave us.

Of course that meant that the outhouse continued to be needed. My father's plan had always been that the cabin would be the living room of the house he would build there someday, when he had time... And then, in 1966, my brother had plans to marry (and he and Donna celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year) and our parents sold him our house in town and bought a mobile home (a caravan for those in the UK) and had it positioned in front of the cabin and constructed a hallway connecting them. Have a well drilled, install a septic system, connect the pipes... and, voila! Indoor plumbing!

The outhouse could be demolished.

Bonnie explained that when she said she wanted to see a full front view of our house, she had meant a picture taken at night that showed the lights. Okay Bonnie, here is a night view, except I'm afraid that the electric candles weren't turned on in the front bedrooms, which somewhat lessens the effect.

Blasts from the past -- entries for this date from previous years:
Yes, I'm afraid I skipped yesterday (that makes two missing entries so far this month) but here's a link to a old entry from that date -- December 19, 2004 -- Christmas traditions.

This is my Holidailies entry for December 20
A brief introduction....
A brief introduction to anyone who wanders in here for the first time from the Holidailies site -- I'm a middle-aged (*cough* okay, 63, but I don't look a day over 62 ) guy who lives in Rhode Island with my wife Nancy (a middle-school math teacher), daughter Gillian ("Jill" -- 24 yr old college student), son Jeremy (21 yr old college student), and Tiger (senior citizen cat). Eldest child Adam lives in New York City with his wife Leah and our grandson Sam. I'm a former programmer/systems analyst who got into doing software training and currently works from home doing quality assurance and editing on course material for both classroom courses and Web-based training courses. I've been writing this online journal since 1996. (If you read some of the archived entries, until a couple of years ago I used fake names for the kids -- "Sean" = Jeremy and "Jennifer" = Gillian)

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