Anybody old enough to remember priveys...

…let alone use them?

I grew up during the Great Depression, and my parents were divorced when I was about three years old. So, my mom did the best she could, always moving about.

She kept a record of all the places we lived from the time I was three years old. In the 15 years between then and when I became 18 and went into the army, we lived in 32 different places. From NYC to other New England states to L.A., Long Beach and a ranch out ijn Victorville’s desert. Then by bus back to VT, etc. Lived in every borough of NYC except Staten Island.

Always rentals of one kind or another. In three places i lived instead of a bathroom, we used an outdoor privy (outhouse, wooden structure with holes for where you sat). Usually had a Montgomery Ward catalog to use pages instead of toilet paper.

The common description for the size was a two-holer or a three-holer. Perhaps wealthy people had a four-holer

One of these was in Vermont, one in Victorville, CA and the other in a small town in upstate New York.

They were pretty smelly and we did sprinkle lime down the holes now and then, for whatever good that mght have been.

My favorite was the one in VT that we had to walk through a shed attached to the house, an attached barn, and there was a three-holer attached to the barn. It hung out over a brook in back, so all the, er, material, dropped right into the water. With a splash.

I thought that was way cool. Literally. Cold as could be in the winter, so I learned to do my business as quickly as possible.

I shudder to think of the sanitary condition of that brook.


Anybody ever use one of these?

My Grandfather’s house had one. I was very young and scared to death of it. My Daddy was stung on the butt, by a wasp, one time when we visited. I refused to go near it. My big brother had to walk me across the road to an Aunts house if I had to go. She had a indoor bathroom.

At my Grans place, but it weren’t called a privey. She also had no running water, we fetched it from the pump, and the only heat was the wood stove she cooked on in the main room.

My mom grew up in a Cleveland suburb in the 50s and 60s. One of the houses her family lived in (with FIVE girls!) had an outhouse as their only bathroom. Wowza.

Pretty sure they had proper toilet paper tho.

The second house I lived in as a young child was not hooked up to the town water system, so my father had a tank on his truck and filled a cistern at our house regularly. We had a working outhouse in the back, as did all of our neighbours. We had a pail in the house with a toilet seat on it that was emptied in the outhouse regularly. We got indoor plumbing fairly quickly, but yes, I do remember life without a flushing toilet.

I also recall that a popular Halloween prank was to move someone’s outhouse back so they would fall in the hole in the dark. :smiley:

This house also had one bathroom for seven people. Goddamn, talking about it now, it’s like I was raised by wolves!

Not me, but my Grandma. She was born in 1914 and told me a story not long before she died in 2013 about growing up on a houseboat along the shores of Bayonne NJ. Her father was a fisherman and they lived on a houseboat. They had some kind of homemade “privet” which was described as a piece of wood with a hole in that was rigged to be held up above the water, or ice, depending on the season. (Hudson River? Kill Van Kull? Newark Bay? Not sure what waterway.)

I did a little math and realized that she must have lived there during the construction of the Bayonne Bridge. I think that’s pretty neat.

Only time I’ve ever used one was summers in Alaska, where my cousin had a hunting cabin over on Point MacKenzie. Miles and miles from nowhere, but at least it had a 2-holer around the back. When the bears hadn’t torn it up, that is.

Modern TP, though.

I’ve never lived in (nor even visited) a home that didn’t have indoor plumbing. But, I’ve been to a number of national and state parks where the toilet facilities were permanent outhouses, as well as using porta-potties many times (at concerts, at running events, etc.) Plus, I spent my summer weekends during the 1990s working at a renaissance faire, at which porta-potties were the norm.

I echo kenobi’s statement entirely (ETA: except about the ren fair part), except that I have stayed at one house that had indoor plumbing but it was a vacation home and we were staying there for such a short time my family didn’t bother to turn the plumbing back on, so we did our business on the hillside outdoors.

We had one in the second house we lived in but never used it. When we finally got around to tearing it down, we found many old whisky bottles in the hole.

When my family first vacationed, we stayed at a place on the lake that had two cottages. One (the “big” cottage) had standard indoor running, hot water and plumbing, but the other (the “little” cottage) had only an outhouse and for water, a hand pump in the kitchen mounted over the sink. Hot water required putting a pot on the stove.

My mom thought we should pay the higher rent for the big cottage, but some family friends that vacationed at the same time thought it would be a good learning experience for their kids to put up with the little cottage and save some on the rent. I hope they learned their lesson.

My mom used to tell about her family’s vacations a generation earlier, where they had an outhouse. She said the seats were often rough to sit upon, for the porcupines would chew on them to get salt. When the family built their permanent vacation home, they decided an indoor bathroom was a great idea, so they put one in. One, for a family of 5 plus guests.

I used privies several times back in my Scouting days - not ideal, but the only option in some of the more remote camps. I also saw, growing up, ramshackle old privies in a nearby, very small Ohio town. Not sure if anyone used them anymore, or if they were abandoned and just hadn’t been torn down, or fallen down, yet.

What is it with wasps and outhouses??? Always have to be on the lookout.

One set of grandparents had no indoor plumbing except for one cold water tap in the kitchen when I was little. So outhouse only. And baths were in a galvanized tub with hot water off the stove. Outside on the porch at night in the summer. In the kitchen in the winter.

In the mid 60s they got a real bathroom.

All the farm families kept their outhouse since it was easier to use when out working. No need to kick off boots or anything.

Also used them when working picking berries as a kid and even today when camping. Some rest areas in the Western US still have them.

I thought the OP was just talking about the old wooden home outhouses. I’ve used the ones like at roadside parks and campgounds quite often. The only old wooden one I ever remember actually using was at some little old gas station in central South Dakota when we were on the way home from college.

Well, of course, it was commonly referred to as a s___house.

Exactly the same for me as far as water. The outdoor pumps took a lot of pumping unless you primed them with water. In winter, we had to keep a big pot on the wood burning range so had hot water to prime the pump in the morning to thaw it out.

The really fancy houses had a pump right in the kitchen over the sink. That was a luxury. :slight_smile:

The chore I hated most when I got older was having to split wood every day or so and carry it in to keep the stove going. However, it did make me stronger. If we were lucky, we could “bank” the stove so it kept burning slowly all night, closing the damper part way, raking ashes over the coals and i forget what else.

The house my mother grew up in, which my grandparents continued to live in until I was in my 20s, had an outhouse in the back yard. There was a cistern hooked up to the houseand two bathrooms, but in warm weather grandpa made everyone use the outhouse to conserve water.

The house my MIL grew up in didn’t have indoor plumbing until 1969, long after my MIL had left for college.

For anyone who wants the experience, there’s a used bookstore called the Birch Bark Bookshop about five miles south of Potsdam, NY. (It’s a really nice bookstore but that’s not the point here.)

It’s on a back road. The owner lives in his house which is adjacent to the store. But the store itself is in a large repurposed barn, which has no heat or water connections. So if you feel the need to go while you’re browsing, you’ll be directed to the outhouse in back of the store.

My mum bought a house in 1965 in a small country town. And that part of the town didn’t have a sewerage system, nor did our house have a septic tank.

So we had a ‘dunny-can’ in the outhouse in the backyard, that was collected once a week and replaced with a fresh can. I hated it with a passion, and was always embarrassed when friends came to play.

We moved in 1971 to the big city and I was overjoyed it had a flushing toilet.


Both my grandfather and an uncle on my dad’s side had no indoor plumbing until the late 1960’s. Oddly enough, they lived about 40 miles from each other, so it wasn’t just a locality thing. I remember when visiting them having to use the outhouse during the day and the “slop jar” (a covered pot kept under each bed) at night.