Anybody old enough to remember priveys...

:smack: Why on earth were you digging around in the hole? :eek:

About 10 years ago my county airport only had outhouses.
Plenty of parks only have vault toilets (though they may have running water)
The facilities at the paddle-in campsites in the St Croix National Scenic Riverway ( are basically an upside down bucket with a hole in the top.
The backcountry campsites in Pukaskwa National Park at least have a door, walls, and a roof
(I’ve stayed at a “dig your own hole” place as well)



FYI, at the camping area half way or so up Mt Whitney in California, they had, back when I climbed it 20 years ago, what I though was a first.

A solar toilet.

They only had to come by helicopter about once a year to clean it out. I still have no idea how it worked.

We used them at girl scout camp in the 70’s and when we were out hiking in eastern KY we frequently encountered farmhouses with outdoor toilets. I remember one girl complaining that her grandparents still used outdoor latrines, their reason being that if God wanted the toilet indoors he would have put it there.

I’ve seen a few small churches in eastern KY that have outhouses. The Bypass Church of God near Salt Lick had a 3 door latrine with the doors reading Ladies, Gentlemen, and Trash.

The only ones I used were at Boy Scout camp, especially summer camp. A four holer IIRC. We played larry baseball, hits being award for the number of plops, and home run for turning over the board which collected a certain amount and then dumped it lower when full. This was mid-60s.
The cabins we used for winter camping had indoor plumbing, at least.

The families of both my parents were farmers and lived very rural. Neither old farmhouse had an indoor bathroom. “Indoor plumbing” in one house consisted of a hand pump installed over the kitchen sink. The other house wasn’t so modern. Paternal grandparents’ hand pump was situated a few steps from the back door (the only door) outside the kitchen/living room/bedroom area, so you had to haul buckets for cooking and bathing.

So yes, we used the outhouses. Spooky, and made spookier by the ghost stories my grandparents loved to tell in their efforts to rattle us. We kids quickly learned to use the loo before sundown. Still hated it. If you absolutely had to go before daybreak, a flashlight was kept handy next to the door. Modern amenities.

It wasn’t till I got older that I wondered why anybody bothered with a two-holer. Not like it’s an activity one shares with others. I finally realized it was so they had to dig fewer sewage holes. When one side filled up, you switched to the other.

Your story reminded me of one about my late mother-in-law.

When she was 65 years old, she took a job as an alcohol counselor in a remote Alaskan village inside the Arctic Circle, I don’t recall which. She related many interesting stories about her time there, but the one I never forgot was how she described the awful outhouse she was forced to use. Through the long, dark winters, nothing composted, just stacked up. One night she went out, sat down and got… poked.

Yuck!!! A reminder to remember which side of the two-holer had already filled up!!

As a kid in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I on occasion visited my great great granduncle and aunt. They only had an outhouse for relief purposes, no indoor plumbing. It was no big deal.

My neighborhood as a kid (where I currently reside also) had dozens of outhouses. Playing outdoors as kids, we’d all just use the nearest outhouse when nature called rather than run home.

While our place was a year-round home and had in actual indoor toilet, many of the surrounding properties were 3 season cottages, and only had outhouses. Heck, our place still had the old outhouse in the back lot, left over from before our house was upgraded to a year-round home. It’s the only outhouse left in our neighborhood now. My dad gave it to our neighbor and cousin, who moved it to his farm field by his equipment shed. This gave our cousin a convenient place to relieve himself rather than walking a quarter mile home when the urge came on.

The neighborhood used to have a few two holers. I’m unaware of any 3 holers, and I never did see a fabled two-story biffy.

Here’s an old thread discussing neighborhood outhouses: Any outhouses in your neighborhood? How many?

At our cottage in Michigan, we didn’t have an outhouse, but the bathroom (toilet, sink and shower) was connected to the house with the well pump between. To go to the bathroom, you had to go outside a few steps past the pump room and into the bathroom. Not great when there were raccoons around.

I remember one coworker saying (about 20 years ago) that her grandfather thought the idea of having a toilet inside the house was the most disgusting thing he’d ever heard of and refused to have a bathroom in his house.


I never have lived in such a home, I was born in 1954. But my mother did, here in town, in the early1940’s. That was just before they were phased out in the city limits.

My grandmother of course lived in places with no indoor bathroom. and she hated it I think, telling me when I was in high school that there were no such things as “the good old days” she loved indoor plumbing, washers and dryers and refrigerators and freezers. And above all, AIR CONDITIONING.

I went to college in Louisiana in 1956, with classmates who never had a flush toilet until they checked into the dorm. I came from a town where, as far as I known, everyone had indoor plumbing, but I visited in homes where there was a moon carved in the bathroom door. But I can’t remember any since maybe about 1960.

My paternal grandfather, who died in the late 1980s, never had indoor plumbing. He always pumped his own water, and had a two-holer out back. Man, that thing was stinky.

So were the “lats” at Girl Scout camp. I also did my business in a hole in the woods when we went primitive camping in the Scouts, and more recently when I was in college and spent a week canoeing in the Boundary Waters.

A question for those who really used outhouses on a daily basis: what was the practical day-to-day usage of the four holes in a four-holer?
I shudder at the thought of family members sitting cheek-to-cheek offering words of encouragement and casually commenting on the products found in the Sears catalog.

Did each family member have a preferred hole? Were they different sizes? Was there some unspoken rule, like the modern men’s room “urinal code” about usage?

To the OP, the closest I got to a real live privy was the abandoned two-holer that was way out back beyond the barns on the farm I lived on as a small child.
It must have been a hundred yards from the house, in Michigan. Ugh.

Pranksters stole it one Halloween and presumably placed it in a position of honor somewhere.

Sure. My grandparents in Poland had one (their house didn’t even have electricity–this would have been in the 80s and very early 90s–but they eventually did build another house for one of the kids next door that had all the normal modern accoutrements like plumbing and electricity.) Plus my uncle and aunt had a summer cabin up in the Yoop (Upper Peninsula Michigan), and that was also just an outhouse type of situation.

I don’t know anything about this two- or four-holer stuff, though. These were all just individual use only outhouses, so far as I remember.

ETA: I should say, those are not the only two outhouses I’ve used, but the ones I’ve used most often. There have been many situations I’ve been in where outhouses were the only available place to poop. The worst thing about it is when it’s winter or otherwise cold outside and you wake up in the middle of the night really needing to go pee and you just have to weigh the options of getting your ass up into that cold or just trying to hold it through the rest of the night. (I guess bedpans were made for that, but we didn’t use them.)

My great grandparents lived on a couple of acres outside of Hillsboro, Oregon (distant suburb of Portland). They had a small house to live in, and a smaller house to use as nature dictated. I remember we visited a few times when I was pretty young (my great-grandfather died before I was 12, and my ggm didn’t stay there after that). They had a few goats for milk, which they claim is how they lived into their 90’s.

Anyway, my older sister hated going there because she had to sit down to pee. I made sure I never had any reason to sit down, there were spiders under the seat!

When I was a boy scout we had occasion to use a latrine on camping trips, but that was nothing like using an outhouse. No fancy holes, if you had to sit you balanced yourself on a branch and let fly. What larks!

I can’t speak about family 4-holers, but in Vietnam, we had 6-holers, and yes, you sat next to someone else and talked about…whatever.

The 6-holer was only for shitting, however. We had a piss tube highly exposed, next to the road. Only the bottom half had the barest kind of baffle, so you just stood there, pissing, watching the traffic go by a few yards away.

The shit was collected in 50 gal oil drums, cut in half, slid under the seats from the rear. Daily, someone (usually the civilian workers) opened the flap behind the shithouse and took each half-barrel over to a spot where they doused it with gasoline and set it on fire. There were two hand-holes cut in the barrels to lift them. The workers wrapped TP on their hands, then two grabbed a barrel.

I always thought it was funny that the officers had a separate (but equal!) shithouse. No doubt officers’ shit was different from enlisted men’s, but they burned just as well.

My Grandmother’s place up north, where we used to spend summers, had one; so yes, I’ve used one before. Hated it. No matter how much lye we put in it, it always stunk.

My Daddy told these stories too. He talked about the shit-coolies coming to clean out the barrels (sorry, I know coolie is a derogatory term). He also said officer shit stunk just as bad as enlisted shit.

Far too late to edit, but I just remembered: once a year, in the spring, my Dad and I were delegated to clean the privy out. Grandma always believed we bagged everything, and took it to the dump. Yeah, not likely.

Thankfully, Grandma had a huge backyard (maybe 100’ by 150’). We’d wait until Grandma wasn’t there, then we’d go in. We’d rip up maybe a 20’ by 20’ piece of the back lawn, and carefully put the grassy sods aside. Then we opened the privy’s trap, and start digging. What we got was laid in the dirt we had exposed. When we were done, we replaced the sods, and tamped them down. It was a little lumpy, but after a rainfall or two, returned to it’s usually-flat state, and Grandma never noticed. She did like how green her back lawn was, however. :smiley:

My maternal grandmother in Scotland had one of these, shared with her neighbours.

I last saw it when I was 5 years old. I had no idea that there was a certain popularity.

I use them all the time hiking and working on the Appalachian Trail, also common in other hiking trails. Sometimes just at campsites, privies are also common at shelters that are found on trail. It’s something that one gets use to using, and it becomes just part of normal.