In the dustbin of our cultural history

I’ve been in plenty that don’t have a dining room that is separate from both the living room and the kitchen ( there aren’t any walls between the kitchen and the dining room, or between the living room and the dining room or sometimes all three are part of a single open space) and others that have a “formal living room” or “parlor” that is not used on a daily basis. Those houses have some other room - a “TV room” or a “family room” that serves the functions of a “living room” in a smaller house.

As OP I’ve popped back in to say again I’m astonished how this thread has gone. I don’t think any other thread I’ve started has lasted this long, and I enjoy coming back to see the thoughts of others.

That’s the open plan thing that’s very trendy lately. If you watch any episode of Property Brothers, for instance, the house will end up with an open plan living room/dining room/kitchen. The house where I grew up still had separate rooms for each. Some homes I’ve visited with open plan great rooms can get kind of echo-y and loud.

How many houses have a “breakfast room” in addition to a dining room? I’m not talking about a dining “nook” or area within the kitchen, but a separate room. Our house has a breakfast room separated from the kitchen by an arch. Then the dining room, which is separated from the living room by a larger arch.

Separating the breakfast room from the dining room is a doorway, from which the door was removed decades ago. We had to install a folding door there, due to a cat that would eat in the kitchen, then run to a carpeted area to vomit.

And speaking of which, how many average-sized houses have arches? Ours, build in the '30s, has seven.

My house was built in 1880. You name it, I have one or the place/remnants /scars where one used to be. Except enough outlets.

I hear you.

Arches are popular in “Southwest” style homes, but in any modern home they are likely to be faux arches. I lived for a year in 1968 in a brand new house with an arched front doorway. Most of the houses on the block were similar. But they were all fake arches – just a lintel-like scaffold with arch-shaped chickenwire around it, covered with lath and plaster and stucco.

For some reason an ancient memory jumped up from nowhere to surprise me today - I have no idea why.

One winter night, I would guess around 40 years ago, I was at my father’s house (in, as I keep saying, the far North West of England), when we had a knock on the door from a neighbour. Another neighbour, an elderly man who lived on his own, had been out on the pop all evening, had fallen down drunk in the toilet, and couldn’t get up. Could we go around and help him up?

You might be inclined to think, well, when he sobers up a bit he’ll be fine and get up by himself. But no - what I had failed to realise was that he had fallen over in his outside toilet (there was no inside one). We had to go fetch him and get him inside or he might have died overnight in the cold.

Sixteen or seventeen years earlier, living in my parents’ first house, I used to play in the yard where there was an outside toilet - I’m pretty sure it still worked; and I’m pretty sure my parents had an inside toilet installed when they moved into that house.

Now I have a mental picture of an estate agent/realtor showing a young couple round a house, and when they see a building in the yard they ask, Excuse me, what is that? Ok, so when I was young, outside toilets were on the way out - but I guess at least the buildings must still exist in some homes?

Oh, and that neighbour was wearing a three piece suit - because in those days you would dress up to go out to the pub and get hammered with your mates.


Oh there’s a cultural history dustbin, all right!

I remember putting on a skirt to go do the grocery shopping. 1950’s/early 60’s; New York State, but probably most of the USA.

In the fifties, NYC, my Dad would wear a white shirt and tie to do the grocery shopping. He was an electrical engineer/designer at a manufacturing plant. That was his daily outfit.

In the Fifty’s my Wife’s Dad would Take two shirts to his office job in Pittsburgh. And change into a new one during the middle of the day. Steel plant coal dust/emissions was the problem. It’s a beautiful city now.

I grew up in suburban Los Angeles. Our entire town was built in the late 1950s and nothing manmade within 100 miles predated about 1900. We had indoor plumbing of course.

At about age 24 in USAF I encountered a co-worker my age from a farm in Indiana. Who’d grown using an outhouse through high school. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I’d thought the last outhouse disappeared from the USA in 1900, not 1970+.

I’m not sure whether outhouses go on the dustbin of cultural history or on the night-soil pile of cultural history. But I hope they’re going that way everywhere.

Hey, I’ve helped build one in the 1970’s. And there are still some in use around here; though generally not in the main household, but out in the fields, or at Old Order schools.

They’re not all that terrible to use, if well maintained (though a nuisance in the winter); and, if properly set up in the right sort of location, they’re not a pollution problem either.

(I am glad to have indoor plumbing now, though. But while the indoor john is nice, the hot bath/shower is an even bigger difference than the john is.)

In St. Louis, and other cities I’m sure, out houses were common in many neighborhoods. So much so that when old houses are demolished, finding the site of an outhouse is cause for celebration. Why? Because it’s common to find old whisky and “medicine” bottles in the pit where they were deposited rather than in the trash where they might be seen by “wimmin folk”. Apparently they can be worth a reasonable amount of money.

We have an outside toilet at our house right now. Fully plumbed now, of course, and we have an inside one too, but they’re not all that uncommon in my area.

Last time I saw one as the only option in a house was some time in the 90s

:question: A fully plumbed outside toilet? Like in it’s own little room away from your house?

Back in the '50s, when turnpikes were new, the rest stops consisted of nothing more than out houses. The toilets were just a wooden plank with a hole in it.

See the second and last paragraphs of this article for one example:

My grandmother lived in a row house in the UK, and in the yard (“garden”) behind, there was a detached shed with a fully plumbed toilet in it. For bonus points, it was the old-school type of toilet with the tank up near the ceiling and a chain you pulled to release the tsunami. They had a fully plumbed bathroom inside the house, but the one in the garden was sometimes a handy alternative.

huh. I can see that. Working in the yard or whatever if would be nice to not muddy up the house. I live quite remote. I just pee in the yard. Well… when I’m outside doing stuff.