What Was the Faucet on the Back of the Drinking Fountain For?

Back when I was still quite young and in grade school, we used to have to go to the high school gymnasium for gym class (eventually we did get a gymnasium of our own). And there was this peculiar drinking fountain there, I remember. It was like any ordinary drinking fountain, except it had a faucet on its porcelain back side, facing the person getting a drink. And this faucet apparently spilled out whatever went down the drain. If just water went down the drain, water came out the faucet. If something blue went down the drain, something blue came out this faucet, etc. Anyways, I wondered for the longest time what this faucet was for. Then one day, a fellow classmate was dumb enough to drink from this faucet. When our butch ( :wink: ) gym teacher caught him, she said, “Do you know what that faucet is for?? Do you know what that faucet is for??” The whole time she is saying this, I am thinking I am finally going to find out what this strange faucet is for. But she concludes what she is saying, “I’m not even going to tell you what that faucet is for”.

Anyways, to this day, I still am wondering what that strange faucet was for. Does anyone here know? As I’ve said, it was on the back of a drinking fountain. And I haven’t seen it anywhere, or too many places at least, since.

How could anything drain if it came right back out?

I don’t know, that has always been part of the mystery. BTW, I do remember now seeing it in other gymnasiums too, if that is helpful.

Isn’t the most likely answer that the faucet was designed to make it easier to fill glasses, cups, water bottles and mop buckets?

      • A spit basin, perhaps? A ceramic thing built into the wall, right next to the drinking fountain, and usually “matching” the drinking fountain. My high-school had these in the gym as well. The spit basin has a spray head on it that sprays water over the back wall, so when you spit in it, it all gets washed down the drain… The water goes in/comes out business you speak of I have no idea. The ones I saw had a momentary-on handle (that looked identical to the drinking-fountain handle right next to it) to turn the water on for a second or two when needed.

I don’t quite understand your description, but it sounds like what the local YMCA called a “puke pit.” Sometimes, an overexerting person will vomit, and there’s a specialized fixture to catch it and wash it down.

Surely you jest or are just ‘putting us on.’

No health departement on earth would tolerate a plumbing job like that. A real hazard to public health.

Take your cockamammy tales elsewhere.

I had always assumed it was a ‘spit basin’ as DougC describes. And I am pretty sure the one at my high school used fresh water, not recycled drain sludge. If it was recirculated from the drain, wouldn’t it need a pump of some kind? And why recirculate at all?

Did it look anything like this?

And how long ago was it?

I can’t see the picture too clearly, but the thin-piped spout wasn’t there, that I recall at least. There was literally a faucet in the drinking fountain, which was set in the wall, somewhat like this picture. It was still when I was quite young, maybe 20-25 years ago or so. And I kid you not when I say water that went down the drain seemed to come out the spout. I don’t know if this was because there was a faulty connection or whatever. But I did see, IIRC, red stuff poured down the drain momentarily come out of this strange faucet.