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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Toilet Papers

The Toilet Papers


The Outhouse Oracles


Don Nelson
Merritt Plantz
Barbara (Skinner) Lamb
Barbara (Jochem) Mahrt
Jo (Rohwer) Mayber
Janice (Masters) Terry
Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn
Lolita Jo (Gilchrist) Purviance
Raleigh Emry


Don Nelson

This involves an outhouse out behind my grand-ma's house The year, about 1937, Johnstown, Nebr.

Now my grandmother had 2 Daughters and 2 Sons, the daughters ( my mother and aunt) were at least fairly normal girls, However the sons, (my uncles) were not at all "normal" Like Bob Burns, I had a drinkin' uncle and the other was a slippery uncle.

I know a lot of you know about the old crank telephones, Uncle Slippery (we'll call him) they must all remain "anonomouse" for reasons that will become clear, had just such a phone no longer in service. He discovered that the phone could be dismantled and the two carbon electrodes, were just wonderful to use for a pretty good shock, You just held the two electrodes in your hand and turned the crank and got some really interesting reactions from whoever or what ever was on the receiving end.

He tried various things with this toy from hell. I remember he got the whole family to stand in a circle with one of the electrodes at each end of the circle, and we'd get shocked that way, He also surprised a mouse who got between them.

This of course was not enough, also at gra-ma's house lived three foster daughters, They were very nice girls to me, but always the subject of many pranks by my uncles.

With their two little pointy heads together, the uncles figured, If this thing will shock THIS way, would it not also shock, WELL HIDDEN AND WIRED TO "SOMETHING" Aha! your getting ahead of me RIGHT??

A few tiny brad nails, a hank of very fine copper wire, removed from a model-T coil, strung around the wooden outhouse seat and run out the back, to where sat the two orneriest, meanest, trickiest, characters you ever want to meet, hunched over in ambush, with the precious crank in hand!

The first unsuspecting soul to get "the thrill of his life" happened to be my great uncle (their own uncle) His reaction was to charge out of the little house, follow the wiring and proceed to remove both their HEADS!!

Right away they knew they needed a new and different victim, well certainly NOT my Grand-ma because she WOULD remove their heads. s o o o o o it fell to one of the foster daughters to get the "treatment" next. As fate would dictate the very flightiest and nervous one of the girls fell victim.

She had no sooner sat down than they spun that crank, (the faster you'd spin, the more electricity it would produce!!) I think that is probably the most activity the world has seen since the Dunkirk Evacuation!! The boys later joked to her that they thought for sure, the C&NW RR had put on an extra that day and was highballing through town!! She didn't take kindly to their joke ! wonder why??

As for the old outhouse, It did require some maintenance i.e.., cleaning and couple of hinges on the door, but it survived to serve on for many years.

The boys did have to lay low for awhile and hid the "device" because all three girls offered to PAY my great uncle to "get them at night with that thing, while they were sleeping !! No report of that!!

Well there's my outhouse story, and I assure you it's true, I was just a very young boy, but I do remember that!!


Merritt Plantz

I have a couple of stories: I got caught stealing watermelons, so don't believe I should tell that one.

An out house story: The neighbor boy and I used their unused outhouse to have a cornsilk cigarette. We set the outhouse on fire, so don't believe I should tell that one either. But my friends older brother saw the smoke and put the fire out. So that was a streak of luck.

Guess I had better quite while I'm still ahead! Don't want anymore trouble!


Barbara (Skinner) Lamb
Barbara found this poem written by an anonymous poet
that was too good not to include.
I think he got his inspiration from Don Nelson's uncles.


The service station trade was slow
The owner sat around,
With sharpened knife and cedar stick
Piled shavings on the ground.

No modern facilities had they,
The log across the hill
Led to a shack, marked His and Hers
That sat against the hill.

"Where is the ladies restroom, sir?"
The owner leaning back,
Said not a word but whittled on,
And nodded toward the shack.

With quickened step she entered there
But only stayed a minute,
Until she screamed, just like a snake
Or spider might be in it.

With startled look and beet-red face
She bounded through the door,
And headed quickly for the car
Just like three gals before.

She missed the foot log -- jumped the stream
The owner gave a shout,
As her silk stockings, down at her knees
Caught on a sassafras sprout.

She tripped and fell -- got up, and then
In obvious disgust,
Ran to the car, stepped on the gas,
And faded in the dust.

Of course we all desired to know
What made the gals all do
The things they did, and then we found
The whittling owner knew.

A speaking system he'd devised,
To make the thing complete,
He tied a speaker on the wall
Beneath the toilet seat.

He'd wait until the gals got set
And then the devilish tyke
Would stop his whittling long enough,
To speak into the mike.

And as she sat, a voice below
 Struck terror, fright and fear,
"Will you please use the other hole,
We're painting under here ."


The Snowed-in Outhouse of "49
Barbara (Jochem) Mahrt

This was serious business!! Our "necessary room was inaccessible.....
We lived on a ranch west of Ainsworth. My Dad struggled early one morning against the snow to get out of the door of our two story house. He climbed up a snow bank higher than the house and went looking for the outhouse. Usually it stood toward the north next to the chicken house and grove of trees. Nothing was there except this huge snow bank. So taking shovel in his hand, he started digging where the 'house normally was. He found it! But then he had to dig steps down to the door and wide enough to open the door of the outhouse after he got there.
I have a black and white snap shot of those steps and the outhouse roof, but will never forget that "cold" experience and unusual winter.

Jo (Rohwer) Mayber

A long time ago our dad, Rollin Rohwer, told us this story...There was an Ainsworth family whose outhouse was often the victim of Halloween pranksters. Year after year people snuck into the family's yard and pushed the outhouse over. Then they loaded the outhouse into a truck and delivered it to the front steps of AHS!

Growing weary of reclaiming his outhouse every year, that Halloween the owner loosened the outhouse from its base. The pranksters came, as they always did on Halloween, and with one big push the outhouse tipped over. As the outhouse fell, all the pranksters went tumbling into the hole the outhouse had been loosened from! The owner arrived to help the pranksters out of the hole and that was the end of THAT trick!


Janice (Masters) Terry

Back in the "Good OLE days", well probably in the 40's, dad had his Lubritorium on main street in Ainsworth. Bill Beatty, class of 43, was working for him. On Halloween, back then, there were still a few outhouses in the city, and it was still a common practice for the mischievous to tip them over, for the trick of it.

The following day an elderly lady called dad to have him pull her outhouse back up from it's Halloween tipping trick. Well as justice is usually done, Bill was told to take the wrecker and go upright this lady's outhouse. He confessed to dad he was the tipper, but doubt if he ever told that lady.


Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

Outhouse---Not so Fond Reminisces

When we were young, our job after school each day was to gather the eggs from the henhouse in pails to be saved for sale at Honakers Produce store or to save for family consumption. Eggs were used a lot and were an important protein staple on the farm---in pancakes--they were boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, French toasted, and any other way you could think of, and were also a source of financial revenue.

So we were impressed with the fact that egg gathering was an important job! Jo had another big responsibility---candling the eggs---for city folks, that is where you looked through a light to make sure the egg was okay to sell.

Well, now to the "OUTHOUSE" part of this tale---we didn't always like the chore of gathering eggs for a variety of reasons. My recollection is that some of the chickens were mean and pecked us when we went to get the eggs---and there was this one particularly mean chicken, so I just left the eggs under her, and of course after a few days, we knew the eggs weren't "good" so we just left them until she got off the nest and then we put them in an extra bucket.

My sister's recollection is that she didn't want to candle some of the eggs, so we just put them in the extra bucket---and of course we knew they weren't fit to eat or sell after nature took its course. We can't agree on whose idea it was that we dump the rotten eggs down the outhouse to dispose of the evidence of our criminal deed----but we both agree that we dumped the whole bucket (or buckets) down the outhouse---and of course they broke---and of course we had to face the music.

My recollection is that I hid out and watched my sister getting disciplined from an upstairs window and feeling very guilty for not owning up to my participation and for letting her take the punishment. Jo's recollection is that she was the guilty party but didn't ever get disciplined. At any rate, I think we both shared in the "dirty" (and smelly!!) deed and had a case of the guilts afterwards.

Other outhouse recollections deal with the outhouse at our Rural school---and I can't think of one good thing about them---except that one year we had an especially mean teacher who terrorized the whole eight grades---and we all actually celebrated when she had to use the outhouse---and traded answers to quizzes, helped each other out, etc., and were SO grateful---and waited daily for her trips to the old outhouse and even kept a "lookout" for her return.

One day after I had been absent for several days she made me stand at the blackboard with a Math problem and told me I could stand there all day until I got the answer---and I'd still be standing there if my classmate hadn't taken pity on me while she took her outhouse break and crawled in the window and gave me the correct answer. When she returned I can still hear her saying, "Well, I KNEW if you stood there long enough, you would think of the answer." The parents---finally---got wind of her unorthodox teaching methods and she was fired.

The school outhouse is long gone, and I'm not sure what happened to our old outhouse on the farm---maybe it still dwells in the orchard---but it's one place I've never had any desire to return!

PS: I asked Ken ("Goose" to his old buddies) if he had any "outhouse adventures" to share and he said, "No----but I did tip over my share back then," but is not revealing who, what, where or when----he did say that one of his buddies slipped and got a foot in one and that definitely put a halt to the "fun" of toilet tipping at Halloween. (I can just hope it wasn't our rotten egg filled one!!)

Lolita Jo (Gilchrist) Purviance

As Anne said, outhouse stories are not exactly a country girls "fond" memories. I will let Anne tell the egg story we both recall differently.

This difficult subject makes me think of our one room school house and it's primitive outdoor plumbing. I can still see those two little houses looming up from the treeless, sand hills behind our school.

One year we had a very strict teacher with a severe hairstyle and a face to match. She wore long sleeved dresses with black stockings, even in the hottest of weather. She could be very unkind and all the children feared or disliked her. One day she had to use the bathroom (ER outhouse) and I recall seeing her make her way up the hill. When she returned, the back of her skirt was tucked up into her mysterious undergarments, which was a hilarious sight, especially to the older boys. One of her tight, black stockings had a hole in it and the funny bulge that her white skin made through the opening was a curios sight.

No one had the nerve to tell her what her stiff corset was revealing. Anyway, it was so funny and a bit of a secret revenge. I do not remember how long her dress was in such an unladylike way but I still chuckle thinking about it. I wonder how many other kids in our little country school remember that incident?

Kodak Moments
Raleigh Emry

When I think of outhouses, several stories come to mind. Most are related to the obvious function of the outhouse in times of weather extremes. I could therefore write about the agony of exposing tender flesh via the portal on the back of my long johns when the mercury in the thermometer wouldn’t even expose itself. Or I could write about the real and imaginary critters that lurked beneath the two holes in the outhouse bench on warmer days. Those critters ranged from reasonably friendly but tickly flies and spiders to the rattlesnake under our schoolhouse privy.

I could also write about our having to extract our pet goat from the outhouse hole after it had fallen in. We had no water under pressure, so we had no garden hose to help us rid the goat of its smelly coating and return it to its normal, and almost as offensive, goat odor.
I could tell about the time my parents moved a rustic old outhouse from one place to another on the back of an old Model-A Ford pickup. It was such a ridiculous sight that it was preserved on film. Those were the days before campers and motor homes so we never whimsically titled our Clampet-esque photo, “Our Pickup Camper”. Jet airplanes were just making their debut in the skies so we titled the snapshot, “The Jet-propelled Chicken Coop”.

I could write about helping dig an outhouse hole for Morris Skinner’s outhouse that went half way to China. But a hole in the ground, no matter what size, leaves little room for hyperbole… except for the worn out phrase “half way to China”.

As you can see, I do have fodder regarding the old two-holers I have known. I could write a real long toilet paper if I wanted to. But any reader would expect such a story from me. So I’ll share with you a use for an outhouse you might not have contemplated.

My Dad made us a new outhouse when I was maybe five or six. New boards from Searle and Chapin’s or Hagle’s lumber yards were out of the question. We even had to scrounge and straighten rusty, bent nails from Dad’s old nail bucket. So the new outhouse never looked new from its first day. It looked as old as the usable scraps from the old outhouse and some bits and pieces of another old outbuilding. I’m not sure how we could spare some bits and pieces from an old outbuilding as “old outbuilding” described our most attractive assets.

It was dark in the Niobrara canyons at night and almost as dark behind the closed new outhouse door at high noon. My Dad apparently didn’t have a keyhole saw to cut the traditional crescent moon in the door. Either that or such a slight modification to the rickety boards would have caused the door to fall apart. Instead, Dad decided to bore a hole in the side of the outhouse, centered on one side and about half way up. Dad was apparently limited to a half-inch bit. The solitary half-inch hole was on the North side and so provided no direct sunlight.

But once you were inside and settled onto one of the holes that you had found by Braille, your eyes would slowly adjust. You could then barely see the spiders that hung in the webs in the corners and see to find the softest pages in the Montgomery Ward catalog when you needed them.

I suppose Dad could have drilled more holes and thus made more illumination but I suppose he stopped with one solitary hole because he was either concerned about the structural integrity of the outhouse, he broke his brace and bit, or else it was the notion that although a dozen holes would provide light and ventilation, they would also change “privy” to “publy”.

If a user of the outhouse worried about someone spying on them, a peg in the hole would prevent a potential peeker, or a pointed stick thrust quickly through the hole would deter a peek in progress. So because of the unwritten sharp-stick rule, I don’t recall a peeking problem. The single hole remained unrestricted at least when I used the outhouse. My only memories of outside meddling were the persistent hammerings on the door by someone in a hurry.

By now you are wondering, “So what?” You are asking,” What’s so unusual about an outhouse with a half-inch hole in the side?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Have you ever built a pin-hole camera? Ah hah! You are catching on aren’t you? Yes indeed! On the inside wall opposite the hole was an inverted image of the scene directly to the North of the outhouse! Directly to the north of our outhouse was our old two-story house nestled in some trees. On a bright day you could see the silhouette of that scene upside down on the outhouse wall... a virtual Norman Rockwell! You could see the image better if you had a piece of white bed-sheet to use as a movie screen. We didn’t have a piece of white bed-sheet to use as a movie screen so we had to squint and fill in with our imagination to see the complete pastoral scene on the weathered old boards.

As we sat in the dim light of our two-holer, unicameral outhouse and waited for nature to take its course, we had many pleasant Kodak Moments looking at our upside down world and thumbing through the glossy pages of the Montgomery Ward wish-book for the hundredth time.

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