Appalachian Thursday – Outhouses

Outhouse posterTomorrow is my wedding anniversary–twenty-two years! So what does that have to do with outhouses? Well, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that the church where we married was lacking indoor plumbing.

It still is twenty-two years later.

So, in honor of the outhouse at my wedding, I thought I’d share some interesting outhouse facts.

And no, I did NOT attempt to use the facilities in my wedding gown.

  1. Crescent moons. The crescent moon you often see cut in the door serves a couple of purposes. First, it lets in a bit of light. Second, it was a way to differentiate between ladies and gents. Women got the crescent moon while men had a star. Allegedly, the moon is more common because the ladies took better care of their facilities and so they lasted longer.
  2. Two-seaters. You may have seen an outhouse with two holes and wondered just how chummy folks were back in the day. Typically, the second hole wasn’t for simultaneous pottying. Often there was an adult-sized hole and then a smaller, child-sized hole.
  3. Garbage disposal. There are actually folks who go around digging where they think outhouses might once have been. This is because owners used to toss all kinds of stuff into the opening. And yesterday’s trash is sometimes today’s collectible.
  4. Toilet paper. Often, there wasn’t any. This is where the Sears catalog came in with its nice, soft pages. And if you’ve ever heard the phrase, “rough as a cob,” it originated in an outhouse where shucked corn cobs were sometimes re-purposed.
  5. WPA Outhouses – In the 1930s part of Roosevelt’s Work Projects Administration (WPA) was improving rural sanitation through the construction of Red Cross designed outhouses (see image above). These were luxury models with cement floors, smooth seats, and vents. They were also meant to be fly and vermin proof, although I have my doubts.

All in all, having used an old-time outhouse and a modern port-o-john, I have to say the Appalachian outhouse is the nicer of the two experiences.

Published by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author, wife, child of God.

8 thoughts on “Appalachian Thursday – Outhouses

  1. I’ve used outhouses that ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other, freezing cold to oven hot, foul smelling to “not so bad,” plain Jane to “decorated,” wooden to cinder block, well taken care of to dreadfully neglected and even locked up tight and unavailable; but they have mostly all been a welcome answer to an urgent need!

      1. I too well remember the Outhouses as a young girl!
        Many differences for sure,
        as I went along with my Gpa
        who was a preacher to the several churches weekly!
        ~Happy Anniversary! My
        Hubby & I will soon celebrate
        44 years!!! We are best friends, soul mates & our life
        together has had many ups/downs but…God has to remain 1st & ALL works out!!
        Many more years of blessings to you & your Husband!!

  2. Happy Anniversary.. I grew up in Western NY ..rural.. the outhouse came in handy when we didn’t want to come in from playing..modern mom’s should be so lucky.. Ellie

  3. Our family cabin sported an outhouse for many years. My mother’s German pride of cleanliness kept it from being an unpleasant experience. When we moved to our property we had to rent a Porta-potty during winter since our septic tank couldn’t be put in until spring. I am a confirmed fan of indoor plumbing.
    And what a unique way to bring up your anniversary.😉

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