Tag Archives: outhouse

The Lilac Bush was Always Next to the Outhouse

Robert Scott Photography
 · Before plumbing, lilac bushes were planted next to the outhouse to mask the smell. Apparently this one has seen many sunsets.

James Beemer

It has been often said that odors/aromas can be the strongest triggers of memories.

I was walking Remo yesterday morning. There was a very light mist. As we got halfway around the block, I suddenly smelled lilacs. The home we were approaching had six bushes in full bloom.

I was instantly transported back in time 53 years to my parents house in Middletown NY. We had 3 large lilac bushes in our backyard. In the days before indoor plumbing, when the outhouse pit was full, the homeowner would finish filling the pit and plant a lilac bush. We had indoor plumbing when I was born. My dad confirmed the old outhouse location just west of the old chicken coop brooder house. The other two bushes were plantings separate from an outhouse.

The bushes were used as backdrops for school pictures, communion and confirmation pictures. Cuttings were taken each spring for table centerpieces.

The bushes were lush and green in summer, providing some peaceful shade. Lots of songbirds’ nested in them, adding another serene aspect.

So many fond childhood memories. One reason why I love lilacs.

Have you visited Franktown, Ontario in Lanark County?

Yes, I had seen lilac bushes frequently on the site of old farmhouses. I thought of several I had seen in a line, usually towards the back of the property. “I’ll bite. I assumed it was decorative,” I said.

Chris shook his head. “Trust me, they didn’t spend much time a hundred years ago bothering with landscaping. That’s a pretty recent thing. Lilac bushes—“

“Lilac bushes or lilac trees?”

“Bushes, usually. The trees get about twenty-five feet tall, the bushes only a dozen or so. And the bushes are more fragrant.” Chris leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands. His degree in education shined through at moments like this. “They’d often plant them for two reasons: One, to mark the grave of a miscarriage or bury placenta after a birth.”

I shivered. My wife and I had endured three miscarriages. I remembered the sympathy cards: a soft lavender. The lilac.

“What’s the other purpose?” I asked.

“Not quite as honorable,” he said and chuckled a little. “You know the smell of lilac bushes?”

I did. I am not a horticulturist and have frequently failed to repair simple patches of grass in my yard, but I do have a lilac bush at the edge of my property (which incidentally is just over a hundred years old). Few things in nature smell as good as a lilac bush in bloom, and no candle or spray can ever really duplicate the smell.

“They smell good,” I said.

“Outhouses,” he said, nodding again. “They’d plant them next to outhouses and when it came time to move the outhouse, as it did when—uh—they got too stinky. Or full. They’d move the outhouse down and plant another lilac bush over the filled hole.  Decades later, same thing. Eventually, on old, old properties, you’d see a line of these lilac bushes, usually on the edge of the property. Far away from delicate eyes. And noses.”

Related reading

Remember Lover’s Lane? Lover’s Walk? Les Chats Sauvage? Simpson Books

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Benson McRae

Remember Her? Still Living in a Bed of Roses!!

Gardening 2016–From Herbs to Edible Flowers?

Beware of the Stramonium Datura

The Outhouse is Trending Again!

Outhouses Need to Be Cleaned– Conditions of Our Rural School– 1897

The Three Holer and other Privie Nonsense

The Three Holer and other Privie Nonsense

You may know it by a different name: head, john, latrine, lavatory, outhouse, potty, restroom, the can, throne, washroom, water closet… Simply, a privy is an outdoor toilet. Before you hurl back in disgust, let me explain why privies are so interesting to archaeologists. You may already be privy, wink wink, to the fact that archaeologist are interested in people’s trash. But, a person’s toilet is an entirely different kind of trash.

One reason we love privies is that people throw their trash in them. Back before the days of municipal trash pickup, people had to get rid of their own trash. Sometimes this meant hauling your trash to a local ditch, but that could be cumbersome. One very close and very convenient place to throw all your crap. Things like broken plates, glasses, lamp chimneys, smoking pipes, your sister’s favourite porcelain doll and heck, even old rusty tin cans tell us about the people that used the privy as well as roughly how old the privy is. 

Also, people go to the bathroom in privies. Wait, why is THAT important to an archaeologist? First, it tells us about a person’s diet. Just like how the broken plate can tell us how old the privy may be, a chicken bone or peach pit tells us what they were eating. Second, it tells us about seasonality of use. Now hold on, how can you tell the season of use? Easy — seeds. You probably are aware that the body cannot break down everything you ingest. One of those things is seeds. Seeds come from fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are grown during certain times of the year. Thus, if we have seeds from, say a strawberry, and we know that strawberries are harvested in late spring to early summer, we can say the privy was used in late spring to early summer. And that is not even the best part.

You see, as a privy fills up it creates layers of dirt, peoples trash, and well you know… fecal material (see Figure 2). Archaeologists excavate each of these layers separately and collect the artifacts separately. The artifacts and the seeds (or lack of seeds) tell us how old each layer in the privy is, as well as what the people were like.

With files from

A privy feature from the School of Music excavations at the University of Iowa

According to iconic local writer Claudia Smith in Country School Days at S. S. No. 9 Dalhousie, Ladore there was a special outhouse for the teacher. It may have been the only school in Lanark County. In some schools a signal of one finer or two was required to go to the outhouse.

The boys outhouse at S. S. Lanark No. 6 was a ‘three holer’ with a small, medium or large arrangement. Privies were targets for graffiti, firecrackers and young lads getting locked up in them, and of course the biggest prank of all was to tip the outhouse over.

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Mary-Jo Sibbitt-HornerWow – that’s the deluxe family model. Cut out Styrofoam on the bench was wonderful in the winter! Yes I know!!

Karen TE JohnsenAt the ruins in Pompeii, there were long bench seat toilets with the underneath connected to a running source of water. I don’t remember if the guide told us it was covered or not.

Wayne BarryI think the intent is to have different sizes to accommodate different bottom sizes.

Beverley J WylieYikes!!! Doesn’t look like social distancing!!! But that could be so you could share the “newspaper/Sears catalogue.Hmmm

Gary BoxWe had a 3-holer at the cottage…….right out of the story Goldilocks and the 3 Bears!😉

Leigh BoxYA Gary and it smelt like Bears

Mike LoganAlways said that at my grand father always had a 2-Holer with a view! And he certainly did!

Mark SmithTwo holer at the cottage. Linoleum on the floor to deter snakes.

Outhouses Need to Be Cleaned– Conditions of Our Rural School– 1897

Outhouses Need to Be Cleaned– Conditions of Our Rural School– 1897

The Outhouse is Trending Again!

The Passing of the Backhouse — Bill Clark

Remember the Registered Restrooms?

The Carleton Place Bathroom Appliance Cars

Local Public Works 1890s to 1930

eware of Germ Ridden Phantom Limbo Dancers – Public Bathrooms

Cisterns I Have Known

Hats Off Carleton Place! — A Hard Wood Makeover-Before and After

  1. What Was a Honey Wagon?- The Job of a Night Soil Scavenger
  2. Did You Know Ladies Had a Spit Cup?
  3. Patches On Your Pants

The Passing of the Backhouse — Bill Clark

The Passing of the Backhouse — Bill Clark


This clipping came from the scrapbook of Joan Stoddart clipped from the Almonte Gazette. It was just too small to put on Facebook so I blew it up and posted it here.



Image result for outhouse 1950s funny





Chamber pots were still used at the time of the Halifax Explosion? An average person visits the toilet 2500 times a year? Most toilets are designed incorrectly? You spend approximately 3 years of your life on the toilet?



An outhouse is designed like a

shed, but instead of holding tools it holds a

toilet. The toilet seat inside of an outhouse was

once just a raised hole above the ground, but

then it became more. Some were built to

accommodate both adults and children so the

seat was built with varying hole sizes.

Once outhouses were built, it was discovered

that an outhouse did not need to fit only one

person, but instead could hold many. Soon

trenches were dug and outhouses built on top

to accommodate multiple users.


Then came the two-story outhouse. The bottom

toilet was installed like any ordinary outhouse,

but the upstairs one was pushed back so the

waste would fall down behind the bottom toilet

instead of landing above the lower room. It had

a separate entrance.


Since outhouses had such a pungent smell,

many were built with lids to help moderate the

smell and to try to keep the flies at bay.

Unfortunately, not all outhouses had a lid and

so many people would bring lime powder with

them when they went to the washroom to

sprinkle down the hole. This helped with the

flies and also offered a more pleasant smell.




Outhouses Need to Be Cleaned– Conditions of Our Rural School– 1897

The Outhouse is Trending Again!

We Have A Link

Remember the Registered Restrooms?

The Carleton Place Bathroom Appliance Cars

Local Public Works 1890s to 1930

Headbangers Arrested in Calgary Sewer – Canadian Insanity Needs to Go Viral!

Beware of Germ Ridden Phantom Limbo Dancers – Public Bathrooms

Cisterns I Have Known

Hats Off Carleton Place! — A Hard Wood Makeover-Before and After

      1. What Was a Honey Wagon?- The Job of a Night Soil Scavenger

      2. Did You Know Ladies Had a Spit Cup?

The Outhouse is Trending Again!

“Sitting on the table was a loaf of bread and a huge jar of communal peanut butter that passed for lunch. Did I also mention the warm milk- fresh from the udder of their cow? I do believe I declined all of it, despite the insistence of my mother that I share the meal. It wasn’t the muddy kids that scared me nor the sheer loudness of the place; it was quite frankly their outhouse. There is nothing worse than having to go do your business in an open vented shack, with a Simpsons Sears catalog nailed to the wall glaring at you. I vowed that if we ever went there again I would not even venture near the ‘Sears booth’.
That Christmas Eve, my mother thought it a good idea to visit, as the family was going to move that summer. My father, being the smart one, refused to go, which I thought was a brilliant decision. My mother, on the other hand, convinced a neighbour to drive us up that slippery, steep mountain road; a drive I thought was going to be the death of us all.
Because our Ma Kettle was French Canadian, we were to participate in a traditional ‘Christmas Eve Reveillion’. French Canadians do most of their celebrating on Christmas Eve, and have a feast that boggles the mind.
There was the traditional tortiere (meat pie), ham, baked beans and a Bouche de Noel (Christmas log cake). One of the younger girls pointed proudly to a black cast iron pot, simmering away on top of the wood stove. She told me she had helped her mother make the traditional ‘ragout de pate de cochon’, which in English means a stew made out of one their recently deceased piggies. I really wanted to enjoy this meal but I just couldn’t. The vision of that horrible outhouse kept running through my mind.
If it had been horrible in the summer- what was it going to be now, with four feet of fresh snow on the ground? Would my bottom become stuck to the rim like a fresh wet tongue on a steel post? Would the pages of the Simpsons Sears catalog be cold?  I made the decision that I was not going to eat or drink anything. There was no way my fanny was going into that place, even if they did put a small Christmas tree on top.
After dinner the kids decided to go outside and build a big fire and toast marshmallows on sticks. The boys were classic examples of every bad kid you have ever seen and they were not afraid of anything.  The fire suddenly got out of control and it all went downhill from there.  The oldest son, called Twinkie, had a stick engulfed in flames, and instead of throwing it back into the fire he tossed it into the air. Where did that flaming stick land? You guessed it!
It hit the Christmas tree that was perched on top of the outhouse and that was all she wrote. The tree immediately burst into flames and the boys cheered loudly and enthusiastically.  No one ran into the house for help and not one of them seemed scared. We all just stood there and watched the tree and the outhouse burn under the twinkling stars, while the people inside the house sang ‘Silent Night’ in drunken unison.
As burning pieces of the Simpsons Sears catalogs rose up into the sky, I had a feeling that once their parents learnt what happened, the rest of the night was not going to be silent at all. Twinkie was probably going to make some noise once his father got a hold of him. For my part, I was just glad the outhouse was finally gone and hoped Santa would bring them all a real toilet for Christmas.”
An excerpt from my story Twinky Stinky Little Star —Menopausal Woman From the Corn
You remember Kevie Mitchell who sells the she-sheds? Well the outhouse is coming back into style. God help us all! Yup, the outhouse is selling like crazy, and I just about died when I saw it. They are also built by the Amish in upstate NY. Those guys know what they shovel ahh.. build! Not only is there is a single unit– it now comes in a double wide. His motto is: “The family that poops together stays together!”
Me? I have nothing to say–just nothing. Nothinggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

Get your she-sheds and your “little shacks out back” for your lovely ladies here in Carleton Place!

You can see them on Hwy. 7,  just beside the Gourmet Restaurant. All Amish built sheds and Gazebos. The 10 x 24 cottage delivered to your location for under $ 6,000. Isn’t that worth it guys? They have sheds to suit everyone’s needs, all custom built to your liking with the custom quality workmanship of the Amish community. Stop in and say HI to Kevin! AND NO I DO NOT want an outhouse.. I was mortified as it was when I saw them hahaha

*****Let’s Not forget Nikki Laframboise’s privies either at the old Storyland soon to be Elements Luxury Tented Camp and Spa!

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

Song Dedicated to Margie Leary

For Glam’s Sake –Storyland Reinventing the Old Privy



Yesterday Nikki LaFramboise was featured in the Ottawa Citizen— and anyone who thinks the beautiful photos were  without hard work is nuts. This woman has worked her buttt off and I salute her and wish her nothing but the best.

Gone glamping in Renfrew


Photo- by Valerie Keeler

I wrote a funny story about a privy/outhouse called Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in my first book Menopausal Woman From the Corn. Did you know that outhouses were once topped by a cupful of ashes?  Rumour was the outhouse would always have a sweet earth smell with never an odor. Coal and trash ashes were supposed to be good as well. When we tore down the carriage house at our home there was also a hidden privy in there. How many privys were in Carleton Place? I am sure every home had one prior to 1900.



This is the privy at Heritage House in Smith’s Falls. This rare 2-storey privy was easily accessible for those late night visits. There are two shafts, the upper one being placed to the right side of the privy, and the bottom one placed further to the left side. A common wall separated the two shafts. The bottom portion of the privy was reached through a door on the outside of the building.

If you are not aware, Renfrew resident and woman extraordinaire Nikki LaFramboise bought Storyland and is turning it into a glamping site called: Elements Luxury Tented Camp and Nature Spa. For people who don’t know what that is: glamping is glamorous camping. Elements will be a luxury tented camp or outdoor hotel.  Eventually, there is hope to construct a rendition of Scandinavian bath on the property for a spa type setting. The tents will be large with the smallest one at 14-by-16 feet and come furnished like a hotel with  white linens, wood furniture and even a luxurious house coat.





So why am I talking about Storyland? Well, not only have I written about the memories often —a lot of the population of Carleton Place used to visit the former Storyland on a frequent basis. Nikki has insisted on restoring and keeping the original ‘settings” of Storyland as best she can. Not only that–Nikki has reinvented the old privy which means– it must be trendy and in vogue. Remember that Mississippi Lake cottagers before you put your fancy bathrooms in!




Nikki LaFramboise—“Afternoon Storyland project: outhouse reno! I’ll finish up tomorrow with professional finishes like rod iron accessories and only the finest 2ply.”


This is no small feat to restore Storyland, but  if you have an incredible imagination to think big, and the courage and determination like Nikki– well, she will make it happen for us all to enjoy!



Because of this monstrous job Nikki is doing for everyone I dedicate this  Bonnechere Manor Resident Choir video from Renfrew Ontario to her!

 Don’t Stop Believing Nikki!!


Bookings will be made available online in January 2016 for the upcoming 2016 season. You will be able to view the locations and amenities to each site. Pricing has yet to be announced and it officially opens in June of 2016.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place