Tag Archives: outhouses

The Three Holer and other Privie Nonsense

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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

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The Passing of the Backhouse — Bill Clark

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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.

 

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Image result for outhouse 1950s funny

 

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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?

 

OUTHOUSES

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.

 

relatedreading

 

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?

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

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

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Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum– Photo-Founded on a rock this town. Think back to no indoor plumbing. Outhouses needed to be emptied. Where did all the poo go? Behold the Honey Wagon dumping ground! #poop#honeywagon#outhouses#carletonplace#rowonrow#greatsoil#historyisfun

 

Somewhere behind the old Carambeck School/Community Centre in Carleton Place there lies what appears to be rows of earth that maybe once was created by agriculture. In fact if you look around closely on the outskirts of any village, town or city you might come across the very same thing.


“You smell that Jimmy?” 
“Hey I know that smell from somewhere! “
“That’s right Jimmy that smell is from the local honey wagon!”

 

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A honey wagon was a large sacred vehicle which carried a tank filled with human feces, which was found inside of the “honey holes”, and was transported to a secluded location where sometimes it was dried and then scraped up to be disposed of elsewhere. Sometimes it was just left there to ferment.

In the good old days there was no such thing as proper sewer drains. Most town and city streets had open sewers running down them in to which all kinds of waste was thrown. There was in theory at least a system of refuge collection to clean up the streets that were littered with rotting food, dung, animal corpses, human feces and other waste products. But the cleaning up system was sporadic and not carried out effectively enough. In fact I have read local town  newspaper notices advising people that Spring was just around the corner and to stop throwing their garbage out the windows to the streets below. Yes, that would be you Carleton Place!

In addition people had to make do with burying much of their waste material in a cesspit either in their cellar or in the garden. Technically these were supposed to be emptied regularly, but many were not. The stench was overwhelming not only in summer but in winter as well.

 

 

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The Honey Wagon From the Lethbridge Historical Society

 

When you ask about the worst, most dirty/horrible jobs many people immediately respond with coal mining.

In 1907 the Lethbridge City Council decided that a scavenger should be hired. The duties of the scavenger would be to clean the privies (outhouses) and pick up garbage but also to remove the dead animals from the coulees. The winter of 1906-07 was a legendary one for the cold and snow. Come spring there was said to be 40 head of cattle found dead around the coulees and community of Lethbridge (many, many more out across the country). It was the scavenger’s responsibility to collect and remove the dead animals. They then had to be buried or burned. The said would dispose of the hides of the animals.

Eventually the job of dead animal scavenger would be separated from the job of “Night Soil Scavenger”. This rather intriguing job title belonged to the person who cleaned the outhouses around town. In September 1909 E.P. Mee was contracted at $25/week. The city would supply the lime. Then, of course, all of those lucky people who had to clean out the bed pans and other indoor toilets. Lucky, lucky people.– Lethbridge Historical Society

 

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)

 

historicalnotes

Penny Trafford– All along the houses on McArthur and Napoleon to Lake Avenue there is an 8 foot allowance that separates properties owned by the town which was the Honey Wagon lane.

relatedreading.jpg

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

Beware of Germ Ridden Phantom Limbo Dancers – Public Bathrooms

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

Cisterns I Have Known

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

The Outhouse is Trending Again!