1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/outhouse Mom's outhouse almost became a tomb.

Mom’s outhouse almost became a tomb.

Mom almost died in an outhouse when she was a toddler. She thought her bad outhouse days were behind her. She was wrong.

Aunt Nellie and Uncle Mike T. bought a vacant lot on Lake Saint Catherine. They didn’t use it much, but my family did for several years.

It had a great dock for warming ourselves in the sun or jumping into the water. Lying on my stomach with my head hung over the side, I watched pumpkin seed dart in and out of murky shadows. Periodically, a big bass emerged from deeper water, gliding by like a dark submarine.

David and I searched for wild clams hiding in the mucky silt and seaweed. It took an entire afternoon for us to find enough clams for appetizers. Mom refused to cook our catch-of-the-day.

www.frontporchrepublic.com Our clams were covered in silt and green algae.

Our clams were covered in silt and green algae.

Not wanting our appetizers to go to waste, we used the sun to heat up the water in Susan’s plastic pail and hopefully cook our clams. This didn’t work out well for the little mollusks. We cracked one open with a rock to make sure it wasn’t edible. It wasn’t. No bon appetite for us.

We spent our nights in a two-room mansion-tent. Several times a day, Mom and I swept out dirt carried in on bare feet. Dad and Mom slept in the back half with Susan (nine years younger); David and I slept in the front.

Mom never outgrew her bathroom demands from when we moved into our basement house, so Dad created a camp-style facility. Like Mrs. Kill (when she told me to fill in my hole), Mom should have been more specific.

Dad dug a pit into the wooded hillside. He placed the trunk of two saplings into the crotch of other small trees to act as handrails on each side of the hole. The idea was to straddle the dumping ground while holding yourself up using the rails.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_toilet Ours was in a wooded hillside and not as deep.

Ours was in a wooded hillside and not as deep.

A roll of toilet paper, stored inside a plastic bag, hung on a nearby nail. A wall made from a sheet provided privacy on two sides; we hoped for the best on the un-traveled sides.

A shovel propped against a larger tree was used to cover deposits. David and I thought it was great, unlike Mom. It’s a good thing she didn’t own a crystal ball; her future held a nasty surprise.

Our makeshift outhouse worked fine … until Mom wrecked it.

Nature called one morning, so Mom trekked up the hill and behind the sheet. A few minutes later her cries of “Help” reached us, along with some phrases I hadn’t heard her say before.

Dad instructed David and me to keep an eye on Susan as he took off running. One of his inventive bathroom railings cracked in half, dumping Mom into the dumping ground. She wasn’t a happy camper or a sweet smelling one.

I bet she flashed back to her childhood outhouse experience, choking with her head caught under the lid and her feet off the floor, while gagging on fumes.

Dad immediately improved our camping bathroom accommodations. Except for mosquitoes, it was still fun to use. But at night, I believed in the buddy system.

Lesson learned: Always let your mother test out any impromptu contraptions that your father comes up with.

Related post: Chapter One: Outdoor Relief; Chapter Four: Don’t Play With Judy

Now it’s your turn: What’s your outdoor bathroom experience?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Pecora Nera says:

    Brilliant, It sounds like the infamous Turkish toilets that are still in use in Italy.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Gee PN, my brother and I would have been very impressed to think we were using Turkish toilets in the US. I’ve used a wide pipe sticking a few inches out of the ground in the cellar of a home in Russia. Always an adventure

  2. ahardrain says:

    My bathroom stories I’m afraid will be kept quiet, lest I find it plastered somewhere in cyberspace with a potty mouth story 🙂 I love the ” two-room mansion-tent”, you’re too funny. Happy New Years to you and yours, Glenn

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Happy New Year to you too, Glenn.
      yes, it’s funny what impresses kids. Rustic bathroom facilities and a flap down the center of our tent did it for us.

  3. I have way too many bathroom stories… I must admit that I’m quite the fan of the outhouse. Especially after my experiences in India, Africa and South America!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Yes, SS, sometimes an outhouse is quite a luxury. When I peed in the Russian pipe, I kept worrying that I was told wrong and someone would think I was truly an American pig.

  4. Ralph says:

    So funny !! xox

  5. Glynis Jolly says:

    I don’t might outhouses when going camping but I think I’d have some serous misgivings using just a bomb-shoot.

  6. C. Suresh says:

    Hahaha! Mary! I bet you do not want you children to learn THAT moral 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Oh my gosh, Suresh, I didn’t even think of that! But it has already happened. I went up to bat at the faster batting machine first, and had to go to the hospital to get a butterfly bandage on my finger. The next batter had to step around my spots of blood on the floor.

  7. Kevin Casey says:

    While exploring a remote river in Gabon (West Africa), the pygmies were very proud of the makeshift toilet at one of their frequently used bush campsites. It consisted of two logs laid parallel about four inches apart, with a pit dug out underneath. You plant a foot on each log, squat, and aim for the rather small gap – keeping an eye out for prowling leopards, driver ants and vipers while conducting your business….

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Gee, Kevin, I thought battling the mosquitoes was bad. On the other hand, it sounds like there wasn’t any danger of falling in your pit.
      Thanks for dropping by.

  8. kriskkaria says:

    Oh my! I love this story too. Can I narrate it?

  9. News Cruise 60 says:

    My gosh, Skinny, another great story! Who needs “The Waltons” when we have you around! I think you tell a super story…

    Ed 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thanks, Ed. You know what they say about the truth being stranger than fiction. Although Mom would have wished this was fiction instead of truth.

      • News Cruise 60 says:

        We are all guilty of causing a few, (most), of our parents grey hairs!

        And I certainly agree that truth is stranger than fiction…that’s a great part of the reason I look for the stories I write on…


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