a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Outhouse humor

The outhouse behind my house. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – People often scrunch their noses and offer strange glances when they find out there is an outhouse on a back corner of the lot that also holds my house.

The reactions typically are followed up by their asking the same question: "You do have an indoor bathroom, too?"

I roll my eyes, usually cite the calendar year and reassure them my century-old house is equipped with the luxury of indoor plumbing.

It's impossible to know for sure why the former owner, Reggie Bakewell, decided the keep the outbuilding, even though it had fallen into disrepair and onto is side when I bought the property Webster, Pa., in 1987.

My best guess is that Bakewell, a steelworker, held onto his outhouse because he didn't trust his indoor loo to always function. His potty had been connected to an old brick-lined cistern without an outflow drain in the front yard. When the retrofitted septic tank filled, it backed up with each toilet flush into the bathtub until Bakewell could find a honey dipper to remove its contents. (Thankfully that problem since has been corrected)

The outhouse didn't become a priority for me, thought, until the adjoining property owner stormed over one day in the early 1990s and demanded I removed it from her property.

A preservationist at heart, I asked a good friend to help me right that ship and we put it back together the best we could. I then padlocked its front door because we didn't replace the floor and there is a long drop to the bottom of that concrete-lined pit. However, I did hold onto the double seater with yet-to-be-fulfilled plans to restore the interior.

Over the years the small building has become the butt of many jokes, a conversation piece, especially at Christmastime, when I string it with colored lights and hang a wreath on its front door.

And friends rarely miss an opportunity to give me all-things-related-to-outhouses as gag gifts.

My other "outhouse" collection has increased to include calendars, Christmas ornaments, a night light and even a liquid soap dispenser shaped like a privy.

A good friend surprised me one birthday with a creative outhouse birdhouse he built from weathered wood.

However, the pièce de résistance arrived this Christmas Eve in the form of a present from a great friend whom I've know since elementary school.

She gave me the novelty Santa's outhouse toy, shown below, that, with the press of a button, it's tiny holiday lights shine to the sounds of St. Nick passing gas and making silly comments about pooping.


Gina said...

Outhouses can come in handy. Years ago, when our plumbing died hours before a huge grad party at my house, I would have been glad to have one. Instead, we rented port-a-potties. They worked out so well, we rented them for the next party, even though the plumbing was fine.

Scott Beveridge said...

Must have been some party.