By Joann M. Ringelstetter
In February of this year, during a visit with our aunts and uncles (our dad’s brothers and sisters), somehow the subject of going to the outhouse came up. And, at one point, one of them began telling the story of how our Uncle George, one of our favorite uncles, had painted a funny message on their outhouse when he was a kid.
From 1942 to 1945, as the Second World War raged on, the United States government found it necessary to ration many things due to shortages in the supply of these items. The list of rationed items included coffee, sugar, meat, cheese, shoes, cars, tires, and gasoline. In 1943, the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation published a poster showing a train car overcrowded with passengers, many of them servicemen in uniform. The rest were civilians. In large letters at the top of the poster, it said, “IS YOUR TRIP NECESSARY?” At the bottom, it said, “NEEDLESS TRAVEL interferes with the War Effort.”
Even though Uncle George was just a kid at the time, he found humor in this serious message and decided to paint it on the side of the outhouse.
Speaking of uncles, another of our dad’s brothers, Uncle Vic, owned some vacation property when we were kids. This property had a cottage or cabin on it (which we called “Vic’s shack”), along with a two-seater outhouse.
We visited this property and stayed overnight once and Ruth and I couldn’t resist having our picture taken inside the outhouse. The following photo was scanned in from our collection of old family photographs, so the quality isn’t very good, but we wanted to share this humorous moment with you.
There’s an old schoolhouse in Richland County, Wisconsin that we have visited numerous times. Down the hill from the schoolhouse, an outhouse sits amidst some sumac, which turns red in the fall. On one of our more recent visits, I decided to check out the inside of the outhouse and I discovered that it was actually a three-seater to which modern toilet seats had been added.
Even more interesting than it being a three-seater outhouse, was the hand-written sign on the wall. It said the following:
Put the toilet paper back
in the coffee can. on
account of the mice!!
The way this note was written, with a period after the word “can,” it appeared as if the author had written the instruction to “put the toilet paper back in the coffee can” and then returned later to explain why.
Last fall, Ruth and I spent the day with our sister, Peggy, who lives near Beloit, Wisconsin. She took us to the Hanchett-Bartlett Homestead, an 1857 Victorian farmstead. In addition to the original stone house, stone barn, and restored one-room schoolhouse, there is a large outhouse. Since it was late in the fall, the homestead buildings were all locked, but when I peered in the window of the outhouse, it appeared to be a seven-seater. Talk about a family affair! We hope to visit the homestead in the near future during their open season and see for ourselves.
In the meantime, Happy Shunpiking!