Young men and women often used the outhouse as a place to smoke.
Some outhouses had fancy lids cut to cover the holes. Some used a piece of board for a cover, and others used nothing and gave the flies immediate access. The holes varied with individual tastes. Some had different sized holes in the same outhouse. For instance, a large sized hole or a smaller one for a more petite-sized person or child.
Nothing was so frightening to a child as to enter a strange outhouse where the holes were cut extra large and the pit appeared extra dark and extra deep. I can recall perching on the edge of the hole, hands gripping the ledge on the seat board so hard that the knuckles stood out white and thinking, "Oh, my gosh! What'll I do if I fall in?"
The outhouse was used to get rid of things other than human waste, too. Many young boys did their first experimenting with smoking there and concealed the evidence by tossing it down the hole. More than one time, the alarm was given that the toilet was on fire and then it turned out to be a young lad with an ample supply of cornsilks. Before smoking in public became accepted for women, the outhouse was used for a smoking salon and down the hole went the circumstantial clues. .
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.