The Many Purposes of Rural Outhouses

Rural outhouses were a staple of a bygone era.

| Good Old Days

If you have never used a modern day outhouse, in those days you might be surprised how very efficient they were for relief, economy, and comfort to some extent. Generally speaking they were approximately six by seven feet and eight feet to the roof. The high-classed ones were sided with tongue and groove siding and placed over a deep pit, the deeper the better. It was a pretty good idea to take a good breath of air just before you went in and to exhale quickly when you went out, because the staunch odor didn't smell exactly like a rose. Over the pit was a seat that usually extended the length of the outhouse. There could be one to three holes on it cut to fit the different sizes. The smallest was made to fit the littlest fellow and to keep him intact.

It always seemed that there was plenty of ventilation from the cracks, especially in the winter time when a freezing wind whistled up from below. Some of the uptown outhouses had a crescent-shaped moon cut out near the top, maybe more for decoration than for ventilation. Leading to the outhouse was a well-worn path that was traveled out by the runner with far greater speed than his or her return to the house.

No Montgomery Ward catalogues were ever thrown away. They were saved to be hung on the wall closest to the big hole.

Marie Swisher
Coldwater, Kansas

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. 


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