The Outhouse

I would like to introduce, Gwyn Warren from Ellijay, Georgia, She is a very good friend of mine and she wrote the story below. As you can tell she’s a very good writer and storyteller. I believe Gwyn will be a very nice addition to the”Guest blogs” section.


The Outhouse


I don’t remember a lot about the days prior to Daddy’s funeral.  In those days the body was taken to the home rather than left at the funeral home as they are now.  Inasmuch as we didn’t live in Ellijay, his body was taken to my grandparent’s house.  Jo and I were led into the room where his body lay.

“Why isn’t he wearing his glasses?”  I asked.

“He’s asleep.”  Mom answered.  “He never wore his glasses to bed.”

“Why is he dressed like that?” Jo wanted to know.

“He was a veteran.  That was his Army uniform.  That’s the way I want people to remember him.”

We were then whisked away to some relative’s house to spend the night.

My next memory was of the funeral service.  I remember the 21-gun salute; but, I mostly remember the playing of “Taps”.  That’s when I remember crying for the first time.  That was the saddest music I had ever heard.  It would be more than fifty years later before I could listen to taps without crying.

After the memorial service, we returned to my grandparent’s house.  Our furniture was already there.  I didn’t understand and neither did Jo.

It seems in those days it was considered unseemly for a widow to live on her own, even if she had children living with her.  So, while Daddy lay in state, Mother’s brothers got together and moved us from Dalton to Ellijay.  We were going to be living with our grandparents and we didn’t even know them well enough to know how to address them.  We finally settled on Grandma for Mother’s mother, and Dad for her father.  She called him Dad, and since we no longer had a Daddy, Dad seemed a fitting name for us.  So began our days with Grandma and Dad.

Jo and I had been raised in the city.  At seven and eight years old respectively, we knew nothing about living in the country with no electricity and no running water.  We had a refrigerator, so Mother insisted on installing electricity in the house.  She agreed to pay for it herself.  It was cold weather, (Daddy died in January.) and it was too much for Jo and me to have to walk to the spring three times a day to get the milk and butter.

On “wash day”, we had to carry water from the well.  Mother’s wringer washing machine was there, but we had to fill it and then fill tubs in which to rinse the clothes.  Dad would take us to the well and fill 8# lard buckets with water for us to carry to the house, while he filled a couple of 2-gallon water buckets to carry himself.  He wouldn’t let us get near the well even though we wanted to explore everything about it because we had never before seen one.

It seemed to take forever to fill the machine; and, by the time we were finished our hands ached from where the wire handles cut into them.  The tubs were usually already partially filled because Grandma caught rainwater in them to rinse clothes.  We had to get the bugs out of the water that had drowned, of course, but I was always glad when those tubs were full on wash day.

While we adjusted to primitive living fairly well, there was one thing in particular we totally hated:  the outhouse.  It was in the middle of the cornfield; and, to two little girls a very long walk from the house.  It was called a two-seater because there were two oval shaped holes on the right side and a large square hole on the left side.  I was an adult before I knew the reason for the large square hole.  Dad had even built a step so that Jo and I could reach the seats.  The smell wasn’t so bad in the beginning because of the cold.

One morning Jo and I awakened to a snow-covered world.  We had to use the outhouse, so we waded through the snow together.  When we arrived, we saw that snow had blown in between the planks in the siding and the seat was white.  I suggested we use one of the catalogs to wipe off the seat.  (Did I mention they didn’t use toilet paper?  Instead they used old Market Bulletins and catalogs.) Jo decided a better idea would be to climb up on the seat and squat over the hole.

It sounded reasonable to me, so I suggested she go first till we figured out where exactly we had to be to hit the hole.  Standing between the two holes, she lowered her underpants.  In so doing, her feet started sliding and one went in the hole on the right and one went in the hole on the left.  She hit the space between the two holes with a thud and started screaming “Get Grandma!”

I ran back to the house as quickly as I could and explained to Grandma that Jo had fallen in the toilet.  I didn’t give her details, so based on how quickly she moved, I’m sure she must have thought Jo was down in the mess below.  She opened the door and saw Jo’s predicament and started laughing.  I had never seen anyone laugh so hard.  Tears were flowing down her cheeks and she wasn’t moving.  By this time Jo was crying because her legs were getting numb; I was terrified that Jo wasn’t going to be able to get out of those holes; and Grandma was laughing uncontrollably.

When Grandma could finally speak, she said “I’ll go back to the house and get Richard to come help you get out.”  This sent Jo into another frenzy because she didn’t want Dad to see her with her underpants pulled down.  Finally, Grandma and I together managed to get her pulled out of the holes.  Of course, she had peed on the seat and I didn’t want to sit down because the seat was wet.  Afterwards, Grandma and Dad agreed that if all we had to do was pee, we could go below the smokehouse in the back yard.  That was the best news we had had since moving in with them.

We lived with them for just over six months until Mother found us a rental house and we could move out on our own.  We were back to being city kids again, complete with electricity and running water.  Mother had two very happy little girls.


This is not a picture of the outhouse in Gwyn’s story. It’s from a collection of free stock photos, that I found on line.


2 thoughts on “The Outhouse

  1. Great story! I love hearing about common practices of the past that are absolutely unheard of today… having wakes in homes with the bodies of loved ones laid out. That’s heavy stuff right there, especially for children.

    Liked by 1 person

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