In 1992 the EPA mandated that toilets have high efficiency standards. I think that is about the time that my trouble with indoor plumbing began.
I grew up in a home that was built in the 1970s. One flush and BAM…the job was done! I have not had the same experience with many modern toilets. On their web site, the EPA stresses the need to conserve water. They say that the 1970s toilets that I grew up with use up to 3.5 gallons of water with every flush. However, how much water am I really saving when my typical routine is “flush, plunge, repeat”? Yes, the plunger and I have nearly become best friends. I don’t think I’m alone either. Pre 1992, I didn’t even know where the plunger was. In many bathrooms today, the little bugger is right there by the potty in the open.
It was during one of my times battling the rising tide that I swore we needed an outhouse. Our ancestors never had to reach for a plunger or scramble to pray for the water level to stop rising. Suddenly I began to romanticize what others might find distasteful. I found myself in my thinking place wondering how I could sell the idea to my wife of getting an outhouse. What would the zoning requirements be? What would the neighbors think?
I did a little research and found a fancy outdoor toilet called a Thunderbox. There were plans in a book, but it looked very complicated, not at all like the outhouses of old. I saw what appeared to be an outhouse for sale just east of Tifton. I turned the car around to check it out. It was a small tool shed that was built to look like an outhouse.
If you have been following my column for long, you may know that I have been working on an old house in the woods that dates before the Civil War. Several months ago I was sifting through Craigslist and found an ad for a pre Civil War outhouse. I contacted the owner and drove up to Riverdale to check it out. The outhouse had been on a farm in Jonesboro as Union troops burned their way to the sea. The thought that Yankees could have defiled it was a bit of a turnoff but not as disappointing as how rough it was. This was truly old and had seen better days.
Last weekend we visited an antique store in Thomaston. We walked in to look around, and as I was returning to the car, I saw it. In a corner outside was a grey door with a crescent moon. I opened the door to find a genuine outhouse. Not a tool shed or a novelty building with a talking man telling me to “shut the door,” but the real McCoy. It was not old enough to be an antique though. The lumber had been aged using a stain and old knickknacks were hung to give it a primitive look. We bought it, and a friend of mine helped me load it on his trailer. There are not many times in life that you see a town square covered with American flags and an outhouse on a trailer passing by. That is genuine Americana!
My friend advised me that I probably didn’t need to dig a hole more than 18 inches because he doubted that I could fill it up. I told him that he obviously had not talked to my wife. I erred on the side of caution and dug 5 feet. It is not like I can plunge the dirt. My friend was impressed with the hole, and he helped me get it off of the trailer and in position.
As of now, the outhouse has not been used. It stands as a sentinel outside the house waiting for an attack. The inside is nearly ready too. I have a wooden toilet paper stand that my father in law built along with the paper. I have a basket of corn cobs for the traditionalist. I may need a Sears and Roebuck catalog, again for tradition. One thing that I don’t intend to buy though is a plunger!
Written by Bill Waller. Mr. Waller is a author and contributor local blog, Southwest Georgia Politics. He enjoys writing, traveling, and researching history. He currently resides in Albany, Georgia.