Ode to the Outhouse

Outhouses in appalachia

I only used an outhouse one time. I was about 4 or 5 years old. Pap and I were at the local country store-Doris Jeans. Pap was taking forever talking to someone-I wanted to go home because I had to go to the bathroom. I kept on and on until Pap sent me to the store’s facilities-which was an outhouse. I remember it was creepy-with spiderwebs. I also remember wishing I hadn’t pestered Pap about having to go to the bathroom.

Even though I dream of by gone days and all the knowledge they hold, I don’t think I missed out on anything by growing up with indoor plumbing. Matthew Burns gives a clear perspective about growing up with an outhouse in A Malodorous Memory.

After doing some research on Outhouses I came up with some interesting tidbits.

  • I’ve heard about 2 seater outhouses-I just thought it was so more than one person could use the potty at a time-not true. One seat was made larger for adults-one smaller for kids.
  • One theory about the moon on the door-the moon was the symbol for women-the star burst was the symbol for men. Since men’s outhouses usually weren’t kept up as well, they deteriorated faster. The women’s outhouses being taken better care of-lasted longer-thus we associate the moon with outhouses.
  • Thomas Crapper was one of the first installers of water-closets.
  • Folks had different names for outhouses such as: I’m going to; the white house, the garden house, the la-la, the throne, the summer house, the library, the shiver shanty, and many others. One I still hear on regular basis-I’m going to see a man about a dog. (from The Deer Hunter)
  • Outhouse diggers are folks who find old outhouses and dig for treasure. They find all manner of items-mostly very old bottles.

In the 1960’s Billy Edd Wheeler wrote a satirical song, Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back, about losing a beloved outhouse. In a way, the song proves folks can be sentimental about anything.

For this week’s Pickin’ & Grinnin’ In The Kitchen Spot- Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back.

Hope you enjoyed the song. I ask Granny and Pap if they had any outhouse stories for me. Pap said one of the elementary schools he went to had outhouses. Granny said she did not care to remember any outhouse stories at all!! Do you have any outhouse stories or memories to share? Please leave me a comment-I’d love to hear about it!


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Dee Babcock
    October 29, 2017 at 9:06 am

    looking for a joke my father-in-law used to tell about an outhouse with a crescent moon in the door, hollyhocks growing up the side, and a Sears, Roebuck catalogue, all told with a heavy lisp. He has been gone for over 24 years and nobody in the family can remember the full joke or story. Does of your followers know any jokes or stories like this, we can’t seem to remember the punch line.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I noticed most people really don’t like using outhouses. In the early 1970’s I used to go gold panning in the Sierra Nevadas & I had to dig my own holes. Later the Park Service put in an outhouse. (How they were able to get there to do that I’ll never figure out.) That was much better, it also had toilet paper.
    Sometimes on camping trips, in an emergency & without toilet paper, I have had to use plant leaves. The furry ones work best.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Oh yes, do I ever remember the outhouse. We had one until I was 11 years old. I don’t miss them at all!
    I also remember going to a church revival when I was little and the church had an outhouse with a 3 sitter in it. But it was modern, it had a real toilet seat on one of the holes. And real toilet paper to boot!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Who knew there’d be so many comments about outhouses?
    Our house didn’t have an indoor bathroom til the ’50s.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 18, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Cute post and some great responses!
    I have used an out house only a few times in my life and that was more than enough. I didn’t like the spider webs and the smell.
    As Brit said, I long for a simpler life—but not that simple!!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    August 18, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Tipper: I forgot to say that i really enjoyed the funny songs that the men shared with us, great job.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    August 18, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Tipper: Wkat a fun post, I really enjoyed the memories.
    When I think of an outhouse I also think of Winter. We had an outhouse at the deer hunting camp in the PA mountains. There is nothing to make you hold it like a freezing weather and a cold seat in the outhouse. At least we had more then corncobs to wipe our rears.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Boy does this bring back memories! I was raised on a farm in mid Missouri. There was an outhouse or crapper, as they called it. There was a bathroom put in the farm house where I was born and raised, when I was only 3 or 4. But, I had to use the outhouse when we were outside working and Mamma thought too dirty to go inside.
    There was a catalog laying there between the larger holes and the tiny little hole. Yes, it was a 3 holer. Man size, lady size and baby size. ๐Ÿ™‚
    My dad told me that when he was younger they used to use corn cobs instead of catalogs. Ouch!
    I also heard his story about how his Grandmother died on the crapper.
    He was also full of stories about how they used to sneak around on Halloween night and do toilet tipping. They would push someones toilet over and then run.
    My Dad passed away 2 years ago at the age of 93, but he told me a world of stories before. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Many of the things you printed under pictures, I also heard said in MO, so I imagine most of that is the time. Many of the older farmers around where I was born, still talk that way.
    I loved reading your blog! Please drop by and visit me sometime.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I, like you, grew up with indoor plumbing. I have visited people and found it necessary to use their outhouse. And like Granny, I don’t care to remember those.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    My Mom tells stories of the outhouse they had while she was a young child. She remembers clearly the day the indoor plumbing was installed.

  • Reply
    Terry Thornton
    August 17, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Great article! I’ve got this thing for out-houses and have posted enough about them at HILL COUNTRY that folks are sending me out-house gifts!! LOL! And one of my out-house articles got translated into German and posted in Europe even. So watch out that the out-house humor doesn’t follow you also.
    Heard once on a Martha Stewart show (yes, I use to watch Stewart) a guest say that in older times lady visitors would inquire “May I see your hollyhocks” which was the signal for “show we the way to your out-house now!”
    Thanks for such an interesting post — check for WPA built out-houses in your area. Some probably still survive or have been restored.

  • Reply
    The Texican
    August 17, 2008 at 7:45 am

    I was thinking of the Ode to an Outhouse all the way through your post. I enjoyed your family rendition of that great classic. That was a one time in the collection of songs I sang. I guess most of us who are my age had some experience with outhouses. I remember hating to go in them because of the smell and the plethora of insects that seemed to like to join you there. Thanks for the laughs and the memories. Pappy

  • Reply
    August 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    That is so funny… My oldest daughter has the little ole brown shack on her ipod.. we love good clean bluegrass (ha ha) and gospel bluegrass..

  • Reply
    trisha too
    August 16, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Ahh, the lovely lolly.
    Dew damp TP can be quite refreshing.
    That’s all I’m going to say.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    August 16, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Hats off to you, Tipper, for creating an interesting and entertaining post about a facility not often glorified. I can remember the days my husband and I camped early in our marriage and the choice was either the woods or the outhouse. Honestly, I chose the woods. *laughing* The outhouses in public parks are much to be desired. A fun post, Tipper!

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    August 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    *laughing* Hats off to you, Tipper, for creating a wonderful, interesting, entertaining story about a facility noone usually speaks kindly of! When I was younger, my ex-husband and I camped quite a bit in national or public parks, so there were either the woods, or the outhouses. Honestly, I preferred the woods

  • Reply
    August 16, 2008 at 11:16 am

    My Dad grew up in the country with an outhouse supplied with a Sears Roebuck catalog for toilet paper. My mom, a city girl, likes to tease that he was born on “the other side of the tracks”!
    I’ve never used an outhouse here in the states except at a state park or rest area in the northern peninsula of Michigan. BUT, I had to use WAY too many while living in Argentina. They were very crudely built as they belonged to very poor persons ~ in fact it was a luxury to have one. None had seats and most were holes dug in the ground with 2x4s on each side on which to place your feet. And toilet paper was never provided ~ you had to carry your own everywhere. 8-D

  • Reply
    August 16, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Oh, another thing I just remembered: I once heard an old timer comment in disgust about indoor toilets, “I can’t understand why people would want to do their business in their own house!” In his mind it was disgusting to bring the toilet inside. Now there’s something to think about.

  • Reply
    August 16, 2008 at 6:53 am

    My Granny and Pappaw (the poet/banjo-picker) had an outhouse up until 1985. He had an multi-compartment box in it that held an assortment of “wipes” and he wrote a poem about it that hung inside.
    When I was 4, I can remember my dad and my other pappaw tearing down the old outhouse that used to be on our farm. That was where I saw my first ever live scorpion!
    Like Nicole mentioned, I had been contemplating making our little “throne corner” into a fake outhouse. I decided it would be too hard to keep clean. Instead I plan to build a multi-compartment box for fake “wipes” and hang pappaw’s poem on the wall.
    Check out these outhouses! We go every year.
    Another great post!

  • Reply
    August 16, 2008 at 12:22 am

    In these hot days with out air conditioning I always think about the things I’m grateful for like INDOOR PLUMBING!! but i always laugh at the people who wish it were ‘simpler times’ only with medicine and air conditing…sometimes in our search for a simpler life we forget that ‘things’ aren’t really what makes it a greener or simpler life but ideas and motivations….i’ll take indoor plumbing and air conditioning (please send some !!0 any time.

  • Reply
    Razor Family Farms
    August 15, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    I’ve used an outhouse MANY times. growing up in Virginia, I got to visit many of our State parks and when you left the main roads… there were outhouses. I also got to use them in Alaska — which was so pleasant that I scarcely noticed that I was in one since it was March and there weren’t any bugs. Of course, on missions you are thankful if there is an outhouse… sometimes it’s just better to find a quiet place to “disappear.” The outhouse in Chilapa de Vicente (Mexico) was HORRIBLE. As in the worst I have ever seen. There was no hovering over that one. I found some trees instead. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Excellent post.
    Didn’t know if you were interested but my new post is up on and your comment is your entry to win a bar of homemade soap. There will be two winners. Tell some friends to enter, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    My grandparents didn’t have a bathroom until I was about 10. So when I visited, I took a bath in a washtub and visited the outhouse when needed.
    When I was about 6, I had to go. So, I settled myself on the seat, looked downto see…a snake! I jumped down and without pulling up my pants, ran tripping and screaming all the way back to the house! And that’s why I’m so afraid of snake today! Pretty sure the snake was long gone before me.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    When I was growing up, we didn’t have indoor plumbing. Yes, we made a trip to the little brown shack outback. I remember getting cobwebs in my hair once and sat there trying to get them out. I wrote a poem about it. Come to think of it, I may make that tonight’s post. It was part of my life and I wouldn’t change that part of my life for anything. Though we didn’t have much, we never felt that we were poor nor did we envy what others had. At night we used a chamber pot when we were little. Once we reached a certain age, we were expected to go to the outhouse day and night.
    The photos of the outhouse brought back many memories of growing up on the farm.
    Blessings for a great weekend,

  • Reply
    noble pig
    August 15, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    It wouls have to be some kind of an emergency for me to use an outhouse…this city girl just can’t do it.

  • Reply
    Valarie Lea
    August 15, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I just don’t get why people would pick there to dig for treasures. ๐Ÿ™‚ I just can’t imagine anything really being there.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    August 15, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    This is so weird. Back in May I read a piece about outhouses on Suzanne McMinn’s Chickens in the Road blog at
    This is what I commented there:
    My Aunt Peggy lived in Gaithersburg, Md. When we were children, my grandmother took us there to visit. I had to go to the bathroom and Aunt Peggy pointed to a room off the kitchen. You probably wonโ€™t believe this, but it was an actual indoor plumbing bathroom. Only problem was it was dusty and dirty and full of cobwebs and spiders. I said, โ€œI canโ€™t go in there.โ€ She said, โ€œWell thereโ€™s an outhouse out back.โ€ I was apprehensive about that as I had never seen one before. Let me tell you, the place was comforting and spic and span clean. I told my sisters and brothers about it and they all had to come out and see it.
    If you want to read her outhouse posts, she has them listed on her sidebar. She also talks about the double seaters too. xxoo

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    When I was a kid I had a fake aunt and uncle who lived in the country. Fake because they were really family friends that mama made me call aunt and uncle. Respect – we were all about respect at my house. Anyway, they had an outhouse and what’s more, if you had to go at night there was a “slop jar” under the bed. They had 3 kids and each week it was 1 kid’s job to empty the slop jars in the outhouse and wash them out. I was always glad I wasn’t one of their kids! blessings, marlene

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Even though we had indoor plumbing when I was a child there were still people in our small community that still had outhouses. I remember my father taking me to go late at night while visiting one of these neighbors and it was so dark we had a flashlight. It was a two seater and one side was completely filled up to the brim. Gross. I was only around four years old and I still can smell and see it clear as can be. I also remember the Sears Roebuck catalog people used for wiping.
    I’m sorry but I could not bring myself to dig for treasures in one of those old things. But I do like the photos of them.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    When I was little, my grandpa and grandpa lived way out in the country. The church they attended had an outhouse, so I used that one a few times. No good stories, though.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    I got a good laugh from this as well as a lot of information. Thanks for this bit of “unmentionable” history, Tipper!
    (And thanks very much for praying for little Elise.)

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I’m old enough to remember the days when we had to go to the outhouse. Those are not my favorite memories of country living.
    The cemetery where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried is in the boonies, with no buildings close by. Several years ago, an outhouse was built for “emergencies,” but I don’t drink anything for hours before or during a trip there. I don’t like spiders and snakes even though I grew up a country girl.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I was just always afraid the paper would start rattling in the trash box. That could mean a mouse, but usually meant a snake.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    August 15, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Thomas Crapper!? Really! LOL that had me laughing! I too am very thankful for indoor plumbing – I like that the two-seaters were for the little ones! I’m always nervous about the kids falling in – HA.
    You beat me to the punch on leaving you a comment about your award – I had to get a shower in while the babes are napping ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a great weekend!

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    This was pretty cool! In an odd sort of way! I’ve never used a true “outhouse” unless you consider s “dear john” porta potty one! and i’ve unfortunately had the pleasure of using one a handful of times! i have also used a fake outhouse. fake ? you ask. well it was an antique outhouse moved indoors everything was original and it just had modern plumbing for the toilet added! kinda neat.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Well now, this brings back some memories for me. We use to live on an old farm in Maryland. Besides having an old fashion meat house and an ice house, there was an out house. We children used it often, because we didn’t want to go into the house during play time. The out house was there when we moved to the farm. It still had rolls of toilet paper in there and a bucket of lime. I think there was also some newspapers. The farm house was the first on the street to have indoor plumbing, which happened before we moved in. The outhouse was a two seater. I always thought it was so you could bring a friend. I don’t remember if one seat was smaller than the other, but I do remember, we never brought a friend or sibling with us while doing our business. ROTFL I can’t remember what was on the door.

  • Leave a Reply