I was tickled at all the thoughtful (and in some cases humorous) responses that I received after my post the other night on the mystery of the Manse’s bathroom – the mystery being what that room might have been used for at the time the house was built, in 1888, when doubtless there was no bathroom. Several readers wrote in to recount their memories of life before bathrooms, when an outhouse and a galvanized tub hauled out onto the kitchen floor on bath night served the functions of our fancy present-day bathrooms. (Okay, your fancy present-day bathrooms. Ours at the Manse is, as you saw in my photo on that post, still pretty rudimentary.)
The comments backed up my theory that, in rural areas like Queensborough, many homes did not get indoor bathrooms until well into the middle part of the 20th century. I had formed that theory for two reasons: one, because I remember (very dimly; I was a very small child) the days before my family’s own rural home, up in Haliburton County, got indoor plumbing (when we used, to quote reader Ruthanne, “an outhouse attached to the woodshed”); and two, because I remember several outhouses that were still in use in the early days of my 1960s-’70s Queensborough childhood, after my dad took up ministerial duties at St. Andrew’s United Church.
In fact, one of those outhouses remained in use a long time after that. As I recounted in a post a while back about the remarkable Queensborough artist Goldie “The Quilt Lady” Holmes, Goldie and her husband Art, who lived kitty-corner to the Manse, never did get indoor plumbing, and Goldie (who outlived Art by quite a few years) continued to use her outhouse until her death, in her 90s, a fair jot into the 21st century. Now, you have to admit: that is something!
It seems quite incredible now, in 2014, used as we all are to multiple bathrooms per household, that not all that many years ago people had to trek outdoors and across their yards, even on the coldest day – or, worse, night – of the year to use the facilities. (I imagine they got pretty good at holding off on those physical necessities until morning. And if they couldn’t, I suppose there was always the chamber pot. Yikes!)
I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel quite grateful for indoor plumbing and toilets. (Even if ours at the Manse is more than half a century old, as I reported here – probably the first one ever installed in the house.) I find it rather charming that a couple of Queensborough’s outhouses are still extant, but it’s also a comfort to know that, in all likelihood, no one will ever need to make use of them again.