Peering at the Past Fortunate to have peach papers in the privy

Fillmore County Journa;  - Lee Epps The four-generation family farm of 316 acres was “well endowed with improvements, not the least of which was the outbuilding,” wrote Marie (Middendorf) Muenkel, a native of Winnebago Township, of her childhood in Houston County in the 1930’s. Yes, the annex was once a modern improvement, especially when we considered the options before one was available. By definition, it was not internal pipes, but it was “inside” (probably one door) under one roof.

When I moved to Minnesota in 1988, I bought an outbuilding. It came with a 108-year-old home, originally the blacksmith’s house in downtown Wilmington. It had only recently been given interior piping and the outbuilding was to be given a new function.

During summer musical rehearsals at Spring Grove at the Old Gray Barn (a working horse stable), the cast’s only “facility” was an outhouse, also frequented by yellowjackets. There was a provocative incident. A swollen lip does not lend itself to obvious diction on stage. During performances, portable “facilities” (flying insect-free) were brought in for the public.

“There were no electrical appliances, no TV, no hot cars, and no indoor bathrooms …”, Josephine (Lorenz) Gavin, a Houston County resident, recalls throughout her life of her childhood in the late 1930s and early 1930s. of the 1940s. “The facility we used often had many names. They were back house, outbuilding, private and the small houses were the ‘butt’ of many jokes and pranks over the years.

‘When nature called, we ran to the cottage, and hopefully no one was in it at the time. The door had a hook on the inside so that the resident was not disturbed there. We didn’t have the luxury of toilet paper, but were lucky to have an old Sears and Roebuck catalog or the papers that contained peaches when we bought a crate of them.

An outbuilding at the railroad track in Spring Grove had a long walkway along a wood pile.
Photo courtesy of the Houston County Historical Society

“The name” Secret Annexe “probably refers to where the cottage was located, usually behind the main residence and beyond,” added Gavin. When choosing a location, privacy can be taken into account. Muenkel recalled that the site was on the north side of the pine forest just beyond the lawn, separated by a small former smokehouse and also by corn cribs. Distance from the home necessary to balance both ease of access and odor. Construction was to allow for the privately to be relocated, perhaps once a year, after the earthen wells were filled. There was a hole in the door for both ventilation and light. There is a lot of guesswork about the shape and design of those holes. Most recognized is the crescent moon made popular by American cartoonists.

There was usually room for two; each chair had a hole about eight to four inches wide. One was often higher than the other, the lower for children. But Muenkel described the more elaborate “two-room house” of her petting zoo. The accommodations in the west room include an adult chair for the ladies and a child chair for ‘the little ones’. The east room could accommodate one – for the men, family, and hired help.

Not to be forgotten was the decor. The interior of the powder room had cream paint with a gray painted floor. The men’s room had terracotta paint.

Like most claims, indoor plumbing came first for city dwellers. Reminiscent of her childhood in the 1920s, Lucille (Clifford) Swing lived in what she described as a “modest cottage” in Caledonia. “We did have electricity, indoor plumbing and central heating, which many of the rural houses did not have at the time.” She also remembered an iron, but not yet a dishwasher. “My poor grandmother had to do the laundry with the proverbial washboard and tub.”

Meanwhile, there was no electricity on the farm until the New Deal and Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (REA) brought electricity to the farm, making it possible to pump water into pipes indoors – running water to flush toilets, fill bathtubs. , wash and wash clothes.

Before plumbing indoors – in the city and in the countryside – the old saying was that most people only bathe once a week, and different members of the family used the same bath water. When power lines brought power, plumbing soon followed. It was a whole “new deal”.

This article cites written memories of Houston County published around the turn of the century.

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