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A Privy is a Podium
by Fred N. Lee
03/13/06
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A Privy is a Podium

During the depression years of the 1920's, the Federal Government instituted a program called the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This program was established to put people back to work during and after the depression. One of their jobs was to construct outhouses, sometimes called toilets, and sometimes called a privy.

Our privy was a two holer with a concrete stool (no pun intended) covered with pine boards. Why a two holer I will never know except that Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary always went together, holding hands as they walked down the path to the facility.

Other than for natural purposes my younger brother used it for practicing his singing. It seemed to make his voice a lot mellower as he sang, "Home on the Range", over and over and over. As anyone knows who has visited a privy they have a distinctive aroma, especially in the summer time. That is probably why from time to time his voice would have a nasal sound as if he were holding his nose.

During the golden years just after the depression, toilet tissue as we know it didn't exist. However, every family in the United States received a Sears and Roebuck catalog each fall, just in time for their Christmas shopping. These catalogues contained hundred of very slick pages, and served as the toilet tissue of that day until Charmin toilet tissue came along.

Another use of the catalogue was to satisfy the curiosity of pre-teenage boys as to what the female body looked like decked out in sleep ware, most boys never having seen a woman dressed in sleep ware other than their mother and sisters. This one thing probably explains why my younger brother spent so much time "down the hill" as my mother use to say. This worked well for him except one day my mother went to check and see why he was taking so long practicing his musically talent. She caught him just setting there looking at the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. This didn't go over very well with her and a lot of commotion took place shortly after she went down there. He had a problem sitting down for the next couple of hours.

The old privy met its demise during the time my older brother and sister-in-law stayed with us during a lull between his jobs. Their oldest son, probably no more that 6 years old, went to the privy, no doubt, to check out why all the fuss about the Sears and Roebuck catalog. While down there he somehow managed to fall through one of the holes. My sister-in-law, hearing his screams for help, tore out down the hill like a run away train to see why my nephew was screaming and crying. When she saw the situation, adrenalin rushed through her veins, she grabbed the seats with both hands, and jerked the concrete stool from the floor. Of course, this ended the use of the privy and the podium in which my younger brother practiced his singing.

My mother always wanted to enclose the back porch. Shortly after the demise of the ole privy, and out of necessity for a bathroom facility, my dad agreed to enclose the porch and put a full-fledged bathroom back there. Of course, this ended my younger brothers singing career and I have always wondered if he would have made it big in the music business if my nephew had not went down there that fateful day. I guess I will never know!



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