What’s a privy? a woman asked. ‘It’s an outhouse,’ came the answer.
Kenneth Johnson poses in the original outhouse on an Adams County property he has remodeled. Outhouses can still be seen dotting the York/Adams countryside. For those trying to keep historical accuracy in remodeling old farmhouses, they’re an integral part of the restoration. Background posts: Wanted. One slate-roofed privy from Delta, Pa., ‘Bottle and Jug’ enthusiasts must dig for York County gold and Two tales of four schools teach about change in education in York County
Outhouses remain ubiquitous parts of homesteads across York and Adams counties.
People around here are unabashed about the small backyard sheds being a memorable part of their growing up years.
Just mention them to a local audience, and that will start a string of stories… .
Stories about the toilet paper of the day – corn cobs and Sears Roebuck (never just Sears) catalog pages.
And conjecturing about the crescent moon-shaped holes in the sheds. They’re for ventilation, people will say and then chuckle, but the moon-shapes are appropriate.
And people will talk about the one hole vs. two hole models. Some will say it’s one for him and one for her, but many two-holers were made with adults and children in mind. In fact, some two-holers have little steps leading to one seat with a smaller hole.
There are stories about pushing them over with people in them or moving them back so people would get a surprise upon approach.
Some will talk about carpeted outhouses and the occasional heated privies.
Someone knowledgeable about the Quaker meeting house in York observed several years ago that the small brick building on the western part of the West Philadelphia Street lot was the last outhouse to be used in the city of York. (It was later used as a storage shed.)
Of course, there are some residents who have never been exposed to outhouses and their lore.
There was a case of a newly arrived York countian hailing from Maryland who was stumped when her group was asked about privies.
“What’s a privy?” she wondered out loud.
“It’s an outhouse,” someone enthusiastically proclaimed.