And They Used What???


I don’t ever remember having to do without toilet paper. Actually, I don’t remember a time when my family did not have indoor plumbing.

The youngest of six, I came along at the perfect time to come along. My idea of bringing in the cows and using the little outdoor “facility” behind the house was totally different than the attitude of my siblings. I thought it was all great fun. Why? Because I never HAD to experience it. When that privy door clunked shut behind me (I can still hear the sound), that was where this five-year-old kid wanted to be.

Ours was fresh, new and state of the art! A cement foundation covered everything that needed covering. The small building had bright white siding and shingles on the roof. Inside was not just a two-holer, but a two-seater! On the right was a much shorter seat. Goldilocks would have given her stamp of approval— “Just right!”

Hinged covers concealed what... needed concealing. These smooth wooden boards were quite pleasant, only a hindrance when one was in an extreme hurry. There must have been small windows up at the top. I am not sure, because I never looked up, but how else could it have been so bright and cheerful? I could sit on the cover of the Goldilocks seat and read the Sears, Roebuck catalog that lay right next to it. I am sure it was for reading. For what other purpose would a catalog be in an outhouse?

One bright, sunny day, my mom was hanging clothes out on the lines that ran a few yards away from the outhouse. A perfect time for some catalog reading! Door clunked. Goldilocks would have been proud, but then I found something new on top of the Sears, Roebuck. Pink tissue papers, the ones that mom’s canning peaches were wrapped in before she canned them. Little squares of pink that smelled like – peaches! Why were they here in my novelty reading room?

I grabbed one and headed out the door (clunk) to get Mom’s take on the peach papers.

They say ignorance is bliss. Well, I was shocked! I could understand how that soft peachy tissue might be repurposed. But, the catalog? All I know is I did not spend as much time “reading” any more. Never again did I see the Sears, Roebuck catalog in the same light.

My next enlightenment on the subject of outhouses occurred several months later at a friend’s grandmother’s house. This time the visit to the little building was a necessity. The weathered door creaked as I tried to pull it shut. I trembled at the thought of the wind whipping it open. My eyes adjusted to the darkness that was slit into strips by the light that peeked in through the gaping cracks in the walls.

There was a choice of three holes of ascending size. Between the two smaller holes was a nearly-empty roll of toilet paper. Bracing myself with both hands, I managed to pull my body up, legs dangling, on the high seat over the smallest opening.

Suddenly, a gust of wind pushed through the opening on the door, tipping the nearly-empty roll of toilet paper. I watched in helpless horror as it rolled over and disappeared into the next hole. Frantically, I searched the mottled darkness for an extra roll. There was none. No peach tissues. No Sears, Roebuck. Wait! What was that down in the corner next to my feet? A small metal bucket filled with... corn cobs???

DeAnn Kruempel grew up on a farm near De Smet, S.D., the sixth child of Harrison and Mabel Wolkow.  She attended school at Erwin and De Smet. She married Vicar Robert Kruempel and lived in Benedict, ND, Toeterville, IA, Akron, IA and Missouri Valley, IA. Author now resides on an acreage near Logan, IA and is employed as Children's Librarian at Missouri Valley Public Library. DeAnn has written a series of books, (four published so far, fifth to come out soon) "Promises to Keep," which are available at


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment