Some time ago, we remodeled our bathroom in our 1926 house. The new shower and sink make our life so much easier in our morning routine. I wonder what bathrooms were like back in the 20’s and 30’s – before indoor plumbing.
Houses in cities and towns had electricity and indoor plumbing in the 1920’s and for sure by the 1930’s. Farms weren’t so lucky to have these luxuries, however. What facilities did they use on a farm before indoor plumbing?
Most everybody knows families had to use outhouses for their daily needs. But what were those actually like? I have it on good authority that these facilities ranged from comfortable to hardly usable – from pictures of women on the walls to watching spiders as your entertainment.
Most outhouses had two holes – a smaller hole built at a lower height for children and a larger one for the parents. The holes, cut in wood, were covered by a hinged board. One had to be careful of splinters from the board, but after much use, the wood became worn down and smooth. I was assured lime was thrown into the holes on a weekly basis to keep down the odor and aid in decomposition.
Most facilities had a window in the door that swung out. A latch would be fastened upon entry to dissuade any uninvited guests. By the way, both holes were not actually used at the same time, unless two same-sex siblings found this arrangement necessary.
In winter or at night, going to an outhouse was not a pleasant task, so chamber pots were then used in bedrooms. The unpleasant task of emptying these containers was left to an unlucky person in the family – probably the mother.
What about the other purpose of a bathroom – taking a bath? This varied from house to house, but it always occurred on Saturday night before bed, whether one needed a bath or not. A common practice would be for the round washtub to be set up in the kitchen area, close to the warm stove with hot water in the reservoir. I’ve also read that some houses had an actual bath room – a closet size room with an oval tub in it.
In either case, the tub would be filled with a pitcher or bucket before bathing. The youngest person in the family would take a bath first in shallow water. As the size of the person grew, so did the level of water with more warm water added each time. Keep in mind that the water was not emptied between the baths of different people- more water was added to heat it up- that’s all. When Pa finished his bath in a full tub, the tub would have to be emptied bucket by bucket out the back door. When the tub was light enough to be lifted, the strongest people would carry it out to empty it outside.
When electric lines were finally wired into the farm and an electric pump was hooked up on the well, these practices were no longer necessary. A bathroom was added with indoor plumbing as soon as possible to make everyone’s life easier.
It makes me appreciate our newly updated bathroom more than before!