Friday, February 8, 2008

Chit-Chat Over Coffee Swirls (7)

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Need to use the bathroom? Take a number please! Other than the kitchen, the bathroom is one of the most important and heavily traffic areas throughout the entire house, or apartment. It is a place where we relieve ourselves, read books, do puzzles, use for hygienic purposes, where women blow-dry their hair, apply cosmetics and of course where men also shave and groom themselves. Unfortunately where there is only one bathroom, you know there will be a line of short tempered family members waiting to get in......

Have you ever wondered how our ancestors managed when they had to relieve themselves or take a bath?

I must say there was nothing like the great outdoors for our early pioneers and farmers. There were plenty of trees and bushes for the sake of privacy and most of all, fresh air to breathe. Naturally as the population increased and the freezing weather would be present, "outhouses" also called "Privy houses" were built. The outhouses that were designated for the women had a crescent sign, while the men's sign was that of the sun.

The chamber pot known as the "Piss Pot" was used indoors at night for emergencies and by those who were sick. This was usually kept under the bed. I remember my papa had one. Those of wealth would refer to it as a commode. In the finer homes during the 1750s the "Privy" moved indoors and was called the water closet. The water closet was actually a closet room which contained a chair with a hole in the seat. Underneath the hole the chamber pot was placed which always had to be emptied when filled.

As for taking a bath, things were much different back then. Bathing was for the most part considered unnecessary, and immodest. Some of the men would just jump into the lake, creek or a pond whenever there was one nearby. Of course, the outdoor bath was skipped in the freezing winter. But in some homes, where they felt it would be a necessity, the family would have a big washtub in front of the fireplace or stove, where there would be kettles of water boiling to pour into the tub. In the book "I hear America Talking" there is mention of "Philadelphia's Elizabeth Drinker who took a therapeutic shower bath in 1799. It was remarkable enough to be recorded in her diary as her first bath in 28 years!" Geeez...........

The first toilet was installed in the White House in 1825 during the term of John Quincy Adams. Sometime during the 1880s, the wonderful words of "toilet paper" and "wash rag” were added to the bathroom vocabulary.

The poor immigrants, some up to maybe thirty or fifty families living in one tenement building under horrendous and unsanitary conditions during the late 1880s, had to make due of only one or two outhouses which the landlord provided and neglected to maintain.
The stench from the outhouses creeping into the building was enough to knock a horse down. Since there wasn't any water in the house to bathe themselves, the inhabitants had to get water from the pump at the corner and drag every drop that they would use up the long flight of stairs. Oh well, I guess that was that as for taking a bath.

One of the first completed bathrooms with an installed bathtub and toilet was found in George Vanderbilt's N.Y.C.'s mansion in 1855. Vassar College made sure in 1865 that their little ladies bathed twice a week.

Therefore, my dear readers by the time 1935 rolled around, most people here in America were in the habit of taking baths on a daily basis, though there were still a few who chose not to.

Bathroom anyone? why of course.................


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