Growing Up In An Outhouse
I grew up in a middle class family, in a middle class street in a middle class neighborhood. Most of our neighborhood at the time I was born back in the mid Sixties had had their toilet outside of the house. Australian outhouses were commonly and fashionably called “The Dunny”. To get to the dunny in our case we would exit the back of the house, walk along the verandah and into the tiny room, which faced directly over into my next door neighbours backyard. Great for privacy, they knew everytime we went pee pee.
At the time we didn’t speak to our neighbours, our parent’s had falling out in a dispute over a bag of fruit, (pathetic) so my visits to the outhouse often bought ridicule from the three kids next door, who were all older than me. I was so embarrassed to step outside to go to my private business with what I felt was the eyes of the world watching me.
So I would peek out of the kitchen door first and check if the backyard was empty next door. If it was indeed empty, I would do a flying run out to the toilet and slam the door and literally hide in there. Sometimes though, this method didn’t work. My next door neighbor and later my best buddy and cohoot, would often hide down near her fence and as I did my flying run out the backyard she would spring up to the top of the fence like a jack in the box and yell out
Looking back now I can laugh but back then that public outting of my toilet habits was the source of many a night over the years spent begging and pleading with my parents for an upgrade to an “Inhouse”.
This is not a dunny above but I got
Vertigo Looking at it so I had to include it.
The worse times growing up with an outhouse, were when the neighbours were having a great big party in their backyard, which they often did. Those times taught me immaculate bladder control. I would be too embarrassed to step outside because to be sure I would be greeted by howls of laughter as I vanished into the little room to do my business. My Overly active imagination would believe they could actually see through that door and actually watch me as well.
The really bad thing about the whole set up and especially when the neighbors were having yard parties was the risk that someone else would try and use the toilet while you were in there which would then expose you sitting on your throne with pants around the ankles, to about 50 Teenagers all drinking and having a merry time next door.
(I swear they used to have the parties just to watch our family travel back and forth to the loo all day)
Then we get to the seat itself. Did we have a simple plastic seat on our toilet? No we had to have one of those super duper heavy ancient Bakelite toilet seats. They were a pretty durable addition to the Australian “Dunny” back in the sixties and yet they didn’t last. They were replaced eventually and I know the only reason why. It was ONLY because those blasted bakelite toilet seats were so freezing cold in winter and I mean freezing. It would be agony to sit down on the seat and I would dream of a plastic seat daily in winter. As I grew older I developed a knack of putting my hands face down on the cold seat at the front and sitting on my hands instead of the icy seat.
The room itself in the early days was very boring. I would sit there for hours (well it seemed so) and stare at the bland off white colored walls and the baby poop brown colored door. There was one tiny frosted slatted glass window, way up near the roof behind the commode itself and there was one frizzy oid toilet brush in a pale lemon faded bucket. Of course, being a slatted window meant the nice icy breeze blew right down those diagonal vents onto two already freezing cold exposed goosepimpled butt cheeks. The floor was cold cold smooth concrete without even a rug to keep the tootsies warm.
Not very inspiring.
I devised a plan one day when I was around 11 or 12. I decided that it was high time the Dunny had a paint job and makeover. So after getting permission off Dad we went down to the hardware shop and bought some paint to “give it all a new do”. The paint I chose was pink, a pale pink for the walls and a deep dark Cerise pink for the doors. It was a full gloss paint to because I hated the feel of flat paint on walls.
That pink would have been wonderful in a large bathroom, but in our tiny outhouse it was a disaster. A technicolor disaster at that. I could promise anyone a headache if they even sat in the room for five minutes after the pain job. As I grew and came home drunk with a hangover the next morning, the toilet color would remind me never to ever drink again. To his credit Dad did wait till I left home to repaint the outhouse back to the dull staid off white it orginally was.
But the worse memory of the outhouse involves my notorious neighbours and a freezing cold winter on what we used to call in Australia “cracker night”. It was held in June each year and this story was set in one of the last years before household fireworks were banned in Australia. I guess this ditty was one of the reasons why. In the big packs of fireworks, would be long thin cardboard tubes labelled “ball shooters”. These were the most popular to the “deviants” around the neighborhood, who fired the ball shooters at everything but the sky. The other popular fireworks were throwdowns but that is another story
Well this one year one dark night I checked and the coast appeared to be clear so I raced out to the toilet. Just as I raced along, my neighbor put her head over the fence and aimed something at me. The next moment, zap, zap, zap. Bright colored balls of gunpwder were exploding all around me and on me. I screamed and tried to run faster with my ear and hair on fire. I closed the door once I got inside and cried and cried. My clothes were all burnt and I was terrified but there was still the return journey back to the house to worry about. I waited. I waited in that damned toilet for half an hour hoping my parents would realize I was missing and come and look for me. I waited and waited to no avail.
Finally I was getting colder and colder and my burns seemed to be burning more and more skin off so I decided to make a run for it back to the house. The return journey was even more difficult as I had to open the wire door as well as the wooden door at the back of the house. I sat there gathering courage and hoping that she had gone inside and forgotten that terrorizing me was her favorite passtime.
I peeked through the keyhole into the blackness outside. I don’t know to this day how that could have helped, light looking out a keyhole into darkness is not a successful venture at the best of times. It seemed silent and dark so i decided to “do it”. I took a deep breath and threw open the door and started to run. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a shadow move on the other side of the fence and suddenly whack whack whack, Whack Whack ouch ouch, I was being attacked from all directions. I hadn’t realised that while I was safe on my commode, my neighbor had called her older borther and sister outside as reinforcements and they were all lined up along the fence aiming those dreaded ball shooters at their terrified target.. Me.
Of course the door wouldn’t work and I was in such a rush to open it I nearly went straight through it. Finally I was inside safely and my mother was standing there in front of me looking rather quizzically at all the smoke rising from my scorched clothes and sniffing the air which was now thick with the smell of burnt singed hair.
I looked at her and just shrugged, we were used to the neighbors by now and I just said to her .. MUM when I grow up.. I am never ever going to subject my kids to an outhouse…. and do you know something….. I never have……
*footnote .my parents did eventually upgrade to an in house… after I had left home
in the words of an immortal hero…. such is life
© 2018, mayet.com.au. All rights reserved.