THE PRIVY Historical records indicate that privvies have been part of the built environment going back at least a thousand years. Archeological findings reveal the Sumarians constaructed outhouses as far back as 4500 BC. It wasn't until the 1800s that modern technolgy and rising attention to cleanliness led to indoor plumbing. Stone Tolan's curator is Wilma Townsend- TOWNSEND: Wealthier urban dwellers readily embraced indoor bathrooms but people who lived out int he country weren't as willing to put out the money or were suspicious of using indoor bathrooms. So many stuck with the privvies right into the 20th century. Most rural outhouse were put in a prominent spot in the yard, well away and downwind from the house and away from the well. Farm wives would plant lilac bushes or other sweet-smelling flowers around the building as a way of battling the all-too-familliar odor. Once the privy pit was full, it was covered over and the building was relocated. Most of the 19th century structures were built of either vertical boards or clapboard with a pitched roof and a simple plank door. BOHR: It's architecture was a form of simple classic art But in the tragedy of life it played a leading part Rochester's Tom Bohr helped welcome the museum's privy with a reading of James Whitcomb Riley's The Passing of the Old Backhouse BOHR: All day fat spiders spun their webs to catch the buzzing flies That flitted to and from the house where ma was baking pies And once a swarm of hornets bold had built a palace there And stung my unsuspecting aunt. I dare not tell you where TOWNSEND: Now, to make one's trip to "the necessary" more pleasant various items were located inside for personal comfort. Before the invention of toilet paer, families made good use of the softer pages of an old Sears catalog. Prior to catalogs, privvies contained a box of unshelled corn cobs ready for the occupants use. BOHR: The torture of that icy seat would make a Spartan sob, For needs must scrape the gooseflesh with a lacerating cob, We did our duties promptly, there one purpose swayed the mind, We tarried not, nor lingered long on what we left behind YORIO: When it comes to construction, I says, I can give ya joists or beams. Rochester's Jim Yorio assumed the role of an outhouse builder, reading from a 1929 booklet called The Specialist by Charles Sail. YORIO: Ladies and gentlemen, you are standin' face to face with the champeen privy builder of Sangamon County. 'Course I can give ya joists but ya take your Aunt Emmy- she ain't gettin' a might lighter. Some day ya might come out and them joists give way and there she'd be- catched. Beams I say, every time, and rest secure. BOHR: And still I marvel at the craft that cut those holes so true, The baby hole, and the slender hole that fitted Sister Sue. That dear old country landmark; I've tramped around a bit, And in the lap of luxury my lot has been to sit- YORIO: Now, I says, how do you want the door to swing- openin' in or out? He said he didn't know. So I says it should open in. Place yourself in there.. the door openin' in say about 45 degree. Now if you hear somebody comin' you can give it a quick shove with your foot and there ya are. But if she swings out, where are ya? Ya can't run the risk of havin' 'er open for air or sun 'cause if someone comes in ya can't get up off that seat, reach way around and grab without gettin' caught now can ya? TOWNSEND: I didn't look for them until I started research. But you do see them on the farms out in the country around here if you look really hard. If you look towards the back of a farm yard, you will often see a building that looks like this. But it's usually very run down and it's tipping over or it may have been changed into a tool shed or something like that. Some houses had them in the very, very back wing of a house as well. I think anybody who has gone camping at a primitive campsite or has a summer camp on a lake probably would be very familliar with this. YORIO: Sometimes when I get to feelin' blue and maybe I hitched my wagon to the wrong star and maybe I should have took up chiopratry or vetrinary.. I just pack the little woman and the kids in the back of the car and start out aimin' to fetch up at Elmer's place long about dusk. There sits that privy on that knoll near the wood pile, painted red and white.. morning glories growin' up over and Mr. Sun bathin' her in a burst of yeller color... and whew! As I look at that beautiful picture of my work I-I am proud. I heaves a sigh of satisfaction. My eyes fill up and I says to myself: folks are right when they say that next to my eight-holer that's the finest piece of contruction work I ever done. I know I done right in specializin'. I feel I'm sittin' on top of the world. I hope that boy of mine who's growin' up like a weed keeps up the good work when I'm gone. With one last look as we pulls away I slip my arm around the missus and I says "Norah, Elmer don't have to worry. He's a boy who's got a migthy pretty privy." TOWNSEND: Let's unveil this thing... okay! (crowd cheers) Celebrating the privy, at the Stone-Tolan House Museum in Brighton. Bill Flynn, WXXI-1370.