Bob Mitchell: Tippin’ the Privey practice

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Before leaving the month of November, I want to mention a past Halloween practice that existed in years long past.

Therefore, it’s considered safe to mention what the big boys once talked about as the hours of haunts arrived in the season. As mentioned, this was strictly big boy talk that usually attracted the attention of those too young to participate in the prank.

The era involved was the existence of outdoor facilities that prevailed before the coming of septic tanks and eventually the first waste disposal system in Cassville.

Tippin’, not destruction

The season of pranks so far as the outdoor facilities were concerned never intended to destroy the facilities. According to the participants at the time, the small buildings were gingerly tipped over, thus the name “tippin’ priveys,” which usually resulted in a number of the structures being laid on its side or back by the morning after Halloween.

According to tales, it didn’t matter how large the facility might be, one with a single hole or the more popular of the era, the one that had more seats, usually the three-hole variety. All structures of this type were open game when the witches rode so far as this long-past generation was concerned.

Middle preference

Anything over the two-hole models spawned a saying that was extremely popular in those days. When approval of an act was present it was often termed “popular as the middle hole in an outdoor toilet.” That phrase was meant to be a compliment and absolutely nothing short of that.

Some always had a problem with the existence of this large a facility, which was in existence at the Ray House where many of the family spent at least part of their youth. Incidentally, the facility was a short walk downhill out the back door from the house, was possibly the most guarded one of these structures in town if there was any possibility of the building being disturbed.

Questioning the size of the privies was often justified, reasoning being that in all the use that those within memory might hold, there never was another occupant on an adjoining hole when we used ours.

Perhaps the absence of having company in the privy was due to the existence of only one catalog in the building. For those outside the existence of such equipment, the catalogs could be Montgomery-Ward or Sears, which were present instead of the rolls of today.

Well-kept facility

At the Ray House it was the understanding that a junior member of the household would be responsible for certain weekly chores, or if required more frequently, it remained their duty.

This could include cutting grass with a reel-type push mower, remove weeds adjacent to the access path and the required addition of hydrated lime to the pit.

Then there might be, in the summer time, checking and destroying any wasp nests that might located in the rafters. These insects could cause havoc for a person using the facility.

In use in late ‘30s

These outdoor facilities continued in some use until the late 1930s when Work Progress Administration came into existence after the Great Depression. The WPA program was seized upon by Cassville to construct the first waste water disposal system for the city. As outlined before, the location was between what is now the R-4 practice football field and Flat Creek. After treatment, the off-flow went directly into the creek.

As primitive as this plant might have been, it served the needs of the town for several years.

But, the existence of this new facility didn’t remove the use of outdoor privies as many folks in these days either could not afford the expense of “hooking onto the sewer” or they were among those preferring to stick with the outdoor building.

Eventually it became necessary for the city administration at that time to pass ordinances outlawing the use of the privies for health reasons. The action was among the most controversial in those days, but eventually most people accepted the action as reasonable.

City’s problem areas

City administrations in the past have taken action that hasn’t been accepted by 100 percent of its citizenry, but the town has survived.

Now, in the opinion of many, there are situations, now adjoining the city limits that need to be addressed. To correct these problems will take positive action by those in charge of such things.

On the most part, Cassville residents take pride in their property thus not posing a problem for a neighborhood or the city. These particular cases need handling, no matter how difficult the solution might present.

Perhaps a new year will bolster concern of officials to tackle some of these difficult situations, both within the city limits and just on the outskirts.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.