Braving the outside dunny on a cold and frosty morning

Nov 19, 2022
Did you have an outhouse growing up? Source: Getty

Remember when we were little, snuggled up under our candlewick bedspreads and it was time to get up and go to the toilet? No cosy and convenient inside toilet near your room, but a trip to the back door and outside to the dunny, or outhouse as my mum called it.

It was freezing cold on those frosty Christchurch mornings, so the trip would be hurried. If unoccupied you sat on the cold wooden seat, did your thing, and then used newspaper squares to finish up. Then you pulled the chain. Oh, the discomfort on our poor little bottoms. Toilet paper was not a necessity in those post-war years, if we were lucky mum used old dressmaking patterns which were slightly more absorbent.

Mum kept it pretty spick and span, but it did have a bit of a lingering pong to it – something I blamed my other sisters for. The concrete floor was icy so you needed your slippers and dressing gown.

Occasionally a strange man would come overnight in a cart and carry away a can of our waste. I can remember being utterly appalled when I found out what it was he did for a job.

When I was a little older we moved into a more modern house that had an inside toilet. Oh, the joy. It was avocado green and matched the bath and sink. It certainly made our lives a lot easier and it meant that getting up on a cold and frosty morning was not so torturous.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. On a recent trip to Japan, I encountered one of their toilets. Oh, the bliss of a warm seat and those cleansing sprays and air flows that left you feeling like you’d had a spiritual experience. They even spoke to you, although as I do not understand Japanese, I wasn’t sure what they were telling me. But, it made me remember that when I was first married at 20, my hippie husband and I moved into an old Victorian house with no amenities.

We cooked on the fire, and the toilet was once again outside – but it did have a split barn door system that could close on the bottom and open at the top so you could chat with anyone passing by. A good way to surprise unwanted callers.

Just sometimes when out travelling off the beaten track, I’m once again confronted by an old dunny or outhouse. Just the aroma will once again bring back not-so-fond memories. But, when you’re desperate you’ll go anywhere, so you do.  Spider webs, hopefully, no spiders, maybe a snake or two, no toilet paper (tissues in your pocket will do), a bit of graffiti, and that universal pong will take you right back to the days of childhood.

Did your family have an outhouse or were you lucky enough to have an inside toilet? What are the horror stories of your outhouse experiences?

Leave your comment

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up