The Outhouse

The Outhouse

In a time before indoor plumbing, a little house would sit behind the main house and it was used as an outdoor bathroom. It must have been quite the experience in the depths of the prairie winters!

Outhouses on the prairies were once a common site.  They were usually behind the house, and could be found in town and in the country.  It is hard to find one today, as most of them have been destroyed or are left in very remote areas.  In 2000, Judy’s images were used in Nancy Millar’s book “Once Upon and Outhouse” .  This book was a humorous look at outhouses. Nancy Millar offered up an intriguing history about an integral aspect of early Canada.  Judy’s extensive collection of outhouse photos below were used in the book, and will soon be available on the website.


“A Rose by Any Other Name”

It was called the outhouse, the little house, the back house and the White House.

It was called the privy, the biffy, the loo and the library.

In its grander moments, it was called the House of Lords, the Ladies’ Chamber and the Throne.

In its humbler mode, it was known as the Shack Out Back, the Comfort Station, the Rest Room, the John and the You-know-what.

In French Canadian communities in the west, it was known as the “becosse“, but after a few generations that word sounded suspiciously like “backhouse.”

It was called His and Hers, Mean and Women, Boys and Girls and I’m not Sure.

It had more names than any other building around the place, but it was seldom mentioned by name.  Just because folks had to use it regularly didn’t mean they were going to talk about it.  Bodily functions weren’t discussed in the early days.  It was considered coarse or impolite to do so.  Therefore, the seat of bodily functions wasn’t talked about either.. except in roundabout or humorous ways. “

Poem from Once Upon an Outhouse by Nancy Millar 


Do you have any Outhouse stories that you would like to share?

Do you recognize any of these Southern Alberta outhouses?

If you would like to purchase Nancy Millar’s Book – Please Click here

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