kinggnik

Story

In "The Way It Was", 3-Jessie (J'Mae or Ditta) Garris 1914-2011, 3-Wilhelmina (Bee) Garris King 1918-2007, Bee Stories, FAMILY: BEE & BOB TOGETHER, FAMILY: BROTHER & SISTERS (BEE), Round O, S.C., STORIES on January 27, 2013 at 6:08 am

We had an artesian well and the water was wonderful, not like the sulfur water you have heard about. Most everyone in those days had outside bathroom which were called “Out Houses”. We had one from previous years but only used it now if there was too much traffic on the one bathroom inside of the house. We had four lavatories in the house so you didn’t always have to get into the bathroom itself .One lavatory was upstairs. We used slop jars up stairs for company and at night and I remember it was always J’Mae and my job to empty them.

— “The Way It Was,” Chapter One: “The House,” 1999

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  1. I do remember the water tasted very good, even from the hand pump on the back porch. By the time I came along, the outhouse must have either been gone, or at least not shown to me. The earliest I remember, we slept on the upstairs screened porch (by then enclosed into a bedroom, but no heat or insulation). The porch was at the back of the house, and the lavatory was in the upstairs hallway just outside the bedroom door. It was not a separate room, but was really a table in the hallway with some drawers, and on the top was a ceramic basin with a ceramic pitcher holding water. I can’t remember if it drained or not, but I think there was a drain from the bowl into a bucket, which would be emptied the next day. It was reminescent of the lavatory in our powder room under the stairs here at Bullens Creek, except of course for the water pitcher and collection bucket. Even after the ground floor got lavatories with spigots, the upstairs was still equipped with the ceramic bowl. I used to brush my teeth in it before bed.

    We have Ben and Minnie Anna’s commode chair in our master bedroom, complete with the slop bucket under the seat, and a lifting lid. I don’t remember the slop jars, because by the time I arrived, the house had an indoor toilet on the ground floor. But I can imagine that Momma and J’Mae emptied the commode chair as well.

  2. I’m glad you remember this because it was before my time!

  3. I’m glad it provoked a memory before it was gone. BTW, the toothpaste we used at Round O was baking soda. No minty taste – it was pretty awful. But I note that baking soda from Arm & Hammer is making someting of a comeback, although now in paste form and, I assume, better tasting. I have read recently of a homemade version consisting of a mix of baking soda with enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. It’s funny how some old things come back.

  4. BTW, I thought everyone knew that J’Mae was Bee’s sister, Aunt Jessie Mae (who I always called Aunt Didah). So just in case you didn’t, that’s who she was.

    And in case anybody’s confused about a lavatory, it’s what we would call a sink today. Except it was a piece of furniture equipped with a bowl. You could shave, wash your face, or brush your teeth. You can see them today in the upper-end side of plumbing shops. For the powder room at Bullens Creek we took Granddaddy King’s knick-knack table (from the front hall at 1624 College Street), installed a new marble top, marble bowl, and a hand pump style faucet to give a modern impression of a lavatory. We thought using the faucet would be more practical than having a ceramic pitcher.

    At Round O, we used the lavatory in the upstairs hallway. The modern concept of “bathroom” was still being developed – i.e. having at least 3 “appliances” – tub/shower, toilet, and lavatory (sink) in the same room. Having the lavatory in the bathroom wasn’t considered necessary, and was actually considered more useful if it was not in with the other devices. Lavatories were over time pared down to a standing sink, or cultured marble depressions in tops for cabnetry. The “room” started being called by any of the three (and sometimes many other) names – lavatory, toilet, bathroom, etc. You’ll remember it’s still that way in many parts of the world, where the toilet is in a room by itself, with the other “appliances” in other places.

  5. A-ha on the “lavatory!” Does that mean it was okay to take care of business out in the hallway, in plain view of everyone?!

    • Well, if by “taking care of business” you mean shaving, brushing your teeth, or washing your hands – yes. Other business – no.

  6. Perhaps we should explore the word “lavage”, meaning “to wash”. It’s primary use these days is to describe medical procedures, such as gastric lavage, during which the doc will wash the inside of your stomach. Somewhat more pleasant dinner conversation could be eye lavage, during which you wash the eye with a 0.9% saline solution to dislodge an irritant or dilute a chemical of some kind.

    A “lavageatory” would then be “a facililty (furniture) to permit efficient and effective washing.” It’s a fairly simple step to go from the jaw-breaking word “lavageatory” to “lavatory”, but still keeping the meaning of “a facility for washing.” :).

  7. Somebody in this chain is a true “King!” (Thank you, Daddy, for the etymology.)

    Forgive this question, but if we are talking about it, we might as well talk about it: Did all the bathrooms have standard-issue toilet paper when you were children? Do you remember Minnie Anna selling toilet paper in the store? You always hear of corncobs and tearing out paper from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, but at some point in history folks converted to using toilet paper … right?

    • I must admit to not having a definite memory of that, but I never remember not having proper toilet paper anywhere (double negative intended). Except of course some places in Europe. And since the house had a flushing toilet by the time I got there, I’m sure it wasn’t corn cobs or pages from the Sear Roebuck catalog. They would have clogged the plumbing.

      I don’t remember that as a stocked item in the store, but most of what interested me in there was the Johnny cake jar, the HUGE hoop cheese wheel, and the Coke cooler. I do remember looking at some stuff on the shelves, and wondering what lye was. It came in a package about the size of a bar of Ivory soap. I later found out that you mix lye with melted lard to make actual soap. Just don’t use too much or it will burn your skin.

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