Museum Talk

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It is often said we don't appreciate the things we have today. I am reminded of that when we have a group of children touring the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette and they want to know what that little building is at the top of the stairs. Yes, the museum has an outhouse. When we explain exactly what it is, we hear lots of "Yuck".

Buffalo Island Museum displays an outhouse.

I am of the age that I remember visiting my Grandma Simpson when I was little and having to make use of the little building right behind the hen house.

The outhouse originated in Europe more than 500 years ago in the 15th and 16th centuries. Fine inns had "his" and "hers" outhouses. Since a lot of people of that time couldn't read, pictures on the door were used.

The sun or star was the symbol for men and the moon was the symbol for women. As time went on, the innkeepers decided that maintaining two outhouses was too much trouble and they only used one, the one with the moon cutout on the door.

J.F. Brondel invented the first valve-type flush toilet in 1738, not Thomas Crapper as folklore has indicated.

Thinking of outhouses reminds me of a story I once heard: A father asked his four sons, "Who turned over the outhouse?" There was silence. Finally the father said, "When George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, he didn't get a whipping when he confessed." The oldest son raised his hand, "I did it."

The father smacked his son on his bottom. "Why did you do that when you said George Washington didn't get a whipping when he admitted it," the son moaned. The father answered, "George Washington's father wasn't in the cherry tree when he chopped it down."

The museum's outhouse is a two-seater, complete with an old Sears & Roebuck catalog. Many of the old outhouses had a small hole for children and a larger hole for adults. Someone recently remarked they remember the outhouse at the old Childress School that had many holes. You may think that having an outhouse at the museum is unusual, but it is an important part of the history of Buffalo Island. Just like seeing all the old tools makes us think of the modern machinery of today, seeing the old outhouse makes us really appreciate the bathrooms of today.

Visit the museum for a look of early Buffalo Island. The museum is open on Friday and Saturday 12:30-4 p.m. Admission is free. Visit our Facebook page for more information, pictures, and a chance to enter the museums BIM Mystery Artifact monthly contest.

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