Things I Remember About the Farmhouse Bathroom

I like a secure bathroom. There should be a window – but only one window – and it should be small with an opaque shade to pull for privacy. One door is quite enough, and that door needs a proper lock.

My grandparents’ bathroom was nothing like that. It was large, open, and light – not originally meant to be a bathroom. Its spaciousness and lack of security made the simple act of sitting on the toilet fraught with anxiety. Someone might walk in unannounced, and once in a while they did!

Here are some of the things I remember about the bathroom on the farm.

 The Door Behind the Desk

The bathroom had three doors. One led from the dining room, one from the back bedroom, and the third from the living room. This third door was not used in my lifetime. It was behind “The Desk” in the living room.

“The Desk” belonged to my great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Hall, Esq. and was reputed to be valuable. Its little drawers and cubbyholes held photos and documents, newspapers, and ancient spectacles. In the early days, when the only bathroom on the farm was an outhouse, this door probably led into a bedroom or sitting room.

"The Door Behind the Desk," Carol Crump Bryner, pen, 2013

“The Door Behind the Desk,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen, 2013

The Bathroom Windows

The two windows in the bathroom were large and low and looked out onto the back yard. The gauzy curtains were for decoration only, and the green shades were always up. One of the windows was directly opposite the toilet, and its placement meant that anyone walking past the window could see me sitting there.

"The Bathroom Window," Carol Crump Bryner, pen, 2013

“The Bathroom Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen, 2013

The Bathtub

The bathtub’s appearance is hard for me to remember. But it sat out from the corner of the room, and I don’t think it had a shower or curtain of any kind. A bather in this tub, like a sitter on the toilet, was exposed to the two windows and the three doors. I don’t think many baths were taken on the farm. My grandmother practiced once-a-month hair washing. In between washings she brushed her long brown hair the required one hundred strokes daily and pinned it up into a bun. One of my jobs when I stayed at the farm was to brush her hair for her. She died when she was eighty-two with barely a grey hair on her head.

"The Bathtub," Carol Crump Bryner, pen, 2013

“The Bathtub,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen, 2013

The Sewing Machine

The bathroom was a multi-purpose room. My grandmother did her sewing there on an old Singer treadle sewing machine. I think it stood between the door and the window on the wall opposite the toilet, but I also remember it being right smack in the middle of the room when she was using it.

"The Sewing Machine," Carol Crump Bryner, pen 2013

“The Sewing Machine,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen 2013

The Toothpaste

A tube of Ipana (the Bucky Beaver toothpaste) sat on the sink, and was shared by everyone sleeping at the farm. Later on, my Indiana cousins brought Crest into our lives, and a tube of that joined the Ipana. I used something else at my own house – I think it was a pinkish bland-tasting tooth powder that I shook into a little puddle of water in the palm of my hand and worked to a lather with my toothbrush. It was a treat to use toothpaste from a tube – to squeeze the paste onto the brush and feel the startling bite of mint when it touched my tongue.

"The Toothpaste," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2013

“The Toothpaste,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2013

The Unlocked Door

There was nothing worse than hurrying into the bathroom, sitting down on the toilet, and realizing I hadn’t locked both doors. This was the source of my greatest anxiety about using the Hall bathroom, and I think it’s the reason that I am so very, very fond of small, dark, cozy bathrooms.

"The Unlocked Door," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2013

“The Unlocked Door,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2013

On Monday:  Pigs in the Kitchen

10 thoughts on “Things I Remember About the Farmhouse Bathroom

  1. Rebecca Norton

    If Grandma died without a grey hair on her head does that mean she was bald? Sorry but I just wondered.
    You make me laugh with the drawing of the lock hanging there, undone. Do you suppose your relatives also had a great sense of humor? I tend to think so having known some of them personally. Love Becky

    1. Carol Post author

      You got me there. I put that badly. She had a beautiful full head of brown hair. Not at all bald.
      Yes, I think the relatives did have great senses of humor for the most part, just like your father-in-law, and your husband. Johnny Norton only had to look at us with his twinkly eyes and we started laughing.

      1. Rebecca Norton

        Johnny loved to challenge me in a game of tennis and then watch me run all over the court trying to hit the balls he knew how to place, to places I wasn’t. We would both be laughing and it could be that your Aunt Caroline was laughing as she watched from her kitchen window. I am so thankful to be a “Norton”.

        1. Carol Post author

          That sounds like Johnny! But I’m sure he only did it because he knew you were a good sport. He was teaching you how to be a “Norton.”

  2. Michael Foster

    My parents and I thoroughly enjoyed your reminiscing about the bathroom and events surrounding it. We can’t remember if that beautiful old desk was saved from the fire, but hope that it was. If it did, where is it now? Imagine, only one bathroom for all the people who lived there, and then the many more who would visit on the holidays! I’ll bet that there were more than a couple of “Oops!” moments as nature called with urgency and one or more doors were left unlocked. Wonderful musings!

    1. Carol Post author

      There were many “oops” moments. My mother recalled one that happened to her high school friend when my grandfather walked in on her and she said in her sweet voice “Oh, Mr. Hall!”
      The desk had already been moved out of the house long before the fire. I’m not sure where it is now, but many of the items in it were passed out over the years to family members. I even had one of the old pairs of spectacles made into my glasses prescription and wore them for several years. Little hippie glasses.


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