Electricity and Plumbing Change Rural Farm Life in the Early 20th Century

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When Pete first started taking photos, electric
lights and indoor plumbing had not yet arrived in most farms. But when electricity came,
it meant running water could be pumped into farmhouses. Soon plans were in the works for
toilets, sinks, and bathtubs. It just felt like I was the wealthiest person in the world.
It felt great not to have to go outside to go to the restroom. Until then, family members
had used backyard outhouses for their bathroom duties. Tip-toeing barefoot in the dark through
yards where chickens ran all day, exposing bare skin on cold winter days, and turning
to the Sears Roebuck catalog as a predecessor to Charmin. It was the first time I’d been
away from home overnight. I was probably about seven or eight at the time. We drove into
the yard and the mother came out and said, Bob, go on back to the barn; the kids are
back of the barn. About halfway between the barn and the house, I went by this building
that looked to me like an outhouse. I thought that’s a big one; it must be a four-holer.
But they had four kids; I could understand that, so I didn’t think much about it. I went
out and played. I came back in the evening, and we had supper. We’re playing anagrams
and I realized I better go to the bathroom. I went out from the dining room table where
we were playing the anagrams, down the steps, outside, and made a dash for the four-holer,
opened the door, and there were hams hanging in this building. It was a smokehouse instead
of the privy. I came charging back and walked in the dining room and the father said, “upstairs,
Bob.” I went upstairs and they had a flush toilet. I couldn’t believe it! The first one
I’d ever seen!

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