hoping to find artifacts lovingly called "potty nuggets" and "potty treasures"

Syracuse New Times: The Plunder Down Under.

Tall and narrow, usually built for one and typically made of wood, most had flat roofs. Some had angled roofs and classy models had gables. A half-moon was traditionally cut into the door so no one mistook it for the wood shed, chicken coop or pigsty. Odiferous, dark and drafty, outhouses didn’t make good reading rooms, especially in winter.

Unlike current toilets, yesterday’s commodes weren’t simply the final resting place of their owner’s intestinal products. They made convenient dumping grounds for small imperishables that couldn’t be burned; and even served as vaults for storing small valuables like cash and unmentionables: grandma’s whiskey, dad’s porno, the kid’s tobacco. Since it was considered unwise and in bad taste to discuss “potty deposits,” the owner was usually the only one who knew about the stuff and it was sometimes left in the hole when illness or senility claimed him, or if he had to get out of town in a hurry. Today, these spoils are like juicy wild fruit, available to everyone, just for the picking.

Standing alone against the elements isn’t easy and an abandoned thunder house – not exactly a farmer’s pride and joy – didn’t last long. In fact, about all that remains of the majority of these uniquely American temples to the human appetite is the wood cut to create the holes in the benches. Allowed to fall to the bottom of the pit, the “holes” were quickly buried, especially if the family was big. Some of the slabs have survived and when unearthed, are rare, prized trophies by diggers who varnish them, attach plaques bearing the date and time of the find, and hang them on their living-room walls.

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