The three-door windowless structure behind the old St. Saviour’s School in Hermitage was more than a place to “leave the room”.
The outhouse had three compartments: one for the boys, one for the girls, and one for the teachers, the latter with a padlock if my memory is correct. There were few amenities, just two holes cut in the most appropriate place. There was no toilet tissue – not even a Sears or Eatons catalogue which was always close to the hole in the stage floor – and there was no water to wash your hands. I doubt if any of us washed our hands in the snow outside and dried them off near the potbelly stove.
Schoolboys, of course, came there to do more than “use the facilities.” On many occasions it was a break from the instruction which often went well beyond the 4 p.m. closing time. It was an opportunity to get outside, to walk a little distance, to go whether you had to or not, and then to walk behind the outhouse where the ashes were thrown and, away from the eyes of the people living near the school, spend a few moments staring at the hillside. It was the kind of escape many a boy did in church when that tree outside the window all of a sudden became very interesting.
I don’t remember the teacher questioning how long you were out, but occasionally he would ask you to get a bucket of coal from the coal locker on your way back - another way to kill a few moments. I think Ray Guy forgot to include the trip to the outhouse as one of his outharbour delights. And I remember that once you arrived in the high part (grades 8 to 11 in one classroom with one teacher) you didn’t ask to leave the room, not because the instruction was so exciting but most likely going to the high part was a rite of passage. We were simply too grown up to do that.
So what about standing in the outhouse? Well, when it rained hard, the outhouse became a shelter especially for those who lived a long way from school, like those on the eastern side of the harbour. There were times when the little house was so crowded with boys that not only were they standing on the floor space but also on the bench with the two holes. Many boys had to straddle the hole and brace themselves to keep their balance, and there, amid the stench emanating from the holes and the rain pelting on the roof, the boys would huddle until the handbell was rung. At times it was so crowded that others huddled under the eaves. Another outharbour delight?
Going into the classroom had to be a relief, I suppose!