Pioneer Potluck: About outhouses in Alaska

  • Tuesday, December 8, 2015 4:47pm
  • LifeFood

1990 to 2015


We built our house in the rain, mud, and some sunshine in 1990, after living in the cabin for 5 years. But first of all Bob and John built ME an outhouse. It is situated over looking the lake so you can have the best seat in the house. It was a “state of the art” outhouse and still is. I has greenhouse type material for the roof. The top half is corrugated tin. The rest is built out of sturdy plywood with linoleum on the floor and a yellow toilet seat. I painted it white inside and out. I wanted to paint the door red, but that was nixed by conservative Bob, so it got a coats of white paint. On a repaint job about 5 years later, we had some blue paint left and I painted the door blue. That was so unliked by Bob that I repainted it white and it remains white. It sets under a big over grown chokecherry tree from a sprout of Shirley De Vaults beautiful large tree. It blooms and puts out little choke cherries. I usually pick them but this year it took a step ladder to get to them and I am not allowed on step ladders anymore. That is OK with me as I can go up fine – it is the backing down the ladder, that gets me in trouble.

We lived for six year after we moved in to our new unfinished tiny little house without indoor plumbing or water or electric.

One of the first things put in the house after the roof was put on, Bob and J.T. installed a wonderful Blaze Queen wood stove. It had a perpetual fire in it because I cooked on it – beans, chicken with noodles, potato soup, moose roast and sometimes a cake and more beans. The best was the sour dough bread in a Dutch oven and placed right in the coals of the fire box. Our house was dry and cozy and warm.

We finished the house by pushing things to one corner getting the sheet rock up and taping it. Bob would put the sheet rock up with my “help” at night after he came home from work at Unocal. We did not have electricity, so we ran a generator. And at times after the generator did its job, a lantern for light. After all the hard work was done, Bob had the urge to read to me. (This is where I learned about Robert Service and Patrick McManus)

After a week or so, the sheet rock was up, then he proceeded to tape it. It had to dry during the night and Bob left for work with instruction to “gently sand off the mud” and then we could paint. Well, doing my job as I was told, I sanded it with a palm sander them with sand paper in my hand. I was so proud of myself.

When Bob came home that night, he took one look and said I had “over sanded” and that he would have to re-mud all the taped areas. What should have been a 6 hours job was a 6 day job. After my the third try, he told me to leave it alone, he would finish it when he got home.

We finally got to paint it after about a two week of off and on sheet rocking and taping a 20 X 16 foot house. I painted the walls and Bob painted the ceiling, but like most first painting it had to have a second coat. We rearranged the furniture, such as it was, for the umpteenth time, so we could get the painting done.

The reason that we moved in so early to an unfinished house, was my fault. We were living in a very nice 5th wheel that John loaned us, while they were building. I have said many times that it rained all summer. The 5th wheel was a “California” built trailer. It was roomy, had lots of nice things in it. BUT the bedroom was above the 5th wheel attachment. It was a bend over, crawl into bed, crawl out of bed, cuss when you try and make the bed, type bedroom. You could sit up in bed if you were careful and not to tall. You bent over to get down the steps to straighten out your back and neck. Also it condensed moisture like it was raining inside. The bedclothes were damp and sometimes wet, because of the condensation in such a low ceiling area. I could not sleep at all unless I was totally exhausted. One night I woke up with water drops dripping onto my forehead from condensation. The bed was damp and I was cold. I sudden had claustrophobia! I crawled out of bed, crawled down the steps, put on my coat, knit hat, shoes, grabbed a sleeping bag and a pillow and headed for the warmth of the unfinished house and absolutely no dripping moisture. I laid down in front of the warm woodstove and fell into a deep sleep I had not had for a while.

I woke up with Bob coming in the door, in total surprise to see me sleeping in front of the stove. He had woke up and thought I was in the trailer somewhere. After calling for me and then looking for me, he got dressed and traipsed over to the new house. He asked in shock “What ARE you doing there?” I told him in no uncertain terms, I am not ever going to sleep in the damp, cold, dripping 5th wheel again. I am sleeping here! So Bob, the fixer, built a bed frame. We got the stored mattress and bed items out of the old work shop it was stored in. We made the bed and I could not wait to sleep in the dry bed without bumping my head let alone the claustrophobia that I suddenly suffer.

So that was the beginning of us living in a unfinished house!


One morning, the sun shining and Bob off to work, I drank the last cup of coffee in the pot on the wood stove. My next move was to take my morning stroll to the “state of art” outhouse. In my Muumuu and big pink fuzzy slippers, I strolled to the outhouse with several of our kitties forming a line and walking on both side of me. This was a morning ritual for all of us. This morning, in my extra loud voice I shuffled my feet, dancing and saying “ uhuh-come-on, lets go, come on babies, lets go, come with me,” I repeated this several times while I was shuffle, shuffling my feet, doing a little dance for the kitties. We danced and played all he way to the outhouse. I opened the door, turned around, hiked up my Muumuu and sat down. I looked at the cats and stated in a loud voice, “Auhhh that feels good!” Then I lifted my eyes up to see the view of the lake and stared right into the eyes of two fishermen in a small boat, staring back at me.

I reached for the door, shooing cats out of the way and closed the door. Then I started to wonder how I was going back across the yard. I am sure those fishermen could not see the cats, so the little dance I was doing across the yard could have been misconstrued for a “going to the outhouse dance!”

I waited a long time before I had enough nerve to open the door and come out of the outhouse. The whole time I was in there, the cats were meowing and whining. I finally got enough nerve to open the door so I could shuffle back across the yard, me and the cats. By that time the two fishermen had so gracefully moved to the other side of the lake, fishing with there back to me. I am sure, just so I could not hear them laugh!!

Pray for United States of America!

More in Life

Lemongrass chicken skewers are best made on a grill, but can be made in the oven. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion
On the strawberry patch: Tangling with waves

Lemon grass chicken skewers top off a day in the surf

This photo of Frenchy with a freshly killed black bear was taken on the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 1

The stories were full of high adventure — whaling, mining, polar bear hunting, extensive travel, and the accumulation of wealth

Seeing God’s hand in this grand and glorious creation

The same God of creation is the God that made me and you with the same thoughtfulness of design, purpose and intention

Chewy and sweet the macaroons are done in 30 minutes flat. (Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Sophisticated, simplified

When macarons are too complicated, make these delicious, simple macaroons

Michael S. Lockett / capital city weekly
Gigi Monroe welcomes guests to Glitz at Centennial Hall, a major annual drag event celebrated every Pride Month, on June 18.
Packed houses, back to back: GLITZ a roaring success

Sold-out sets and heavy-hitting headliners

Michael Armstrong / Homer News 
Music lovers dance to Nervis Rex at the KBBI Concert on the Lawn on July 28, 2012, at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer.
Concert on the Lawn returns

COTL line up includes The English Bay Band, a group that played in 1980

Marcia and Mary Alice Grainge pose in 1980 with a pair of caribou antlers they found in 1972. The sisters dug the antlers from deep snow and detached them from a dead caribou. (Photo provided by Marcia Grainge King)
Fortune and misfortune on the Kenai — Part 2

In Kasilof, and on Kachemak Bay, in Seldovia and later in Unga, Petersen worked various jobs before being appointed deputy marshal in 1934

Most Read