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A blast from the past. (translation for international readers: dunny = toilet)

I was five when we left the US in 1964 and settled in a small town in the south-west of Western Australia. My mother thought she’d stepped into a third world country but we never heard her complain. Gone was the electric stove, running hot water, bath tub and shower, and many of the ‘mod con’s’ she’d grown accustomed to.

It was a huge adventure for us kids, but there was one thing that has scared me for life. The outside dunny! It was a terrifying place to a 5-year-old girl who’d never encountered such a thing. It was old, dark inside, made of wood boards just nailed together to resemble a box with a door and a roof. The door had a hole in it so that you could peer inside and see if there was anyone in there before you opened the door. At least I assume that’s what the hole was for… We were under strict instructions never to leave the door open or a snake would go in there.

The seat sat perched on slats of wood over a bucket. Yes, a bucket! The ‘little room’ was positioned at the back of the yard and the back wall was part of the fence. There was a lane on the other side of the fence and once a week a truck came down that lane emptying all the toilet buckets from the other dunnies that backed onto the lane. This once a week thing was something I never worked out till years later. Which is why I refused to go to the toilet unless one of my younger brothers would come with me and listen for the truck. I dreaded the day I would be sitting over the bucket and suddenly having the little door open and the bucket removed while I was preoccupied!

It was not a place you stayed very long in. It was in and out as fast as you can. Because I held off ‘going’ for so long, I was usually quite desperate by the time one of the boys turned up to listen for the truck. Then there was the inspection. I checked for the elusive snake, checked for spiders, I checked that the bucket was there, I made sure the toilet paper was within reach, I made sure the door would stay closed without actually locking it (I may have needed to escape quickly). And then there was the question: ‘Is it still safe?’ And whoever was on guard duty would inevitably reply, ‘Yes. But hurry. I need to go too.’

DJ

(c) DJ Stutley 2012

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