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photo credit:  Shawn

Photo credit: Shawn Ford

Someday soon, I’ll tell you about our great northern escape to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s cottage–which they call “the camp” (less pretentious)–and which, despite its beautiful lakeside location, will never be referred to as “the lake house” (even more pretentious) or “the compound” (we are obviously not Kennedys).

Every summer should include a vintage cottage, don’t you think?

Even if it does take approximately 8 hours of driving, countless close encounters with partridge, deer, foxes, and chipmunks (whose furry and feathered mamas and papas obviously never taught them to look both ways for the killer automobiles before they crossed the road), several “comfort” breaks and once, a very treacherous 4-hour detour to nowhere thanks to our bewildered GPS, Emily, who didn’t understand that long-abandoned logging roads from 1950 and bouldered creek beds that have been dry since the same era were not actually ROADS, to get there.

That’s another story and suffice it to say that Emily and I are no longer on speaking terms.

But, hurrah, we arrived without incident at the camp this time and I immediately rushed from the car to one of my favourite features:  the vintage outhouse.

I had been holding it since Mattawa and oh sure, there is indoor plumbing at this vintage cottage but, where’s the fun in that?

Maybe you thought that since I am sometimes a little reluctant vis-a-vis The Nature, that I would never darken the door of one of these crescent-moon-bedecked beauties.

Silly you.

In fact, I consider myself a bit of a vintage outhouse connoisseur and really, who wouldn’t want that written on their tombstone?

The outhouse at this camp is quite the snazzy specimen.   Not only does it boast the requisite reading material (Ontario Out of Doors), but it has a light–all the better to see the mosquitoes with–, a genuine, real-for-true linoleum floor, walls of gleaming white and fetching ivy stenciled around.

Such a refined and genteel outhouse it is, that I’m tempted to upgrade the name of the whole place to “The Compound”.

Take that, Kennedys.

I see your Martha’s Vineyard and raise you one McLaren’s Bay.

The outhouse attached to the Little Cottage at my grandparents’ 60s cottage was not the fanciest version but it holds great affection as it was the first foray I can remember into the world of outhouses.  The Little Cottage was the original “bunkie” on the property, relegated to guest quarters and later a playhouse for us grandkids after the main cottage was built.

Oooh and its outhouse was replete with vintage charm and a certain je ne sais quoi.

First, you exited the one-room Little Cottage through a door into a slatted “hallway” that was for all intents and purposes, outside (all the better for allowing the midnight moon to shine through), complete with a small sink and mirror.  A right turn and another door opened to to the throne itself, festooned with Reader’s Digests galore and, if my memory serves, some of-the-era carpeting and a can of air freshener.

I think that was the je ne sais quoi.

More recently, I have frequented an outhouse that is not vintage, but harkens back to yesteryear with its wooden structure and back-to-basics design.  It involves a slightly perilous climb up a sandy, milkweed and thistle-dotted hill and a door that refuses to stay shut, despite the handy log kept nearby for just that purpose.  Also, our friends must have been anticipating very tall visitors.  Assuming the position (after a bit of a running jump) causes me, at nearly 6 feet tall, to have dangling feet.   It’s worth the slight indignities and aerobic exercise however, for this outhouse boasts a magnificent salvaged window with a glorious view over the pond.

But, the leader in the outhouse division has always been the outhouse at my aunt and uncle’s cottage:  the Stoker Bay outhouse.

(Sound the trumpets.)

With its twin side-by-side holes (one with pink toilet seat, one with blue), chalkboard (for composing Stoker Bay Outhouse Poetry) and Outhouse Poetry Notebook (for the rhyming couplet gems that just shouldn’t be lost to a chalkboard eraser), it was the standard to which all other outhouses have been held, since.

The double seater outhouse is such a rarity these days.   I’m sure I’m not the only one who yearns for those cozy-up-with-a-friend bathroom times because visiting this outhouse was an EVENT.

In the summer, it was hot and full of mosquitoes, deer flies and the odd directionally-challenged tree frog.

In the winter, you had to sit with your snowpants on the seat for a while to warm it up before getting down to the deed.

But no matter the season, you could take a friend (or, let’s face it, become friends as a result) and sit, shorts around ankles, slapping at mosquitoes or shivering while dreaming up your latest outhouse poem.

Now, those were some classic moon-June-spoon ditties, let me tell you.

We pause and ponder life and lunch,
We think of bikes and art,
We ruminate on all things fine,
and then, of course, we fart.

Oh, my years of writing Stoker Bay Outhouse Poetry have served me well, haven’t they?

This high-brow art form was, of course, most appreciated–if at all–by those under 13 (or those slightly intoxicated or those with a Y chromosome or any combination thereof).

Even if a couple of visitors weren’t feeling particularly poetically-inclined, one look through the slightly damp, dog-eared Outhouse Poetry Notebook and the giggling would ensue.

And, if you haven’t giggled in an outhouse, well, you really haven’t lived.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2014.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.


It’s December in Canada, so of course I am dreaming about a vintage summer cottage.

Oh yes.

Just to be clear, there are no sisters in these dreams, thank you very much.

my grandparents cottage

My grandparents’ cottage.

When I was growing up, Summer wasn’t Summer unless it included a week at my grandparents’ cottage.

Sans sibling. 

That is to say, my little sister had her week and I had mine.  No sharing of the grandparents, no siree.   Just full on, 24-7 attention and affection a la Celine Dion and Brigitte Jones:

All.  By.  Myself.

vintage clock

Time seemed to fly on this cottage clock, during “MY” week at the cottage

Needless to say, it was glorious.  My Grandma Helen would open the cereal boxes upside down so I could get the prize at the “bottom” right away and we would watch Woody Woodpecker while we drank Freshie and ate “schnibbles” of summer sausage and old cheese and “crinkly” carrots at lunch.

crinkly carrot cutter

We still make crinkly carrots (and think of Grandma Helen), using this nifty gadget.

My Grandpa Lou, resplendent in his Coca-Cola hat, would drive down the cottage lane on his lawn tractor, pulling a wagon behind, with me and half the neighbour’s kids piled in. In the mornings, he’d wake early and smoke at the kitchen table with a large, hardcover book in front of him.  I remember him using an ashtray that had a metal top and sort of a plaid beanbag pillow for the bottom.  I don’t think he ever used these jazzy ashtrays.

They seemed to be for company and Frank Sinatra music.

vintage ash trays

Vintage club, spade, diamond, heart ashtrays from the cottage

My Grandpa built a gigantic swing and teeter totter in the yard and I loved to swing, overlooking the lake.  My Grandma baked Great Aunt Batche’s coffee cake recipe on special mornings and rice krispie squares with chocolate “ants” (you had to be there).  My Grandpa loved to re-design his food and taught me to eat tomato soup with Kraft dinner in it.

Maybe my grandparents did these wonderful, comforting things when my sister was around too.

But, I doubt it.

My grandparents’ cottage was built in the late 60s and when I was spending time there in the late 70s, 80s and 90s, it had a lovely vintage vibe to it.   A certain musty, home-y smell and barkcloth curtains in the bedrooms:

Barkcloth curtains

I snagged this piece of the barkcloth from the cottage curtains.

There was a room with a double bunk bed (on top AND bottom!) and witty signs dotted around the walls and especially, in the bathroom.

That is, treasures collected by my grandpa and I think, permitted with grace by my Grandma:

sign

What’s a cottage without some signs?

There was always candy in Grandma’s candy jar on the hutch and I liked to play with the cast iron Mennonite figurines.

That is, treasures collected by my Grandma and I think, permitted with grace by my Grandpa:

mennonite figurines

I love the toboggan!

In the evenings, we played games, like Flea, Parcheesi, Sorry, Yatzee, Crazy Eights and later, Upwords.  My Grandma Helen was a great adult, because she never let you win.  You had to earn it.   Sometimes, we bet with pennies or potato chips and while Grandpa was the risk taker, Grandma was often the winner.

Upwords

In later years, this was one of Grandma’s favourite games

Of course, every game needs a snack.  Often, it was cheesies.  Day-glow orange and crispy, dissolve-in-your-mouth artificiality.  So delicious.  Especially when served in vintage melamine bowls like these beauties, found at the cottage:

melamine bowls

These aren’t cheesies. They’re clementine oranges. The blue bowl is longing for some cheesies.

Today would have been my Grandma’s 90th birthday.  We remember her each year on her birthday with Chinese food (one of her favourites) and games, of course.

My grandparents have both been gone for a few years and their cottage is now for sale.   But, I can still go there any old cold, Canadian December I want because of my memories and the treasures I’ve shared in these pictures.

That is, treasures collected by my aunt for me and I think, permitted with grace by Practical Man.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2013.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.