On one of our vacation trips to the great states of Montana and Wyoming, my wife and I have enjoyed nosing around several old ghost towns that portray life back in the gold boom days. We risked life and limb driving our rental car up a pot-holed, rocky, treacherous ten-mile hill to reach the dilapidated shacks still standing in Garnet, Montana (at the recommendation of my oldest sister). What we learned once we reached the top was that there was a well-paved access road from the other side of the mountain that was the preferred route. That would have saved us some major anxiety – good thing we were only abusing a rental car!
What we found as we explored this town was somewhat shocking to our cultured sensibilities – the outhouses still standing boasted two or three seats instead of our expected isolation cell. This raises some disturbing questions – but we won’t itemize these! (There was no evidence we could see of multiple doors or partitions.)
Of course this led me to conduct some intensive Internet research. Not surprisingly I discovered there is a website devoted to providing tours and information on American outhouses!
This site had a good explanation for why many outhouses were built as two-seaters: Apparently the holes were of different sizes to accommodate either adults or children … and children learned at an early age to avoid the mistake of choosing the wrong hole. In retrospect we did not inspect the facility closely enough to ascertain if that explanation was applicable – but the holes looked pretty much the same to me. Plus it still leaves open the issue of the three-seater??
Other websites explain the existence of three-seaters as designed to accommodate both parents and a child… maybe you have assigned seats rather than simultaneous usage?? I am afraid I do not desire to be the expert in this aspect of folklore. Maybe people were just a lot more comfortable back then with sharing in general.
(Having just passed through Butte, Montana – I have some other disturbing questions to probe as well … Who named these cities, anyway? ( What were they thinking?)