Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: When did you get your first toilet?

As both my readers might attest, my coffee klatch at Cappuccino on Collins has been known to engage in some fairly intense discussions… this is not one of those.

First, I need the record to show that I paid Paul my customary 10 percent ($1) for letting me publish the following story.

For you novices to these writings I s’pose I should reveal that, like most coffee klatches, you could set your watch to ours… Cappuccino On Collins – 7:30 a.m. Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. Sundays. There’s usually four of us, Bob, Herman, Paul and me, and considering how much we bother her other customers it is somewhat surprising that Tara hasn’t banned us from her shop altogether.

Anyway the caffeine starting kicking in and since all of us could remember the blizzard of ’66 I asked where they all were. Paul was stuck at the farm, Herman was stuck in his uncle’s trailer, Bob was stranded in Killdeer, and I was the only kid who walked to high school that day (me and Archie Shaw, the principal, both walked to school that day. We were met by Jack Zent, the janitor, and he asked us what we were doing there… I told him that I was a student and Archie reminded him that he was the principal. Jack told us that that whole state was shut down so me ‘n’ Archie wished each other safe travels home and the entire state spent the next three days looking out their windows and wondering if the snow would ever stop.

From there Bob slid us into asking when we all remembered getting our first televisions… he figured it was 1953 when his family got their first black and white TV. Then we all remembered watching the test patterns and giggled about the first color TVs (it was a colored piece of plastic that went over the television screen). It didn’t take long for Rin Tin Tin, Roy Rogers, Howdy Doody, The Lone Ranger and Captain Kangaroo pass thru the conversation.

Then Paul piped in by asking when we got our first toilet, and Bob and I slid under the table in laughter. Since Bob and I were raised in the city no one had ever asked such a question before. Paul, not so much, he was raised on a farm somewhere around New Leipzig… and he didn’t get an indoor toilet until 1964. Herman couldn’t remember when he got his first toilet and, of course, someone then wondered if he has an indoor one now.

Paul then went on to tell us that he only had to bathe once a week, and Herman piped in that he bathed in a thimble… and then Paul said his family bathed in a sauna (he’s Finnish you know). Yep, they had little house with a boiler that they filled with running water that they had to run and get from the well. They’d heat the water up to boiling and sit in the steam.

I asked Paul if they finished off their saunas by running outside and jumping in the creek or rolling in the snow… and he informed us that he had only rolled in the snow once and decided he didn’t have to do that again. He then made it a point to tell us that it worked well and from we can tell, most days he really doesn’t seem to smell that bad. Me ‘n’ Bob, not so much…

We didn’t have courage to ask Paul how many times he flushed their first toilet when they first got it because we were already broaching what the kids call TMI (too much information) about his toilet habits and we were fearful that if we pushed any further he would have drug us into Tara’s restroom to demonstrate his morning constitutional routine. So when did you get your first toilet?

Here’s hoping that you enjoy whomever you’re with.