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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Open for Business: 1943

Open for Business: 1943

June 1943. Keysville, Virginia. "Randolph Henry High School. Lavatory facilities." The next stop on our tour of RHHS after the cafeteria. Photo by Philip Bonn for the Office of War Information. View full size.

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Black seats

I wonder if they thought black seats would last longer in a busy institutional setting, similar to black tires? All I do know for sure is that the first time I saw one of those black seats I was only a toddler, and I was so panic-stricken at the sight of a toilet that looked different from the one at home that I STILL remember the sight of it and the sound of myself screaming.

Also, I had always been told that it was only ladies' rooms that have private stalls, and men always pee in public view, so to speak---certainly it's been a gag used in many movies. Yet here I see people who seem to be male by their aliases bemoaning the lack of privacy here. So I guess I am misinformed by Hollywood yet again!

Re 'Why bother?'

You've got to have somewhere to put the roll holders, after all.

Why bother?

Although I've seen this type of faciltiy in older institutions, I'm left wondering as to what real function those dividers serve. I mean, nearly everybody in the entire room can see you sitting there in all your spendor, pants around your ankles, but you can't see the guy sitting next to you and he can't see you. Seriously, what is the point?

Obviously, the boys' lavatory

All the seats are up.

I'll Pass (at home)

No thanks, I'll wait until I get home.

I didn't realize doorless toilets existed outside the military. The only time I ever saw one was when visiting a friend who worked at Eglin AFB, and her office had one. I found I didn't have to go THAT badly.

Privacy in 1943?

This looks just like my middle school did in the mid 1970s; that building probably dated from the early 1900s. Privacy wasn't a consideration.

Our method of coping: In my four years at that school, I never made use of those facilities, nor did I see anyone who did...

Righties and lefties

I wonder if the position of the toilet roll holders enabled the use of just two bolts for two holders, and therefore less holes/drilling in the panels.


I am surprised to see so little privacy in a public school even in the 1940s. Imagine the uproar if modern high school were built like that.

Re: No Time For Sergeants

In the Army barracks I lived in 1970 they didn't even have those small partitions. And guys would stand in line at the end of the day waiting their turn. The bashful guys learned to not be bashful or explode.

Why B&W?

I have always wondered why institutional potty seats were black, yet the bowls were white. And now institutional seats are no longer black. Theories?


Except for the lack of doors, it looks smack like today. Especially those flush valves must have been a very mature design.

50 years later

My first day at college in Kentucky around 1993, I'm moving in my dorm and imagine my delight when I first checked out the facilities and they were almost exactly like this. Newspapers were very popular. The most used toilet was the one at the far end of the room, against the wall. We referred to it as "the office" as it was as private as it got. They finally removed the marble dividers and installed the usual metal stalls a couple of years later.

Can you spare a square?

An ideal setup for paper-passing.

Now serving

Noticed that toilet paper holders are conveniently placed for both left handers and right handers.

Open for business!

I guess privacy wasn't important in 1943. You'd think they would at least install curtains.

Andy Griffith, phone your office

This must have inspired the latrine scene in No Time For Sergeants.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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