Alamitos-Marina Service Unit Title

Latrine Stories

Welcome to the seamy side of camping. Presented for your amusement are a variety of strange but true stories from that dreaded, but necessary, camp fixture - the latrine. Most of these stories are compiled from a list frequented by Girl Scout and Girl Guide leaders.

Latrine Fears

It all started innocently enough with the following letter:

The Problem...

We have a problem that started small & seems to be spreading. I'm hoping you all have some ideas how to contain it.

In early May, we took our first- and second-grade Brownie troop to Core Camp. But from the start we had one girl who is very squemish about foods and the latrines. She expressed discomfort about the latrines before the trip, but she wound up using them and seemed to do fine. It turned out that her patrol was the only one that didn't have latrine duty.

Since the campout, this girl has at every opportunity (every 'What we liked, didn't like' session) mentioned latrines. She liked NOT having to clean the latrine. She didn't like using the latrine. We've been talking about camping again in the Fall, and she doesn't want to if we have to use latrines.....

Now the other girls, who didn't express a problem with the latrines before, have chimed it and it's getting to be a big theme for us. At first I was going to just let this run its course, but now I'm afraid it will keep us from camping again.

Any ideas? By the way, this girl is a geat scout & a great leader.


A little security

First - I noticed you're from GSCNC. If you're using GSCNC camps, many of them, if not all, have upgraded the latrines to modern facilities. Flush toilets! Electric lights! Running cold & *hot* water! Heaters! It's like camping at a Holiday Inn. ;-) I get all choked up just thinking about them - they're beautiful.

But if you are going camping someplace that doesn't have these Park Place style bathrooms...hmmm...can you try and make it sound like an adventure? Something like - the girls on Little House on the Prairie used latrines - pretend we've gone back in time.

My mother has a story of when she was a leader. There was one girl so frightened of using the latrines that my mom had to stand in it with her back to the girl and the girl would hold onto my mom's shirt while she went. Jessica C. 

You think a lat is bad..."

Hearing Jessica's story of the girl who wouldn't go to the latrine without the leader reminded me of last fall -- taking a few of the Brownies from my younger daughter's troop to our town encampment. At first they would have nothing to do with the latrines, so I told them they could dig a hole in the woods. After a short survey of the woods, they decided to use the latrines. However one girl wouldn't go to the latrine unless I went in first, checked for spiders, and then waved all the flies away! Also they preferred to call them the "tangerines" or even "nectarines" rather than "latrines."

We also have a procedure for cleaning latrines which involves 2 girls working together. Each uses 1 (rubber gloved) hand to clean -- which leaves one hand free to hold the nose. It always gives the girls a laugh and then they clean without too much complaint.

Beth K., Patriots Trail Girl Scout Council 

Fear this!

Hi, All,

Had to laugh at Beth's story, because it's the mirror of my mom's story. When my mom was little, (VERY long time ago, now, since I myself am pretty old!) she was a town girl, and lived in a nice house. Some of her many many cousins lived on farms and still didn't have indoor plumbing. All the town kids thought it was hilarious that the country kids were scared to use the toilet, because it was full of water, and it was so loud when it flushed, and yon might get sucked down in it, and on and on.

Probably the best way to get over anything you're scared of is to introduce someone else to it, trying not to make them scared. (I'm not talking about serious panic here, just a little heart-pounding nervousness.) Maybe they could help a younger troop?

Just my $.o2- (and I'm not telling what I'm scared of, in case you come for lessons!)

YiGGGS, Jinx 

So don't go

The solution to the Brownie who didn't like traditional latrines may be as simple as: "Perhaps you are too young to go camping. When you're truly ready to go camping, you won't mind the latrine so much."

This should work two ways. Either the girl will want to act more 'mature' and will quit complaining about a bathroom, or she will face the fact that maybe she really needs a little longer to be ready for a real camping experience.

(Personally, I'm from the old-school and think Brownies should wait a bit before camping. Slumber parties and late nights are a great way to work up to the real camping experience. Cuts down on home-sickness and the desire to make phone calls home, too.)

Joi B. 

Cleaning lats

Our girls (Cadettes) have a different sort of "latrine fears". If one of our patrols is having a hard time following the rules (buddy system, excessively loud after lights out, etc) we remind them that a result of this behavior is latrine duty. Which consists of sweeping the floor, cleaning the counter (if there is one), etc. Needless to say, after being reminded of this, there usually isn't a problem. I know I sure wouldn't want to clean the latrines.


Trina B, NW FLA Girl Scout Council 

The last laugh

One way to cope with fear of unknown and unfamilar things is to help the girls laugh about it. The idea of cleaning the latrine in buddies, so that each girl has one hand to clean and one hand to hold her nose is a beginning.

You might also look for a backpacking book called "How To Shit in the Woods" by Kathleen Meyer. Involving the girls in a discussion of how to take care of personal needs if they didn't even have a latrine will be both funny and repulsive to them. Then the next time somebody complains about latrines, you can suggest she try one of the alternative ideas in Kathleen's book. After considering how to pee in the woods without getting their clothing all wet, and what to use for toilet paper when none is available, your squeamish girls might begin seeing latrines as downright civilized!

Jane S, Knoxville, TN 

"I can wait"

"However one girl wouldn't go to the latrine unless I went in first, checked for spiders"

When I read this, I had to laugh! Last fall when I took my 3rd graders camping one girl came and told me she couldn't use the latrine because there was a spider in there. As I come from the "never do for a child what a child can do for themselves" school, I told her to get a stick and knock it down.

She came back in a few minutes and told me she would just "hold it" until we went home. This was friday evening, we were going home Sunday at noon.

With the straightest face I could muster, I replied that I hoped she wouldn't get too uncomfortable and wished her luck. Of course she did use the latrines and didn't explode or anything, but I don't think she was very happy about it.

I like camping and think it is one of the funnest parts of Scouting, BUT there are others with different opinions, including my co leader. She hates it and I would never ask her to go with us. that's OK too. You can have a good program without camping. When we do our evals, I always make sure the girls know that just because we don't like something doesn't mean we never have to do it again, i.e. cleaning latrines, washing dishes, etc. It's a trade off for the fun stuff.

The girl who really didn't want to use the latrine says she'll never go camping again, and maybe she won't. But she will hear about the fun the other girls have on campouts and maybe she'll change her mind. Making decisions and living with the consequences is an important lesson, as is putting up with some discomfort for an overall pleasurable experience.


It doesn't improve with age

In a message dated 97-06-07 12:36:58 EDT, you write:

"'Perhaps you are too young to go camping. When you're truly ready to go camping, you won't mind the latrine so much.' This should work two ways. Either the girl will want to act more 'mature' and will quit complaining about a bathroom, or she will face the fact that maybe she really needs a little longer to be ready for a real camping experience."

I must be REALLY immature. I dislike latrines and I am 30 years old. Leslie F. 

Older and wiser?

"I must be REALLY immature. I dislike latrines and I am 30 years old." Leslie"

I'm with you, Leslie, and I'm 41!

Liz T. 

Big girls don't cry

Liz T wrote:

I must be REALLY immature. I dislike latrines and I am 30 years old. Leslie"

I'm with you, Leslie, and I'm 41! Liz

But the difference is, I'm sure you two don't complain and whine about the latrine for the entire camp, or refuse to use it, etc. - so I guess you ARE mature!

I saw a Brownie leader once who brought a small porta-potty thing (not sure of the exact name) to their camp so the girls wouldn't have to use the latrine...I thought that didn't set a very good example (mind you, it was winter and below -10C so I suppose it's allowable...although the latrine was right outside the building door and heated!)

YIGGGS, Jennifer W. 

Lucky me!

I have to comment on latrines: what a great opportunity for girls to learn a little about how do something they don't want to but must! I am "lucky" in that I grew up using latrines, and therefore don't care about them too much. We used to stay at a ski cabin that had latrines until the 1980's: we would dig a 20 foot path in the snow to get there every weekend. At least those latrines had a token heat lamp in the ceiling. Out camping, we were lucky when there was a latrine: I remember squatting on the driftwood on the wilderness beaches of Washington and hoping no sand would blow around.

Later, when I went backpacking, hygiene in this area was an important topic. When I was leading climbs on Mt. Rainier for the Explorer Scouts, knowing how to hold onto toilet paper, lower your pants and keep the wind at your front, while keeping yourself upright with an ice ax was always a tricky time.

These skills come in handy when traveling in Asia, and other places (even your local state park, which may have filthy bathrooms). Here, in our area, girls are not to clean any bathrooms, except to sweep and so we can't use latrine duty as a consequence of behavior.

Using a latrine is one more lifetime skill we are teaching to the girls. Just my two cents....

Take care, Theresa N. San Francisco 

Back to square one

I never expected such a great response to my latrine question. I guess it shows WAGGGS members have their minds in the latrine! I love the idea of teaming up with one glove each and one had each on the nose. I also love the idea of dressing up the latrine.

For the record, this was at a GSCNC campground with brand new latrines -- used for the first time this spring. They were spectacular. We kept telling the girls how good we had it. And there were flush toilets nearby at the lodge, but we didn't bring that up because as soon as one girl started using them, when knew they all would want to.

Most of our troop really got a kick out of the latrines. Six of nine girls on the trip got an opportunity to help clean them and didn't really complain at the time. But this one girl's relentless complaints are making the others think latrines are something to fear.

Maybe we'll take a two-pronged approach to this: Use the humor you all have suggested for cleaning & disguising them and then deal with the girl in question quietly to figure out how to help her deal with her fears.

This girl is unusually afraid of new foods and insects, too. She rarely eats what we have for snack (but she doesn't complain), and finding something to eat at camp (very kid-friendly food was provided by core camp) was a big deal for her. She doesn't complain much about those things, but you can tell it worries her.

Despite these fears, she's a really positive kid, and a great leader in the troop. I'd miss her if she didn't come camping with us.

A related issue: Our girls loved the handwash system. I've never seen kids wash their hands so often. My co-leader and I were considering setting up handwash stations at home, with water jugs and the soap in the pantyhose!

Beth C, VA (GSCNC) 

I hear bears do it

I second Jane Schuler's recommendation of using the How To Shit in the Woods book (although synonyms may need to used for those who are offended & age appropriateness). This a real resource book dealing with the topic of human body wastes with a sense of humor. Reading a story from this book might help prepare girls for dealing with the inevitable. All of the outdoor trainers in our Council are certified through the American Camping Assoc. as Outdoor Living Skills instructors. I first was introduced to that book @ my certification training by a trainer from Alabama. I just assisted 3 other OLS instructors with resident camp staff training & we used this resource when teaching the staff about latrines. Needless to say, it certainly broke the ice adding humor to what can be a 'stinky' topic..)


When in London...

I'm curious to know what your lats are like - that may seem like a stupid question, but most campsites here in the UK have flush toilets or chemical ones - (these are like large buckets with proper seats & lids & you use a special chemical in them & empty them into a pit) Is this what you refer to?

When I was Guiding in Leicester, we took the Guides to camp every year & my first job at camp was to setup the toilets - the 10 year olds always took one look at them asked "What's that" & decided they'd keep their legs crossed till we got home (4 days later!)

Once you got over your initial fears, they were fine! (We emptied them daily so they never got yucky!) My Guides here in Tamworth complained this year because the toilets were grotty & horrible (they were flush toilets, but in an old & basic building with no electricity!) - these girls have never camped "properly"!!!

Just remembered the incident at an International camp when some Girl Scouts from Seattle were camping with us & couldn't comprehend chemical toilets (for night use - we had portaloos in the day) - they were repulsed by the idea!

Oh well, enough from me - just curious to know what your latrines are like! I guess it's another of those things that are different between our countries!


Meet me in St. Louis!

The camps in the St. Louis council are heading toward the end of major renovations. (Something like $12 million worth, last I heard). One of the biggest renovations was to convert all the latrines to E.T.s (Environmental Toilets...if you say, "Latrine" all the girls yell back, "ET!"). These use micro-organisms to "digest" wastes. They have to be the girls...using only "Simple Green," an environmentally safe cleaning agent. If the girls remember the rule "KEEP THE LID DOWN" when they are finished, it never gets stinky.

One E.T. contains five stalls. We assign one to a patrol. Since they go in buddy groups from their patrols they know who forgets the lid or makes a mess. They get on each other if there's even a muddy footprint left in one. We'll have to try the decorating idea though...that's too funny.

The only problem with the new "ETs" is that the door locks have jammed a few times sending trapped girls into panic fits. They are enclosed except for the wall between adjacent stalls, which will allow them to crawl under to the other side and get out if they have to. It's taught them a good lesson about "buddies" though!

(If there are other councils out there looking for campsite renovation/improvement info, please contact the St. Louis council. They spent years looking into what was best for the girls, the camps, and the environment. A wonderful female architect has been running the project. Don't let your council sink money into research that has been done recently!)


The difference between boys and girls

In the Columbia River Girl Scout Council (Western Oregon/Western Washington, counties on or near the Columbia River...) some of our properties have flush toilets, some have latrines. The resident camp has flush toilets for the more developed units and latrines elsewhere, and our day camp property has flush toilets at the main buildings, and latrines scattered throughout the camp.

The latrines are holes in the ground, with toilets on top of them. They do not smell totally wonderful, but they aren't bad. (I am 41. Latrines are not a problem for me. Ask me about public toilets in Beijing sometime)

Now, the Boy Scout camp latrines reek, and they are in pretty poor condition. They have toilet seats, but NO DOORS. A screen if you are lucky. Gosh, I love being the only female on some campouts, let me tell you :-)

And, of course, when we go backpacking, it is just you, your toilet paper, your ziploc bag for packing it back out, and your little orange trowel... (And a zillion mosquitos!)


But seriously, folks

Just got a phone call, & my friend asked what I was doing ? I said reading my WAGGGS mail------she said--"what's WAGGGS ??? I said it a list for scout leaders to exchange ideas,get help with problems & just plain talk. She asked" What are you talking about now?" Looked at the letter I was reading & said--------"Latrines" !!!! I think she's still laughing !!!!!


So what did you do?

Recently, while in the California desert, I had the opportunity to use a latrine. I was doing fine after checking for spiders, snakes, and trolls hiding in the pit, until I saw the wasp nest in the corner. I declined the invitation, and I am 36.

1969-74 veteran of Camp Brighton Woods latrines,


When you gotta go you gotta go

Anyone for another humorous latrine story? Two years ago at our adult weekend at PGGSC Camp Welaka this actually happened. First, the latrines there are cement slab, flush toilets in long narrow building, separate stalls with separate doors and walls between each one.

For adult weekend no troops or girls are present. One site had the old latrine torn down and new ones were being built. The cement slab had been poured, the toilets were installed and the next day the walls and roof were to be built. One leader assigned to that site didn't walk to the next site to use the latrine, she used the toilet on the slab with no walls. This is only about 50 feet from the unit house and training was being conducted there. Picture four toilets lined up with no walls, and a leader using one. This is the view out the unit house window. And yes, someone did get a picture.

I really don't know who the leader was, and don't think I want to... [:-}


Every 24 hours like clockwork

I do feel some sympathy with the girls (and leaders!) who don't like latrines. Once when I was in high school I went 24 hours without using the facilities on a backpacking trip. Our GSC resident camp has them in the units and the girls are assigned latrine duty very matter-of-factly. My daughters have both "done their duty" at camp. A couple of years ago I rode the Register's Great Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) where you'd see row upon row of blue "kybos" (portapotties) at almost every town the riders pass through. My sister, with whom I was riding, knew I wasn't fond of them but when I'd come back to our group I'd say "How do you spell relief?" The answer, "P-E-E." Anyhow, I found the cornfields (and you know there are a lot of them out here) to be much more congenial for quick trips. Kind farmers even left tp on the fencepost and posted signs for "men" and "women."

Anne, Mississippi Valley GSC 

In my day...

Love this thread :). My troop girls loved having latrines, they thought it was cool to "go like the pioneers". Didn't tell them at 8 and 9 about catholes, some found out later:). My girls, now in 20s, the few I see, feel "sorry" for today's girls who have to use flushies. And let me add, the clean the latrines kaper always filled first, why, quickest job to do! Some girls even tried to sign themselves for that kaper more than once cause toting water or looking for wood was too much time and trouble.

Lela, San Jacinto Council 

Haunted whats?

All this talk about Latrines reminded me of a problem that I had with my Brownie Unit 2 years ago. We were camping at Camp Aneesh, (near Owen Sound, Ont), but were staying in the Brownie Holiday House ( the lap of luxury - flush toilets, oven and even a microwave!), BUT one of the guiders daughters ( guide/pathfinder age) started to tell the girls that the Lats were haunted.

I believe that the story went something like this , that a girl fell down the hole in the lats one day, and has never been heard from since. Well the legend lived on for at least another year, despite all of our attempts to quell it, until finally at a fall camp the girls just had to check out an old abandoned lat shack, sitting tilted over at the edge of the woods.

One of the girls came running back screaming "IT'S TRUE, IT'S TRUE!!!! A GIRL NAMED HELEN FELL INTO THE LAT!".

I got her calmed down, and asked what was going on, and the group of them kept saying, "IT SAYS HELP HELEN!!" in the lats.

I went in to check and discovered that there were really 2 messages printed side by side on the inside of the lat. "HELP IT STINKS" and "HELEN '78". so that it looked like "HELP HELEN" and "IT STINKS '78".

Despite the scare, most of them ended up coming to summer camp with us when they became guides!!

Carol, 1st Port Elgin Guides 

I seeeeeeee you

OK... here's another one for the record books. Several years ago our Neighborhood (SU) was having a campout at one of our council camps that had only latrines that were holes in the ground with a regular toilet seat on them. Not only were they smelly...(WHEW!), but they were very dark...especially at night. One girl went with her buddy to the latrine and while she was fumbling around, her flashlight fell down the hole. The hole was VERY deep and obviously filled with stuff that no self-respecting soul would dare think about there the flashlight stayed...ON!

For the rest of the weekend, it seemed like everyone in camp just had to go to that particular latrine at one time or another just to see the eerie glow emanating out of it. The batteries lasted all weekend!

And on the subject, sometimes we call them latrines, sometimes we call them "johns", and sometimes we call them "biffys"...(BIFFY = Bathroom In the Forest For You). For those in other countries... you can't necessarily take a bath in a bathroom. It's just a word that we use to indicate a room with a toilet...whether it has a tub/shower or not.


Compost happens

I haven't read lots on this yet but it seems to be a "hot one". My GSC has our own camp with very nice latrines that uses a compost system. Now I think I know what you are thinking. There is no odor and the toilets look exactly like home except you do not flush them. The lids must also be kept closed when not in use in order for the compost system to be able to do its jobs. I've taken my troop camping at this camp 2 x's a year for the last 6 years. I also take other troops who need an overnight person to go with them. Never have I heard any complaints about the latrines once the girls/adults see them and use them 2-3 times. Just my .02


Horror Stories

Two for the price of one

What a thread! But I must admit I have been enjoying the stories. I have two to add.

Anecdote #1:

The first time I took Brownies camping where they had to use a latrine, I didn't have any that were afraid of it, just curious! Well one girl lost her flashlight down the latrine, and wanted us to retrieve it! After explaining to her why she really didn't want the flashlight back, nothing else was said about the incident on that camp out. The next camp out with latrines, one of the other girls comes to us to let us know that the "light" in the latrine is out. After a lot of questions trying to get at what she meant, we found out that this girl and her buddy had gotten up in the night at the last camp out and used the latrine with the flashlight in the pit. Evidently she thought that all latrines had lights in the pits!

Anecdote #2:

This one comes by way of a wildlife rehabber. A friend who is a wildlife rehabber that specializes in birds of prey, received a phone call about an baby owl that needed rescuing. No details were available by phone because the caller was only a messenger and had no clue as to why they needed a rehabber. So my friend went, not knowing what to expect, not even knowing what type of owl it was. She got to the site, it was a latrine. A fledeged owl had found it's way into the latrine pit, when someone sat on it to use the latrine the owl attacked! Both were injured in the incident, but luckily minor injuries and all recovered.

Lynn W, Seven Lakes Girl Scout Council, Central New York 

I like to swim, but this is ridiculous!

Maybe if the leaders who have trouble getting their girls to use them print out some of the stories, it might help lighten the girls up. It can get worse then latrines.

When I was in Greece camping with Guides, we had a big hole made by a back hoe covered with wood slats to stand on and a crude wood frame with some black material hanging for "privacy". I realized that in 10 days I couldn't not go, but I did get down to twice a day! And I took some Immodium AD two days before I left.

Horror story of them all is that one of my girls, for some reason, completely undressed (bottom half anyway) when she went to the latrines. One time she dropped the bathing suit she was wearing into the hole!! Luckily she had shorts with her and a top. When she told me she had another bathing suit I asked her why she even took it out! Yuk. We did have bacterial soap and that baby soaked for a loooooooonnnnnnnnnggggggg time. I don't think she wore it again on that trip.

Clare Z 

Latrine duty

Being a Girl Scout 11 years as a girl and 10 years as an adult, I have fond memories of camp and many latrine stories. My favorite was the first time we had latrine duty on the Kaper Chart. My older sister (she was actually an assistant leader) suggested we lift the lid and place Saran Wrap over the pipe. Who could resist? What a mess! We had latrine duty again for that stunt.

One girl in my troop had no indoor toilet and an outhouse was a way of life for her. No one could really complain about latrines at camp. I guess we thought about poor Judy and what she had 365 days of the year. I also remember doing primitive camping and we had to dig our own latrine.

Now that I'm a leader I tell these stories to my troop. So far none of them has repeated these deeds. Actually - they all behave at camp, too. They are happy the latrines are already built. I don't think the stories make them like latrines, but I think of these stories every time I use the latrine and laugh.

When my daughter was 6 or 7 she did a campfire skit at a Service Unit Camp Out on "How to Clean a Latrine". She is always the first to show a new kid what is required.

As for the bad smell - clean the latrine 3 or 4 times a day, and keep the lid down.

Peggy J, Delaware-Raritan Girl Scout Council 

Look who's watching

I can resist no longer. I have to tell my favorite Latrine story. When I was a CIT at Camp Rock Hill in NY in 1963 we had two wonderful counselors; Joe and Dolly. Dolly was an older woman (probably younger than I am now though). One evening one of us dropped a lighted flashlight down the hole. We had a double holer with no partition or real seats. We were all still up and waiting for the reaction when Joe and Dolly got back from the staff house. We were not dissapointed. About 11pm they came back and walked to the lat. Soon we heard a frightened voice saying " Joe, JOE, there's something LOOKING at me from down there. The light was eventually fished out but never used again!

On names when I visited in Mexico 4 years ago I called them servicios. for services.

Dori B, Fair Winds GSC Swartz Creek Mi 

Bye, Mikey!

Here's my favorite latrine story:

In 1984, I took my Junior troop to an encampment at the Carowinds amusement park near Charlotte, NC. We were tenting, 2-4 to a tent, and a pair of girls woke me up rather late at night to let me know they were going to the porta-potties. I was starting to get worried when they returned about 20 minutes later, telling me that one of the girls had dropped her Michael Jackson t-shirt down the hole, and had been trying to fish it out! She was near tears when I told her I wasn't going to help her get it out...

I still laugh when I think of her saying, "But it's my MICHAEL JACKSON t-shirt!" I never did find out why she took it off in the first place...

Susan Z. C, SUM, Prairie Sun SU GSC of Greater Minneapolis 

My story:

(Duplicate of the flashlight story) An easy backpack in the Angeles Forest has a nice overnight camping spot at Hoegee's Trail Camp -- with latrines. On Friday night, a young Scout (checking for trolls?) leaned over a little too far and dropped his flashlight, lit, in the hole. It became the high point of the trip -- people were checking that latrine all weekend, coming out, and announcing "Yup! It's still lit!"

Bob P, Greater Long Beach GS Council Long Beach, CA

My daughter's story:

At a campout at a local college, a girl using a port-a-potty lost a baseball out of her pocket (don't ask!!!) into the pot and it caused such a large splash that she came running out of the port-o-pottie screaming with her pants down because she thought that there was some living creature down there.

Kim P, Northern Pines GS Council 

Call me Jack

"And on the subject, sometimes we call them latrines, sometimes we call them 'johns' " 

This reminds me of a funny story. I have a friend named "John" and he is ever so thankful if you don't use his name when you mean 'the toilet'. :-) He actually said to me "BTW, Thanks for not calling them 'johns'" when I was talking about an event and the need to rent port-a-potties during a conversation we were having! LOL I had never thought about it, but I think I would find it annoying if my name was synonymous with the toilet, too! I wonder how toilets came to be known as "johns" anyway?

I had the best excuse for getting out of latrine duty at Camp Mayflather. I left camp to have an emergency appendectomy and my cabin had latrine duty while I was gone! Almost made the whole thing worth it! :-)

It was a wooden building with walls and doors, a toilet seat over a hole in the ground, like an old-fashioned outhouse. Smelled awful, but I had a nose that didn't work all that well at the time. My dad was a chain smoker and it took almost 10 years in a non-smoking house before I was able to smell things properly again. The only time I ever thought I actually had an *advantage* over kids from non-smoking homes! LOL :-)

Laura H., Lone Star Girl Scout Council * Austin, TX USA 

Final exams and 'bomb drops'

Regarding the very interesting thread about latrines, Jeroen wrote: "A few years back we camped on a ground, where we had to dig our own latrine. Then a seat from poles was lashed above it and a piece of plastic put around it for privacy."

This caused me to think that such a latrine would certainly make my girls listen and learn a lot more about lashing than they currently do if they had to design and lash a seat that would support them over a latrine hole! What a great "final exam"!! ***vbg***

On a more serious note, I had a girl develop a urinary tract infection from "holding it" during a campout, so we now make sure we have so many wonderful choices of drinks that we "force feed" our girls that sooner or later they HAVE to go.

And just to add my $.02 worth, when I lived in Turkey (where they DO have wonderful modern conveniences in the city), we would often tour with groups of Americans to the rural parts of that wonderful country. At the public toilets, there would often be 1-2 "American" toilets and 4-5 "bomb drops", as we would affectionately call them (a square porcelin area with two raised "steps" for you to stand on). Most of the women would be willing to stand forever in line for the standard toilet, but the girl scouts in the crowd were quite comfortable with the alternative...and no competition in line!

Also, I go camping with my son's Boy Scouts often. A month ago, at their Camporee (with about 700 some boys), I had to wonder why a boy can obviously "hit" every single part of the inside of a porta-john, except for the hole!!! Perhaps Mike, Don, or one of the other members of the other fine sex among us can explain...! ****v,vbg****

Barb H., Fairfax Station, VA, GSCNC 

Up and at 'em!

We recently returned from a camp out with 11 3rd year Brownies and two second year Juniors. On our second (and final) morning, we had trouble rousing some of the girls. I told one of my Brownies to make the rounds of the tents and let the sleepers know that the last tent up would have latrine duty. Most of them popped right up, but the Juniors either didn't believe my threat, or didn't care. Needless to say, their tent had latrine duty.

I liked the idea of "decorating" the latrines that someone mentioned earlier. Just be sure to remove everything so the critters don't make a mess of things after you leave . . .

ALSO: I disagree with Joi Ball when she says that Brownies are too young to camp. I have been camping with my Brownies for three years now. We began with a backyard camp out after their first year, then went on to Lodge camping twice during their second year, and this year we did fall camping in the lodge and spring camping at A-frames and platform tents. My girls are in love with camping and I couldn't imagine our years together without it!

Next year we plan to do A-frames in the fall and spring, and maybe a winter lodge campout. I've only had one instance of home-sickness at camp, although occasionally a girl will not attend because of that reason. I let the parents decide if the girl is ready or not, or invite the parent to come along. Brownies can be GREAT CAMPERS!

Linda St G., GS Genesee Valley Brockport, NY 

But what about those satellite pictures?

My own latrine story: I saw an unusual one several years ago at a beach on Cape was a roomy (I guess so you could change clothes easily in there) cinderblock enclosure with no roof! There was just a cement floor, a seat on the top of the wide tube/pipe/whatever and a whole lot of fresh air and sunshine due to that open roof, but I remember sitting there with my one piece bathing suit pulled down past my knees and praying that no aircraft would fly over!

Sallie Z. 

Hay, I don't think so

My first Girl Scout experience with *latrines* was in seventh grade (I joined Scouts as a Cadette) when we went on a hayride. Had to go pretty bad, but when I got in there and actually got a whiff of everything, decided to hold it in til I got home.....between that, and all the pieces of hay in my clothes - man, talk about uncomfortable!!

Back in Sept., 1976, I and a few others from my troop (and Mrs. Hanley, my troop leader) attended a *Try-It* Weekend at Camp Kiwanis. It was neat meeting girls from other troops, but I must confess to being somewhat grossed out when one of the girls described her experiences digging latrines, etc, when she went primitive camping.... :-)

Felicia C., Freedom Valley Girl Scout Council Bensalem PA 

Members only

I grew up in Sooner Council in Oklahoma. Every spring we had a council-wide campout. Each troop set up its own latrine...digging a hole, lashing a seat and creating and decorating some kind of walls. At the end of the weekend, the troop with the most imaginative latrine was made a member of the Order of the Golden Lat. They had a great sign with a toilet seat painted gold that the troop number was added to.

Sara C.,Western Mass GS Council 

Pop goes the toilet

Hi Y'all,

My worse latrine experience was while serving as a Company Commander in Germany during a bad winter. It was so cold that the seat froze in the closed position. We had to use hot water to "unseal" the seats. The strangest experience was to hear the latrine contents go snap, crackle and pop (due to change in temperature) while you were using the facilities.

Saddie, Lake Ridge, VA

Latrine Names from Around the World

Hey, John, Bif!

Gail wrote: And on the subject, sometimes we call them latrines, sometimes we call them "johns", and sometimes we call them "biffys"...(BIFFY = Bathroom In the Forest For You). For those in other countries... you can't necessarily take a bath in a bathroom. It's just a word that we use to indicate a room with a toilet...whether it has a tub/shower or not.

Just a note, I've read that "washroom" as a term to mean bathroom/room with a toilet is a very Canadian the point that it was mentioned once in the newspaper that a Canadian family who were visiting somewhere in the US asked for the "washroom" for their kid, and directed to the sink. After dubiously asking the clerk "are you sure?", the kid used the can imagine.

I've often wondered if anything like this could really happen, is everyone familiar with the term "washroom" as a synonym for bathroom/toilet room/etc.? What other terms are there? (I learned to look for the "WC" in the UK and Europe - WC=water closet!)

YIGGGS, Jennifer


They call a latrine in Colorado a Biffy too. Found out that it means "Bathroom In the Forest For You".

Kathy H. 

Generation gap

In New York ('cause I just asked!), the room with the toilet is called the bathroom. "Washroom" might be understood by an adult, but definitely not by a child. :)


Room with a view

Hi Folks,

On the subject of latrine names, I haven't seen anyone use the name "Privy". It's one of my favorites, because of all the bad jokes that can be made about being privy to information, etc.

Finally, someone mentioned a while back Camp Potomac Woods, and particularly the Glen unit, which didnt' have flushies yet. I spent a few fun-filled weeks during a few summers about 20 years ago at Potomac Woods, and I remember one summer I was in Glen. Thanks for the reminder of the memories (also, now I've got the darn PW theme song running through my head).

Okay, one more thing -- I'm 29 (the big three-oh coming very soon), and latrines don't really phase me much. In fact, after all of the wilderness/ backcountry hiking/backpacking/fieldwork I've done, a latrine is downright civilized! It sounds like some of you wouldn't have liked the summer I spent three months camped out in the boonies in Nevada. Our "Latrine" was just a box with a toilet seat built on skids (2x4's) so we could slide it along a trench, to keep one spot from getting too gross. We did have a sun shade cover, to keep sensitive parts from getting too much NV sun. The view from the latrine was great! In fact, one of the women I was working with decided that one of the great advantages to being a field geologist was "peeing in pretty places".

Cathy C Flagstaff, AZ 

Worldwide slang

Here in New Zealand the toilet is often call the 'loo' - and it makes no difference whether there is a sink or not in with it; some other terms here are 'dunny' and out in the country with non-flushing loos we call them 'long drops' - we apparently have the highest long drop in the world here in NZ

kia kaha


Jo D 

The UK speakes out

Jennifer wrote: " I've often wondered if anything like this could really happen, is everyone familiar with the term "washroom" as a synonym for bathroom/toilet room/etc.? What other terms are there?"

In the UK, somebody asking for the bathroom in a house etc would get directed to the room which contains the bathtub! Generaly of course this will have a toilet too, but not necessarily. (When we had an American visitor - she got a little confused to start with as our toilet is separate!) Though we don't use the term, I guess a washroom would get you a toilet/sink facility (maybe with a shower too?)

On a sign, you would get "WC" (as Jennifer mentions), "public conveniences" or "toilets" "Cloakroom" is another well-used phrase. This means a place to leave your coat, but there are often toilets there too! These are generally situated near the entrace at a theatre etc.

If you were to ask in the street/ at a station for directions to the "ladies", the "lavatory" or the "toilet" (most usual) then you'd be much more sure of getting the answer you required!

At camp etc, you would get the "toilets", the "loos" or "lats" (Lats is not used very much nowdays & would generally only be used to refer to chemical toilets - never to flush ones!)

It's fun to think of the problems that somebody might face in another culture isn't it!

Yours in Guiding,

Lucy T, Guide Guider - 1st Tamworth Guides 


Dear All,

Thought you'd be amused to hear this.

Last night I was chatting to a friend who is a reluctant camper and occasional Guide helper. As you do (!) I was recounting some of the stories from this list about latrine..experiences, shall we say (in the hopes of encouraging her to come camping??!). Telling her about the kids dropping lit flashlights down the hole, she replied "Well why can't the camp authorities put some sort of netting to stop stuff dropping down the hole?"

She didn't realise what she'd said until about 10 minutes later - when I'd recovered enough breath from laughing to be able to talk.

Still giggling, I am

YiGGGS, Sarah 

1 rm, cw vw

A similar thread to "peeing in pretty places": - I once was on a dig in Wales (ie not the back of beyond) and we had a "shower" with real hot water, heated by a Calor gas burner. Unfortunately, this luxury did not extend to the screening, which was a wooden frame with bin-liners forming two sides of a triangle, shielding the shower-er from the rest of the camp. The third side was open to a large field of cows.

One of my best memories of that particular dig was taking a warm shower, in the rain, sitting on a plastic garden chair stark naked, exchanging glances with a very large and placid cow. Kind of surreal, but great fun! And no, I didn't get arrested for indecent exposure. And yes, starkers was the only way to be: the sand we were digging through got everywhere, and it wasn't worth wearing a swimming costume to retain some dignity in the shower - you just didn't get clean.

YiGGGS, Sarah 

Welcome to America

When my husband was in high school, they had a foreign exchange student from Germany. When her host family picked her up at the airport, they asked her if she wanted to go to the bathroom before they left for the drive home. She looked at them like they were weird, and said no, but she would like to use the toilet. To her, the "bathroom" was somewhere that you took a bath.

YiGS Sue 

Oh, deer

When I was a girl in Michigan, the council's camp, Camp Deer Trails, had everything named in some way related to deer. The mess hall was called Salt Lick, the infirmary was called Buck Up, the Units had names like Doe Glen and Stag Ridge and the latrines were called Bambi's by the girls.

When I was a camp counselor we named the latrine in our unit Grizelda. We painted her name on the side and everything. The girls went to "visit Grizelda". Once when we were in a different part of the camp one of our Brownies asked where Grizelda was? Nobody had a clue what she was talking about until one of the other girls interpreted.


Urban legend or fact?

"I wonder how toilets came to be known as "johns" anyway?" I think I can answer this one. The things were invented by one John C Crapper (which explains another name by which they are known).

In my girl days we often called them LGR's for Little Girls Rooms. When we had a man with us we called them LGBR''s for Little Girls and Boy Room. I don't know if we invented those terms or if anyone else used them.

Dori, Fair winds GSC 

Land of the open luas

After reading a recent post about a cape cod out house I just had to share this one.

Three years ago my husband and I vacationed in Hawaii. Part of this two week trip we back packed through Hawaii Volcano NP. It was a very memorable experience - Having experieced my share of out houses this one took the cake! When I finally found it it was a three sided rock wall about 30" high. Set in the middle was a stainless steel tube with a seat. No, it didnot smell, but it had the most wonderful view! It looked out to the Ocean! There was one other camper there when we first arrived. I would have my husband stand guard if I needed to use it. Thankfully our fellow camper hiked out the next day and we were left to enjoy the view!

IMHO, I'm always thankful to have an outhouse available, when you have to dig and fill enough times you start to look at those small houses as modern plumbing!


Definitely an Urban Legend (long)

The latrine stories have brought back fond (?) memories. I went on my first troop camping trip when I was in 6th grade (I had been in Camp Fire for 6 years & groups did not go camping other than indivudually to summer resident or day camp.) My GS troop went primitive camping & my patrol had to dig the pit latrine & lash seats, etc. We slept in round up tents & I remember waking up feeling extremely warm, but contributed it to being buried in my sleeping bag. However, my buddy took one look at me & told me I had a rash all over! I had come down with the measles & had to go home. My leader wouldn't award me the Troop Camper badge since I didn't stay the entire weekend. I remember thinking that it wasn't fair since I had done the worst part of getting our site ready.

I also have a story that I have no idea where it came from, but it is a great illustration of how easy it is for our communication to be misunderstood:

"My friend is a rather old fashioned old lady, always quite delicate and elegant in her language. She and her husband were planning a camping trip to St. Augustine, so she wrote a particular campground and asked for reservations.

She wanted to be sure the campground was fully equiped but wasn't quite sure how to ask about toilet facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word 'toilet' in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally came up with the old fashioned term 'bathroom commode.' But, when she wrote that down, she still thought she was being too forward, so she started over again. She rewrote the entire letter and referred to the bathroom commode as the 'B.C.' "Does this campground have its own 'B.C.?," is what she actually wrote.

Well, the campground owner wasn't old fashioned at all, but when he got the letter, he just could not figure out what the woman was talking about; that 'B.C.' business really stumped him.

After worrying about it for a while, he showed the letter to several campers, but they couldn't image what the lady meant either. So the campground owner finally came to the conclusion that the lady must be asking about the location of the local Baptist Church. So he sat down and wrote the following reply:

'Dear Madam, I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take the pleasure of informing you that a B.C. is located just 9 miles north of the campground and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly, but no doubt, you will be pleased to know that a great many people take their lunches and make a day of it. They ususally arrive early and stay late.

The last time my wife and I went was six years ago and it was so crowded that we had to stand up the whole time we were thre. It may interest you to know that right now, there is a supper planned to raise money for more seats. They are going to hold it in the basement of the B.C.

I would like to say that it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly, but is is surely no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older, it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in colder weather. If you decide to come down to our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time you go; sit with you and introduce you to the other folks. Remember this is a very friendly community."

This story reminds me of the Wee Wee song, but that's another post......


How it looks from Down Under

" I've often wondered if anything like this could really happen, is everyone familiar with the term "washroom" as a synonym for bathroom/toilet room/etc.? What other terms are there? (I learned to look for the "WC" in the UK and Europe - WC=water closet!)

Well, here in Australia, we've got plenty of different names :o). We've got the simple 'toilet' and 'bathroom', and 'loo' is quite common. 'Dunny' is also used - probably a slightly more slang term though. 'Ladies' or 'mens' are common as well. And what about 'thunderbox' for outhouses - it's not exactly part of the everyday language, but most, well a lot of Aussies know what it means :o).

I think I must be a deprived camper . Nearly all the camping sites around here that I know of have proper flushing toilets. I'd hardly even heard of the term latrine until joining this mailling list :o). Although from what I can work out, they're fairly similar to our classic 'long drops', which certainly receive similar complaints to latrines.


Latrine Songs

OK guys, I'm warning you in advance that this is the least tasteful of the lot. Read on at your own peril!

Those English are such great gardeners

At a Boy Scout camp I worked at in the 80's, the word for latrine was KYBO, standing for "Keep Your Bowels Open."

And the bit about the Lu reminds me about a silly song one of the girls, who had been raised in England, taught the rest of the troop.

What would you do
If you haven't got a loo
In an English country garden.

Pull down your pants
And water all the plants
In an English country garden.

Lee, Cadette/Senior leader in AZ 

I know a place

For years, the girls in our older girl troop (both Cadettes and Seniors), have ALWAYS volunteered to do latrine duty at any encampment that we've been to. They discovered that they can clean latrines and be finished in about 1/4 the time as any other job at camp and then have more time to goof-off!

Also, for those of you who know the tune to "I Know a Place", here are the words to a variation of that song that we often sing while cleaning latrines:

I know a place, where everybody "goes"
It's called the biffy and you'd better hold your nose!
It's sitting in the meadow beside a clump of grass,
You'd better watch where you sit or you might get a rash!
After the meals, and all the dirty dishes
It's the place that everybody wishes
To be, To be, the biffy's here for you and me!

Gaye Girl Scouts - Wilderness Road Council 

The Green Latrine

Here is a latrine song that I learned. It is to the tune of "The Green Berets".

The Green Latrine

Wooden Seats upon the stools
And in March its kind of cool
As the wind blows through the screen
On the door of the Green Latrine

Out in back it stands alone
That little shack I call my own
Its painted drab a rustic green
That's why its called the Green Latrine

On my bed I lie in pain
Cause outside its pouring rain
I gotta go But I just can't yet
Cause I'm afraid I might get wet

In the house my husband yells
"The Green Latrine, it really smells"
I say to him "Now just relax,
An outside john cuts property tax.



Okay everyone I cant resist any longer:

When I was a kid at day camp the lats were called Kybo's (dont have a clue why) and the song we had about them was as follows, sung to the tune of Downtown by Petula Clark.

When you are sleepy and it;s time to go peepee there's a place to go-
When you are droopy and it's time to go poopy there's a place to go-

Just listen to the rhythm of the froggies in the toilet,
Even though it's smelly I am sure you will enjoy it
The lights are not on in there,
But you forget all your worries, forget all your cares
In the Kybo
Isnt it fun to go-

Now I bet no one's heard that one!

Michelle, White Oaks Area, Canada 

One more time

I had first year Cadettes that were Program Aides when I was CIT Director years ago at Resident Camp who did this song and then I taught it to my own Cad and Sen girls. They really liked it, after awhile it got old for me.

When I wake up in the morning and I gotta go pee.............LATRINE
See'n everybody starin' at me........LATRINE
When I wake up at night and gotta go # 2........LATRINE
See the rats and mice (pause) doin it too


I got Latrines on my mind
as I wipe my behind
Latrine, Um those stinky things
Um latrine, Um those stinky things

On a Monday Hey! Hey!
On a Tuesday and a Wednesday Hey! Hey!
On a Thursday and a Friday Hey! Hey!
On a Saturday and Sunday Hey! Hey!

Repeat Chorus

My now senior bridging to adults still know it and sing it when asked. They do it as a song at the fire circle.....with movements, holding nose etc.

Joyce, Leader of 3 Troops - Jr, Cad,& Sen, Norfolk,VA 

With mascots like that...

As a side note, one of the Ranger units in my Division has a toilet seat for a mascot! They were at our local camp when they were changing the seat in the bathroom so they just ended up keeping it, talk about weird!

And Lee wrote:

"And the bit about the Lu reminds me about a silly song one of the girls, who had been raised in England, taught the rest of the troop.

What would you do
If you haven't got a loo
In an English country garden.

Pull down your pants
And water all the plants
In an English country garden."

I remember this from elementary school only we sang "poo" instead of "loo" and had a second verse:

Pull down you pants
And suffocate (or "wash off") the ants
In an English country garden.

Suzanne, Ontario 

A cadence?

Here's a song:

L - A - T - R - I - N -E
That is where I long to be
Rather than in fields of corn,
In bushes, or in shrubbery.

L - A - T - R - I - N -E
That's the place for me to be
I sit upon the broken seat
And try to keep my blue jeans neat

L - A - T - R - I - N -E
That is where they have T.P.
Rather than a dirty leaf
What a way to find relief!


Is that anything like stop and smell the roses?

One of our Guides' favourite camp songs (whilst washing up/queuing for the washbasins etc)

To tune of "tiptoe through the tulips"

"Tiptoe through the tentpegs,
Through the tentpegs
To the lavatory,
oh tiptoe through the tentpegs with me."

Then, to tune of "White Christmas"

"I'm dreaming of a flush toilet,
just like the ones we have at home.
With a silver chain,
and proper drain,
and somewhere for it all to go"

(ends in laughs/repeat ad nauseam etc)

Sarah R. ...