Friday, November 16, 2012

Chamber Pots and Windows Out on the World

Gulf Shores, AL     High: 73   Low:  47

A trip to the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum on the naval air base today, but Sparky can't resist giving a little more information about chamber pots because hey--that's probably something people DON'T know as much about...(And Sparky, they probably don't care to know?) Well, they can skip that part then.

Everybody knows the lighthouse keeper or a family member trekked up the stairs (177 of them at the Pensacola Lighthouse) daily, with a 5 gallon bucket of kerosene or mineral spirits to keep the light going...Sparky LOVES lighthouse stairs and always has to climb them. They look like giant Nautilus shells....

Everybody has probably heard about Fresnel lens--THE lens for lighthouses built in the early 1800's....or at least seen photos of them. This one at the Pensacola Lighthouse is really cool. It has 344 glass panes from France in it, and 8 bulls eye pieces. Lots of hard work required to polish the glass. The lighthouse keeper's salary was 700.00 a year for all this hard work.....
There were several windows open out to views on the ocean while climbing the stairs, and the breeze coming through them was wonderful! The lighthouse is TALL, 192 feet tall and it was quite the climb today....
The wrought iron stairs were wider than the usual lighthouse staircases until you got to the very top.
What a view! You could see the Blue Angels jets over on the tarmac at the air station from the top, and also three out of four forts built to defend the Pensacola Bay back in the day....Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas, and the third one Sparky forgets. You can also view the Blue Angels practices from the catwalk at the lighthouse during their training sessions if you buy special tickets at 15.00 a pop, except the Blue Angels are done for the year.

(Uh, Sparky, I hate to mention it, but you made a big deal out of chamber pots??) Yep, just getting to that...You know, visiting all this history in person, don't you wonder about some things that are never talked about, like how did people use the bathroom when they didn't have indoor toilets--well, yeah...they used outhouses, but how about the middle of the night? And what about these chamberpots? Everybody knows that a chamber pot was used to go to the bathroom IN the house so they didn't have to go outside. You can see them in the bedrooms at the lighthouse. The chamber pot was ceramic if you were rich and simple earthenware if you were poor. They were usually placed inside some kind of bench or cabinet with a lid. The chamber pots were emptied every morning by throwing it out the window or in the streets in town in the early days (you didn't want to be taking a morning walk then!) or dumped into slop jars which were then emptied out in the outhouse hole or out back. At the lighthouse, they didn't get indoor plumbing until 1939, so they were definitely in use. In the general population, it was a woman's job or the older children's job or a maid's if you were rich.  Chamber pots continued to be used into the 1940's and 1950's in rural areas. Kids' modern day potty training chairs are based on the old chamber pot idea. Why all the talk about chamber pots? Dunno...just a sideline....The history of chamber pots was all over the bathroom walls at the lighthouse restroom, just thought it would be nice to share.....  :-)

After Sparky came back down, it was time for a spirited game of checkers on the front porch of the lighthouse with Eldo. He is pondering his next move, because he's running out of them!
It was a great day out on the bay, at the Pensacola Lighthouse! You can tour the lighthouse for free, but to climb the 177 steps, it will cost you five dollars. You'll have to excuse Sparky right now...All this talk about chamber pots, it's time to head for the restroom! See you later......


  1. oooo. . .I love climbing lighthouses too. . .the view from the top is always so worth it. . .where's the pics of the jets?

    ReadyToGoFullTimeRVing Blog

    1. They looked so teensy in the photo I did take that I decided not to use it.

  2. We had to put off the lighthouse when we were on base in September as I didn't have proper footwear ... when we go back in January :-)

  3. Love lighthouses, such a great part of history, looks like another greta day.

  4. I always think of a nautilus shell when I see the stairs in a lighthouse too.

    I have heard of chamber pots, but I guess I never really thought of how they were used. It would certainly be better than running to the outhouse in the middle of the night.

    Nice post!

  5. Great pictures of the lighthouse. We are so glad that we made the trek up, it was definitely worth it!

  6. Love your lighthouse pictures. Especially of the stairs. What fun playing checkers on the porch. What was the prize to the winner??