Restrooms in schools used to have doors. The restroom doors first started disappearing in the mid 70’s they disappeared first from the boy’s restrooms and then eventually much later from the girl’s restrooms as well. I have often wondered if you could accurately judge the discipline climate present in a modern school by whether or not it still had restroom doors? We were told way back then it was to “promote easier communication,” apparently boys needed to get the message earlier than the girls as the boy’s doors disappeared several years earlier than the girls. Problems in restrooms are not new but their character has changed from my days in high school. I can remember sinks pulled loose from walls in girl’s restrooms as girls anxious to test the shortness of skirts in small bathrooms stood on the edges of the sinks to see if their skirts met the “kneel” requirement. The bathrooms tended to have tiny foggy mirrors above the sinks on a tile wall usually surrounded by disgustingly dinghy looking grout. The mirrors placed in such a way and small enough that you could not see much below the top of the sink. . . I first came in contact with “The Kneel” requirement in my high school where it was enforced by the girl’s advisor. The kneel rule consisted of a command issued to girls to kneel and if your skirt didn’t touch the floor be prepared to suffer the consequences which could include suspension or being sent home to change clothes not to mention the humiliation of kneeling in the hallway between classes while a rather large Germanic looking women, who in my opinion received her training behind the desk at the department of motor vehicles, and probably had a lead shot filled rubber hose somewhere in her office did her Teutonic best to make you shrink into nothingness… In the boy’s case there was an ongoing bathroom problem in high school with cherry bombs and M-80’s. Cherry bombs and M-80s, no longer easily obtained, were particularly nasty little explosives masquerading as firecrackers. Their best or worst characteristic, which depended entirely on your point of view, was that they had waterproof fuses that would stay lit when dropped into a toilet and flushed wreaking havoc on plumbing or alternatively simply left floating in the bowl which at times created a pretty impressive fountain of water and at other times flying ceramic shrapnel. And of course for eons kids have smoked in school bathrooms, although as I remember from my high school days the smoke didn’t smell quite as sweet as it often does now. Although the penalties for getting caught then with tobacco and now with weed were and are often roughly equivalent.
I remember when you could send kids to the bathroom and not stand outside of “where the doors” used to be and supervise. I remember when female elementary teachers did not step into the boy’s bathroom and heaven help the male elementary school teacher who stepped or even today steps into the girl’s bathroom. Female teachers stepping into the boys bathroom to control students is so common today that every time I use the bathroom at an elementary school I get a little paranoid and spend most of my time literally and figuratively looking over my shoulder at the entrance.
The first school I worked at had a little septic tank problem… Actually it was a big septic tank problem caused by little septic tank. Problems usually happened without warning in the spring of the year when the melt started. It affected the kitchen area of the building first and then spread throughout the building both figuratively and literally. One of the prime directives for being a 1st grade teacher in those days was to make sure that everyone flushed after using the facilities while hand washing was rarely if ever mentioned Now “if its yellow let it mellow” has merit and hand washing is considered critical.
When the septic tank started acting up, flushing became an official “NO-NO! ” I remember one day listening to a 1st grade teacher down the hall trying to stop the flushing in the boy’s bathroom without going into the bathroom (back then females didn’t just walk into the boy’s bathroom like they do today and the bathrooms even had stalls with doors) Joan A was using her best teacher voice as her students went in to the bathroom, “Remember don’t flush… followed a little later by,”. Who flushed I, heard flushing in there, I don’t want hear another flushing sound. “”Augh….” she moaned as the flushing continued and then said, mindful of where the septic tank problem would first become apparent in the building, “Don’t you understand that if you keep flushing it’s going to affect your lunch.” At the time an unintentional but highly salient double entendre on school lunches. Joan incidentally was also known for the way she got away with calling the principal “Sparky,” … I always wondered what she had on him.