Portable restrooms can be taken for granted; and whether one is attending an outdoor wedding, a golf tournament or an ethnic festival, portable restrooms located in these venues may not be thought of much, except when they are needed – and then, they are life-savers!
In centuries past, port-a-potties were never taken for granted since having toilets in homes was unheard of for common people for ages; and it wasn't until the 1800's that actual bathrooms in European and American homes became slowly popularized. Port-a-potties, in the literal sense, have been around for thousands of years – even portable 'squat toilets' were in use in Asia as far back as 1500 BC.
Let's take a quick peek at how port-a-potties have evolved over the ages.
Chamber pots – handled pots or vases, with large openings – were included in households all over Europe before plumbing in homes ever became a luxury, and before Columbus stumbled upon America. Typically, chamber pots were kept under beds or bedside tables; though once the Victorian Era emerged, chamber pots were built into cabinets with a closeable top.
Often times, once the pot was full, people who were not aware of sanitation at its most basic, would simply toss the waste into the streets – not good! That type of bacteria-ridden practice helped contribute to the high death-rate during the Bubonic Plague which ravaged Europe from as early as the 1300's and beyond.
Those who were more sanitary-minded, would carry their filled chamber pots to nearby gutters and empty them there so the waste could be carried into streams or rivers – water which was, also, used, for drinking and cooking.
During Medieval Times–which lasted for about 1,000 years, from the 5th Century to the last 15th Century – chamber pots went by a variety of names: Jerry, Guzunder, Thunder Pot and other labels. Carrying a chamber pot to special occasions was common practice. In ancient Greece, for example, people would carry their chamber pots to large suppers or parties to ensure their 'port-a-potties' would be readily available.
Imagine shipyards in Long Beach, California during the 1940's where shipbuilders had to walk from their work stations to the dock area to reach a bathroom – sacrificing valuable work time, in the process. An especially insightful supervisor decided that instead of men traveling to bathrooms, bathrooms should travel to them. The idea took off; and portable wood and metal huts were positioned in close proximity to work areas. Though these early designs of portable restrooms were primitive, odor-filled, and unsanitary, they served their purpose; and it was during this decade that port-a-potties evolved into a full-fledged industry.
As the idea of portable restrooms took hold, a number of business-minded people began to realize that the concept of portable restrooms could turn into money-making propositions – and they were right! Commercial building and home-construction sites – always in need of immediate bathroom facilities – became the first venues where port-a-potties were widely utilized on a grand scale. Home-construction boomed after WWII; and these types of building sites began to dot the American landscape from coast to coast. Port-a-potties saved the day by allowing workers easy access to bathroom facilities, in close proximity.
Again, however, wood was the main building material of choice for these unsightly huts; and, therefore, the small, smelly rooms were gaining a bad reputation for bad air and breeding grounds for germs.
Fortunately, inventive minds prevailed to combat the smells and unsanitary conditions of earlier port-a-potties of the 1950's ; and newer materials were being utilized – hello, fiberglass! Fiberglass was lighter and so much easier to keep clean. As a result, a slightly more-positive reputation for port-a-potties was gaining momentum; but there was a problem: fiberglass was a fragile material, prone to breakage; and fiberglass, too, absorbed odors.
By the 1980's, an even better material came onto the port-a-potty scene: plastic. More so than fiberglass, plastic offered less weight and a less-porous surface which helped to create a maximally-sanitized environment. Various forms of plastic, such as polyurethane, emerged which is one of the most common materials used, today, for port-a-potty manufacturing.
For anyone who has ever stepped inside a luxury restroom trailer, a sense of awe is experienced. These upscale restrooms are the antithesis of the chamber pots of the past; and they include unexpected amenities: wood cabinetry, conditioned air – both warm and cool – running water, flushing white-china toilets, wood flooring, surround sound, and more!
Portable toilets – they ain't what they used to be!