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Who Needs Loo Paper

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What did people use before toilet paper was invented?

Corncobs. You may not believe this, but it was once common practice in rural America to leave a corncob hanging from a string in the outhouse for purposes of personal hygiene. The string, I gather, was to permit the cob to be reused. For those who were punctilious in these matters, or else blessed with an abundance of corncobs, a box of disposable cobs might be provided instead. In coastal regions, the cob might be replaced by a mussel shell.

For those who had access to it, paper from discarded books or newspapers was often preferred to either of the foregoing. The meteoric growth of the Sears Roebuck company, for instance, is thought to be partly attributable to the protean nature of its catalogs, which, historians tells us, might serve a family of regular habits for an entire season. As with the cob, the catalog would be hung in the outhouse on a string and pages torn off as needed. It’s said the use of coated stock, which was nonabsorbent, was a source of great consternation to farm families when Sears began printing color pictures in the catalog earlier in this century.

English lords, in attempting to teach their sons to be cultivated gentlemen, often advised purchasing an inexpensive volume of verse for use in the loo. The idea, of course, was that while you were sitting there in a contemplative state you’d be able to read a few stanzas, following which the paper could be put to other ends, so to speak.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. I can recall hay seasons where long hours in the paddock increased the odds of having to take an impromptu No 2. If one was lucky there’d be an old copy of the Wairarapa Times Age in the cab of the truck. Failing that it was torn up pieces of fertiliser sack or grass.

    With the last of the maize harvested in June corn cobs would have been an out of season luxury!

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      • No. That would be one of the more exotic jido-hanbai-ki (automatic vending machines) found in Tokyo.

        These vending machines (that mostly sell canned/bottled drinks) are everywhere.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZmUuRG87sU

        Back in the late 1980s, a can of coffee from one of these machines was 100 yen. In 2020, despite the GST tax that didn’t exist in the 1980s, the price has hardly changed in Japan.
        Compare this to the price of a small Coke in a dairy in NZ which is about $3.50, and you realize how over-priced New Zealand is for basic food and drink.

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        • Its insanely over priced here. Especially for meat, veges and dairy. And we are a farming nation.

          Its a disgrace.

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          • Cherry-picking a couple of examples, chicken thigh is about 88 yen per 100 g (approx. $NZ13.50 per kg) This chicken would be about $24/kg at New World in Eastridge.
            Eggs are cheap in Japan, at around 249 yen ($NZ3.80) for 10 (they don’t do dozens).

            Tokyo supermarket prices are higher than those in the coutryside, but what would you expect? Ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfcGWSTxUKw

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  2. An oldie…

    Old Woman : “Went up London and bought one of them new fandangled toilet brushes”

    Neighbour : “Hows that working out ?”

    Old Woman : ”I’m still persevering, but dad’s gone back to toilet paper”

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  3. Our garden tap is right outside the loo window, so will only require about 20′ of hose and we’ve got a bidet.

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  4. I was really disappointed when the supermarkets ran out of magazines with Ardern’s face on them.

    Despite being glossy, they made excellent bog paper.

    I’m actually thinking of having some self-inking stamps made with her face on them. I’ll keep one in the loo and pre-print my bog rolls in idle moments. The others I’ll sell on TradeMe.

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  5. Going back a day or three our dads were in the army and in that august company they used to sung.

    “If no paper do not linger,
    Robinson Crusoe used his finger.”

    No that’s just put you off your lunch.

    😆 😆 😆

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