Construction on houses, other structures and roads are well underway throughout the area and state, but Platte Center's Jim Swoboda is in the midst of his own unique building project that is sure to turn heads: An old-school toilet.
Swoboda's project came to fruition because of his desire to remind people of the history of toilets.
“In the history of the wagon train, they had to go private in the woods,” Swoboda said of his toilet. “There are a lot of things that led this on, (like) the value of America. They had to use corncobs, they didn’t have toilet paper. I don’t know anything about corncobs, praise be to God.”
Swoboda’s toilet is familiar to anyone who has seen an old outhouse. At the moment, all that stands on Swoboda’s front lawn is a series of woodblocks, drilled together to build the exterior. Inside is a toilet seat, with a septic tank soon to be added. It’s an old-school design, with some modern technology along for the ride.
“We’re going to bury that tank under here (the toilet) like a septic system,” said D.J. Jasper, the main builder of the project. “It’ll be buried down once we get it all done and then we’re going to plumb it and everything else.”
Swoboda enlisted the help of his friend Jasper and Mark Sims, his nephew-in-law, to build the toilet.
“It’s what he wants,” Jasper said. “We’re doing his bidding.”
There are advantages to having a bathroom outside without water and Jasper is more than willing to extol those virtues, even in 2019.
“It stays on the outside (and) ...,” Jasper said. “You aren’t using all of the water that you would in a toilet because there is no water and it just keeps everything more compact and usable to where you can put them anywhere.”
Jasper and Sims began the building of the toilet three days ago and hope to have it completed by the end of the week. Once completed, Swoboda is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony so everyone can come out and see his creation, which people will be able to use for free whenever they want. People in Platte Center have taken notice and are wondering just what is going to come out of the ground when it’s finished.
“Every day, we’re making headway,” Swoboda said. “People are incredibly curious about what we’re doing. I’ve had five people ask me, ‘You’re doing what?’ But we’re having a good time doing it.”
Similarly to Swoboda, Jasper said he also wants people to understand the history of public toilets and about how people used to relieve themselves in days gone by.
“It’s something (that) all our ancestors used to do in the Western days before running water,” Jasper said. “It’s something that you don’t see anymore. It’s preserving our heritage and history by showing the younger generation what they used to use.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.