The same era that brought us the most destructive, most devastating weapon with previously unimaginable annihilative power, capable of producing unprecedented damage to human life, the environment, and nations, also brought us the porta potty. The truth is that while the World War II period was incredibly destructive and showed the world the depths of human capacity for self-destruction and evil, it also brought us many technological advancements of which we benefit from today. The first computer systems were developed around this time, military advancements in aircraft, naval ships, to other civilian inventions like super glue, freeze-dried coffee, and yes, the portable restroom!
How the Portable Restroom Emerged
When ship crewmen on the homefront spent hours on ships building and fixing the vessels, they quickly found that returning to shore every time nature called was more than a nuisance but was ineffective and costly. And of course, wartime is no time for the squandering of precious minutes, each of which could mean compromising the lives of the brave young men fighting overseas. American shipyards were responsible for providing cargo ships that send supplies, materials, and troops across the ocean to the Pacific and European theaters. This meant they were a vital part of the war effort and had a tremendous responsibility on their shoulders. Many of these shipyards participated in the Emergency Shipbuilding Program started by the government from 1940-1945. During this period, American shipyards launched 4,600 ships.
So one way to solve the problem of crews having to return to the docks to use the facilities was simply to put a portable facility on the ships. Voila. The birth of the porta potty. The first iteration of the portable restroom was heavy, purely utilitarian, made of metal and wood. They were called the Andy Gump. There was nothing particularly luxurious or convenient about these first versions, as they were difficult to clean and were not yet sanitized with the chemicals we use today.
Advancements in Sanitation Chemicals
Today, portable restrooms use a series of disinfectants and deodorizers that not only mask smell but kill bacteria and keep the environment clean. Initially, the blue liquid was a huge leap for the porta potty industry. For the most part, it was usually formaldehyde-based chemicals, but when it became clear that formaldehyde was harmful to the environment and could pose a threat to human health, the industry moved to non-formaldehyde chemicals. Today’s chemicals include biocides (to kill bacteria and enzymes), dye (to add color and obscure contents), fragrance (to mask smells), and detergents (to aid with the smell).
Around the 1970s, the materials that made these porta potties were switched from heavy metal and wood to a lighter fiberglass material. Then came the polyethylene portable restroom which was even more lightweight, easier to clean, and easier to maintain.
Porta Potties at Rock Concerts
The portable restroom, or the john, jiffy john or honey bucket (yes, these are all acceptable names) are part of most outdoor public events including concerts, cook-offs, barbeques, and even family parties. The industry has learned a lot over time, however. The famous outdoor rock and roll gathering of Woodstock in 1969, saw the presence of porta-potties on the concert grounds. As it turns out, there were only 600 toilets available for the estimated 50,000 concertgoers that ended up being present. Granted, more people showed up than were expected, but today, that would be a PR and logistical disaster for any event. That averages out as one toilet for every 833 users and as you might imagine, this caused quite the hygienic nightmare that somehow seemed to go unnoticed amongst the many groovy bell-bottomed and muddy tarantism-stricken hippies.
Get Porta Pottied in Style
The industry has learned a lot since then and has not only made portable restrooms a convenient, safe, clean, and hygienic experience but is quite environmentally friendly. These portable restrooms save a lot of water and help keep construction sites and outdoor events clean and well cared for. If you’re planning an outdoor event or concert, give Sarabia’s a call and we’ll take care of it.