Friday, November 9, 2012

Yet another book featuring pictures of outhouses and bumpkin humor

As Dr. Peter Venkman once said, "Well, there's something you don't see every day."

First published sixty years ago, in 1952, "Sittin' And a-Thinkin'" is a staplebound volume that consists solely of photos of outhouses on the right-hand pages and humorous captions on the left-hand pages.1

That's it.

It was written by Ernst Peterson and Glenn Chaffin, and it's amazing that it took two men to come up with this.

We have The Dietz Press of Richmond, Virginia, (which is still in existence) to thank for the book's publication.

Both authors hailed from Montana (Hamilton, at the time the foreword was written), and it appears that this did not, thankfully, represent the career pinnacle for either man.

Peterson was the photographer half of the dynamic duo. To this day, there is an "Ernst Peterson Photograph Montana Contest & Exhibit" in Hamilton. According to the Ravalli County Museum at the Old Court House's website:
"Renowned photographer and Montana native son Ernst Peterson was born in 1912 at a time when the shadows of the old West still lingered on the horizon. ... It was not until the end of World War II that Ernst ... began taking his hobby seriously. 'I had an idea that perhaps I could make a living from my photography,' he said. Indeed. Peterson began marketing his photos of the West, and his first client was his native state of Montana. Although many photos were used without his byline, he slowly developed a far-reaching reputation. His real break came in 1953 when he was discovered by the editors of National Geographic. Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, and Country Gentlemen soon followed."

In the meantime, if I've found the right Glenn Chaffin, he had a pretty fascinating life. According to this community page, Chaffin:
  • is a descendant of one of Montana's oldest families
  • had a great grandfather with the wonderful name of Balaam Chaffin2
  • served in the Navy in World War II
  • worked as a crime reporter for a newspaper in Portland, Oregon
  • was a gold miner in Alaska
  • was a motion picture press agent in Hollywood
  • authored several comic strips, including "Tailspin Tommy"
  • spent a year on the writing staff of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios
  • served for 14 years as secretary-manager of the Ravalli County Fair
  • and, of course, co-authored this 1952 book about outhouses

Here are some of the photos from "Sittin' And a-Thinkin'"3, with the book's captions appearing below each one.

"Over the river and through the woods, to Grandfather's house we go."

"Yes, it's been wonderful to have him to lean against
all through the years."

"Ours, of course, was one of the few houses with running water."

"Oh, the crops've been fine, fine;
but it keeps me poor buyin' my wife nylons."

"Yeah, Uncle Fred was a card.
Called his restaurant The Garden of Eatin'."

1. It's reminisicent, actually, of the borderline-creepy "Bridge Babies," which was featured here in August 2011.
2. Balaam is a diviner in the Torah.
3. If you're thinking this would make The Perfect Christmas Gift for that Someone Special, inexpensive copies are available from Amazon.

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