Saturday, 29 March 2008

Porter potty

Millions of words have been printed in the Toronto Sun since Day One in '71 and the majority of those words are difficult to find outside the tabloid's morgue.

Faithful longtime Sun readers who get a yearning for classic columns by the late greats Ted Reeve, Paul Rimstead, McKenzie Porter etc. are mostly out of luck.

There are exceptions, thanks to reprints and columns and stories written after the Sun was computerized, so TSF rounded up a selection for our new Sun Flashbacks sidebar.

Early finds include the work of Paul Rimstead, Max Haines, Bob MacDonald, Jim Hunt, Gary Dunford, Percy Rowe, Valerie Gibson, Christie Blatchford, Jerry Gladman etc.

We have also included a story written last April by Sherri Wood, the entertainment writer who died on Easter Monday, and a Variety Village column by George Gross, who died on Good Friday.

Plus this reprint of one of the Toronto Sun's most controversial columns, written by the late McKenzie Porter. It reads:

Body Hygiene
By McKenzie Porter
For more than 40 years I have wanted to write the column that follows. But I have refrained on the grounds of an old-fashioned sense of delicacy. Now that general attitudes toward bodily functions are more candid and wholesome, I think I may deplore, without being obnoxious, the washroom habits of some men.

The most depressing spectacle a man may see on entering a public washroom to urinate is that of the feet of another man who is seated behind the half-door of a water closet in the act of defecation. There is something wrong with a man who defecates in some washroom outside his home. He is either ill, ignorant or unclean.

The custom of reading the newspaper regularly in a water closet at one's place of employment is not merely a theft of one's employer's time but, often, an offence to the eyes, ears and nose of one's colleagues.

A healthy, intelligent, fastidious man defecates in his home or hotel bathroom in the morning before he takes his shower or tub. In this way he ensures that his body is immaculate before he dons his underwear. Defecation in any place where it is difficult to wash the anus is unhygienic. No matter how good is the quality of the toilet paper available it is never as effective as soap and water.

One of the most impressive ablutationary provisions I ever saw was a latrine for private soldiers of the Indian Army during World War II. Although it was a makeshift affair in range of enemy guns, it was equipped with a rudimentary shower made out of old gasoline cans. The private soldiers of this particular regiment, famous for their salubrious appearance, were not content in a latrine with paper. They expected, even in the front line, facilities for washing.

The celebrated freshness of the Indian Army is dependent to a large extent on the regularity of bowel movements. By developing the habit of excreting shortly after arising from sleep, a habit easily acquired by anybody else, the Indian Army soldiers are able to wash conveniently before they dress.

Taking a tip from the Indian Army, many years ago, the British Army introduced the seemingly incongruous barrack-room custom of serving morning tea to soldiers in bed. Such refreshment is called Gunfire. It promotes the routine of morning evacuation, use of the showers and higher standards of cleanliness and health.

Any doctor will tell you that washing with soap and water after excretion is a precaution against minor and major ailments of the rectum.

A common cause of so-called food poisoning is the handling of dishes by restaurant workers who have failed to wash their hands properly after defecation. All staff washrooms in restaurants should be equipped with bidets, or showers, and the use of such, after defecation, should be mandatory.

It is essential, of course, to provide water closets in all places of employment and public buildings for the use of persons who need them at odd times. But to encourage better habits in the general population each public water closet should carry on its half-door the notice: For Emergency.

On the inside of the door, for the edification of the user, the following notice should be posted: "This Water Closet Is Provided For Persons Suffering From Temporary Irregularity of the Bowels. Healthy Persons Use the Water Closet At Home Where It Is Possibly To Wash The Body Before Adjusting the Dress."

That was our Porter. He made his exit on Oct. 20, 2006 - his 95th birthday. By all accounts, he never defecated in a Sun washroom. Probably added 15 years to his life.

We'll continue our search for Sun columns and stories written over the decades. Reeve and Frayne columns would be welcomed. A Bob Vezina gardening column? Ted Welch? A Sun story by the Star's Joey Slinger? Or Brian Vallee? Bob Blackburn? Brian Linehan? A Barbara Amiel column? Joan Sutton? John Iaboni? Hartley Steward?

suggested to Peter Worthington a fitting 40th anniversary online project for 2011 would be a selection of words written by the best of the best since 1971.

For now, reprints and online links for the work of former Toronto Sun staffers can be e-mailed to TSF.

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