What is this kids book about an "indoor toilet that doesn't stink"?
January 21, 2021 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I have a clear memory of a book I read as a child where the protagonist's family was the first one in the town to get an indoor toilet. Everyone marveled at it because it was an "indoor toilet that doesn't stink." I believe this book was part of a series. More details inside...

I very clearly remember the phrase praising the toilet and staying that it "doesn't stink." This book was clearly set in a time before widespread indoor toilets. I think the father in the family was into new technology and that's why they had it. I think I remember something about someone (maybe a sibling) selling tickets to neighborhood kids to see "the miracle indoor toilet that doesn't stink!!"

I thought this was maybe an Encyclopedia Brown book, but Google doesn't return favorable results. Here are other things I remember, which perhaps are less well-remembered (and I may be mixing it up with the Encyclopedia Brown books I did read): The protagonist was a younger kid who was quite smart. He had older siblings (maybe?), who were less smart. The book was composed of a series of vignettes of things that happened to him around town and mysteries he solved (really sounds like Encyclopedia Brown, right?!?). I recall another story being based around a tug-of-war that happened in town and one of the tug-of-war teams buried bricks in the ground to brace themselves against and win the tug-of-war.

What are these books? If they are Encyclopedia Brown, which one specifically was the one with the indoor toilet?
posted by Betelgeuse to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Great Brain!
posted by rozee at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2021 [28 favorites]

Best answer: It was from the series "The Great Brain" - not sure which one though.
posted by niicholas at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first one.
posted by trig at 12:50 PM on January 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: „See the magic water closet that doesn’t stink. Just 5 cents.“
posted by jazh at 12:53 PM on January 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Of course there's a Wikipedia article:

"Among the topics covered are...
Sewage and sanitation. Outhouses (referred to as "backhouses" in Utah at that time, due to the term "outhouse" being used in that region to refer to a storage shed, workshed, or other small out-building behind the main house) are not only the norm, they are a mark of social status, with the richest people having backhouses with ornate woodwork. When Papa orders a flush toilet (called a "water closet") from Sears Roebuck and has a cesspool built, the whole town at first thinks it is an unwise placement of a backhouse indoors, until they see it work and then become fascinated."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:11 PM on January 21, 2021

Best answer: vignettes of things that happened to him around town and mysteries he solved (really sounds like Encyclopedia Brown, right?!?)

Just for the all-important record, the Great Brain applied his great brain less to the solving of mysteries than to the accumulation of profit.
posted by trig at 2:18 PM on January 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes! Thank you everyone! The Great Brain it is!
posted by Betelgeuse at 5:49 PM on January 21, 2021

Best answer: I loved the Great Brain series as a child many many moons ago. My mother would read to me before bed. I continued that tradition with my kids. They also loved the book. Fitzgerald, the author also wrote a few adult books that I read several decades after the Great Brain series. Those were good too. Many of the Great Brain books were illustrated by Mercer Mayer. The books were written from the point of view of his younger brother John (JD). The Great Brain was Tom and his older brother was Swen.

As noted by trig above, Tom, The Great Brain was mostly in it for profit or to make his life easier by tricking/scamming/paying other kids to do his work. They lived in the fictitious southern Utah town of Adenville. The dad was the publisher of the local newspaper. He was also a lover of the latest inventions or gadgets. Hence his purchase of the Water Closet. IIRC, Tom charged the other kids in town a nickel each to watch the install and the digging of the trench in the back of the house.

I did not realize it when my mother was reading them to me, but when I read them to my children, I noticed that each chapter, a different adventure, had sort of an underlying message. Morals, scrupples, leading a "good life", etc.
posted by AugustWest at 9:48 PM on January 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

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