Editors Note: This is an excerpt from a much longer story that ran recently in one of Polk County Publishing Companies other newspaper, The Polk County Enterprise. The original story was about Outhouses in Polk County, and included this interesting story about the famous Outhouse Liftoff that Clyde Gray "engineered" out at Heritage Village. Clyde, in addition to being an incredible artist, was a great "promoter." The great outhouse liftoff had to be his biggest success. Heritage Village in Woodville was packed the day of the liftoff with local, area and state visitors, including numerous celebrates. I know this because a 40 year younger version of myself was there shooting photos that day. I shot the top large photos, left and right, in the monument Clyde Gray stand behind in the photo. Last time I checked, a version of the monument with the tiles still stood out at the Village.
by Beverly Miller
Now I saved my best for last — "The Only Flying Outhouse in the World." This story began many years ago, when I was eating lunch at the Pickett House and Heritage Village Museum in Woodville. As I was waiting to be seated, I noticed a newspaper article that was displayed on the bulletin board at the Pickett House. Enjoy this bit of outhouse history! The article reads like this...
"The following is as it is remembered by the writings of Jack Whitmeyer.
"The time: early in the year 1976. America is getting ready to celebrate its birthday. The Cajuns of Nederland, and Port Neches are getting ready to dedicate their new museum, 'The Maison d' Acadian,' which they had built close to the Dutch Heritage Society's Windmill at Nederland.
"The scene: Clyde Gray's art studio at Heritage Village.
"The cast of characters: Clyde Gray, three or four of the movers and shakers from the Nederland group, among them was the man who billed himself as the "Crazy Frenchman," A.J. Judice, a gentleman who was playing George Washington down there.
"The discussion: 'The group from Nederland had come up to talk to Clyde about finding them an authentic outhouse which they could obtain. They wished to use it on a float in a parade to advertise the Cajun Museum and to be placed in the back yard at the museum. If Clyde could find them one, they would get a truck and come up to get it and haul it down. Well, Clyde, always the promoter, said he had an outhouse next to the Tolar Cabin at the Heritage Village, which he might be interested in donating, if its point of origin was displayed on it. This was agreeable to everyone, when the other promoter, which was me, spoke up: You fellows might get a little radio coverage out of this, maybe a local TV, why not go for broke. This is America's Bicentennial and the space age is just starting up: why, I just saw in the paper that NASA has appointed a sanitation engineer to work on the new space shuttle. Now, you fellows have connections with the offshore industry and they use helicopters to fly all kinds of heavy loads out to the rigs. Talk one of them into coming up here and flying the outhouse down and placing it on site, that ought to get you some good coverage, (it ended up going worldwide). Well, Clyde jumped on it like a rooster on a bug and the others went along. From here the thing snowballed! Clyde got hold of the man from NASA, yes he would work with us. George Washington came up and certified that, yes it was an outhouse. We put it on a pallet, wrapped it with chicken wire to keep it together, tied it down to the pallet, and put an eyebolt at each corner to lift it with. The sanitation engineer came over from NASA and certified that it was ready to fly. A young musician wrote a song about the flying outhouse and recorded it. He had tapes for sale. Clyde had me print thousands of copies of James Whitcomb Riley's poem, "The Passing of the Outhouse," which he sold for years."
The article continues..."The big day arrived. We had a large crowd; TV cameras all over the place. All the dignitaries gathered on the porch, Clyde introduced them, the sanitation engineer made a speech, Washington waved to the crowd, the musicians sang his song. In the meantime, Jethro Holmes arrived with Tom and Jerry, his ox team; they were hitched to the outhouse and pulled it out to the side of the highway. We attached the slings and made the outhouse ready to be flown to its new destination. The Highway Patrol stopped traffic and right on schedule, here came the helicopter. It was positioned overhead, the cable was dropped, we hooked up the slings, and off it went. There was a car waiting. Clyde, myself and several others jumped in and headed south to get to the destination so we could unhook the outhouse. Well, the wind was strong aloft and the chopper pilot was having trouble controlling his flight so he set down at Kountze and from there got a truck and trailer, loaded the outhouse up and headed to the Jefferson County airport. There, the chopper picked the outhouse again and delivered it on schedule to the Museum at Nederland. National TV picked up the story and ran it that night. By the next day, it was being aired worldwide. For several years we had tourists from all around the world coming in wanting to see where the outhouse had been flown from. Some couldn't speak much English, but they could say "outhouse" and point up."
In a personal interview with Fred Sullivan of Sullivan's Hardware Store in Woodville, Fred told me this story. He said, "My wife and children were returning from Nederland and we saw the trailer, loaded with the outhouse, approaching and the children said, 'look there's the outhouse! Well, the TV cameras didn't catch the outhouse coming down the highway...just the landing of the outhouse, delivered by the helicopter."