I couldn’t find a job when I moved to Maine during the 1989 recession. So I started a business: Technical Documentation Services. Mostly I took municipal meeting minutes.

To obtain Planning Board approval, contractors had to designate a place to stash their snow. Town Comprehensive Planners decided in what direction the town would grow. To my surprise, my favorite meeting became that of the Sewer District. Environmentalists, quick to criticize the board, had never actually faced the challenge of keeping a town clean. Sewer District leaders, who had, said, “We’re the real environmentalists. We do what’s possible.”

You have to think of people in the context of their times. I write about my father, Hans Pederson, a Seattle Danish immigrant contractor who was possibly the city’s largest early twentieth century builder. In 1910, Seattle leveled some hills to expand their downtown space. No longer did sewage and water flow downhill only to turn back and shoot up like geysers under the advancing tide. New sewer and water lines created outfalls to Elliott Bay—a boon that followed the advent of flush toilets. The solution fit the times.

Back in 1910, some say that the plumber, Thomas Crapper, invented the flush toilet, known as the Marlboro Silent Water Waste Preventer. Others believe that his name can only rightly be associated with the function for which it is used. A convoluted trail of patents and folklore connect Crapper’s plumbing company with the “Waterfall Waste Remover.”

Who knows the truth?

photo credit: Courtesy Wiki Commons

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