Four high-school students in the ‘70s are the reason we no longer have pay toilets in America. They created an organization called CEPTIA, and were able to successfully lobby against the issue. 8 years later, pay toilets were all but nonexistent throughout the US.

Why Don’t We Have Pay Toilets in America?

In the early 1900s, when railroads connected America’s biggest cities with rural outposts, train stations were sometimes the only place in town with modern plumbing. To keep locals from freely using the bathrooms, railroad companies installed locks on the stall doors—only to be unlocked by railroad employees for ticketed passengers. Eventually, coin-operated locks were introduced, making the practice both more convenient and more profitable. Pay toilets then sprung up in the nation’s airports, bus stations, and highway rest stops. By 1970, America had over 50,000 pay toilets.

By 1980, there were almost none.

THE PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE WAS notorious for its pay toilets. Stalls were outfitted with specialized locks—most of them manufac… Continue Reading (9 minute read)

9 thoughts on “Four high-school students in the ‘70s are the reason we no longer have pay toilets in America. They created an organization called CEPTIA, and were able to successfully lobby against the issue. 8 years later, pay toilets were all but nonexistent throughout the US.”

  1. rikityrokityree

    Always kept a dime in my pocket just for this reason when we went to town. . Some people were nice and would hold the door open for you but some would make sure it closed so you had to pay. For comparison, back then a dime would buy:
    Pay toilet,
    Phone booth call,
    Bag of popped corn,
    A fountain soft drink,
    Bag of chips,
    A candy bar or 10 pieces of bazooka bubble gum, or a
    A donut at a bakery

  2. Buck_Thorn

    I was around in those days (and just a bit older than those lads) and really, the whole country was up in arms about pay toilets. Still, those guys got the job done while the rest of us were just griping.

    Some stuff that I didn’t know (TIL):

    CEPTIA stands for Committee to End Pay Toilets in America. It was founded by 19 year old Ira Gessel, who now has his very own Wikipedia page that has nothing to do with pay toilets: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_Gessel

  3. Tundra_Inhabitant

    Meanwhile in My Rollercoaster Tycoon

    *guest thoughts*
    “I’m not paying that much to use Toilet Stall 1!”

  4. LoudMusic

    I was in London a few years ago and discovered there are pay toilets in the tube stations. Even the locals were quite miffed about it. Furthermore it was some bizarre price like 65p, coins only, no change given, so there was this line of 20 or 30 people all working together to their change sorted before they got to the door. It almost felt like it was a shitty university psychology experiment and there were hidden cameras around.

  5. alan13446

    Boomer here, I remember pay toilets everywhere. And this stall graffiti is something none of you kids will know the context to:

    “Here I sit, broken hearted, paid a dime and only farted. So next time I’ll take a chance, save a dime and shit in my pants”

    Also, common high school graffiti:

    “Flush twice, it’s a long way to the caf”

    Then the ever popular:

    “<Name of kid everyone picked on> is a fag!”

    “No he’s not!”

    “Yes I am!”

    There was more but high school has been 45 years for me. Memory is…..what? Hi. What am I doing here?

    Also, you haven’t lived until you reach over only to realize you have to wipe with cardboard. And my college in the 1970’s had this weird wax paper that came out in single sheets like upside-down kleenex. That was the asswipes we would use. One day the dean went to take a shit and the wax paper slipped and his fingers went into his poopy ass. A week later, all the asswipes were replaced with normal paper rolls.

  6. bolanrox

    It’s ok lock picking lawyer could teach to pick one in seconds with a paper clip if need be

  7. iceypoem2113

    Here in England, pay toilets are appearing again. In some instances ones that where free you now have to pay to get through the main door, the toilets themselves no cleaner/no improvement just a money making exercise. Then people complain cause folks are urinating in public places, gardens etc…

  8. Desner_

    All but nonexistant or nonexistant?

    (Might be lost in translation, not a native English speaker)

  9. ChickenGoose

    They had pay toilets???

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