From Outhouse To Her House

The other day, a big wooden door appeared in the Staples High School main office.

Not just any door. Both sides were covered with names and dates — one per year, from 1967 to 1988.

And not just a regular door. This one started life on an outhouse.

The door's first decade...

The door’s first decade…

One day, someone brought it to Westport Adult Ed class. The teacher was Milton Fisher. The course was “Applied Creativity.”

Fisher — very creatively — found a use for the door. He called it “the door to creativity.”

Each year, his class ended with the judging of students’ term projects. The winner painted his or her name on the door — in a suitably creative font and style — and kept it for a year.

But times change. The course ended. This year it looked like the door was headed for the junkyard. Who would want it, a quarter century after the final winner won it?

Fisher’s daughter — Stanford professor and Mark Twain expert Shelley Fisher Fishkin — dropped it off at Staples. It sat there, leaning against a wall. Principal John Dodig was unsure how — or even whether — to display it.

But it caught the eye of art teacher Jackie Jeselnick. Now she plans to take it home, encase it in glass, and turn it into a coffee table.

For an outhouse door, you can’t get more creative than that.

...and its 2nd.

…and its 2nd.

8 responses to “From Outhouse To Her House

  1. Did the Historical Society turn it down as an artifact?

  2. Bobbie Herman

    How well I remember that door. It stood in my garage for a year, after I won it in 1984. We were told that we had to do a creative project, something unique, that could be marketed. I chose “Cat Tails and Puppy Dog Talls —
    Cocktails for Pets,” complete with a flip chart presentation (at the time, I was working for Doyle Dane Bernbach Advertising), and mock up bottles.

    I was absolutely thrilled when I was declared the winner — that is until the door was brought out. But I managed to get it home, even though I had a tiny subcompact car.

    If you’ll look at 1984, you’ll see my name displayed in computer-style font, together with a sketch of Milton Fisher. Under the sketch are the words, “Big Brother is Watching You.” It was 1984, after all.

    What was particularly exciting for me, was that I had just moved to Westport, and I quickly experienced what a creative, stimulating town it was.

  3. Bobbie Herman

    Computer glitch (what else is new?).

    That should read “Cat Tails and Puppy Dog Tails — Cocktails for Pets.”

  4. I recognize 1969 “Marshall Ross”. He was my next door neighbor and the father of classmate, Lynn Ross. I’m not surprised to see his name with this group as he was very creative and an extremely nice guy.

  5. My mom used to take his class. As kids, we thought it was ridiculous…. what did we know?

  6. I would LOVE to hear more about this class!

    • Bobbie Herman

      Milton used a variety of devices to get us to think creatively. Brainstorming was an example. He gave us a “buddy,” and assigned us projects. One of them, I remember, was to develop a new recipe and share it with the group. Several innovative dishes came out of that one. He also told us we had to earn $100 on our own, not in our regular profession. Some people waited on tables, or worked for landscapers. Another assignment was to write our own obituary. Some of them were absolutely hilarious. as our imagination soared into the stratosphere.

      Milton also wrote a book, called “Applied Creativity.” It was my prize for the competition, along with the “Door Prize.”

      I saw him for many years after that, on the train from NYC. He was a permanent fixture at the bridge game at the end of the car. You always knew when Milton was there — his hearty laugh boomed throughout the car (and maybe some of the oithers.)

      He passed away several years ago, and I believe his widow, Carol, is selling their house, which is probably why the door wound up at Staples..

  7. Bobbie, thank you. Just getting more and more intrigued by this class. You might enjoy this link to an article about the class, the competition (and the door) from 1982.

    Happy to report, on behalf of Staples Tuition Grants and my co-chair Diana Weller, that Milton’s wife Carol and his daughter, Shelly Fisher Fishkin have established an award in memory of Milton with Staples Tuition Grants this year. It will be an honor for STG to award this grant to an innovative, creative student with demonstrated financial need. We hope to capture some of the spirit that has been expressed in this post and the ensuing comments!,49077