Committee to End Pay Toilets In America—A Lens on the ‘60s?

Red_CEPTIA Press Conference

2014-12-11 – I’ve written about the Committee to End Pay Toilets In America (CEPTIA) before (see links at the end). It was a “political” organization that my friends and I started in 1969 to achieve the obvious and noble goal of banning pay toilets in the United States. Within five years, we’d basically accomplished our purpose and packed up shop. Our slogan was “our end is our own elimination” and it was true. We won and we went out of business.

Now, 40 years later, there is a resurgence of interest. We’re retro! One investigator thought our “idealism” makes kids today look like slacker! A new one is using CEPTIA as a lens for investigating the fragmentation of the new left of the ‘60s. Good grief! Were we . . .

. . . OCCUPY Pay Toilets?

It’s an interesting question. What would the Occupy “movement” think of CEPTIA? For that matter, what would Tea Partiers think of CEPTIA?

It’s tricky trying to decide if CEPTIA is more like Occupy or the Tea Party because in politics you’re guilty, not because of your ideas, but because of who you hang with. By this standard, CEPTIA would stand with the Occupy folks (or sit with them, if you prefer—they never charged you to stand).

On the question of philosophy, I guess we were again more like Occupy. We felt that business was infringing a basic human right and we wanted government to bring that to an end. Our loudest opponents in the struggle believed that banning pay toilets was a socialist intrusion on our system of free enterprise.

On the question of tactics, well . . . The truth is that CEPTIA achieved its victories pretty much through normal political work. More Tea Partyish than Occupy. Cities passed ordinances. States passed laws. And as time passed, it just wasn’t worth it anymore for businesses to charge you a dime when nature called. They didn’t want you pissed off over a toilet. They had new ways to get you pissed off.

We had our guerilla tactics as well. We recommended crawling under the door or hopping over. And if you paid your dime or otherwise got the door open, we recommended jamming the locks or holding the door open for the next patron.

But we never had a shit-in.

It was never public. It was always a private expression of anger. Or of urgency.

We were similar. Yet different.

We were similar, yet different, from the protest groups of the late ’60s as well. Things haven’t changed.

* * *

They always ask about the jokes. From the day CEPTIA went public in 1969 until today. I never can figure out why.

* * *

Here are links to my previous stories on CEPTIA:

The End of Pay Toilets – September 18, 2014

Our End is Our Own Elimination – July 24, 2014

Join CEPTIA on Facebook at: CEPTIA (Committee to End Pay Toilets In America) — and Friends

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2 responses to “Committee to End Pay Toilets In America—A Lens on the ‘60s?

  1. Hello Steve! I am a history student currently writing a paper on the history of pay toilets in America. I have a question for you, and was wondering if you have an email address I could contact?

  2. Pingback: Do We Really Want to Relive the Lessons of the Past? | Eightoh9·

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