A compost pit?

Can this be a compost pit for a 1955 ranch?

YES, it is

Suspected as such. The handle can be set to allow the lid to rest in a slightly open position.

I would think it was an outdoor garbage area?

See these all the time - just a garbage can with a cool lid!

Thats what they were in pembroke pines Florida in the 80’s

I am kind of surprised we haven’t seen some crazy story or lawsuit because a house with one of them was found to have ground contamination that wasn’t disclosed or tested properly LOL