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Toilet Seat Art Museum intrigues, mystifies

 
Toilet Seat Art Museum intrigues, mystifies
Toilet seat lids display one-of-a-kind art. Some are dedicated to historic events, such as the moon landings, others give a nod to popular culture, such as little trolls, Pez candy, and Disney characters.

Video to come

Barney Smith was born in 1921, married the love of his life when he was 18, and sometime in his 40s began what would turn into his life’s passion -- creating toilet seat art. He got the idea from his dad, who mounted hunting trophies on wooden plaques. A toilet seat lid was about the same size and shape, so he thought, “Why not?”

He started working in the garage that is now his museum and has never stopped.

Barney and his wife, a nurse by profession, were married for 74 years; she passed away eight months ago. Barney once was quoted as saying, “My wife asked, ‘Have you lost your marbles?’ and I replied, ‘No, I’ve got ’em on a toilet seat!’”

Television appearances are old hat to Barney. He has been interviewed by Barbara Walters on “The View,” appeared on the “Montel Williams Show,” and also was a guest on the “Texas Country Reporter” show. He has an old VHS tape of these appearances that is almost required watching for guests before he starts his personal tour of the museum.

Always inspired

Barney has never had to worry about ideas or raw materials for his designs; the designs just pop into his head and the memorabilia comes from things he has collected and organized in boxes in the back of the museum, or is given to him by folks who have visited the museum. Among the more interesting items are a piece of insulation from the space shuttle Challenger, customized license plates, and even a porcelain flushing device from Saddam Hussein’s commode, given to him by a former Navy commander who had visited Hussein’s underground bunker in 2004.

The museum

As of our visit, there are a total of 1,150 uniquely crafted toilet seat covers displayed in the museum and each one has a story. The amazing thing is that Barney remembers in detail each and every one of them, even the number that he has engraved on one side. Some are commemorative toilet seats recognizing events, such as the space shuttle program, the moon landing, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens. There are seats for the NFL Super Bowls, San Antonio Spurs basketball, universities, and famous people. Even Pez has several seats dedicated to these little candies.

There are seats for festivals, such as Mardi Gras and Fiesta, civil organizations, and interesting places Barney and his wife visited. One side of each cover is fully decorated, most with art by Barney and memorabilia; the other side is documentation about the theme.

There is one that Barney proclaims was one of his first and remains his favorite. He handed Harry a printed page and began to tell us about a young boy who had to memorize the poem, “When the Earth’s Last Picture is Painted” by Rudyard Kipling. At first I thought he was telling us the story of the art, but looking at the paper he had given us, we realized he was actually reciting the rather lengthy poem and he didn’t miss a word of it. Barney then told us that the young boy was him.

He doesn’t charge anything to visit the museum, doesn’t have a donation jar, and he never sells any of his art. By now you are wondering, “What’s the catch?” Well, there isn’t one. How refreshing!

Barney simply loves what he does and he enjoys giving visitors personal tours of his passion. He loves to visit with his guests, so don’t be in a hurry. Allow at least one hour; it could be the best hour you will ever spend.

Oh, he does accept new toilet seat covers, just in case you have one lying around.

Arrange a visit

Be sure to call Barney before your planned visit to let him know you are coming. He will ask you to call again about 20 minutes before your arrival. This will give him time to go from his house to the museum -- if he is not already there -- open the doors, and get ready for you. His garage museum is located in a residential neighborhood and can be easily found via GPS.

The ironic part of this story is that Barney and his father before him were master plumbers. Barney is now in his 90s, moves a little slower, and has trouble with his legs. But, like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going, doing what he loves -- making crazy, quirky art -- and talking to people.

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.

 
 
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