Aside from our beloved San Antonio Spurs and The Alamo, it’s possible that no other San Antonio treasure has garnered as much national attention as folk artist Barney E. Smith.
His Toilet Seat Art Museum has been featured on The View, Montel Williams, the CBS Morning Show and in more than 50 magazines and books. Smith, a retired master plumber who was born in 1921, has been making his one-of-a-kind creations for more than 50 years. His largest toilet seat measures “6 feet, 6 inches from cheek-to-cheek,” according to Mr. Smith.
One of his 1,181 (and counting) seats displays a piece of the Challenger Space Shuttle that washed ashore. Another seat showcases $1 million in shredded cash from the U.S. Treasury. He’s got the 2015-2016 Spurs seat prepped and ready to go. He just needs the autographs of team members and coaches, and a replica of their sixth NBA trophy. (Yes, the Race for Seis is ON!)
My husband and I spent an enjoyable afternoon strolling down memory lane with Mr. Smith via his folk art creations. My favorite seat is one he made for the love of his life, Velma Louise, whom he was married to for 76 years. It reads, “TO MY SWEETHEART,” and it features a big red heart carved onto a tree with I LOVE YOU and BES/VLS. He married Velma Louise on Sunday, August 27, when he was 18 years old. Six years earlier on the same day, August 27, he fell out of that tree while showing off for Velma Louise and broke both of his arms. At the age of 12, he knew that she was the one. Luckily, his arms healed, and she fell for him, too.
We also enjoyed Mr. Smith’s recitation of “When Earth’s Last Picture Is Painted,” a poem he performed when he was 12 years old at his elementary school in Eastland, Texas, a small town east of Abilene. He’s been reciting this Kipling ode for 82 years now, and he still performs it with loads of emotion.
Admission to the Toilet Seat Art Museum, 239 Abiso Avenue in Alamo Heights, is by appointment only. Call (210) 824-7791 to learn if Mr. Smith is available. He doesn’t charge an entry fee, but he will accept donations to help cover the cost of his art supplies.
Put Mr. Smith and his art on your don’t miss list! ¡Viva San Antonio!
For even more ideas of fun things to do and see in San Antonio, visit Barnes & Noble, The Twig, Whole Foods, Half Price Books on Broadway, Costco, Sam’s and Hudson News to purchase “100 Things To Do in San Antonio Before You Die” by yours truly.