Along the quiet streets of Alamo Heights, there’s a home that’s been sitting on Abiso Avenue for many years. Barney Smith has lived in that home for over 50 of those years but it’s his garage that gets all the attention. That’s because Barney is man with a big collection. A big collection of thrones that happen to be fit for a king. Well, the king of the commode that is, and these special seats cover all kinds of topics from vacations and politicians to Willy Nelson’s hair.
Barney has been creating this curious art for years and it was first discovered in 1992 during a yard sale. He decided to throw in some of his latrine landscapes and that caught the attention of a shopper.
“I got the big head and I said ‘You want to see some more?’”
Once Barney opened the garage, the rest is history.
“We need to go in there and let the world know what you’re doing in your garage. I said, come on!”
A media blitz ensued, and Barney was the talk of the town. The first time he was featured on television, Barney was interviewed by Barbara Walters.
The new found fame didn’t stop this former plumber from plugging away at his lovely lavatory layouts and now his collection is colossal with 1,336 toilet seats. Barney has even made toilet seats for his birthdays for almost ten years now.
There are several seats dedicated to Barney’s story, including a key to the old college girl’s dormitory that Barney won’t come clean on how he obtained it.
“My wife and I might not have been married for 74 years had she known I had the key to the girl’s dormitory,” Barney said.
You’ll find just about every topic on a toilet here. History, disasters, dimes or dollars, and doodads.
“I like to show the girls,” Barney said. “I said do you know Elvis and they said sure we do and I said I’ve got a toilet seat down there for you of Elvis Presley.”
Considering the king kicked the bucket on a commode, I guess that’s’ fitting.
Barney still spends time working on this unique art.
“I say it I’d rather do this than eat when I’m hungry or sleep while I’m sleepy,” Barney said.
Unfortunately, father time is taking its toll on the man who’s known for toilet seats, so his terrific and storied collection is looking for a new owner.
“This collection is up for sale,” Barney said. “I’m getting so old and feeble until I can’t come out here and open it up anymore. If somebody comes along that wants to keep it as a museum – I don’t want them buying it piece by piece selling it out because some of these things people would give them a pretty piece of money for just one of them. So I’m trying to sell the whole collection.”
Barney said he has been grateful for the life he’s lived and the many achievements he made.
“The Lord has been good to me, He’s given me 96 years here because I’ve seen a lot of changes in this whole world,” Barney said.
Barney lead us to a simple seat covered with a poem Rudyard Kipling. A poem that he’s known by heart since he was 12.
The teacher gave me that poem 85 years ago and I’m still saying it today,” Barney said. “So I’ll hang to it. That’s my favorite.”
The days are numbered for Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Museum. What happens to it, only time will tell. While there is a book featuring his art work, Barney hopes his visions and love for life displayed on this large number of lids will live on elsewhere.
“I feel like The Lord has given me this many years to be a blessing to someone and I hope that I’ve got this museum here a collection to where someone could be blessed,” Barney said.