‘King of Commodes’ seeks heir to his thrones


By ALLEN G. BREED

AP National Writer

ALAMO HEIGHTS, Texas

FOR SALE: One tiny kingdom, with many thrones. But it doesn’t come with a hereditary title.

That belongs, in perpetuity, to Barney Smith – the undisputed “King of the Commode.”

“There’s a lot of me in there,” he says, sitting in front of the corrugated metal garage he’s dubbed his Toilet Seat Art Museum.

There’s a lot of, well, everything in there.

Smith has one seat decorated with a chunk of the Berlin Wall and another with a piece of insulation from the doomed Shuttle Challenger. There are lids festooned with flint arrowheads, Civil War Minie balls, Amtrak train keys, Pez dispensers – even $1 million in shredded greenbacks from the Federal Reserve Bank in San Antonio.

Every inch of door, wall and ceiling space is covered.

The sign out front – a commode lid, of course – says Smith’s art is “NOT FOR SALE.” But after five decades and countless offers, the king says everything must go.

“At 96, I come out here with a cane. I’ve gotta hold onto everything to walk,” says Smith, who is bent with arthritis and struggles to swing the creaking metal doors open for visitors. “I’m beginning to feel like that I’d rather be in an air-conditioned home in a chair, looking at a good program.”

Still, walking away will be hard.

“This is my life’s history here,” he says.

It started more than 50 years ago, as a way to display hunting trophies.

Smith says his father would spend hours cutting out, sanding and varnishing wooden shields to mount his antlers. The son figured a toilet seat lid would do just fine.

“Well, I’m a master plumber, retired,” he says. “I thought I ought to stick with my trade.”

Smith had promised his wife, Louise, that he’d stop at 500. That was 850 toilet seats ago. He wants the collection to remain intact and be displayed at a museum.

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