Dad standing beside the large photograph of his dear uncle, Earl Mabey, who was killed in France during World War I.
Thank You Art Smith
By Richard Mabey Jr.
It was in the early 1990’s that a moment came, that deeply hurt me. I was in the old Lincoln Park Museum. My dad and I were both active members of the Lincoln Park Historical Society. We used to open up the museum on Sunday afternoons, from two o’clock till five o’clock in the afternoon. I was standing behind one of the tall display frames, when I heard these two ladies talking to each other.
The old A-frame display walls of the old Lincoln Park Museum stood quite high.
These two ladies, I had both known from the time that I was a little boy. I had held a high respect for both of them. And, what I heard them say in that moment in time, just cut me to the quick. They were talking about the large photograph of my Great Uncle Earl that was displayed on the A-frame display wall. Their perspective was not one of kindness. They both boldly stated that my dad and I were both guilty of using the Lincoln Park Museum to brag about dear Uncle Earl’s sacrifice of being killed in battle during World War I. Real patriotic types, they were.
A great photograph of local historian and acclaimed artist, Art Smith.
It was very ironic that they felt that way, because the truth of the matter is that it was not my decision to put up the large picture of my Great Uncle Earl on the museum display wall. Neither was it my dad’s decision. Art Smith, local artist and historian, was the Curator of the Lincoln Park Museum. Art felt strongly that Earl Mabey, who gave his life fighting in World War I, should definitely be honored by the Lincoln Park Museum.
The Lincoln Park Museum as it looked in the early 1990’s.
For the most part I have been very guilty of painting a very wonderful and lovely quality of Lincoln Park in my writings. I’ve tried my best to portray the small town of Lincoln Park as being this wonderful and charming little Mayberry. And, in many ways it is. However, it is sad to say, that even Lincoln Park has its dark side. And, yes, hurtful gossip is one of Lincoln Park’s dark sides. But I guess that is true of every small town in America. To some extent, even Mayberry itself was guilty of the ugly stain of gossip.
Looking back, I never thanked Art Smith for displaying Great Uncle Earl’s picture in the museum. He took that famous photo of Great Uncle Earl, had it enlarged and then had it nicely framed. It really was quite kind of Art to take the time and energy to do that. Looking back, I find myself more appreciative of Art’s act of kindness, now more than ever. For truly, Art was a good man.
Sometimes Art could be crass and insensitive. Sometimes he would say something that would hurt your feelings. But all in all, Art Smith was a good man with a kind heart. In my heart, I did forgive those two elderly women, who spoke unkindly of my Great Uncle Earl’s picture being displayed in the Lincoln Park Museum. But, truly, I never found it in my heart to hold the same high level of respect that I had held in my heart for them, prior to their unkind and hurtful conversation about Great Uncle Earl.
Gossip is poison. Sometimes it is such a deadly poison to the emotional heart of an individual, of which there is no antidote. It truly is the dark side of the American small town. No doubt, to the big city as well. But, I think that in small towns, everyone knows everyone a little bit more. The true antidotes to hurtful gossip are love, kindness and compassion. And, as a side note, since it is never too late; from earth to heaven, thank you Art Smith for displaying Great Uncle Earl’s picture, all those years ago.