Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 3, 2013

Classic tale inspires Lindsay museum

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — One man’s quest to both find a unique way to give back to his community and share the history of one of America’s most beloved holiday poems is set to soon to make an impact in nearby Lindsay.

Originally just a way for area resident J. Curtis Smith to make the holiday season extra special for his daughter Allison by sharing with her “The Night Before Christmas,” it eventually sparked his own curiosity to find out where it all started.

Beginning with one illustrated copy in book form, his collection eventually grew to at least 500 versions of the tale, including artist’s drawings as well as printed newspaper copies more than 100 years old.

“Sometimes you need to give back and this my way,” said Smith. “I needed a place to exhibit my Christmas books.”

The idea for a museum came as Smith not only learned of the poem’s path going back to the early 1800s, but how it was also instrumental in redefining many yuletide elements as we know them today, most famous being Santa Claus.

With the help of local craftsmen he has been busy preparing display cases and a special spot in town and the hope is to open it with no charge to the public as soon as during this first week of December. There should be a grand opening celebration for the museum, complete with a special reading of the tale that week as well.

“They will get to see books and things they never would have seen,” said Smith, noting how he was also encouraged by his daughter to share information going back to where it all started. “I would have kept them in a vault.”

However, the museum will just be a seasonal thing since many of the display items are fragile and will need to be stored in the offseason to preserve them, whereas the larger picture is the business Curtis has built around it called Exquisite Antiques.

That part, along with the help of his wife Toni, has been a year in the making and goes back to when he bought what was a dilapidated former grocery store in town and restored it to what he sees as a community gathering place.

“This was the hand fate dealt us and it was a great hand,” said Smith, pointing out how renovation basically came down to gutting most of the interior except for the original ceiling and moving large glass windows from one end of the building to another. “Next thing I knew we got this place.”

This section has actually been open to the public for about a month now; with rentable spaces for dealers for everything from those who deal antiques to craft minded people who want to sell their art.

It also features an old timey ice cream and soda fountain from the 1920s where people can come in and enjoy treats like banana splits or a cherry limeade.

“You start with something that is nothing and there’s a gut satisfaction people will enjoy it,” said Smith, adding how there is also space enough to add or change elements throughout the year including a candy store that is also there and visits by someone playing Old St. Nick.

“It’s been a chore, but I built it for the town, for everybody.”

The store will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and closed Sunday. It is located at 601 W. Cherokee.