Village to celebrate “Gabby Day” — “It’s nice to be nice. Try it!”
- Published: August 2, 2018
He fed people’s children. He fed those without money. He fed human rights organizers. He fed members of a diverse social club.
Whether from his home on South Stafford Street, his downtown restaurant, a Clifton speakeasy, or any number of gatherings, “Gabby” Mason fed people.
And though it was his legendary barbecue that filled their bellies, it was his kindness that fed their spirits. Decades later, Gabby is remembered as much for his generosity as his cooking.
“Everybody loved him and he loved everybody,” recalled Neal Crandall, who knew Gabby in the 1980s.
Gabby even had a catchphrase that exemplified his kindness: “It’s nice to be nice. Try it!”
For the third time, Yellow Springs will celebrate Gabby Day in honor of the late Ellie “Gabby” Mason, who died in 1996 at age 72.
Organized by several generations of villagers who knew — and loved —him, Gabby Day is Saturday, August 4, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the John Bryan Center, 100 Dayton Street. There will be food, games for kids, a bouncy house, a beer tent, DJs — and, of course, plenty of barbecue.
In the style of a family picnic, seating will be both on the lawn (bring your own blanket and chairs) or inside the gym. There will also be an open mic to share Gabby stories and other recollections.
After moving with his family from Springfield to Yellow Springs in the 1960s, Gabby, as he came to be known, operated restaurants downtown under the name Gabby’s BBQ, but also cooked for myriad local meetings, gatherings and events. For many years he served up smoked meats, sandwiches and fried foods in the living room of his tiny South Stafford Street home.
Gabby also founded a social club in the 1970s, the Mystic Knights of Nowhere, a group whose membership of more than 100 cut across racial and class lines and who met at a Clifton property along a river.
“It was a speakeasy out in Clifton where folks from all walks of life who would not otherwise have gotten together would get together,” Crandall said of the group.
Gabby was also involved with H.U.M.A.N., Help Us Make a Nation, a local human rights organization that the Mystic Knights, and other local groups, participated in, feeding organizers at meetings and “floating” coffeehouses held around the village.
The event is free to attend, with a suggested donation for food. For more information, visit the Gabby Day event Facebook page.
For the full story, including more on the Mystic Knights and remembrances from who knew Gabby through the years, read the August 2 edition of the News.