Years ago, scaling Everest, someone asked Sir Edmund Hilary why he climbs mountains. The answer, possibly apocryphal, was, "Because they are there."

John Stolarczyk, an English museum curator, reversed that answer when I asked him why he is curator of the virtual World Carrot Museum:

"Because it wasn't there," was essentially his explanation.

Stolarczyk was in Jefferson last week while visiting Caroline and Neal Hoyt of Scranton. He is the originator of the World Carrot Museum-an e-museum. It is a web-site anyone connected to the internet can visit-no fees required. The address is

Besides wondering why, I also wondered how. Stolarczyk is 52 years old and retired from his position working for the city of Bradford. He has a wife and daughter. Doesn't he have to earn a living? Apparently his half-salary as a former city employee is enough when combined with England's free health care.

He wasn't a "techie," either; he had to learn web design. He does have a curious mind and is a history buff. In fact, he has written a book about the English monarchy due to be published later this year.

That book is about the idiosyncrasies of the monarchs of Great Britain from Queen Victoria to the present. "I love things like that," explains Stolarczyk: "The little things about some guy's life."

So about three years ago, while discussing various websites with a friend, Stolarczyk began wondering if there had ever been a museum for something as prosaic as a carrot. He investigated and there wasn't. Now there is. It was through that website that Stolarczyk began to find there were people all over the world captivated by carrots. Some of their names are posted at the Carrot Museum along with their specialties.

That's how Caroline Hoyt and Stolarczyk connected. Hoyt has a carrot collection in her kitchen. It includes many carrot items, but she specializes in pitchers.

Stolarczyk is spending a month in the U.S., as he says, "Collecting carrot collectors."

The trip is a scaled-down version of what Stolarczyk envisioned in his early retirement. He had planned to backpack around the world. Nine-eleven spoiled that dream: "It's a dangerous world out there." explained Stolarczyk.

He did manage to fulfill one goal following his 4Qth .birthday, however: He decided to visit 10 countries in the next 10 years and he did. Of course that's easier for an English citizen than for one of us because of the smaller sizes of the countries.

Does all this make Stolarczyk a true English eccentric, a stereotype many of us Anglophiles hold dear? Perhaps. Stolarczyk doesn't deny it. His interests aren't limited to garden vegetables, either. He is equally fond of cats and cat lovers can find a link to those in his museum also.

"I want to educate, inform and amuse," explained Stolarczyk, not afraid of a little redundancy.

Stolarczyk became so infatuated with the Scranton telephone book that the Hoyts gave him one of his own to take home with him. It was the size of the phone book that captivated him in the first place. "Is it the smallest one in the world?" wondered Stolarczyk.

But it was more than size that fascinated him. It was the inclusion of nicknames. Donald (Chop) Gibson? No uptight English phone book would include something like that, I suppose.

So watch out, Scrantonites. Tiny telephone books may be the next passion of this English polymath and Scranton may be its first example.


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