Reprint from:  News:  September 15, 2001

The Vinegar Man

I'm kind of a quirky guy, as you probably know by now.  And being a quirky guy, I like to visit small, quirky, out-of-the-way places when I travel.  Fortunately for me, there are lots of quirky places in the Midwest. 

 

After camping for ten days at Fort Sisseton State Park, I packed up and left on a sunny morning and drove a few miles south to the small town of Roslyn, South Dakota, which is one of the quirkiest towns I’ve ever been to.  Or rather, based on its small size, I should say that Roslyn has one of the highest “quirk-per-capita” ratios of any town in the U.S. – and for three reasons.

 

Above:  The world's only Vinegar Museum (hence the "International" part) is in Roslyn, South Dakota.

First, this is one of only two towns I know of with the name of Roslyn, the other being in Washington, a bit east of Seattle.  Roslyn, Washington, as you may know, was where they filmed the quirky television show, “Northern Exposure,” though it was supposedly set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska.  Remember seeing the Roslyn Bar (which the show’s producers changed to “Roslyn’s Bar”) on each week’s opening clip where the moose casually strolls down the street?  They had to import the moose but the Roslyn Bar is the real thing.

 

The second quirk (I’ve listed the quirks in ascending order to build tension, as my 7th Grade English teacher, Mrs. Fields, taught me) is that Roslyn is the hometown of accordionist Myron Floren.  If you’re a fan of Lawrence Welk or polkas, you know who Myron Floren is.  If you’re not a fan of Lawrence Welk or polkas, you probably make fun of Myron Floren.  As I found out, though, you don’t make fun of Myron Floren in South Dakota because he’s hot stuff here.  And he’s also, as I learned, a pretty terrific guy.

 

Third, and quirkiest of all, Roslyn, South Dakota is the home of the International Vinegar Museum.  It’s actually the only Vinegar Museum in the world (hence the “International” part) and, Myron Floren notwithstanding, was the main reason that I decided to visit Roslyn.  The museum is located in the former Town Hall, the most impressive building in Roslyn, which in itself should be enough to draw huge crowds.  Seriously though, as I entered the museum, I wasn’t sure if this was a spoof or if it was for real.

 

It’s the real deal, folks, and the sole operator, a jovial guy named Lawrence Diggs, really knows his vinegar.  Although he doesn’t brag about it, Lawrence has a Ph.D. in something (Food Science, I think) and goes by the nickname “Vinegar Man."  I dare say that Lawrence Diggs, who in his spare time works as a "Vinegar Consultant" (don’t ask), probably knows more about vinegar than perhaps anyone on the planet.

 

   

Above left:  Roslyn is very proud of its most famous native, accordionist Myron Floren.

Above right:  Bustling (?) downtown Roslyn.  That's the International Vinegar Museum on the right.

 

When I walked into the museum, it was empty except for the Vinegar Man, who greeted me with a smile and a handshake.  I spent the next 30 minutes walking around and reading the various displays on vinegar while learning a lot of interesting facts.  For instance, people have been making vinegar for thousands of years using whatever fermentable food product happened to be on hand, including rice in the Orient, grapes in Greece, wheat in England (for the “malt vinegar” they put on fish and chips), and corn or apples in the U.S. 

 

Above:  Dr. Lawrence Diggs, the Vinegar Man, showing us how to properly taste vinegar.

Here's some more sour trivia:  Vinegar kills bacteria so it’s widely used as a food preservative, it cleans windows, and it’s a handy antidote if you happen to get stung by a deadly Australian box jellyfish.  I’ll keep that in mind next year when I go swimming at the Great Barrier Reef.

 

While I was perusing the many displays, two couples entered the museum and Lawrence gave the five of us an interesting tour, complete with a “vinegar tasting” at the end.  I tried to suppress a smile as Lawrence very seriously told me to swirl the vinegar in the glass and let the aroma “waft” (a term he used) up to my nose.  After a few tastes, though, I was really getting into it. 

 

I had poked fun of the International Vinegar Festival a few days earlier on my Funny Photos page, but Lawrence Diggs takes his vinegar seriously.  He’s also one of the nicest, most intelligent, and most interesting persons I’ve met on this trip so far.  I spent three hours in the museum (yes, three hours) talking to Lawrence about everything under the sun, from digital photo management to Australian didgeridoos – and, of course, the many benefits of vinegar.  As I left the museum that afternoon, I decided that vinegar is cool.

 

You can reach Lawrence at his website, www.VinegarMan.com

 

   

Above left:  On a vinegar tour.  This is the vinegar "wall of fame."

Above right:  After the tour you can purchase all sorts of vinegar products.  I bought a spray bottle of vinegar deodorizer as a gift – but for whom?

 

       

Above left:  Here are a few funny photos from South Dakota.  Don't miss the International Vinegar Festival.  Not only can you hear Pastor Wilson singing "his hits" (as only the Pastor can sing them) and see the Hutterite Choir, but you can also hear "the Polish singer," Tony Wika.  Yep, only in the Midwest.

Above center:  Well, duh.

Above right:  Personally, I lust after Toyotas.

 

   

Above left:  After the vinegar experience, I stopped at the Museum of Science and Farming in Webster, which contains 15 buildings and this recreated Main Street.  Among other things, there's a Shoe House at this museum with over 5,000 shoes.

Above right:  An actual one-room school at the museum.  My grandmother Helga taught in a room much like this in the 1920s in North Dakota.