Ted Stillwell is a columnist for The Examiner
I guess you could say my friend John Brosam was born a plowboy back in 1942, because he grew up on one of the largest farms on the rich soil of the Missouri River bottoms at Atherton. He went through grade school in a little one-room school house with about 26 other children. Along the way, he burned down a couple of other school houses before finally graduating in 1960 from Fort Osage High School.
During his high school days, John farmed 250 acres all by himself along while maintaining his class schedules. That first year out of high school, John worked on the RLDS church farm in Atherton before he was hired in at General Motors. The guys he worked with in the big city called him plow boy, because he was very obviously straight in off the farm. Over time, that nickname softened to “the farmer,” a title he held at the Leeds Assembly Plant for the next 20 years. In fact, newcomers just assumed his name was “Farmer.” No one knew him by any other name back then.
One of John’s many obvious passions has always been cooking, and he put that passion to work teaching and cooking period foods at Missouri Town at Lake Jacomo. That experience developed into a root beer career with a friend, where they traveled extensively under the title of Little John Enterprises, selling his homemade root beer recipe at street fairs across the country, including three years each fall at Silver Dollar City.
Eventually, John was advised by his attorney to duck out of a bad business relationship with his partner and reinvent himself. That is when he became known to many of us as Dr. J Fogsworth, the Root Beer Man, which became a 20-year fixture at Santa-Cali-Gon. John no longer peddles his tonic on the Square, but his grown kids have taken over the business and are still producing Dad’s old-fashioned root beer recipe and will no doubt be up there again this year.
Along the way, John became involved with the Boy Scouts and took a great interest in the little Pow-Wow Indian dancers. His obvious passion for our Native American culture and heritage intensified when one of his sons got interested in family genealogy and discovered that great-grandma was of Native blood.
In fact, John is a direct descendant of the famed Pocahontas of early American folklore. If you remember your grade school history correctly, Pocahontas was the daughter of “Powhattan,” an Indian chief. Capt. John Smith, the leader of the settlers in Jamestown, Va., claimed that she saved his life. Apparently, Powhattan was about to kill Smith with a stone club when Pocahontas, who was 12 at the time, threw herself between them and begged her father to spare his life.
It was only a natural leap that today, John and his lovely wife, Millie, own and operate Whispering Winds Trading Post in the first block east of the Square at 121 E. Lexington Ave. For nearly 10 years now, they have dealt in everything Native American, and if you have not been in his store you have been missing an Independence treasure, one of the most fantastic Indian museums anywhere around.
Throughout Native American history, the old ones have always passed down to their children the history and customs of the tribe through ancient songs, chants, dances and wild tall tales.
Dr. John is true to his heritage, because the name Pocahontas means “the playful one,” and for those of you who are familiar with John, know that he is also, indeed, a playful one.
“Images of America, Independence, Mo.,” by Richard N. Piland and Marietta Wilson Boenker, is available at the Blue & Grey Book Shoppe, 106 E. Walnut St., a collection of photographs from old Independence.