70-year-old story comes full-circle in New Carlisle
You wouldn’t think that iconic Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart, a goose, a terrier, an English farm woman, and two New Carlisle men would have anything in common, but as it turns out, they do. A casual conversation in a New Carlisle eatery led to the discovery that both New Carlisle gentlemen, both members of the historical society to boot, were once stationed at the same base in England, though many years apart. Jimmy Stewart and the goose came into play when the older man was stationed there during World War Two, and the younger man heard all about it when he arrived some thirty years later, but both of them found it fascinating and a bit coincidental that they shared such a strange and memorable story.
Almost everyone in town knows Dewey Brosey. The outspoken and utterly hilarious veteran is seemingly unstoppable as he makes the rounds at almost every city council meeting, school event, and historical society gatherings. Brosey was station in Great Yarmouth, England in 1944—which was the second-to-last year of World War Two. A member of the United States Air Force, Brosey was stationed in Great Yarmouth at the Royal Air Force base there. Only there for eight months, Brosey said that his unit was merely replacing the previous crew, but while they were there, Jimmy Stewart, who was stationed nearby at RAF Old Buckenham in Norfolk during the better part of 1944, was charged with leading a squadron there as well.
As soon as Brosey arrived at Great Yarmouth, he met a little fox terrier dog, who he said they “inherited” from the former crew. He produced many photographs from his time in Great Yarmouth, and although he couldn’t remember the dog’s name, the little terrier can be seen in almost each one of the pictures, posing next to Brosey and his comrades, even perched atop the wing of an airplane.
Brosey laughed heartily as he recalled the pup’s antics, roaming around the base as if he owned the place—as he was well-known by all the soldiers there.
Brosey said the entire base was essentially constructed right in the middle of an old Englishwoman’s farmstead, and her animals often roamed in and out of the restricted grounds at will. He said that the woman kept horses, cows, and other animals on the property, and claiming that he was the only “farm guy” in his unit, Dewey would ride the horses around base while his comrades looked on.
The farmer also had a flock of huge white geese that roamed the grounds, Brosey said, one of whom would soon befall a tragic end at the hands of the base’s beloved fox terrier, who chased and killed a goose that had become separated from the flock. Brosey said the woman became dramatically irate at the loss of her goose—maybe because it was World War Two in England and meat wasn’t readily-available, or maybe she had a special affinity for that particular goose—Brosey didn’t know, but he said that the level of the woman’s anger was almost comical.
“She gave them an earful, I’ll tell you that,” Brosey said of the female farmer, who marched right up to base sentries and started screaming at them about the loss of her goose.
“Then she got a hold of our commanding officer—it was Jimmy Stewart,” said Brosey.
He said Stewart then made each man in Brosey’s unit cough up $5 apiece to compensate the lady for her losses, which, with ten men in all, made for an especially expensive goose in 1944.
“We all had to pay for that goose,” said Brosey. “You better believe that if we were going to pay for the goose, then we were going to eat that sucker!” he exclaimed.
Unfortunately, Brosey said, the goose was not at all worth its cost.
“That was the toughest (darn) goose I ever had in my life,” he quipped.
While it’s safe to assume we can trust Brosey’s version of the events since he actually took place in them, the story became a bit altered over time, as the second New Carlisle man to learn the story of Jimmy Stewart’s goose in England heard it a little differently.
Tom Spittler, like Brosey, is a member of the New Carlisle Historical Society and a well-known man in town. He was stationed at RAF Coltishall in Great Yarmouth nearly 40 years after Brosey’s encounter with the terrier and the goose, but that didn’t stop him from hearing about the incident almost immediately after he got settled on base.
Spittler said it was 1980 when he “checked in” at Coltishall, and was soon directed to the mess hall, which Spittler said is a “big deal in England.”
On his way to mess, Spittler said he encountered an elderly disheveled man who spoke to him.
“He asked me if I was a ‘Yank,’” Spittler said.
He told the man that he was in fact a “Yank,” as he hailed from America. Spittler said the elderly man then relayed to him a random story about the last Yank he had seen, who turned out to be Jimmy Stewart.
“He said the last time he saw a Yank, that it was Jimmy Stewart, and he was carrying a goose by the neck,” Spittler said the man told him.
Though the story was a bit out of the blue, Spittler listened as the man continued to tell him about it, only this is where the details changed a bit. Spittler said the man told him that Stewart had been the one to kill the goose, claiming that Stewart had an expensive new sports car that he would drive too fast all around base. The man told Spittler that Stewart had hit and killed the goose with his car, but did note that the farm woman stormed the base and gave Stewart a good chewing-out. He also told Spittler that they had eaten the goose, but said that the bird was a “real treat because meat was scarce during the war.”
When asked if the tough old goose was in fact a treat, Brosey shook his head, saying he didn’t recall a shortage of meat on base.
Spittler marveled at the coincidence of such an old and odd story coming together in New Carlisle—all because of a chance encounter over lunch at Cupcake Cuties. He said the subject somehow came up as he spoke with Brosey at the café. Brosey said he had honestly forgotten all about Jimmy Stewart’s goose story until he talked to Spittler just recently.
Brosey was in the Air Force for three and a half years. He said he flunked out of cadet school several times, joking that this made him “the perfect candidate” to fly the B-24 bombers.
“I even flew one home,” Brosey said.
Spittler said he was familiar with Brosey, having heard him speak at historical society meetings about his time as a bomber, but couldn’t believe that they shared a connection to something that happened 70 years ago and thousands of miles away.