100 Years ago This Week: Tomorrow, on my 28th birthday, I will start life again as a civilian in God’s own country.

Background:  WWI  has been over for 5 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are coming home from France.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has spent the past 10 days at Camp Upton in Long Island New York.  He has just received his orders to head home.   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 27, 1919– Very busy doing nothing today.  Ate dinner at Hostess House, wrote some letters and read Sunday papers.  Moved yesterday, again today just to keep in practice and to let us know we are still in the army.  

Monday April 28 – All southern detachments went today.  Marshall, Shorty, Dink, Hill Dorns, et al went with them.  These are very long days waiting around for time to go by as bad as Bordeaux.  Received several letters written at Thanksgiving time today.

Tuesday April 29– Scared stiff, this A.M. had headache, bad cold and did not feel good.  Afraid I was coming down with the mumps as so many cases have developed in the outfit.  Feel much better this P.M. and sure I haven’t them.  Took exam this P.M. to leave at 6:00 A.M. tomorrow must get up before three in the morning.

Wednesday April 30 – Did not have to get up so early as we leave at 6 P.M instead of A.M. as previously reported.  Have taken lunch nearly every day at the Y.W.C.A. while here. 8:30 – Left Camp Upton on big train bound for various camps.  

Thursday May 1– Speeding westward at last long.  Left New York at Midnight are in Penn line.  Three cars for Camp Grant.

Friday May 2 – Arrived in Chicago at 6:30 this A.M.  Red Cross gave us breakfast. Put on Camp Grant train about 8:30.  Arrived in Camp Grant about 12:30 without dinner. We were given examinations, lectures, kept busy every minute until night.  Expect to get us out tomorrow.

Saturday May 3 -8:00 P.M. Onboard Train en route home.  Rain all day but nevertheless luck was with me being second in list to be discharged at 2:30 P.M. Just caught car to Rockford, made electric to Janesville, and will now soon be home.  This ends my diary of twenty months of my life as a soldier. Tomorrow just 28 yrs. Tomorrow just 28 years after I started this life I will start again as a civilian in God’s own country. The End


The last leg of the journey home!

At the start of the week Poppa is stationed at Camp Upton in New York but has just been notified to expect to start for home on Wednesday.  After three days aboard various trains he arrived at Camp Grant in Rockford Illinois.

Soldiers playing baseball at Camp Grant, near Rockford Illinois. Circa 1919

The next day John Rodney Jamieson was discharged from the army, boarded another train for home and, on the day before his 28th birthday, resumed his life as a civilian.

The last page of Poppa’s Journal
Poppa’s discharge from the army May 3rd, 1919

100 Years Ago This Week: Broadway on a 24 Hour Pass

Background:   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, had been stationed in France during WWI with the 20th Engineers.  They have just sailed back to America aboard the USS Roanoke and are now stationed at Camp Upton, Long Island, New York awaiting discharge from the army.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 20,  1919 – Spent Easter Sunday very quietly.  Reading, writing letters, visiting pie and ice cream parlors, etc.  Saw Jane Cowl in “The Crowded Hour” at Liberty Theater tonight. Have a good camp.  Better than any place I have been in yet but am anxious to get away. Big detail from companies today for Easter.  A fine way to treat A.E.F. troops of 17 months service.

Monday April 21– Going to New York this evening.  Marshall, Shorty and myself on 24 hour pass. Later:- Arrived at Penn Station about 7:30.  Went to Knickerbocker theatre seeing “Listen Lester”. Awfully good show. Afterward saw Broadway at midnight with great white way.  Stayed at York Hotel for the night.

Tuesday April 22– By means of Salvation Army sight seeing bus which we accidentally stumbled onto saw Wall Street, Stock exchange, Millionaire Row, Fifth Avenue and many interesting and important centers of New York.  Got back to camp about eight o’clock.

Wednesday April 23 – Very warm day.  Just “hung around” barracks today reading, writing and resting.  Went to vaudeville show at Liberty Theater. Wish some mail would come for me.  Bought a liberty bond from Joe.

Thursday April 24 – N.Y boys were transferred today to Camp Upton to be discharged soon.  Three letters received today. Two from Marion, one from home. Awfully glad to get all of them, long time since I have heard from them.  Went to “The Kiss Burglar” but were so far in theatre that we couldn’t hear so left.

Friday April 25 – Four detachments, ones from Camps Bliss, Meade Taylor and Pike are to leave tomorrow.  Gosney Stratton and Christensen go with them. Smull was mustered out this a.m.

Saturday April 26 – The four detachments left today.  Also ones for Camp Dix and Devans (?). Most of others including Grant received orders today to leave next Wednesday.  Went to show tonight but was pas-bon.

Camp Upton

The Liberty Theatre. Camp Upton. Long Island New York. Circa 1917

Poppa and other soldiers are temporarily stationed at Fort Upton in Long Island, New York.  They have little work to do as they wait to be discharged from the army.   Poppa took in some culture as he toured New York City and saw three Broadway plays.

“The Crowded Hour”, with Jane Cowl was on Broadway for 139 performances before closing in March of 1919.  Apparently the play was then performed for soldiers at the Liberty Theatre which was on the grounds of Camp Upton .  Jane Cowl (1883-1950) starred in over 30 plays between 1904 and 1947.  She also wrote some plays and appeared in 6 films.

Jane Cowl Circa 1915.

The next day Poppa and two of his friends got passes to leave the camp and went to New York City for 24 hours.  While there they enjoyed  the musical “Listen Lester” at the Knickerbocker Theater on Broadway.

This picture of Broadway from December of 1918 shows the Knickerbocker theater advertising “Listen Lester”: the musical that Poppa saw there will touring New York City

By Thursday Poppa had returned from their busy sight seeing tour of New York City and that night attended the musical “The Kiss Burglar” at the Liberty Theatre.  This play had recently completed a run of 100 performances on Broadway.  Poppa was disappointed because they sat so far back in the Liberty Theatre that could not hear well.

During the week Camp Upton was the site of much activity.  Soldiers from New York were arriving at Camp Upton to be discharged while detachments from other states were leaving for their home bases to be “mustered out”.

As the week ends soldiers from the midwest have just received orders to prepare for the next leg of their journey home.  They expect to leave for Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois the following Wednesday.

Next Week: Tomorrow, on my 28th birthday, I will start life again as a civilian in God’s own country!


“Camp Upton.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Apr. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Upton. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

“Jane Cowl.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Cowl. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

100 Years ago this Week: Happiest Afternoon of My Life!

Background:  WWI  has been over for 5 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, and other members of the 20th Engineers are crossing the Atlantic aboard the USS Roanoke.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 13, 1919– Weather still good, sea quiet, making good time for this tub.  If weather like this continues we will dock on Thursday. All sea sick ones have now recovered and are feeling very good today.  Mileage today is the best we have made thus far. 350 mi

Monday April 14– Sea very quiet today.  Stopped last evening for one and one half hours for an operation on a sailor.  Nevertheless mileage was 325. Are more trade winds the way home. The days are very long.  Not bad but the nights are terrible.

Tuesday April 15 – Sea is slightly rough today.  Have had remarkable weather for our trip and with any kind of a boat would have been across some time ago.  The ship’s officers have been very good to us and allowed us all possible privileges.

Wednesday April 16 – Colder today meaning we are nearing land.  Quite rough today but spirits of all are high.

Thursday April 17 – Morning rainy with a heavy fog.  About nine of clock we picked up another vessel lost in fog trying to get into port. Followed us balance of day.  Happiest afternoon of my life! Entered harbor about 3 P.M. Passed many boats, all of which greeted us with three blasts of the whistle.  Tied up to pier about 6 o clock. Must stay on board tonight.

Friday April 18– Loaded into ferry at nine o clock sailed around New York from Hoboken to Long Island City.  Boarded train here for camp Upton, arriving here about three thirty P.M. Went through mill in evening after all of our clothes are spoiled went to bed in good bed and barracks.

Saturday April 19– Spent day looking around this part of camp>  Buying ice cream, pie, etc. which we have been very short of since leaving this country.  Move to another part of camp tonight.

Back in America!

After nearly 2 weeks at sea the  USS Roanoke docked at Hoboken, New Jersey.  Poppa spent one more night aboard ship before he and the other soldiers rode a ferry to Long Island and then took a train to Camp Upton.

This picture is captioned “USS Roanoke arriving in New York, 1919”.  Could Poppa be one of the men standing on its deck?

Camp Upton, named for a Civil War General,  was built in 1917 to house soldiers before they were sent overseas.  Now, in 1919  it is serving them  as they return. The camp sat idle until WWII when it was re-opened and used in the same manner.

Camp Upton, Long island New York.

One of the soldiers stationed at Fort Upton in 1917 was Irving Berlin (1888-1989).  While there he wrote the musical “Yip Yip Yaphank” based on his military experience.   This musical included one of his most famous songs “Oh, How I Hate to Get up in the Morning”.

Sergeant Irving Berlin in 1917.

The week ends with Poppa enjoying things that were hard to come by over seas such as pie and ice cream.

Next Week: Broadway on a 24 Hour Pass


“Camp Upton.” BNL, www.bnl.gov/about/history/campupton.php. Accessed 11 Apr. 2019


100 Years ago this week: Looks as though we are in for a long trip.

Background:  WWI  has been over for 5 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France.  After a year and a half stationed  in the forests of southern France the 20th Engineers have begun the journey home.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has spent the past few weeks in various camps near Bordeaux , France.  He has just received orders to sail home with the other soldiers of the 20th Engineers and they have boarded the transport ship the USS Roanoke, but have not left port.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 6, 1919– Left Bordeaux at 8:00 A.M. Pulling down the river reaching the green salt water at 2:00 P.M.  Boat very crowded with poor accommodations. We are in the (?) at very rear. Slightly better than Madawaska.

Monday  April 7– The Roanoke was formerly a mine layer in the North Sea with the British.  This is its first trip across with troops. Weather so far has been very good. Slightly rough this A.M. Enough to make some of us a little sick.  

Tuesday April 8 – Rather good all A.M. but grew rough this P.M.  Boat can make but thirteen knots at its best, in rough weather not over ten.  Looks as though we are in for a long trip.

Wednesday April 9– Very rough today but still going very well.  Many sea sick last night.

Thursday April 10– Stormy all of A.M. and half of P.M.  Going very slowly. In evening weather cleared slightly but still cloudy.  Made better speed.

Friday – April 11 – Still a little rough this A.M. but are now making good time.  Very little distance made in last 24 hours due to the storm. Have been sea sick nearly all the time until today.  Most meals have been a sandwich.

Saturday April 12 – Appetite has fully returned.  Weather is fine, sea smooth. Made 307 miles in last 24 hours.  Best run we have made yet. Spend most of my time reading, sitting, lying or standing around deck but always on deck.  

Setting Sail for America

Poppa and the other soldiers of the 20th Engineers have finally started for home aboard the USS Roanoke.

The Roanoke was originally built in in 1901 by a shipping company.   It was  acquired by the navy in 1917 and converted to use as a mine layer.

This picture shows the Roanoke and other minelayers in formation placing mines in 1918. The camouflage painted on these ships was not intended to make the ships harder to see.  Rather it was to make it difficult for enemy submarine crew to determine factors such as the direction and speed of the ship, data needed in order to launch torpedoes successfully.

This journey is the first of 3 across the Atlantic the Roanoke would make repurposed as a transport to bring soldiers home from Europe.  Poppa wrote that this ship is “slightly better than Madawaska”  which was the ship that brought him to France in 1917.  Although he doesn’t mention it,  the mood of soldiers on the Roanoke must be different than that on the trip on the Madawaska.  They are now returning home victorious and don’t have the constant threat of German submarines that hung over them on the trip over.  

During the middle of the week the weather was bad, progress was slow and many soldiers were seasick.  By the end of the week both the weather and the soldiers’ moods had improved.  As the week ends they find themselves making irritatingly slow progress toward America somewhere in the middle of the  Atlantic ocean.

Here is a page from the Passenger list of the Roanoke. Private First Class John Rodney Jamieson is number 17 on this list. Edward Kraft (#12) is crossed off with the note “did not sail”.   Unlike Poppa, Kraft opted to stay in France to receive his officers commission.

Next Week: Happiest Afternoon of My Life!