Background: WWI has been over for 4 months and some soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has been stationed with the United States Army’s 20th Engineers at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France. He is anxiously awaiting 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 March 9, 1919– Cleaned up this A.M. Wrote a letter in the P.M. Went to “Pas bon” entertainment in the evening. This constituted my Sunday.
Monday March 10– More joy for everyone. We are confined to our camp until departure. The optimist would say “What a rare opportunity to observe the beauties of the park!” The pessimist would rejoin “It’ll be Hell without our beer when the hot weather starts. I want to shave now. My water is just now hot and four fellas are crowding my little tent. If I had any sense I’d shave in the morning anyhow. Bon soir! By Ohlman
Tuesday March 11– Inspector general is here today looking over records, camps equipment, etc. Some say we will leave here very soon. Fourth battalion has taken over nearly everything now. Good minstrel show at the casino tonight. We were allowed to march over and back as real prisoners would.
Wednesday March 12- Took physical examination yesterday and papers went in today. For O.R.C. Took a long time for these forms to reach us.
Thursday March 13– Gil is in the hospital with the flu. Brundage there with a dislocated knee and Munday with a cold. Am afraid not all will be able to go with us. Much rain these days but it is not cold.
Friday March 14 – Being confined to camp we now have two guards on at all times. All take turns at four hours of guard duty. I was on today but read a story in the bright sunshine. Rcd many letters today (14), ten of them were written in October, lost at the A.C.S.
Saturday March 15– Turning in all surplus equipment today. Have my shoulder bag packed but little goes in the barracks bag. All that is left to do is to roll my pack which can be done in 15 minutes.
In early January of 1919 Poppa left Engineers Training School before completing the course because he thought he was about to be sent home. Two months later he is still biding his time in the 20th Engineers camp in Dax. He is more than ready to return home. By the end of this week he wrote that his bag was packed and he could leave with 15 minutes notice. But the order to return home hasn’t arrived.
A “guest” journal writer
Poppa’s journal entry for Monday March 10th was different than any of his other entries. The entry is longer than usual and almost sounds poetic. And it is in a different handwriting. Apparently his journal was borrowed by another soldier, possibly when Poppa left it unattended to shave? At the end of the entry it says “By Ohlman”.
The company roster shows that there was a soldier named Hilmer Oehlmann stationed with Poppa. He was from Alameda, California. According to the internet Hilmer Oehlmann went on to become General Manager, Chairman of the Board, and President of Yosemite Park and Curry Company, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley, CA. He was married three times and had 3 children. When he died in 1983 his ashes were scattered by airplane overYosemite. His son, Hilmer Oehlmann, Jr. was a law student at Stanford when he was killed in a car accident in 1951. The Stanford Law School awards a prize in his name.
Poppa is also concerned that his friends who are currently hospitalized won’t be able to travel once orders to return home arrive. He has mentioned Gil several times in previous journal entries but his last name is unknown to me.
In 1912, Before joining the army and being sent to France Brundage was a forestry assistant working in California for the U.S. Department of agriculture. Many of Poppa’s colleagues worked in the forestry and/or lumber business before and after they served in the 20th Engineers.
Next Week: Leaving Dax!
List of Workers in Subjects Pertaining to Agriculture and Home Economics in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and in the State Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations.” Google Books, books.google.com/books
Boquet, Michel- correspondance