100 Years ago this Week: John and Shorty Cannot Play Billiards

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the United States Army.  He is a private in the 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is now based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Feb 10, 1918 – Rather of a quiet day.  Took bath and a walk this A.M.  Going to civilization tonight.

Monday Feb 11– Out to Co. A after telephone poles.  The mornings are very foggy clearing up about noon.

Tuesday Feb 12– To Co. C today after more poles.  Received more letters today from home.  This is a holiday in France Mardigras.

Wednesday Feb 13– Not much to do today.  Bought some things to send back to the states today.  Two handkerchiefs and a collar of (?) patterns.

Thursday Feb 14Nothing in particular today except that John and Shorty cannot play billiards.

Friday Feb 15– All drove to Co C’s YMCA tonight in Joe’s truck and heard a very interesting lecture on why we are at war by Dr. Shanklin Pres of Weslyan University.

Saturday Feb 16 – Made several blueprints today.  The weather is very fine except foggy and damp during nights and nearly all A.M.s

Feb 10, 1918– Poppa mentioned getting a bath.  In a previous journal entry he wrote that he often had a bath on Saturdays.  Apparently he decided on a Sunday morning bath because he was “Going to civilization tonight”. The city of Dax, France where he was stationed had been famous since roman times for it’s hot springs.  Here is a picture from the early 20th century of the Dax baths:

The caption translated from French: Establishment of Saline Baths

Here is an aerial view of Dax, France taken in the 1960s that shows some of the locations that Poppa referred to in his journal:

Thank you very much to Michel Boquet for creating this picture and allowing me to use it!

Poppa lived and worked in and around the bull ring.  Presumably he got his baths at the Casino and Baths building.  He mentioned often that he and his buddies liked to go to dinner at the ‘White Horse’ Restaurant (‘Cheval Blanc’ in French).

February 12– “This is a holiday in France Mardi gras.  Mardi Gras is traditionally the last day Christians could eat fatty foods before spending 40 days of prayer and meat abstinence, until Easter. The day announces the beginning of Lent. The Nice Carnival in France is one of the world’s largest Mardi Gras celebrations. The earliest records establish its existence in 1294. This may make the Nice Carnival the original carnival celebration. Today the event attracts over a million visitors to Nice every year. The Carnival celebrations in Nice span a two-week period.

Feb 14– Poppa mentioned that “John and Shorty cannot play billiards”.  I have found pictures and addresses for some of his soldier colleagues but I don’t yet know anything about  the identities of John and Shorty.  

A Google search found this picture of a WWI soldier playing billiards who had lost both of his legs in the war.

February 15– “All drove to Co C’s YMCA tonight in Joe’s truck and heard a very interesting lecture on why we are at war by Dr. Shanklin Pres of Weslyan University”.

William A. Shanklin

William A. Shanklin was the president of Wesleyan University of Middleton, Connecticut from 1909-1923. He served with the YMCA in France with the American Expeditionary Forces from January to June 1918.

The Mill at Candale

Company C of the 20th engineers were stationed at the saw mill in Candale, which is 10.5 miles from Dax.

Next Week: A visit from General Scott


“Mardi Gras.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Jan. 2018. Web. 04 Feb. 2018.

“Wesleyan’s Ninth President.” William A. Shanklin, Office of the President – Wesleyan University. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2018.

“Mardi Gras in France.” Living Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2018.


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