Background: In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the United States Army. He was 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 17– A day of rest- the only thing of excitement was a football game which was not much good.
Monday Feb 18– General Scott visited our camp today. As far as mess is concerned I would be fine to have a general visit camp everyday.
Tuesday Feb 19– I walked many miles around Mees today trying to locate route for telephone line. Letter dated Jan 28 from Marion today.
Wednesday Feb 20 – Went to Casino today and saw a French show. This show would hardly go in U.S. from a moral stand point.
Thursday Feb 21– Slightly indisposed today. I do not feel like writing.
Friday Feb 22– Much better today. One more letter today dated Jan. from Tampa. One from home dated Jan 22.
Saturday Feb 23– Out to Co. A today. 10th engineers beat 20th today 1 to 0 at baseball. 14 innings. Two bands with regular music from U.S.A. Bands at casino tonight.
Monday Feb 18– “General Scott visited our camp today”. General Hugh L. Scott had a long history of service by the time WWI started. After graduation from West Point he joined the US calvary and server in the western US. Early in his military career he was assigned to go to the Little Big Horn battle site to mark the graves of General Custer’s soldiers and was assigned the same living quarters most recently used by the Custers.
General Hugh L. Scott
He served as interim Secretary of War in 1916 and helped prepare the country for possible involvement in World War I. He officially retired from the army in 1917 but He was recalled to active duty to tour the battlefields of Europe and to command the 78th Division at Fort Dix in 1918. He retired again in 1919. Apparently between visiting battlefields he also looked in on the 20th engineers in Dax, France.
Wednesday Feb 20 – “Went to Casino today and saw a French show”
The uncertainty of war and what the future had in store made escapist entertainments such as the theatre popular in France during the war. Nostalgic farces and outdated comedies showing the “good old times” were popular. The gap between the reality of warfare and the world of make-believe on stage made the theatre attractive for new audiences such as working women as well as soldiers on leave and war refugees. With the shortage of necessities such as fuel the theatre also offered a way to gather and to warm up again in winter.
Thursday Feb 21– “Slightly indisposed today.” Did Poppa feel “indisposed” because he went to the casino the previous day? Maybe he had one too many to drink during the show?
The relationship of American soldiers and Marines to alcohol on the Western Front was different than that of their allies from France, and Britian. Unlike the French and British armies, the men of the American Expeditionary Forces were not issued alcohol in the trenches. This would have made for bad press considering that there was a powerful temperance movement on the home front. Prohibition was about to start back in the states. Behind the lines, YMCA camps offered “wholesome” entertainment for American troops free from alcohol and other vices. However, the temperance movement and YMCA ultimately failed to prevent American troops from consuming alcohol during the war.
“This show would hardly go in U.S. from a moral stand point.”- Apparently Poppa is making an observation that French entertainment was more risque than what he was accustomed to in America.
Saturday Feb 23- “10th engineers beat 20th today 1 to 0 at baseball. 14 innings.”
Next Week: Each Company Gets a Victrola
“Hugh L. Scott.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Feb. 2018. Web. 11 Feb. 2018.
“Staging War. Theatre 1914-1918.” New Articles RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2018.
ohnson, Nicholas K. “World War I, Part 3: The American Expeditionary Forces and Prohibition.” Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society. N.p., 19 June 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2018.
Johnson, Nicholas K. “World War I, Part 1: The French Army and Wine.” Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society. N.p., 28 May 2014. Web. 15 Feb. 2018.