100 Year ago This Week: The show was a big success!

  Background:   WWI is over and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has been in France with the 20th engineers for over a year.   He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based 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.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday February 23, 1919– Spent day getting over it.  Practicing show, writing letters and sleeping.  

Monday February 24– Spent most of day getting show material in casino, rehearsing parts of show and getting ready.   Big rehearsal this evening. Looks as though show will go pretty well after all.

Tuesday February 25– Band practice in A.M. The show was a big success.  Everything went off very well. The (?) Engineers made the big hit. But everything was pulled off soberly, smoothly and successfully.  

Wednesday February 26– Made about 1150 francs clear on the show.  Tonight we had a big banquet at Hotel du Voycrgus (?).  Supper was good, wine very good. Everyone had enough to feel like a million dollars but none enough to make them drunk, troublesome or disagreeable.

Thursday February 27– At last some mail came today.   Two nice letters from Marion and others from home.  Worked all day and part of night on some maps for Major Brookings who is leaving here tomorrow for his new job in Paris.  With the H(?) Commission.

Friday February 28– Lt. Col Benedict ordered all work to stop today.  Hope it means home soon. Gen. Pershing in this part of country.  He may be here tomorrow. Today is my father’s birthday. Hope he enjoys the day and has many more birthdays to celebrate.  

Saturday March 1– Drove to Pontenx today after tires. Gen. Pershing inspected the troops from this district this afternoon.  Gave us a nice little talk and very brief inspection.


The Frolics

The Dax Casino circa 1919

WWI is over and there is not much for the soldiers to do.  For several days those in Poppa’s unit have been rehearsing for a show they planned to put on.  He was obviously looking forward to it.  It was held at  the Dax casino on the evening of February 25th.  Here are pictures of the 4 pages of the program:

The program cover indicates that the show was held at the Dax casino at 8:30 PM.  The French at the bottom identifies the printing company and their address.
It looks like each soldier played several roles in the show.  For example, Poppa’s  friend named Kraft apparently appeared as  ‘Eddie’ Kraft, ‘Nero’ Kraft, and the soprano ‘Katherine’ Kraft.  Bon Soir means good evening.

 

The back of the program shows that Poppa was the “Bass Drummer”.  The French statement under the heading band “Nous ne savon Pas”  translates to “We don’t know” (who is in the band).

I don’t know how talented the soldier/musicians were but Poppa had some musical experience as he played trombone in his high school band and was part of the Ripon College band in 1910.

Ripon College Band 1910-11. Poppa is far left middle row.

Poppa wrote that they made 1150 francs from the show.  In 1919 that was equivalent to $162 but is equal to the buying power of $2400 in 2019 dollars.  Apparently that helped fund the dinner and drinks the next night at the Hotel du Voycrgus (Not clear from his handwriting if this is correct spelling of hotel).

Major Brookings Leaves Dax

Walter DuBois Brookings was Poppa’s commander.  On February 27th Poppa wrote that he was leaving for Paris to work on the (illegible) commission.  Paris was where the commission was held that set the terms for the defeated powers.  It resulted in the Treaty of Versailles and the start of the League of Nations. Although Poppa said Brookings was going to Paris,  Brookings Obituary says that after leaving France, “as a representative of Herbert Hoover he took the first shipload of relief food to the Baltic Region, landing in Libau Latvia” in March of 1919.  Ten years before he was president, Herbert Hoover led the commission for Relief in Belgium.  According the Wikipedia the commission’s purpose was to supply food to German occupied France and Belgium during WWI.

February 28, 1919 – Birthday of Addison Jackson Jamieson

Addison Jackson Jamieson was Poppa’s father. February 28th, 1919 was his 61st birthday.  Addison died in 1943.

March 1, 1919 – General Pershing inspects troops

General Pershing

On March 1st Poppa wrote that General John J.  “Black Jack” Pershing inspected the troops.  Pershing was the general in charge of the American war effort in Europe.  This is at least the third time that Poppa had crossed paths with Pershing since he enlisted.  After victory in Europe Pershing returned to America a hero and some of his most ardent supporters encouraged him to run  as a candidate for president of the United States.  Pershing had little enthusiasm but agreed.  He was not nominated by either party.

Next Week: Made THE purchase in Paris!

Sources:

Thanks to Michel Boquet for finding the “Frolics Program”

 

100 Years Ago This Week: What a glorious life.

Background:   WWI is over and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers and in November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based 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.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday February 16, 1919– Wrote a few letters, cleaned up and am going out to Cafe St. Pierre for supper.  We are all getting fine treatment at that place now. Tough piece of luck this P.M. when I broke my pipe.  Can get it repaired soon in U.S.A.

Monday February 17 – Old Co  E of 2nd Bn now fifth company arrived today.  They have been up quite close to the front all the time since they left us at ST. Nazaire.  The band started practicing today. Our schedule is for every afternoon 1:30 to 4:30. I drive the bunch out from headquarters in my Dodge to 2nd CO Y.M.C.A.

Tuesday February 18 – Driving all A.M.  Band practice all P.M. and show practice in the evening.  What a glorious life.

Wednesday February 19– Had a nice ride to Arengosse this A.M. The band practices playing and marching this P.M.  I am a sick woman tonight don’t know what is the trouble. Haven’t had a drink and feel as drunk or seasick as I had a good one.

Thursday February 20– (No entry)

Friday February 21– Feel much better today still not good enough to go to band practice this P.M. Full rehearsal of show at casino tonight.  I’ll be there to pound the bass drum. Relieved from further work today. Left out the 20th

Saturday February 22– Drove Dodge on various trips to Cos most of the day.  Trucks are moving 1st co from Pontex back to their old camp.  Officers dance at the casino is the principal event of the day.  Jazz orchestra played for the dance. Much champaign put the orchestra in best of form.  The dance a great success and orchestra wonderful (!)


Units of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) continue to be moved around France in preparation for being sent home.  The soldiers of the fifth company had traveled to France on the same ship as Poppa but were stationed closer to the front.   On February 16th Poppa wrote that the Fifth CO.  has now rejoined him in Dax.

Poppa was sick for several days during the week of February 16, 1919.  He doesn’t report the cause of his illness.  However, in early 1919 the world was still experiencing what is thought to be the second biggest epidemic in world history:  the Spanish flu outbreak.  In the month of October, 1918 alone 195,000 Americans died from the disease.  Because of improvements in transportation and because of the mobility of soldiers the flu spread rapidly around the world.  Some experts say that more America soldiers were lost during WWI to the flu than to the fighting.

In previous journal entries Poppa wrote that some of his colleagues were hospitalized because of the flu but it doesn’t appear that Poppa’s illness was severe enough to require hospitalization.

Michel Boquet is a retired French engineer who is an expert on the history of forestry in France in WWI.   He has acquired the journal of a US army physician who was  treating soldiers in the area of Poppa’ camp.  Michel noticed the following entry:  “Saw Pvt (possibly Lt) Jamison from St avit for acute appendicitis”.

However,  this entry was labelled January 19, 1919, almost a month before Poppa’s illness.

On February 22nd Poppa wrote that “Officers dance at the casino is the principal event of the day.  Jazz orchestra played for the dance. Much champaign put the orchestra in best of form.  The dance a great success and orchestra wonderful (!)”

A WWI era picture of the casino in Dax, France. This was just a short distance from Poppa’s camp.

Poppa did not write whether his band was part of the entertainment but his enthusiastic description suggests that they might have been.  The same physician who treated private Jamison for appendicitis attended the officers’ dance and made this journal entry:

“Washington’s birthday. We engaged Casino and gave a party. Band music and invited all our friends. Enormous success. Nobody wanted to go home. Dancing and songs.”

Next Week: The show was a big success!

Sources:

Michel Boquet

100 Years ago This Week: Some of our captains just want to go home.

Background:   World War I has been over for more 3 months.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers in 1917 and was eventually assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday February 9, 1919– Busy nearly all day with hauling water, meat, etc.  Took coffee to 200 yankee division men passing through on the train this evening.  Some nice mail today.

Monday February 10– (No Entry)

Tuesday February 11– Tom left for Paris today to work for the peace commission.  Sorry to see him go but glad he has the opportunity to get on the work as it will be very interesting no doubt.  Basketball team played in Bordeaux today but were defeated 82 to 10.

Wednesday February 12– (No entry)

Thursday February 13– The other half of H (?) Co. which has been detached since we arrived in France came today.  They had a tough trip (?) and all seemed mighty glad to get here.  Letter from Lieut.  Johnson today tells me the engrs school are going home very soon…. And I thought I was lucky.  

Friday February 14– Telegram came today saying Hdq. 1st Bn-1st,2nd,3rd and 5th companies will be relieved from duty soon after March 1st.  Everyone is smiling again today after a month of continuous grouch. Made another trip to St. Avit today weather is fine past few days.

Saturday February 15– Not working very hard today.  Some of our captains just want to go home.  All are sore over bill introduced into congress to prohibit service stripes.  Some of our politicians got jobs in Washington to get out of coming over and taking their chance and now are afraid the service stripes will reflect on them.


Soldiers all over France were anxious to return home now that the war has ended.  Poppa and his friends are optimistic as they were informed on February 14th that they would be “relieved of duty soon after March 1st”.   But that is still at least 2 weeks away.  Activities are planned wherever possible to keep up the soldiers’ morale.   According to bulletins of the US Army each division can put up sports teams to compete with championships to be held in Paris.  After being defeated 82 to 10 I’m guessing that Poppa’s basketball team did not make it to the championship tournament.

Tuesday February 11– “Tom left for Paris today to work for the peace commission.  Sorry to see him go but glad he has the opportunity to get on the work as it will be very interesting no doubt.”

The Peace Commission in Paris, which became know as the Versailles Peace Conference, was a series of meetings of the leaders of the victorious Allied Powers to set the terms for the defeated countries (known as the Central Powers).   The President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, had already sailed to France to participate.  The major accomplishments of the Peace Conference was the formation of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles which would finally signed by the Germans on May 7, 1919.

Poppa has mentioned Tom in several of his journal entries since arriving in France.  According to his address book he is likely referring to Thomas V. Coleman of Dallas, Texas.  It appears that Poppa and Tom were friends and tent mates.   He doesn’t mention what Tom’s job will be in Paris but being associated with the Paris Peace conference is likely to be an interesting assignment.

Saturday February 15– “Some of our captains just want to go home.  All are sore over bill introduced into congress to prohibit service stripes.  Some of our politicians got jobs in Washington to get out of coming over and taking their chance and now are afraid the service stripes will reflect on them.”

According to Wikipedia a service stripe, or hash mark, is a diagonal stripe worn on the sleeve(s) of uniforms.  Service stripes are authorized for wear by enlisted members on the left sleeve of a uniform to denote length of service. Service stripes vary size and in color.

However, the 1919 army appropriations bill included this statement:

“That it shall be unlawful for the Secretary of War to provide by regulation or otherwise for any distinctive stripe or chevron of any kind indicating service overseas or in the United States to be worn upon the uniform of any officer or enlisted man in the service of the United States and any regulation heretofore made on this subject is hereby invalidated”.

I don’t know the actual reason this law have been passed.  Poppa and his colleagues apparently felt that congressmen were covering for their own cowardice exhibited by their action of ‘hiding’ in government jobs in Washington instead of enlisting in the army.

Soldiers were not the only ones enraged by this action.  In reaction to that action by the U.S. congress the legislature of Massachusetts passed the following order in 1919;

Be it ordered that the Massachusetts House of Representatives unreservedly reaffirms its belief that recognition of distinguished service in the military naval or aerial service of our country is due to those who made it possible by their efforts and sacrifices that democracy by representative government might still prevail and deplores any attempt to take away from our soldiers sailors or aviators any mark or marks conferred for distinguished service previously granted … and be it further ordered that copies of this order be transmitted by the Secretary of the Commonwealth to the Senators and Representatives from Massachusetts in the Congress of the United States.”

This painting by Norman Rockwell has the tongue in cheek title “The Coward” because the soldier who is wearing service stripes and medals for bravery in WWI is afraid of the advances of a young woman.

Next Week: What a glorious life.

Sources:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Paris Peace Conference.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 Jan. 2019, www.britannica.com/event/Paris-Peace-Conference. Accessed 8 Feb. 2019.

“Service Stripe.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Jan. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_stripe. Accessed 8 Feb. 2019.

“Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Google Books, books.google.com/

100 Years ago This Week: Mail from Marion relieved my unnecessary worries.

Background:   WWI has been over for almost 3 months.   United States officials are mustering all available resources to bring its army home from France.  But it’s taking a while.  Poppa, who is back with his unit in Dax, France, is anxiously awaiting his turn while trying to keep busy at company headquarters in Dax France.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday February 2, 1919– Pay day today.  Tom returns greatly enthused about the Pyrenees.  He had a weekend at Lourdes and now wants to put in for a leave in that area.  I prefer it to most any other place as there is snow, cold weather and not much travel in this leave area.

Monday February 3– Have a new position as captain of sports here at hdq.  Am trying to organize a basketball team to play at Bordeaux in the A.E.F meet. 

Tuesday February 4– Played Co “C” in basketball today.  Just a practice game trying to pick out a team for the meet.  Today’s paper says Gen. Pershing has permission to fill vacancies.  This may mean we get commissions. For me I prefer to go home. Mail came today bringing one letter from Marion.  This relieved my unnecessary worries.

Wednesday February 5– Rain all day.  Am to have a new job soon.  Much better than keeping mileage reports.

Thursday February 6– Started my new job today as driver for supply house Dodge light delivery.  Think I have the best job in the detachment. It is a new car, runs nice and will probably keep me busy nearly all the time.

Friday February 7– Went to St.  Avit after supplies.  Shorty and Johnny went along.  We had dinner in Tartas(?) with other stops at Mont  De Marseu (?) and Pointex so enjoyed the trip very much before we arrived home.

Saturday February 8– Drove another 100 miles today up and back to St. Avit.  The river is again very high. Higher than ever since we have been here.  The Gauge reading tonight is 5 M 10 CM. They tell us the top is here (?).  Hope so as it is now above the ground of our camp but the good dyke of dirt holds well.


For a soldier who wants to get discharged from the army and return home Poppa seems to be enjoying himself.  He claims that his job  is ‘light delivery’ .   It seems more like an excuse to drive all over southern France in a Dodge Car seeing the sights.  Apparently his mood was also lifted by a letter he received from his love,  Marion Clarkson Brown.

HIs friend Tom also had a nice weekend in Lourdes which is about 75 miles southeast of their camp.  Today Lourdes is second only to Paris as a popular tourist attraction in France.

Some pictures of Lourdes From the Wikipedia website.

The Pyrenees Mountains are on the border between France and Spain.  When Poppa first arrived in Dax in 1917 he commented that he could see the mountains from his camp on a nice day.

A view of the Pyrenees Mountains

 

Tuesday February 4– “Today’s paper says Gen. Pershing has permission to fill vacancies.  This may mean we get commissions. For me I prefer to go home.” 

Poppa left Engineers Training School before competing all of the classes.  At the time it was thought that his unit would be heading home before the classes ended and he preferred to go with them.  As a result he still does not know if he will receive his commission as an officer.

Friday February 7th

The towns Poppa visited on February 7th-  St.  Avit, Tartas, Mont  De Marsan and Pointenx are all within 100 miles  of Dax.  

In 1919 Tartas had a population of about 2,800 residents.

This picture is labelled “TARTAS, THE CHURCH VIEW OF THE MARINE ALLEY”. The white building in the ground appears to be a laundry (If I translated it correctly). Could this be the same view that Poppa and his friends saw when they stopped for lunch in Tartas?

Meanwhile, Back Home

According to an article in the February 7th, 1919 edition of the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison) The Wisconsin Curling association “honored one of their members in France when they elected Rodney Jamieson, of Poynette,  president of their association”.

Were they really “honoring” him?  Or was it one of those situations where the committee member who doesn’t show up to the meeting gets stuck with the job?

Poppa (top, left) traveled with this curling team to Duluth,  MN the winter before he enlisted in the army.

Next Week:  Some of our captains just want to go home!

Sources:

“Lourdes.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Nov. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lourdes. Accessed 1 Feb. 2019.

100 Years ago This Week: We expect to give another show.

Background:   WWI has been over for more than 2 months.   15 months previously,  In 1917 my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  After training in Washington D.C. he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday January 26, 1919– Nothing much of interest today.  Went to Matinee at casino in P.M. then to supper at Cafe St. Pierre.  Very good feed and a pleasant but ———— that ————-.

Monday January 27– Have a new job now.  Tom calls me Gasso the detective.  All I must do is keep daily report of all motor equipment as to mileage, tonnage and consumption.

Tuesday January 28 – No entry

Wednesday January 29– My job takes me about one hour per day except Fridays and Saturdays when report must be made out.  Dr. Dean spoke at the Y. tonight telling of his experiences during six months at the front, most of the time with the first division.

Thursday January 30– We expect to give another show.  All are anxious to get up something that will be interesting and will take up our time so it will  not drag for the next month at least. Think we will have something good this time as every one is interested and seem to be willing to help.

Friday January 31– Had another entertainment at the Y. last night.  It came unannounced but was very good. Three French women and an American man.  Woman violinist was exceptional.

Saturday February 1– Went to Bayonne today with Lieut. Cunu (?), Shorty, Casey and his Dodge.  Only had an hour in the town but enjoyed it very much. Hope I can go again sometime when I can stay longer.  Tom went with another car to Lordes so I am all alone tonight.


On January 13, 1919 Poppa returned to his unit at Dax, France after leaving Engineers Training school.  Upon arrival he returned to his old job and was drawing maps, etc.  However,  this week he got a new job keeping track of motorized equipment.  His friend now calls him ‘Gasso the Detective’.  Does this name refer to a character of the time or does it refer to the gas required to use the engines?

During his first year stationed at Dax Poppa often went to dinner in town at the Cheval Blanc (White Horse) restaurant.  However, on January 26th he said they had supper at Cafe St. Pierre which he had not previously mentioned.   There is a currently a ‘Cafe St. Pierre’ in an area known as St. Pierre in Dax.  II don’t now if it is the same restaurant that existed in 1919.  It’s likely in the same vicinity at least as it appears to be named after the area of Dax where it is located.

A screen shot of present day Cafe St. Pierre in Dax.   From Google Earth.

On January 30th Poppa wrote about plans to do ‘another show’.  in early march of the previous year soldiers in his unit had planned and put on a show.  He said at that time that the performers “had a good time if nobody else did”.

On February 1st Poppa and some colleagues went to Bayonne which is a city in France  about 45 miles southwest of Dax where Poppa was stationed.  Bayonne is a port city known for exporting its high-quality salt, hams, and chocolate.  In 1919 Bayonne had a population of about 28,000.  It is on the Adour river downriver from Dax.

The description of this postcard can be translated as Bayonne: ‘The Port of the Ramparts. Chatauneu Barracks.’

Poppa wrote that they drove to Bayonne in a Dodge vehicle.  During WWI The army used modified cars for ambulances.  There were also a variety of armored cars used by the soldiers.  However, it seems more likely that they drove in a Dodge passenger car.

A 1918 Dodge staff car of the type used by the U.S. Army during WWI.

Next Week: Mail from Marion relieved my unnecessary worries.

Sources:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Bayonne.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 Sept. 2017, www.britannica.com/place/Bayonne-France. Accessed 25 Jan. 2019.

100 Years Ago This Week: Back to work

Background:   WWI has been over for more than 2 months.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers. He has been in France since September of 1917.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.    Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday, January 19, 1919– No Entry

Monday January 20– Started work today, making table survey of present narrow gauge track in place at abandoned 1st. Co. operation.  2nd Co. (Det) ? is now at this camp while 1st Co is at Pontex helping to get out the burned timber there that the U.S. has on its hands.

Tuesday January 21– Finished up the outside work this A.M. Started the map this P.M.  Am to go back to my old job, relieving the fellow now at it. Not much to do it appears but I would much prefer more work on an outside job.

Wednesday January 22– The river is again very high, not as high as last spring but it may reach that point soon.  Gave us shorter hours today – eight hours is now the official times of labor.

Thursday January 23– About 40 M.P.s are now located here.  They are to be stationed here permanently, at present eat with us but will later have their own mess.  Y.M.C.A. concert tonight at Y.  Two girls with Red who has been here several times before. One girl sings very well, The other a dancer who makes one think himself at a cabaret show somewhere. Had a little dance afterwards.

Friday January 24– More mail today.  Did not expect any so soon so this was a pleasant surprise. 

Saturday January 25– Not a thing to do all day.  Spent all my time in office writing letters, reading, etc.  Will probably have several of these kind of day.


On January 20, 1919 Poppa started writing in a new pocket diary.  The title on the front is “Agenda” and it is printed in French, suggesting that, unlike the journals he used for 1917 and 1918,  he acquired this journal in France.

Poppa’s Journals. For some reason he used one labeled ‘1913’ for the year 1917, and one printed in France for 1919.

Peace Conference

The Paris Peace Conference started on January 18, 1919 in Versaille, France.  It was held to negotiate peace treaties which ended WWI.

The Burned Area

After leaving Engineers Training School Poppa has re-joined his unit in Dax, France.  Throughout France the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) was beginning the massive logistical effort of returning its soldiers to America.  Camps were closed or consolidated and soldiers moved to new temporary locations until they could be sent home.   As a result Poppa’s camp in Dax is now home to the M.P.s (military police ?) and the 2nd Company.  Poppa wrote that the 1st Co, which was the original unit in this camp, has been sent to the ‘burned area’ in Pontenx (often misspelled Pontex) to help with clean up.

The burned area refers to  the remains of a forest fire that occurred in early September, 1918. The fire was intentionally started  by local residents who were unhappy with the sale of the forest to the Canadian and U.S. militaries.    The fires they started would eventually burn 30,000 acres and 180,000 trees as well as three camps set up by the Canadian armed forces and some small French villages.  Local residents, Canadian soldiers and American military personnel worked to extinguish the fire.  Despite their best efforts the fire continued until it reached the shore of Gastes-Parentis Lake were it burned itself out.  (per Michel Boquet)

Some of the burned timber could still be salvaged and used if milled soon.  However,  if left untouched, by the spring it would no longer have value.  So the French Government asked for the American and Canadian forces to help clean the burn area before they returned to North America.

This picture, from U.S. Government Archives is labelled “American Sawmill in Potenx April 1918.

New railroad tracks were run to the burned area, new barracks, headquarters and ‘Y’ huts were built.  Several of the lumber mills that had been set up around France were moved to the burned area and used in the salvage operation which continued through the winter of 1918-19.  At one point it became the largest lumber mill in Europe and produced more than half a million board feet of lumber per day.

Therefore, with their services no longer needed for the war effort,  the soldiers of Poppa’s unit were sent to the burn area.  Poppa, as part of the Company A headquarters staff remained in Dax, for the time being.

The Y.M.C.A

On January 23rd Poppa attended a concert at the YMCA.  “Two Girls with Red” performed.

Supply House and YMCA 1st Co. Mees

When the U.S. declared war in 1917 the military was inexperienced with meeting the needs of a large army.  The Red Cross provided nurses and ambulances and the YMCA stepped in to meet the social and emotional needs.  YMCA huts manned by volunteers were put up all over France.

YMCA ‘Huts’ sprung up all aver France during WWI.

Next Week: We Expect to Give Another Show

Sources:

American Lumberman, Chicago . April 5, 1919

Email from Michel Boquet,  10 December 2018

100 Years Ago This Week: I didn’t know I had so many French friends!

Background:   WWI has been over for 2 months.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  On November 7, 1918 he traveled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday January 12, 1919– Arrived in Lyon at 8:00 AM but R.T.O. & M.P. would not allow us to stay over one day.  Left for Bordeaux at 11:00 AM. Train’s crowded, no sleep last night. Pretty scenery around Lyons as train travels along Rhone River.  Record- Oct 10 letter reached me as I left engrs camp yesterday.  Note -we’re much surprised to get our certificates yesterday as we left school three weeks before close.  Could not go to Paris as it is closed to A.E.F. at present. Couldn’t make my purchase I had planned so much on making in either Paris or Lyon

Monday January 13– Rode all night on crowded train but had seat.  Arrived in Dax at 10:30. Heard that order just came to the effect (?) that 20th will stay over about three months on road repair work.  Everyone disappointed. I am glad to get back to the old bunch.

Tuesday January 14– Tom and I are living in a little tent by ourselves.  He arrived about a week in advance of me. I didn’t know I had so many French friends until I got back here.

Wednesday January 15– This is the day we were supposed to start for home. I am glad to be here however and  the time will be spent in a good camp at least.

January 16 17-18, 19– Heard the Hanger was reported missing.  Doing nothing but resting, writing, and reading.  Five officers in the Hospital —— (9).


On Saturday January 11th, while in engineers training school near Langres, France,  Poppa was ordered to re-join his unit in Dax.  By the end of the day he had left the training school in Langes and traveled to Dijon.  From there he took a train to Lyon, France.

Lyon was formed in ancient times at the spot where the Rhone and Saone rivers meet.  Lyon is the country’s third largest city and currently has a population of about half a million.

Saone River in Lyon, France

From his journal entry it appears that Poppa wanted to see the sights of Lyon “but R.T.O. & M.P. would not allow us to stay over one day.” R.T.O.  may refer refer to railway transport officer?  M.P. could stand for ‘Military Police’?   From Lyon trains took him to Bordeaux and then back to his unit based in Dax.

Poppa said that he could not make the purchase that he planned.  He couldn’t make the ‘purchase’ in Paris as he had hoped because that city was closed to Members of the American Expeditionary Forces (U.S. Soldiers).  Apparently, for at least a time after the end of the war soldiers were not allowed to go to Paris on leave.

He has not yet specified what he plans to purchase but I believe that he wants to buy an engagement ring for Marion Clarkson Brown.

In previous journal entries he had mentioned a fellow soldier named Hanger.  What does Poppa mean when he says that “Hanger was reported missing”?

Meanwhile, back in America

On January 16th,  1919 the 36th and final state approved prohibition making it possible to ratify the 18th amendment to the constitution.  That meant that prohibition would go into effect in one year (January 17th, 1920).  Local governments could choose to implement prohibition earlier.  Poppa had been in training camp in Washington D.C. on  November 1st, 1917 when prohibition was implemented there.

Next week: Back to Work

Sources:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Lyon.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 July 2018, www.britannica.com/place/Lyon-France. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019.

100 Years ago This Week: Leaving Langres

Background:   WWI has been over for almost 2 months.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  On November 7, 1918 he traveled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Engineers Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday January 5, 1919– (No entry)

Monday January 6– (No entry)

Tuesday January 7– Having much doughboy this week.  Today it is rumored that 1bn 20th men are going back to their COs who are leaving for the U.S.A.

Wednesday January 8– Today at 3 P.M. the battalion was paraded  in honor of ex-pres Roosevelt whose funeral is today.   

Thursday January 9 (No entry)

Friday January 10 (No entry)

Saturday January 11– Called out of first formation this A.M. Told to pack up and leave in one hour for Langres.  Left L- at 4:00 P.M. Stayed in Dijon (?) until 3 A.M.


Note:  Poppa made entries in his diary for almost every day since he enlisted in 1917.  He was very consistent.  However, during the week of January 5, 1918 he did not write anything for 4 of the seven days.  It was the fewest entries of any week to this point.  Is it possible that his dislike for his current situation took away his motivation to write in his journal?

Modern View of Langres France

Poppa had been in training at the Army’s Engineers school near Langres, France for several weeks.  Almost since arriving there were rumors that the training school was closing.  Some of the other soldiers in training had already left to return to their units and then, presumably, were to be sent home.  This week Poppa’s turn finally arrived.  On the morning of Saturday, January 11th he was told to prepare to leave in order to return to his unit in Dax, France.  By 4 p.m. he was leaving and he “Stayed in Dijon (?) until 3 A.M.”  

It’s sometimes difficult to decipher Poppa’s writing.  Here is his a picture of his entry for January 11.

Poppa’s journal entry for January 11, 1919. Where do you think he “stayed until 3 AM”?

At first I thought he wrote that he stayed in “wagon” until 3 a.m.  However, after studying the map I realized that there is a community of Dijon, France about 50 miles south of Langres.  Dijon, the birthplace of dijon mustard, was used as a headquarters by the American forces during WWI and was a hub for railway transportation .  I think that it’s possible he stayed in “Dijon” until 3 am when he presumably caught another train to continue on his trip.

Loading rations on a train in Dijon, France during WWI

Four days before he left the training school in Langres, on Wednesday January 8, Poppa wrote-  “at 3 P.M. the battalion was paraded  in honor of ex-pres Roosevelt whose funeral is today.”   

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt died on January 6th, 1919.  He had served as president of the United States from 1901-1909.

President T. Roosevelt

Next Week:  I didn’t know I had so many French friends!

Sources:

AEF IN DIJON.” The American Expeditionary Force in and around Dijon, 8 Apr. 2017, aefdijon.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/first-blog-post/. Accessed 5 Jan. 2019.

“Theodore Roosevelt.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Dec. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt. Accessed 5 Jan. 2019.

 

100 Years ago this Week: Could Anything be Much Worse?

 Background:  It is the end of 1918 and WWI has been over for almost 2 months.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France. On November 7, 1918 he traveled to Langres France and enrolled in Engineers Candidate School .   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday December 29, 1918– Another rainy day.  Spent the day reading, writing and cleaning up.  A Co. making hot cakes on their stove this P.M. A year ago tonight was a big party “somewhere in Dax”

Monday December 30– This bridging is a s—— o—– g——.  The 1st BN is going out today, lucky fellows.  Several of the 3rd Bn go out Wed. Eleven from BN makes fully 20 we have lost since class began.   

Tuesday December 31– Spent New Years eve very quietly.  Went to movies at Fort and then to bed. Some of the wilder ones came in at 12 and awakened all with rifle and revolver shots.  

Wednesday January 1, 1919– Went to Langres today spent day just “looking round” the city.  Came back to camp this P.M.

Thursday January 2– At the D—— water potgram (?).  Moved in to another barracks. Could anything be much worse.

Friday January 3– (no entry)

Saturday January 4– Finished bridging this A.M.  In the P.M. a fellow was decorated with the D.S.C. at a formal service


Is the end near for Engineers Training School?

Although Poppa is training to be an officer at the Engineers Training School he is more interested in leaving France and the army and returning home.  Rumors say that the school will be closing soon.  He has written in the last few weeks that small groups and individual soldiers are  returning to their units to be sent home.  He appears hopeful when he writes of others leaving but depressed that, so far, he has not been chosen to go.

On December 30, 1918 Poppa wrote, referring to one of the classes he was taking in training,  that “This bridging is a s—— o—– g——.  ”  Does s–o-g refer to “son of a gun” which does not seem to be very strong language for a soldier?   Or does it reference something stronger? 

On New Years Eve, 1918 Poppa went to the movies.  He did not mention what movie he saw.  The top grossing movie of 1918 was the silent film “Mickey” which cost $250,000 to produce, was released in August, and eventually grossed $8,000,000.

A poster advertising the 1918 silent film “Mickey”

January 4, 1919– The distinguished service cross is a military award established in January of 1918 by President Woodrow Wilson.  The DSC is presented to an individual in the army who, at great risk to themselves, performs an act of heroism against the enemy.  There were 6,185 recipients during the World War I era.

A picture of soldiers receiving the Distinguished Service Cross in December 1918.

The DSC is still awarded over one hundred years after being established so when Poppa observed a “fellow decorated” with it in December of 1918 the award had existed for less than a year.

The Distinguished Service Cross

 

 

Next Week:  Leaving Langres

Sources:

“Mickey (1918 Film).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_(1918_film). Accessed 28 Dec. 2018.

“Distinguished Service Cross (United States).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Dec. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinguished_Service_Cross_(United_States). Accessed 28 Dec. 2018.

 

100 Years Ago This Week: President Wilson Reviews the Troops on Christmas Day

 Background:  It is December of 1918 and WWI has been over for more than a month.   John Rodney Jamieson, my grandfather, who we later called ‘Poppa’,   had joined the U.S. Army’s 20th Engineers and was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  On November 7, 1918 he traveled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday December 22, 1918– Was going to Langres but due to rain decided to stay in camp.  

Monday December 23– Weather still quite warm but wet and very muddy.  I am company C.O. tomorrow -Christmas day.

Tuesday December 24– Some of the boys gave a Minstrel show at the Fort Y.M. hut on Christmas eve.  Loud, witty and truly expressed some of our thoughts and emotions about this place.  

Wednesday December 25– Went to see the President review troops about two miles from here.  Saw Pres and Mrs Wilson, Gen Pershing, Col House and others of the party.  Rest of the day around barracks reading and writing.

 Thursday December 26– We have been given all afternoons off between Christmas and New Years.  Have inspection at 1:00 and then nothing more.

Friday December 27– Had camouflage xam this morning.

Saturday December 28– Started bridging course today.  Awful walk down to the place. Glad the course is only one week in length.


President Wilson’s trip to Europe

President Wilson and General John Pershing reviewed the troops in France on Christmas day 1918.

Wednesday December 25– “Went to see the President review troops about two miles from here.  Saw Pres and Mrs Wilson, Gen Pershing, Col House and others of the party. ” 

President Woodrow Wilson became the first American president to travel to Europe while in office.  He wanted to participate in the peace conference scheduled for January, 1919 so he left America aboard the S.S. George Washington on December 4th, 1918  and arrived in Paris on December 16th.  On Christmas day he reviewed the troops in Humes France which is about equidistant between Langres and Rolampont, the two communities where Poppa was located during his training.  You can see a fairly high quality video (No audio) of President Wilson and General Pershing reviewing and addressing the troops and locals in this video on Youtube.

Presumably Poppa is in the crowd watching the ceremonies although I couldn’t pick him out in the video.

This is the second time that Poppa was near the president since joining the army.  On October 28th, 1917 while in training near Washington D.C. he wrote “Visited Washington today.  Saw National Museum, Potomac River and nearly run over by Pres Car.”

If you watch the video of the president you will see many dogs running around the soldiers.  Maybe they were strays or animals “adopted” by the various soldiers.  It is humorous to see that one dog, oblivious to the ceremony, was digging a hole just a few feet in front of the President while he spoke on the reviewing stand.

 

Next Week: Could Anything be Much Worse?