100 Years ago This Week: Thirty Cents for a Bath!

Background:  In September 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the United States Army.  He was in the forestry unit of the 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November, 1917 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 Jan 27, 1918– A morning walk, writing letters, attending football game, and a good supper and pleasant evening at White Horse.

Monday Jan 28– This is a city of about 20,000 people.  I think they are getting more cordial to US soldiers.

Tuesday Jan 29Some mail at last.  One letter and book from Marion.  1 letter from Will Mair.  Was mighty glad to get them.

Wednesday Jan 30 – Spent day waiting for gravel in sunshine sitting on stone wall reading and writing very warm in sun

Thursday Jan 31– The last day in this book.  Never before have I spent as warm as January.  If I had been home I might have been playing in the “International” this week.

Friday Feb 1 (New Book)-The new book and new month started well for me the mail bringing a long waited for letter from Tampa and one from Loretta and a package from home.

Saturday Feb 2– Every Saturday (at least) I get a hot water bath at the bath house.  The bains Publick and “Bains Salins” 30 cents.  Plenty of hot water and towels.  


Note:  I have added another page to this blog.  It contains pictures from posts cards that I found with Poppa’s journal.  Although most are not identified they likely show the work of the forestry unit in France during WWI.

I Just found this picture online of Forestry Headquarters in “the only bull ring in France”.  Since Poppa was assigned to a forestry unit headquarters in a bull ring this must be his camp.  It’s interesting to think about how the internet has changed things.  When Poppa died in 1981 there was no internet.  I now have access to pictures and information about his experience in France that he probably didn’t even know existed.

According to the Military Archive this is: Headquarters Forestry Department in the only bull ring in France. Camp Cannondale, Bordeaux, France. Aug. 27, 1918. Thank you to Michel Boquet for finding this picture.
Outside view of Dax bull ring. Taken about the time it was built in 1913.

Sunday, January 27, 1918– Poppa mentioned several times in his journal that he had supper and/or a pleasant evening at the White Horse.

The Cheval Blanc (White Horse) restaurant. Date of picture unknown. Thank you to Michel Boquet for the picture

Thursday, January 31–  With Ancestors from Scotland the Jamiesons have been participating in the sport of curling for many years.   Poppa indicated that if he had been home he might be “playing in the International this week”.  I remember him telling about how he and his curling teammates would ride on the train to distant competitions.  These days curling stones are always provided by the club hosting the event.  However, Poppa curled in a time when curlers brought their own stones to a competition.  Imagine having 2 forty pound stones and a broom in your luggage when traveling on a train!  The Duluth Curling Club has  an event they call the “International Bonspiel”.  This picture was likely taken in January of 1917,  8 months before Poppa joined the U.S. army.

Poppa and his teammates pose for a team picture at the Duluth Northwest Bonspiel in 1917. Thanks to Terry Thompson of the Poynette Area Historical Society and the Poynette Curling Club for this picture.

Friday, February 1–  Poppa indicated that he was starting a new book. He is referring to the fact that he started writing in a new journal.  Prior to this date he made an entry for every day in a pocket size calendar which was intended for use in 1913.  One mystery is why he chose to use this for his 1917 entries.  When I first discovered the journals if was confusing.  What I eventually determined was that he started his journal 3/4 of the way into the 1913 calendar when he enlisted on September 24th, 1917.  On January 1st, 1918 he began making his entries at the beginning of the same book.  These pages were blank since he had only written in the Sept- Dec. section.  On February 1st of 1918 he switched to a new book.  All of his journals seem to be in very good shape considering he lived in tents in France through all types of weather.  I wonder if he mailed home the 1917 journal (labeled 1913 on the cover) when he switched to his new book for 1918?

Poppa’s 1917 and 1918 journals. Why did he use a pocket calendar intended for 1913 for 1917 and the first month of 1918?

Also on February 1st he received a “long waited for letter from Tampa”.  In a previous entry I noted that he had started courting Marion Clarkson Brown, who would become by grandmother.  The Brown family was from St. Louis, Missouri but apparently also had a home in Florida.  In the beginning pages of his new book he has 2 addresses for Marion, one in the St Louis area and one in Tampa Florida.  Here is a Google Maps picture of current day 2207 1/2 Ola Avenue, Tampa Florida.

2207 Ola Avenue, Tampa Florida

Saturday, February 2– Poppa indicated that at least every Saturday he gets a bath.  The Town of Dax, France where he was stationed had been known for it’s hot springs since ancient times.  Apparently Poppa took advantage of this feature of his temporary home.  ‘Bains Publick” translates to public baths.  “Bains Salins” means saline baths.  Apparently he thought a 30 cent bath was a good deal!

Next Week:  A German sub sinks the Tuscania



National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, catalog.archives.gov/search?q=111-SC-23269. Accessed 25 Jan. 2018.

? “Sud-Ouest Généalogie.” Dax – Carte Photo – Restaurant Du Cheval Blanc Et Imprimerie Jean Mauriet, www.so-genealogie.fr/photo-ancienne/40/dax/restaurant-cheval-blanc-et-imprimerie-jean-mauriet/1465.html. Accessed 25 Jan. 2018.

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