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.


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!


Thanks to Michel Boquet for finding the “Frolics Program”


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?