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: Drilling in Rain and Mud

 Background:  It is mid-December of 1918 and WWI has been over for more than a month.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we called ‘Poppa’, had enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers in 1917.  He sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship and was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  However, 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 15, 1918– A beautiful day, spent all the time cleaning up, writing letters, and being entertained by the stews coming in just before taps.  

Monday December 16– Rain again today.  Drilling in rain and mud.

Tuesday December 17– Mining problem at Fort this a.m. Kraft gets letter from McKeen telling him that unit leaves Jan 1st.  Hope we can get back soon.

Wednesday December 18– Sent a wire today to Major Brooking to find out if 1st BN 20th was going home.  

Thursday December 19– Some of the old October mail that never came showed up today.  Glad to get it. Mining examination today. Not very bad.

Friday December 20– Started camouflage class today.  All afternoon on “Duck Pond” doing doughboy.

Saturday  December 21– Rainy day,  half day of camouflage, inspection and dismissed. Lots of mail. Christmas box came today.

Poppa had the misfortune to be accepted into engineers officers training just as the war was ending.  His soldier buddies back in Dax are preparing to return home but Poppa has no information about when he will be able to leave.   Although he finds some of the training interesting he would prefer go home as soon as possible rather than finish training and receive his commission.

When he wrote on December 15 that he was being “entertained by the stews coming in just before taps”  he likely is referring to the soldiers returning at the last minute after imbibing too much in town.  According to urban dictionary  someone who is “stewed” is under the influence of alcohol.

In the back of Poppa’s  journal there is a pass that authorizes him to leave camp on December 15th.  Although he doesn’t mention it maybe he was one of the “Stews” coming in right before taps.


On December 18th he sent a wire to “Major Brooking to find out if 1st BN 20th was going home“.  He is likely referring to Major Walter D. Brookings.  

Like many of the other officers in the 20th engineers Walter Brookings was involved in the lumber business before joining the army.  In 1899 Brooking’s family owned a logging business in San Bernardino County in the southern part of California.  They used clear cut methods which left the land bare and so, in 1912 when their timber supply dried up,  they moved to Oregon.  They started the Brookings lumber and Townsite Company which bought 30,000 acres of timber in Oregon.  They started the community of Brookings, Oregon to attract workers and built a railway.

Brookings Oregon was started by the Brookings family in 1908 and had a population of 6,300 in 2010.

According to a website maintained by Eldon Gossett the 30 something Walter Brookings was named vice president of the company.  Gossett wrote that Because of Walter’s temper and poor judgment his father put him in charge of the San Fransisco California office which was quite a distance from headquarters and, therefore, out of his hair.

Walter’s uncle was Robert Brookings, a very successful business man who, after retiring, went on to build up Washington University in St. Louis and start the Brookings Institution for Government Research in  Washington D.C.  He was highly regarded and served as a consultant to President WIlson.

This is a picture of Robert Brookings, the influential uncle of Major Walter D. Brookings

When Walter received a notice from the U.S. government in 1917 that he would be drafted into the army he contacted his uncle Robert Brookings and asked him to use his influence to keep him out of the army.  It is apparently a measure of what his uncle thought of him that he refused to intervene.  The army offered Walter a commission as a captain but Walter wanted to enter the army as major.  Again uncle Robert refused to intervene and Walter was inducted into the army as a captain.

Captain Walter Brookings sailed to France in November of 1917 on the same troop ship as Poppa and  was placed in charge of forestry operations in the Dax district in April of 1918.  He was promoted to Major on September 21, 1918.  He was discharged from the army on October 8, 1918.

Later in life Walter moved to Virginia where one of his hobbies was raising Germans Shepherd dogs for the “Seeing Eye” Organization.  He died in 1950 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Next Week: President Wilson Reviews the Troops on Christmas Day


“Quality. Independence. Impact.” Brookings.edu, The Brookings Institution, 7 Dec. 2018, www.brookings.edu/. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018.

“Robert S. Brookings.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Dec. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_S._Brookings. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018.