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.
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:
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.
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
March 1, 1919 – General Pershing inspects troops
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”