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“L’Université du Gourguillon” - the dining room of the Alliod home, where English lessons were exchanged for French

At the beginning of March Binkley moved from Château-Thierry to Dijon, where he found a room and began his studies at the university. He doesn’t comment on it, but this move brought him out of the Stanford microcosm of SSU 578 and into an American university crowd big enough to raise a university yell. He was rather embarrassed by the American showing when he described it in a letter to his parents in mid-March:

There was something humorous if not pathetic in the way the three hundred students of Dijon University went about forming themselves into a college. There was to be a sort of public debut in the Municipal Theatre on a Sunday night … and the contribution of the American Student to this official how-di-do was to be a song and yell program.

So they got a guy who had never had a yell, who couldn’t talk English, because he always dropped into Polish when excited and was always excited. This poor fellow had a cold too, so he couldn’t yell above a whisper; and as for singing, you can imagine. We had our practice meetings – they were held after lectures in the morning as soon as our profs had bowed themselves out. – The yells were there in number, the best of them being:

Ooo la la
Kes Ksay ksa
Dijon Dijon
Nouse sommes la.

He learned something from this experience:

I will be able to look on American colleges with a little more broad-mindedness after knowing Lyon, Dijon, and a little of the Sorbonne. Our sweater and letter men may rave, but it is possible to have a university without athletics. France has done it. (Doc. 7: RCB to his parents, 1919-03-15.)

After only a week of lectures at Dijon he was transferred by the Army to the University of Lyon, for some unknown reason. There he moved into the Grand Séminaire, which had been converted into barracks for the Americans. He divided time between Beaux Arts and Lettres: he drew in the mornings and heard lectures in history in the afternoons.

His time in Lyon brought him an important new friendship with the Alliod family. Claude and Marthe Alliod (brother and sister), Claude’s daughter Jeannette, and their friends and relations kept in touch with Bob and later with Frances into the 1950s. Bob and Frances visited them on their way to Rome in 1929. In 1919 the Alliods’ home at Montée du Gourguillon 43 gave Bob and his SSU 578 friend Dale Van Every a refuge from barracks life, an opportunity to improve their French, and an introduction to French family life and bourgeois culture. It was in the Alliod home that Bob’s attitudes toward drinking turned decisively away from his teetotalist roots, as he learned that wine with dinner did not necessarily lead to drunkenness. He and Van Every tutored Jeannette in English, and in exchange received coaching in French from the family and, in after-dinner conversations, an introduction to French politics from Claude. They called this arrangement l’Université du Gourguillon.

Bob also took full advantage of the opportunity to frequent the upper balconies of the Lyon opera. His score in March was fourteen performances (counting one ballet) in eighteen days:

  • Cavalleria rusticana
  • Pagliacci (twice)
  • Le Spectre de la rose (ballet)
  • “Comedy of Serbian officer” (?)
  • Carmen (twice)
  • Werther
  • Rigoletto
  • Tosca
  • Il Trovatore (twice)
  • Faust
  • Lakmé

This brought his total for the year to 16.

Diary: March, 1919

  • Leave for school -- meet Capt Berl in Paris. Learn that he recommended a citation for me. He gets request for a transfer to Lyon. Get train to Dijon at 9:00


    Eugene Ennals Berl commanded SSU 578 after it arrived in France. He was a Princeton graduate. He remained RCB’s friend after the war. Berl became a lawyer and a kingpin in the Democratic machine in Delaware. In the S

  • Commandant at Dijon does not turn up, so I wander around town, finally ending up at the Y.M.C.A. dun [?] Play game of chess.

  • Get my case to adjutant, who frowns upon it. / French -- 6 -- Faculty de Letters. / Lund -- F. des Lettres. / Other days -- Susteme oecologique / First class Jeudi, 18h

  • Read Cyrano de Bergerac, and like it very well. Roam town looking for a room. Find one

  • I move into my room First lecture in morning by Bondurant

  • Classes in Vocabulary and geography. French in evening.

  • Read Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme at public library. Mme Loriot tells my fortune at night.

  • Buy the "Cid" -- Conelle -- read some of it. Also buy Books for French class.

  • Finish the Cid -- Wait around expecting Mme Loriot's female friend to turn up, but she doesn't do it. Mme Loriot tells me of her legal troubles.

  • Make arrangements to go to Lefere [?] -- Start Card efficiency system -- read French Literature


    “Efficiency systems” are frequently mentioned in newspapers of the time, refering either to Taylorian structuring of work and reward, or to bookkeeping systems. A “card efficiency system” does not seem to have been a distinct concept. Whatever Binkley meant by it, he was drawing the idea from the business world rather than the academy.

  • Got first lesson in High School -- Roman History, about Conquest of Gaul.

  • Orders to go to Lyon -- I have tearful farewell at Mme Loriot, and then go at 6:00 Sleep at Y. at Lyon

  • Find that we are to live in Barracks. Van, Evans & May are here. We go to Opera -- Cavalièria Rusticana - Paillaisse -- Le Spectre de la Rose -- Gabry was good -- and so was Comedy of Serbian officer. Get baggage in afternoon -- drank glass beer.


    American soldiers in Lyon were housed in the Grand Séminaire.

    Daniel W. Evans, member of SSU 578; William J. May of SSU 578, one of the non-Stanford men.

    Did he normally drink so little that a glass of beer was worth mentioning?

  • Look up programs -- Hear lieutenant-commandant tell of his plans. Figure out my courses -- am planning to take plenty of everything

  • At \art/ school make arrangements to take Charcoal Drawing See Cavaleria-Rusticana and Paillaise at night See Carmen, sitting in 4th Galerie, after long wait in line -- fellow jumps queue, & I protest

  • Took walk with M. Alliod -- see Werther at night -- Sit above two or three girls who take pleasure in instructing Van & me


    The first mention of the Alliod family, who be his fast friends in Lyon. Bob and Frances visited them in 1929 on their way to Rome, and Frances continued to correspond with them into the 1950s.

  • Go to art school, Attend meeting of debate class and History class -- spend evening with our hosts

  • Art School all day -- two lectures -- Rigoletto at night -- very good -- I sit beside some family with which I saw Carmen

  • Draw Greek boxer in Art Class -- Attend meeting of Pub. Spkg Class, which fizzles out. We elect our representatives on student council in rough \slow/ meeting. Our good old M. Alliod tells some good ones at night.

  • Spend all day in Beaux Arts, and go to La Tosca at night -- not many people with us. Enlisted mens meeting results in hard feelings. Many rumours. Some say that officers may move back to barracks

  • Finish capital of column and Greek boxer -- good lecture on Anatomy in morning -- Contemporary History in afternoon.

  • Ben Hake is in town -- Go to Il trovatore in evening with Bill May -- sit in Poulot while Hake, Van & Dan sit in 2nd. / Finish my Greek boxer at Beaux Arts.


    Sgt. Benjamin F. Hake of SSU 578.

    Binkley refers several times to “poulot” seating at the Opera; I haven’t found this usage in French dictionaries.

  • Get bath in morning -- sew up a burn in my wraps, thus making them look a bit decent. Go to matinee of Faust, but it is not good. Call on M. Alliod in evening. Hake brings me mail and laundry.

  • At a meeting of students it is announced that 10:00 rule will prevail. Mess will be provided in Seminary. Hake & I call on Alliods, after writing one or two letters. / Hake stakes us to meal at William Tell.

  • Go to Faculte of Letters in afternoon and take course in history. Have decided to visit Beaux Arts only in morning, and to go to Letters every afternoon. Eat at restaurant in evening -- up two flights of stairs. I pay 90 francs on inscription.

  • Got passes then town [?] -- go to debate class -- Dow takes me to a good pension.

  • The tall girl in Art class pursues Van Every & me. I go to lunch at little café near school -- Help Alliod girl with English lesson.


    Binkley and Van Every began to exchange English lessons for French with the Alliod family, an arrangement they called “L’Université du Gourguillon” (after the street where the Alliods lived).

  • Mariezol's class very good -- I post two notices for him. -- get lots of mail -- including a letter from Armand

  • Go to Lackme and Paillasse in evening returning to barracks, draw [?] signs -- Pvt Binkley, report to office -- your cousin is here to see you / Old man in Drawing class fixes the band in my Byzantine Statue. / May & I take tea with Mlle Dumeaux


    Karl Lutz, RCB's cousin, visited him in Lyon.

  • Hear Il Trovatore from Poulot with Karl, and then go to Carmen later in evening

  • Karl goes to drawing class with us. Mlle Duneaux mobs him, of course -- or tries to. We hear lecture at school, then spend evening with Alliods. I see man get throat cut in Foyer


    What??? There is no more information about this incident.