I'm Jean. I'm 101 years old, still in good shape and here to answer any question you may have regarding this past century!

I was born in a brickyard on July 22, 1917, in a small town located 150 km in the south of Paris, son of a bricklayer and a maid.

My grandson is here with me, translating your questions and typing out my answers for me.

Also, here are the ID Proof and the Reddit sign with username verification and date!

EDIT: It's getting quite late here so we have to go but we will be back tomorrow to take care of all the questions left unanswered today. Thank you so much for your interest, this is so much fun!

EDIT - DAY 2: Thanks everyone for the overwhelming response! We never thought we would get that many questions and reactions. We'll try to get back tomorrow one last time to answer what's left. Good night everyone.

EDIT - DAY3: This was the last day, thank you everyone for asking all these relevant questions! Hope you enjoyed as well. Bye!

Comments: 223 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

malcontented132 karma

What were you doing in WWII?

BornIn1917188 karma

I was in Classe 38, embarked on a battleship called Le Lorraine, in Brest.

And then I was mobilized in the Centre Militaire de la Marine Nationale, in Paris.

kirlandwater22 karma

Legendary. How did WW1 affect your childhood?

BornIn191760 karma

No, I haven't known that war (fortunately), I was only 1 year old.

And at that time people wanted to forget about it.

diegojones4103 karma

What's your favorite memory? The one that always makes you smile.

BornIn1917279 karma

I'd say it was the time when we were living in Moulins in the 50s, a small town in the center of France.

We had lots of lovely friends there, we were often invited for dinner, the town was gorgeous, we've had our second child there, etc...

We owned a nice little hardware store there: house appliances on the right and hardware on the left!

It was probably the best period of time of our lives.

joshkale_101 karma

If you had to choose one piece of advice to give us, what would it be?

BornIn1917302 karma

Don't smoke.

And try to live a healthy life.

UpSiize15 karma

Do you smoke?

BornIn191780 karma

Of course I don't!

SmashGBR99 karma

What is your opinion on modern technology and how fast it's progressing in such a short period of time?

BornIn1917279 karma

I find modern technology is wonderful, just the fact to be able to do what we're doing right now is extraordinary to me. Thinking that all of this is only depending on electricity, a technology we started using in the 20/30's, is also incredible! I'm glad that Humanity is ambitious and still going forward.


Do you guys get anything special in France when you turn 100?

BornIn1917230 karma

We get nothing in France.

We've organized a lovely lunch with the whole family in my garden though!

DrunkWino93 karma

Do you drink wine daily?

BornIn1917191 karma

Yes! Very little but very often :)

madgengar9581 karma

How do current times compare and contrast to the future you envisioned in your youth?

BornIn1917149 karma

I wasn't thinking we were going to evolve that much!

I didn't believe we would get flying cars or teleportation or spaceships, and I also didn't believe we would get that far.

So it's a pleasing evolution, overall!

shankliest61 karma

What was the occupation like? Were you ever under German control? Did the war create any animosity towards Germans/Italians in general?

BornIn1917157 karma

Life was really tough under German occupation, especially food-wise. Everything was rationed with tickets, and if you happened to run out of tickets you couldn't get any more and your only option was to turn to the black market where everything was 3 times the price. But you could buy anything! I had the chance to have a hardware store, so I never ran out of oil or alcohol to burn.

And yes, right after the war, we were really disappointed by the germans, but I think and feel that it's over now and I'm glad our 2 countries can get along together.

layer1160 karma

Comment allez-vous?

BornIn191774 karma

Très bien merci, et vous ?

kutuup198958 karma

At what age would you say you stopped ageing mentally? Essentially, what age do you feel in your mind?

BornIn191758 karma

I would say around 20 years old.

Back in the days, people started working at a very young age, got married at a young age too. And war was another factor too.

shankliest54 karma

What is your favorite food? What is the best dish your mom cooked?

BornIn1917108 karma

I don't have any favourite meal to be honest, I just enjoy well cooked food.

One of my mom's best dishes was the Lapin Chasseur ! We would eat it very often on sundays, especially because we were raising them. I remember I was often sent to pick some grass to feed them.

Also, she cooked a fantastic Pot-au-Feu.

sethwolfson10 karma

can you share any recipes

BornIn191737 karma

Here is a recipe for the Lapin Chasseur.

And here is one for the Pot-au-Feu, which is a classic recipe of french traditional gastronomy.

bingoflaps51 karma

Has outliving friends and family changed how you view death?

BornIn191728 karma

Sorry for the delay, there was more questions than expected!

No, outliving friends and family hasn't changed my perception of death very much.

ISayISayISay45 karma

I've just finished reading Herman Wouk's history/novels of WW2 and it's still haunting me... do you feel the world has forgotten the lessons it should have learnt after that war?

BornIn1917118 karma

No, I think we haven't learned much from that, or that we forget quite easily.

Just looking around right now makes me feel bad for the future generations, with the situation in the Middle-East, the attacks in the US in 2001, in France in 2015, etc...

So yes, I hope people would remember a bit better how it was in 39-45.

RedSun_9844 karma

What is your favorite memory of your parents?

BornIn1917134 karma

One of my favourite memories from that period was during summers.

My mom forced me to work during summers because she didn't want me to waste my time playing/wandering in the streets, so I first was a cow shepherd for 1 or 2 years and then helped the pharmacist as a pharmacy technician.

I had to heat a huge copper cauldron with wood, and then pour big bags of 25kgs of sugar to prepare some simple syrup, which was at the time the basis of a lot of medicines.

When work was over, they used to give me some Cola with a bit of alcohol. I was 14 years old at that time so I was thrilled!

The pharmacist even asked me to stay, unfortunately the salary was too low so I went back to watching cows during summers.

WhoWroteTheNote43 karma

When you were a kid, looking into the future. What did you dream your life would be like?

BornIn1917156 karma

I really can't think of anything to answer that, I've lived my life the way i dreamed it.

If I had to live it again, I'd exactly do the same!

VoltYT72740 karma

Do you have a secret to your long life? Thank you! -Deni

BornIn1917101 karma

No abuse, in anything!

And don't smoke obviously.

holla_at_nala39 karma

Aww you seem really sweet and nice :) What’s one thing you’re really glad you did in your life?

BornIn191760 karma

I've never really been into politics, but I liked Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

"Faites le bon choix !" like he said.

Gildolen37 karma

What's the biggest difference between these times and when you were growing up?

BornIn1917141 karma

All the technology and comfort. At the time we didn't have any heating systems, fridges, cars, tv, etc...

I remember seeing my first car when I was 12 years old, it was the town doctor's car!

StrikeFromOrbit37 karma

Is there a technology we don't yet have, that younger you thought would exist by now?

BornIn191769 karma

As I said to another redditor, I didn't think we would reach that level of technology by 2018.

I guess I was just being realistic!

idio333 karma

How did you take the dismantling of the French colonial empire at the time it was happening, and how do you look at it now, with the benefit of hindsight and time? Were you supportive of the efforts to keep Algeria and other key colonies or not? How, if at all, did your feelings about these events change now?

PS. It might help me understand how I'll be looking at the end of my native "empire" (USSR) when its death won't be as fresh in my mind as it is now.

BornIn191737 karma

I was too young to be really interested by these things at this time, but even if I think french influence might have been beneficial for some of these countries, I'm glad they ended gaining their independence.

shankliest32 karma

How did you meet your wife?

BornIn1917135 karma

In the cradle!

Joke aside, my mother was a maid and she used to take care of her as a baby. So we basically met when I was 1 year old, and she was a few months old.

Growing up we lost sight of each other, but one day in the subway in Paris (at George V station), that one girl came to me and asked:

"Aren't you Jean?"

So we started dating, going to the swimming pool together, and a thing leading to another we got married a few years later.

jrm200730 karma

Who's the oldest person that you recall meeting in your youth? Anyone born before 1830? Also, who's the most famous person you ever saw or met?

BornIn191766 karma

My grandfather Modeste was probably the oldest person i can remember meeting in my youth.

He was born in 1846 and died in 1932. He was a wheelwright and manufactured wheels for horsecars.

He was also a gravedigger. His wife used to help him at that time, but she got stung with a bone and died of tetanus.

usernamesareshorther22 karma

His wife used to help him at that time, but she got stung with a bone and died of tetanus.

This is quite mind blowing, that death can happen on such a trivial accident, now we are all vaccinated against that.

Je vous remercie pour vos réponses, c’est super intéressant de voir à quoi ressembler notre pays à l’époque !

BornIn191741 karma

Yes, I caught an infection in 1941 and I can remember the doctor telling me "I wish we had some of that new penicillin treatment for you but unfortunately we don't have it yet in France.".

Luckily, I made it out of it without needing that medicine!

jrm200713 karma

Thanks. He experienced the Franco-Prussian war among other things. His lifetime roughly coincided with that of Thomas Edison.

BornIn191722 karma

Exactly. He was actually mobilized for that war.

coryrenton28 karma

How has your diet changed from age 11 to age 101?

BornIn191770 karma

When I was young, we only ate what we were cultivating and growing: vegetables from the garden, chickens, rabbits, pigeons... The choice was pretty narrow.

Nowadays, you have plenty of choice, if not too many. It's more varied but less healthy, and I think you can easily make bad choices.

joneSee26 karma

Who are your favorite movie actor and actress?

BornIn191759 karma

Danielle Darrieux & Jean Gabin!

Danielle was my age.

najing_ftw18 karma

Who was the most successful French Prime Minister, in your opinion?

BornIn191734 karma

As I just answered, I wasn't that much into politics but Giscard d'Estaing's government was pretty nice.

Kate-in-Texas17 karma

Bonjour Jean! (écrit du Texas) Je m'appelle Katherine. Merci d'avoir fait ça. J'apprécie beaucoup vos expériences. Ma question concerne l'occupation de la France pendant la seconde guerre mondiale. Nul doute que cela a dû être une période incroyablement effrayante et stressante. Comment vous en êtes vous pris? Que feriez-vous ou votre famille pour ne pas attirer l'attention des Allemands? Je pense également que les gens devaient faire très attention à leurs voisins par crainte de les transformer en police locale. Merci beaucoup. Mon grand-père était l'un des nombreux Américains à débarquer en Normandie. La guerre était très difficile à parler. Si ma question est trop douloureuse pour répondre, je respecte cela. Merci Monsieur.

BornIn191746 karma

Hello Katherine,

Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying this AMA!

Yes, you had to be quite careful as many people were informing the germans believing it would give them protection.

I actually got denounced by an anonymous neighbour because I used to listen to the english radio, and someone thought I was part of the FFI.

I've been jailed 1 month at the Cherche-Midi prison along with 3 other men, in a room on the 1st floor.

Conditions weren't awful but the main risk was to be randomly chosen by the germans to be shot. We could hear other prisoners being taken and being hit with nightsticks.

At that time, FFI members would regularly shoot german officers on the streets or in the subway, and the germans would answer by killing the people they were detaining.

They should have sabotaged railways lines instead, this would have been way more useful!

So yes, we had to remain quite discreet if we wanted to enjoy the things that were forbidden under german occupation.

My regards to your grandfather if he is still among us today.

Bonjour Katherine,

Oui, il fallait être assez prudent car beaucoup de gens s'improvisaient délateurs en pensant que cela les protègerait des allemands.

J'avais été dénoncé par un voisin car j'écoutais la radio anglaise et on m'avait pris pour la FFI. J'avais fait 1 mois dans la prison du Cherche-Midi avec 3 autres personnes, dans une chambre au 1er étage.

Ce n'était pas si terrible concernant les conditions, mais nous étions à la merci d'une fusillade en cas de punition lorsqu'un membre de la FFI tuait un officier allemand dans la rue. Ils auriaient mieux fait de saboter des lignes de chemin de fer, c'était beaucoup plus utile !

Donc oui, nous devions rester discret s'il nous voulions profiter de choses interdites sous l'occupation.

Mes salutations à votre grand-père s'il est toujours parmi nous aujourd'hui.

Iwishiwasanak4714 karma

I don't know if you will read this; But did you got the possibility of owning a car or a bike? How were they? Sorry for my poor english and greetings from south america

BornIn191733 karma

I got my first bike when I obtained my Certificat d'Étude (Study Certificate) at 14 years old.

And then I got my first car in 1946, at the same time I got my driving license! It was a B14G.

TheKeyMcKee13 karma

Two questions:

When you were a child, what games did you play, and which was your favorite?

When did you first begin to work, and what did you do?

BornIn191719 karma

I didn't play much, I prefered to repair stuff like radios, irons and things like that.

I started working during summers when I was 12 to 14 years old. I've been a cow shepherd and a pharmacy technician. Then, once I got my study certificate at 14 years old I started working as an apprentice electrician.

spoopy__pants10 karma

What is your favorite memory from your childhood?

What do you wish your descendants remember most about you?

BornIn191734 karma

I like that memory from when I was watching cows when I was 12 years old:

We were several boys watching cows with the help of dogs. Once, a squabble started in the kitchen and the other boys were throwing their shoes at each other. Shoes that were obviously covered in cow dung.

That evening, the woman/landlady who was hosting us the whole summer was serving the soup.

While filling the second or third bowl, she got one of their dirty shoes out of the cooking pot with her ladle!

We had a good laugh, but the boys still had to eat their soup.

hannah-montagne10 karma

You seem like a kind old soul. One question, do you think this current generation’s children are spoiled by technology?

BornIn191736 karma

No, not at all. You just have to not abuse it and stay reasonable.

tylerschulz4659 karma

Over a century, you have most likely had your fair share of novels and books to read. What is your favorite piece of literature?

BornIn191713 karma

I love all the books covering countryside life and history.

Christian Signol is my favorite writer in this genre.

ResourceOgre8 karma

What have been your personal interests and passions in life?

BornIn191717 karma

I loved DIY and modelism. I've always been very manual.

I still have one boat model to finish on my desk!

somebadmeme8 karma

What do you miss from the past that we seem to have forgotten?

BornIn19176 karma

People seem to have forgotten about civism (civisme in french) and courtesy nowadays.

Not completely, but people were kinder back in the days.

The_Town_of_Canada8 karma

What did your grandparents do for a living?

BornIn191718 karma

My grandfather was a wheelswright and a gravedigger on the sundays and my grandmother was a linen seller.

She actually died helping my grandfather while sorting bones: she got stung with one and died of tetanus.

Hubble-Gum6 karma

How's your day?

BornIn19178 karma

Fine and you?

original_greaser_bob6 karma

If you could go back in time and coup de poing dans le nez who would it be?

BornIn191724 karma

Nobody. I've never been vindictive and I hate violence.

HotLeafJuice16 karma

what's your favorite fromage?

BornIn191717 karma

I really enjoy the Tommes de Savoie.

AggravatingAttitude6 karma

What is your favorite word to say because you like the way it sounds?

BornIn191721 karma

I really don't know, I've never thought about that!

I'd say French language in his whole.

Artemyx6 karma

What do you think about climate change?

BornIn19179 karma

I think we should stop using - or at least limit the use of - toxic fossil fuels to develop and focus more on renewable energies such as wind turbines, solar panels, etc...


Bonjour monsieur ! J'espère qu'il n'est pas trop tard.

M'a question est: Comment étaient les vieux quand vous étiez jeune ? Qu'est qu'ils donnaient comme conseils, etc ?

BornIn19175 karma

It varied from an old person to another. Some weren't really talkative, some others were always talking, giving tips and telling tales from the past.

For example, my grandfather Modeste was always talking about his wheelswright job: how he used to make wheels, the detailed process, the relationship with customers, etc...

I still have a picture of him working, I'll try to post it here.

FRENCH: Ça dépendait des vieux. Certains ne causaient pas trop, et d'autres parlaient tout le temps, donnaient des conseils et racontait des histoires du passé.

Mon grand-père Modeste, par exemple, qui était charron, aimait beaucoup parler de son métier : comment il réalisait les roues, la description détaillées du processus de fabrication, ses relations avec ses clients, etc...

J'ai d'ailleurs encore une photo de lui au travail, j'essaierai de la poster ici.

emergencymed4 karma

What did you do for fun or to keep you entertained growing up?

BornIn191713 karma

I repaired various objects for fun: radios, clocks, irons, etc...

PYTN2 karma

What's your favorite city in France to visit?

BornIn191712 karma


It's a gorgeous town not far from Paris.