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One of the outfits stationed at the Depot.
NEW Jim Lepant has sent us some of his experiences.read below.
He and I have been in contact a few years now.
Our special thanks to Guy Coro for all the nice photos.
Look for him in the Guest book .
The 581st Engineer Company was one of the first to be at the Chinon Depot when it was opened in the early 1950s.
They had came down from Germany and set up camp and lived in "Tent City" until better housing was built. The 581st was an Engineer co,A Field Maintainance Company whose primary mission was repairs to heavy construction equipment. Around 1957 they were placed with Depot Maintance in the all new Combined Maintance Building.There all top echelons of repairs were made.
Jim Lepant sent this interesting story.
Here is a synopsis of my time spent at Chinon.
I arrived at Chinon sometime in late March or early April of 1955. I thought I was going to freeze to death as I wasn't use to the humidity. We were housed in the old prefabs with coal burning stoves to keep us warm. After signing in and being orientated, I was assigned to the 581st Field Maintenance as a mechanic. I worked as a mechanic for 6-8 weeks packing wheel bearings on 30+ drag lines. That got old pretty fast. I was complaining to a friend of mine who was the head of the bus section in the motor pool and he told me to transfer to the motor pool which I did. I drove Jeep for a while, then the Dodge 3/4 ton pickups. We had French civilians that worked as KP's and I would pick up 6 of them in the morning and have them back to base by 5:30. Then I was at loose ends until I had to go pick up 6 more send have them back to camp by 1:00. Then I would take the first group home. At each stop you would be invited in for a glass of wine. At first I was getting pretty happy by the time I got back to camp. At 7:00, I would take the next group home and we repeated the same thing with the wine. Sometimes I wouldn't get back to camp until after midnight and I would have to get up and start all over by 4:00 the next morning. Good thing I was in my prime. Today that would kill me. Eventually I got use to the wine and it didn't bother me so much.
Eventually my friend that was in charge of the buses needed drivers and he talked me into driving school bus. I was petrified at the thought of driving such a huge vehicle, a 29 passenger Ford bus. He handed me the keys and told me to go to the motor pool parking area and practice all day because in the morning I would be making a run. I drove school bus for almost a year and thoroughly enjoyed it. On the weekends I would take off on Friday night and drive to Chattereau to an Air Force base about 100 miles Northeast of Chinon, and pick up the high school kids of the Post personnel and bring them home, then on Sunday evening take them back. Had a lot of fun with them. Chinon did not have high school facilities at the time. The pass bus drivers, driving the big 40 passenger Faegols would take time off and the school bus drivers would have to fill in for them. What a rotten situation as the school bus drivers never got a day off. The first time I had to fill in I was petrified at the thought of driving one of the Faegols. It was so big and the roads were so narrow, I thought I would run everybody off the road. I fell in love with driving one of them and eventually begged, cajoled and threatened (ha) my friend to put me on a pass bus. Eventually he did as one of the other drivers rotated to come home. I would drive two days then be off two days. Had it made in the shade as the saying goes. Then it was my turn to have the school bus drivers fill in but I rarely did. We worked year around that way, weekends, holidays, and all. After one weekend, I was the last bus out of Tours and I think all the post personnel waited for the last bus. They came out of the woodwork. I packed them in until there was absolutely no more room. That night was the only night that the MP's decided to check passes. We started unloading and they just kept coming off the bus. Finally one of the Mp's asked me how many I had on. I told him I had no idea. The count ended up 104 on a 40 passenger bus. He said I was slightly overloaded and says I could have been ticketed. I told him I was the last bus out and anybody that wasn't on it was AWOL. He let me go.
I have some wonderful memories of my time at Chinon, especially of the good friends that I made while there, but I was ready to come home.