«Working on a Federal Councillor’s car»

Theo Mutter (born in 1951) looks back fondly on his time as an apprentice at Automontage Schinznach. He talks of excellent camaraderie both at the workplace and on group skiing holidays.
Theo Mutter

Theo Mutter can remember well...

Mr Mutter, between 1966 and 1970, you worked as an apprentice panel beater at Automontage Schinznach. What memories do you have of your time there?

Theo Mutter: I had a wonderful time, and the company was great. We had exceptional teachers, both professionally and personally, and our training extended beyond the compulsory programme. For example, I also learned how to weld. I found my time in the workshop and in the body shop really interesting. I got out of painting because I spent an extra month in the workshop instead. Our three teachers were strict – by today’s standards anyway – but always fair and respectful. I had already started my apprenticeship at another company and then came across to Automontage Schinznach during the first year. This was known as continued training and the canton had to give its approval for me to be able to do it.

What did an average day look like?

We worked Monday to Friday from 7am to 5pm. We had to recondition seven cars per day. I was able to catch the company bus to travel between the training centre and Kleindöttingen, where I was living at the time, which was very practical.

Is there one special event that you remember in particular?

Yes. Once, I was allowed to help work on a Federal Councillor’s car. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which Federal Councillor the car was for. But it was a Plymouth Valiant with no optional equipment. We made a special effort with that car.

Were there any other special memories?

In the second year of training, all 16 apprentices from my course went on a skiing holiday to Oberiberg which was paid for by the company. It was only the equipment that we had to pay for ourselves. Both our teacher and our director came with us and became our ski instructors. It was on this holiday that I learned how to ski, and I became a regular skier right up until 2021.

What was your overall opinion of the training you received?

Very good. All my peers from the course received a good grade in their apprenticeship. Automontage was well-known for helping apprentices do well. We learned how to work quickly but accurately. And I learned what “leading through target setting” really meant. Once, when I was working in Birrfeld during the third year of my training, I missed my daily target and so I had to work later in the evening after everyone else had already gone home. I never forgot that.

On the flip side, was good work rewarded?

I remember that, in theory, you could earn double the standard apprentice wage if you got good grades from the vocational school and from the training company. Automontage Schinznach AG (ASAG) opened a savings account for every apprentice with Volksbank which we received access to upon completing our training. This meant that I received a nice little chunk of money that I managed to hold onto for quite a while. I also received a Goldvreneli coin, which I still have to this day, because I didn’t have any absences due to accidents or illness.

What did you go on to do after your apprenticeship?

First of all, I worked for nine months at a garage in Kleindöttingen as a panel beater and then enrolled at the military recruit school. I then found a position in Neuenhof where I stayed for around one year until I started non-commissioned officer school. After serving my time, I enrolled directly in the military school for sergeants. Then, I went to work for another year in a body repair shop before closing this chapter of my life and, in 1973, I attended military instructor school and finally became an Army Adjutant (Engineering Corps). Over the years, I have worked as an instructor at military schools for recruits, non-commissioned officers, sergeants and officers at the barracks in Brugg, Bremgarten, Thun and Wangen an der Aare. In Brugg, I came across a former colleague from Automontage Schinznach, Hans Hossle, who was the manager of the shooting range there. Everything seemed to have come full circle.

Do you still have a connection to AMAG today?

Employees and apprentices from back in the day meet up regularly and I also like to go to these meets. And, on top of that, I’ve always driven AMAG cars. At the start it was a VW Beetle, then I moved onto VW Golfs (second and third generation), after that, two VW Passats and now I’m driving the third VW Tiguan.