August Kengelbacher (1894-1971)

Born March 2, 1894 in St. Gallen-Bruggen, Switzerland as the second of the four sons Fritz, August, Karl and Emil of the parents Fritz Kengelbacher-Müller, St. Gallen-Bruggen.

Education: 6 years primary school, 2 years secondary school in St. Gallen
Occupational training: 3 years apprenticeship as mechanical engineer in Arbon, followed by 3 years each as a fitter for trucks and embroidery machines. From 1914 until 1917 engaged as a knitting machine fitter at Edouard Dubied & Co. Couvet. By this firm educated to a fully qualified knitting machine fitter for overseas machine commissionings and customer demonstrations.

Dubied engaged me in November 1917 for the the first three years to China and Japan. The sailing was on November 18 from Marseille with the French passenger ship "Portos", a very pretty 22,000 ton steamer. Due to the acute danger of submarines, we travelled on frauded and often zigzag course first to Algiers, along the African coast, then across the Mediterranian nearly to Greece and then directly to Port Said, cruising without any position lights at night. We reached Port Said after 9 instead after 3 days, thanks God without any incident. It was an eerie crossing over the normally peacefull Mediterranian. Already after 6 hours we sailed again through the Suez channel, three days through the Red Sea and into the coastless Indian Ocean. We crossed it inside 7 days, peacefull, calm, just normal without the fear of submarines. In Colombo the ship stopped for 12 hours to get new supplies of coal and fresh water and soon we sailed again in direction Singapore, Saigon, Hongkong to my final destination Shanghai, which we reached 28 days after we left Marseille.

Shanghai / Japan: In Shanghai I started immediately to get to know the English language. Thanks to my knowledge of German and French the English language was no big problem for me. I did not undertake any effort of learning Chinese due to the very complicated languages of the Chinese population and my aversion for a permanent employment in China. After two years my engagement in Shanghai was finished and I did not regret it at all.

There was more work for me in Japan and I had to move to Tokyo. Here I had the possibility of learning the Japanese informal speech. This was worth while because Japan only knows very few unimportant differences in its language. This in comparison to China where more than 300 dialects are spoken. While China did not make me very enthusiastic, I liked it in Japan very much, however I could easily have done without the many earthquakes.
Slowly I could start to think for my first return to Europe. A new knitting machine fitter from Couvet had to take my place and in May 1921 it was time to leave. Although I loved Japan I looked forward to get back home after my contract was over.
Return: For a change I had choosen the route over Hawai - San Francisco, that means 14 days per ship. With the train accross America from San Francisco over Chicago to New York in 5 days. Afterwards with the Italian steamer "Conte Verdi" from New York over Gibraltar, Napels to Genua in 7 days. From Genua, due to a strike of the railways, by bus to Milano and Chiasso. In the express train Chiasso - Lugano - Lucerne to Zurich I met Father H. Hutter, to me the well known chaplain from St. Gallen - Bruggen. In Zürich my parents and also my brothers Fritz, Karl and Emil met me whole heartly. Only now I really felt myself on native soil. It was my intention to stay in Europe, but it should come the other way.

After a few weeks holidays I had to think of my future. The working climate in Switzerland looked very sad due to the economy crisis in Europe. With every passing day it came more clear to me that I didnít fit any more into Europe. Father and also my three brothers where partly jobless and there was by far no promising future around. My three brothers where ready to emigrate from Switzerland. The financing of the travelling costs were no problem for me.

Karl decided to go to Shanghai, Emil to New York and Fritz, one year later also to Shanghai. It was quite an easy decision for me to seek my luck once more in Asia. There were plenty of good working and earning possibilities available. And so it came that I commited myself again for Japan, however, not any more as a knitting machine fitter but as a representative for various Swiss companies including Dubied, Saurer and Bühler. It became very quiet for father and mother in the Distelistreet, especialy when I started my trip as the last one of their sons in November 1921.

1921-1946: 1931 a long planed holidays could finally take place. This time I took the return trip by train via Korea - China - Russia - Poland and Germany. The trip from Tokyo to Berlin lasted exactly 14 days! During these holidays in Switzerland I commited myself to work in future nearly exclusively for the company Saurer in Arbon. Despite the very hard competition some embroydery machines, trucks, buses, machine tools and diesel engines could be sold. For the little town of Arbon this was a very welcome occupation. As an absolute crowning of my East Asia time was the deal of a licence contract with Japan for the manufacturing of the Saurer diesel engines in 1936 with a value of 1 million Swiss Francs in cash. With three Japanese engineers I travelled 1937 back to Switzerland, again via Moskau and Berlin. During several months, the Japanese had to study the diesel engine and its manufacturing methods.
After my holidays in 1937/38 the possibilities for making business in Japan had become very bad. Japan had changed to rearmament for the war. Imported were only goods which served this purpose and which were absolutely necessary and permitted by the government. This reduced my actions very much. With the outbreaking of the war between Japan and the United States in December 1941, future business possibilities were impossible. But immediatly I found employment in the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo. Besides internal jobs I also was responsible for the car fleet and three times I was sent as a diplomatic courrier to Shanghai - Hongkong - Canton and Bangkok. This after a married courrier vanished without any trace!
After the war it was understandable that I was longing to get back home to Switzerland. On a British freight ship I was able to reach the English port Portsmouth over Singapore - Bombay and Gibraltar. Finally I got home via London - Paris and Basel.

At the end of May I was home and as it appeared later on, to stay for ever. In 1947 I married Miss Berthy Wild, who today is still my dear wife. Thanks God I never had to regret this step.

It was impossible for me to return to any sort of employment after so many years of independency overseas. First I took the agency of a mineral oil company for the cantons St. Gallen, Graubünden and Appenzell which I keep doing until today. But there were limits in this business and I started, after having passed the necessary tests, as a side job, a small driving school. The future for driving schools were excellent so I didnít had to wait long for the success. Unfortunately, with 60 years a left-side paralysis slowly got stronger and my walking ability became less and less. In mid September 1967 I faced a stroke of my left bodyside from which I recovered fairly well after a few days. But it was a warning and convinced me to stop working completely as soon as possible. At the end of October I could finish my professional engagements and went into retirement.

This should complete the main points of my curriculum vitae. In all these years I was noticable accompanied with lots of luck and I owe special thanks to my guardian angel which steered me harmless on ground, sea and air through many fearfull storms, waterdisasters, earthquakes and wars.