Freida Cooper

Person/Corporate type
Freida Cooper arrived in New Plymouth in 1974.

She was a young teacher in England when she and her husband went one evening to visit friends. It was a wintry night and the snow fell, blocking the the roads, and forcing them to spend the night. As they woke in the spare bedroom the next morning, a picture on the wall of a snow-capped mountain drew their attention and they joked about wanting to go there. Their friends had recently been to the mountain and they told of a job going at one of the local schools. The mountain's name was Egmont.

Freida's husband contacted Spotswood College and quickly secured an interview at New Zealand House in London. They offered him the job through the teacher recruitment scheme and found another one for Freida.

They quit their jobs and set off from Heathrow airport on 25 January 1974, Freida's birthday.

It was the middle of summer when the arrived in New Plymouth and the weather was magical.

Some of the biggest differences were in clothes and fashion. Her clothes she brought from London were much more modern than what was available in NZ. Even her furniture seemed much more modern. Fashion was way behind until the 1980s and the development of the oil industry began. Until then even magazines were a whole season out.

Freida turned down the teaching job she was offered. As part of the scheme her husband had to stay in his job for at least three years. There was no day care and they had no family to help look after their kids so after the children were born Frieda sewed a lot of their clothes and learnt to crochet. A lot more clothes were homemade in NZ as opposed to many of Frieda's party clothes in London which were so cheap that you could afford to purchase them for just one party and then put them aside afterwards.

After the children grew Freida went back to teaching and became the Head of the Art Department at Spotswood College. She has no regrets about her choice to move to New Plymouth. She says it appeared backwards when they arrived but it kept changing, and so they stayed. She wanted to experience different cultures and other people and believes that living in another country does change you.


Subject of