By Frances Harder, June 2, 2016
After four years of family life in sunny Southern California my husband Helmut was offered a new exciting position in the stress department at Boeing in Seattle. After due consideration we decided to go for this new adventure that would be a life and career changer and we hoped a positive opportunity. We packed everything up, got a mover to take our furniture, rented our house out and took to the road with our two small children and Gabi our collie mix all squeezed into our old Buick station wagon. A three day drive with two overnight stays on the way and we arrived in Redmond, Washington where we had rented a house with a plan to look for and buy our second home.
For me the damp weather was the biggest adjustment but having been born and raised in northern England it was like going home! Not really! Unlike most homes at that time in northern England there was good heating and double pane windows to keep us warm and to keep out the bone chilling damp! After an intensive search we found a newly built four bedroom house with a great view of the mountains that also overlooked Redmond. I plunged into getting the basement finishing and the rest of the house decorated, and making it our new home.
We found a great Montessori preschool for Hans, which also introduced us to new friends for both Hans and Erika, and also for us. We settled into enjoying our new lives in the great Northwest with all the beautiful open spaces and vistas. After a few months I began to think about the possibility of teaching work so I contacted Seattle Central Community College that had a fashion department. I was invited to meet with the chair of the department and so a new experience began teaching design, history of costume and draping. It was a very pleasant environment and I enjoyed the new teaching challenges. Most of the classes I had not much experience in teaching, so I had to do lots of preparation and also hours of grading at home after I had put the children to bed. However, it was stimulating and also interesting to learn about the apparel industry in the northwest, which was and still is mostly outerwear and ski apparel. For me this aspect of the industry was a new education and I learned much about the construction and production process for outerwear.
While teaching at Seattle Central I met one very special young student who at the beginning of the quarter confided in me that his father was not happy about his career choice. It was obvious to me that Ken had a talent and a profound passion for fashion. I invited the young man and his father to come and meet me at the college on a Saturday when there were fewer classes so I could explain to this distressed young man’s father the training and career options open to Ken. Well, to cut a long story short. Ken went on to graduate with honors and gained entrance to F.I.T. in NY. After many years we reconnected. Ken Downing is now the PV of Niemen Marcus corporate office in Dallas! He is always center stage at all the major runway shows in Europe and NY and as he put it to me all those years later when we met up in Dallas where I had been invited to present a seminar, “I have a very big job!”. I was very touched that when Ken found out that I would be in Dallas he ordered a beautiful arrangement of flowers to be delivered to my hotel room, with a wonderful touching note of gratitude, for as he put it “changing my life!” Here again is another great example of the power of networking!
We really enjoyed our family living in Seattle and all that wonderful part of the states has to offer for approximately four years. Then Helmut received a call from a job agency to offer him a position back in Munich! We both discussed this new opportunity and what it could offer. We both agreed that while both children where young enough it would not be too much of a disruption for them and an amazing opportunity to experience a different culture and learn a new language. So, the planning, the preparation, the packing and storage began once again!