Lynne's first reaction to going to the Trapp Family Lodge was that she did not even realize the family was still alive. Soon another request came from Karen Sather, that she needed a very good soprano who could play the flute and a cellist who could sing tenor. In the end, 10 or 12 St. Olaf students traveled to Vermont for this first ever, and rather unusual, summer job. Included in this group was Philip Peterson, (Lynne's brother) and high school and college classmate Nancy Waller (daughter of Julius and Phyllis Waller).
The students served three meals a day, sang in a concert every evening, and practiced when they weren't waiting on tables, or hiking, and according to Lynne, "had a fabulous time." The students returned to college that fall and Lynne graduated the following spring in 1968. Now she felt she wanted a big city experience, so she, along with a St. Olaf College girlfriend she had worked with at the Lodge in Vermont, moved to Boston where they got jobs teaching mentally and emotionally challenged children. But they soon somewhat tired of this "big city" environment and found themselves longing for the country. So they began to drive the 200 miles to Stowe on weekends. They soon were serving breakfast and dinner in the dining room of the lodge on Saturday and Sunday and learning to cross-country ski in their free time. It was then that Johannes von Trapp, who was beginning to take over the running of the business from his mother, asked Lynne if she would come back and run the dining room that next summer of 1969, so that the hostess could go back to Germany. That is when Lynne and Johannes began dating. They were married in the fall of 1969 in the little stone chapel which Johannes helped build. (Johannes' brother had vowed that if he would make it home safely after the war he would build a chapel.)
When I interviewed Ms. Von Trapp in August of 1999, I wanted to know what she could tell me about her mother-in-law. Lynne's reply was "She was a wonderful woman. A lot of it came because we truly respected each other; I could do things she couldn't do. For instance, I was very comfortable with horses, and with riding. I would go fox hunting with Johannes, and could jump a horse. Johannes' mother was not a comfortable rider, but she aspired to be, so I took her riding a lot even before Johannes and I were married. And she appreciated that. Another thing was, I was comfortable just being a mother while she struggled with it. She had been an orphan. And then as a grown woman she stepped into his house with seven children, and later she had three of her own. (Yet), she was comfortable with things that scared me to death. Maria could get in front of and speak to 10,000 people, and by doing so, hold them in the palm of her hand. She was that charismatic. That was absolutely something I could never do. Because Maria didn't houseclean or cook, I never worried about inviting her for dinner because anything I did was absolutely fine. If I were in the middle of housecleaning and she happened to stop down, she would step right over the vacuum cleaner and not even notice it. If the children were sick she would drop everything - even if she were writing a book (she had a secretary working for her all day long) she would come down and read all day to Kristina and Sam. She would do this all the time. She was always available. Her life spoke to how she loved children and people. She liked the motherly feeling. Even when I worked at the Lodge as a waitress, she liked us all to call her Mother. Maria was quite a woman. Can you imagine how much determination and belief in what she was doing to have to help bring that family out of Austria? And it was an advantage knowing her as an employer, rather than stepping in as Johannes' fianc. Because I really did know her well. It would have been very intimidating just to be introduced, to get to know my future mother-in-law and in a dating relationship without previously knowing her."
The story of the von Trapp family is an interesting one. How fortunate that books have been written about their life, and that the movie was made which has become a time-honored story people enjoy to this day. According to Lynne, the story that is portrayed in the movie "The Sound of Music," follows the families real story quite closely. There were indeed seven children, as depicted in the movie when Maria married the Captian, although the oldest was actually a boy by the name of Rupert. Rupert, who became a medical doctor and who died in 1992, used to chuckle over this. Another inaccuracy is that the family did not leave Austria right after the Captain and Maria were married. Two children were born to the couple: Rosmarie, born in 1929 and Eleonore born in 1931. Lynne's husband Johannes was the only child born in America, only three months after they arrived in this country in 1939. It was necessary to condense a lot of the history in the movie. Another inaccuracy was that they didn't flee, pretending they were going on a hike in the mountains - they actually took the train. But, in real life, they did keep their departure a secret. According to Ms. Von Trapp, "There were two reasons that they family had to leave Austria: first that the Captain refused to serve in the military for the German Chancellor Hitler (who had overruled the Austrian government), and two that the family was asked to sing for Hitler's birthday, which they refused to do. At that point they knew they had to leave immediately. Consider the courage they must have had to leave, but they knew they were doing the right thing. Also, leaving was a family decision. Each child was asked individually if they were willing to leave their country, and each of the children said 'yes.'"
(Continued next week)