Capt. von Trapp died in 1947 at the age of 67, eight years after coming to America. He suffered from lung problems because of his many years as a submarine captain with the Austrian Navy. In those early days, submarines were terribly unhealthy ships to spend much time on and being a smoker exacerbated the disease.
Georg von Trapp joined the naval academy at the age of 14. He was awarded the highest national honor, the Maria Therisian Cross, with the rights and privileges and title of baron. It was only natural that Georg should make a career of the Navy since his father August Johann von Trapp had commanded the SMS "Saida" in the Austrian Navy and had been awarded knighthood by Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This hereditary title was passed to his children, including Georg.
Baron von Trapp married Agatha Whitehead in 1911 and together they had seven children. Agatha died in 1922 from the after-effects of scarlet fever. Before she died, she asked her husband to remarry. The oldest child, Rupert, was 11 and the youngest, Martina, was 18 months old. As the movie portrays, governess Fraulein Freckman provided a reasonable routine to the lives of the children after their mother's death.
Following the armistice of 1918, the Hapsburg emperor was deposed, making Austria a republic - the Versailles Treaty stripping Austria of its seacoast and its navy. After a few years Capt. von Trapp started a shipping trade business in the North Sea. In 1925, the von Trapps settled into a remodeled 22 room house, the Villa Trapp, near Salzburg.
Trapp Family Lodge
At midnight, on the bitterly cold night of Dec. 21, 1980, the Trapp Family Lodge burned to the ground, leaving only the chimneys standing. The Lodge was full of Christmas guests - one of whom was lost in the fire. When guests checked into the lodge, they were shown the fire escape, which included ropes off every balcony. The firefighters had trouble putting out the fire because the joins in the hoses froze. They pumped water from the pond. The man who lost his life was a Vietnam veteran who had gotten his life together after the horrors of the war. He and his wife were actually scheduled to stay in a building across the road from the main lodge, but at the last minute he asked if there was room in the lodge, which he preferred and did stay in. He and his wife were able to escape from the burning main lodge, but for some reason, he went back to get something. "What a typical unfortunate story," recalled Lynne von Trapp. "I also remember Johannes and I waiting the next evening (after not having slept all night or the following day) to meet the family of this man who were flying in from the Midwest. It was so very sad."
Rebuilding the lodge took three years, doubling the room space and with a spacious dining room and a state-of-the-art kitchen. When the building was completed Johannes gave his mother the first tour and showed her her new quarters. Maria was overwhelmed. Johannes is quoted in "The World of the von Trapp Family," by William Anderson, as declaring, "Our lives are like a bit of theater, and we need a final act." The new lodge opened in January of 1984.
Maria died in 1987 at the age of 82 years. Her health had been failing for several years. It was a huge blow to her when the lodge burned in 1980 and she never came back to her old strength after that. Because she lived in the lodge, she lost everything, including a lifetime accumulation of personal papers, family memorabilia and honoraria, that was in it when it burned to the ground. She lived with a friend while the lodge was rebuilt and Johannes built a special suite, just for her, but she was never really comfortable in that suite. She was always an avid walker, but after turning her ankle during her last years, she was unable to walk and became even less active.
Lynne knew when she married Johannes that they would be going into the family business, even though her husband had just graduated from Yale Forestry School with a master's degree. The business was growing tremendously, some because of planning and later to fate (the fire). The couple has had many difficult decisions to make and many challenges. In the meantime, two children were born to the couple. Kristina who is 29 years old and will marry this June, and Sam who is 27. Both are professional ski instructors. Both work in Aspen, Colo., during the winter months. Kristina spent three summers teaching in Australia (which is winter there). At the present, Sam teaches in Portillo, Chile.
According to Lynne, Johannes knew instinctively that it would be best for their own family if they were not involved in the everyday working relationship with the extended family. For another reason, it was necessary to have a large staff to accomplish all the work, so Lynne was never involved running the lodge on a day-to-day basis. And Johannes, who oversaw the business operation, did not wish to come home in the evening to hear about problems with chambermaids, waitresses or whatever.
In the beginning, there was a hired staff of about 60, which included the separate positions of a chef and a pastry chef, and now it has grown to a staff of 180 in the summer and 200 in the winter, when the cross-country skiing starts. The lodge includes 73 guest rooms with an additional 20 rooms across the road, plus 100 time-share units. There is a main dining room, a lounge that serves food, and a tea-room/gift shop that also serves food. Then there are the gardens where there are women who work only with making the fresh flower arrangements.
(Continued next week)