Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today




Caucasian couple looking at a laptop computer together


Virgo - AARP Horoscope

Look at what your future holds if your birthday is between August 23 & September 22


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More

Most Popular


The Author Speaks

The Hills Are Alive!

Interview with Agathe von Trapp, author of "Memories Before and After 'The Sound of Music'"

Hills Alive

A von Trapp family rehearsal in 1946.

Q. You write that whenever your family hit a difficult patch, God helped. Was there a reason why God took such good care of you?

A. Nobody's ever asked me that before, but it is true. We dedicated our family to the Lord before we even thought of giving concerts, and from then on everything just went [well].

Q. You saw so many horrible things during the Holocaust. Evil things that people did to one another.

A. Terrible. We were all appalled when we heard this was happening, but there was nothing we could do about it.

Q. Did it shake your faith in God?

A. [laughs] God had nothing to do with it! There were very bad people doing these things, not God. So our faith was just the same.

Q. Why did you write the book?

A. I wrote it for the younger generation. Everybody was so busy doing their living that nobody thought to tell the children their family's history. They didn't even know why their parents spoke two languages!

Once I was visiting my sister-in-law, and her son Martin was there. He asked me a few questions, and I started to talk about it. He said, you know, you should write that down. (Because he didn't have the time to listen!) From then on, I had the idea of writing a genealogy for my nephews and nieces.

Q. If somebody reading your book is inspired to do something similar, do you have any advice?

A. They should just start talking with someone else, to see what parts of their own story are the most interesting. And they should write down everything they can remember about their past.

Q. You started writing this book when you were in your 80s! How much research were you able to do?

A. I went to Germany and the town in Austria where my ancestors lived. The mayor there lent me an air-conditioned car and two people to take me anywhere I wanted to go.

Q. Did you discover any surprises?

A. I discovered that my grandfather came back from Germany to Austria because he wanted to go into the military, and they didn't have one in Germany at that time. He went into the navy, and became commander of a big ship. They came into a big storm. My grandfather landed the ship on a sandbank and saved every single person on the ship. He got a big award from the kaiser — we got a beautiful crest, and the addition of "von" in our name, because we were elevated to royalty.

Q. If you could do it all over again, would you have chosen a different career?

A. I would not have wanted to do anything else. That was my life. We sang so well together. It was just a wonderful feeling.

Christie Findlay lives in Virginia.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

AARP Bookstore

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Cirque Du Soleil

Members save 15-30% on tickets to live Cirque du Soleil shows.

Regal Movies Popcorn and Soda, Member Benefits

Members can save $3 on any size popcorn and soft drink combo at Regal Cinemas.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.