Stephanie von Trapp Derbyshire

Stephanie von Trapp Derbyshire

Born 1959

Stephanie von Trapp Derbyshire, 2013. Photograph by Serena’s Studio.

Pop! We have to go!

I went to school in Fall River, Park Street Dominican Academy, not a blade of grass to be seen. I’m a country girl, and it was horrible! We’d go from living at the beach, literally, all summer, and being outside, to having to go to school in a city. So my father would drive us. He would get out of bed, literally, like ten minutes before we had to leave. “Pop! We have to go!” There was just a lot of routine. We got up in the morning. My mother fed us breakfast, cereal whatever, very simple. Made our own lunches in the kitchen, big, big kitchen we have actually in my mom’s house. Then we got in the car, and drove to the city. My father would play only classical music, and we listened to Morning Pro Musica. Then as we turned the corner where the junction of 24 and 81 is now, there was a dump, literally, the city dump was there. So you’d drive through and there were sea gulls everywhere. As we turned that corner, we would say a prayer. It was like my father turned the wheel and we all went “In the name of the Father and the…” It was just this thing we did on the way to school.

Dr. von Trapp’s Office

We were not allowed to go into the office. We’d be out in the yard, and people would come up the sidewalk and park across the street at Eddie Cyr’s parking lot at Stonebridge Dishes. There were these lilacs and one day Chris, my brother, and I got the brainiac idea to get the garden hose and shoot water over the lilacs onto the cars driving by, until a patient walked by, and said, “Do you know what your children are doing out there?”

If mom was mad at me and she would sic my brother after me, I’d go screaming in there, “Pop!” Patients say, “Oh, I remember when you were little coming in naked! I remember you coming into the office.”

Visiting the Lodge

We’d go visit my family in Vermont. We’d go to the Trapp Family Lodge every year, right when school got out. Sometimes I’d be pulled out of school a day or two early. We always left on a Thursday because it was my father’s day off. So if school didn’t end on a Thursday we were pulled out and that was just THE BEST.  We’d go up in my father’s 98 Olds. That’s the vacation we did every year. We’d stay at the lodge for a week, and I’d raise hell, nothing horrible, just naughty. “Steffie, do not hang out at the front desk during the whole vacation!” “Ok, I promise.” Of course I would go there every day and flirt with the front desk guy.

Adventures with Winston Cook

Winnie and I were best buds. I didn’t go to school until I was six years old, so we would play all the time. We would climb trees. He’d convince me to go jump into a bush off the front porch. Boys don’t get hurt. I was like, “Ow!” once I lay day in a puddle in their driveway in the winter in my snowsuit. Once home my excuse was, “He dared me.”

Across the street from us was Stonebridge Dish Store. It was owned by Eddie Cyr and his wife Olive. He was a hysterically funny man. He became good friends with my parents. He would offer coffee to his customers. Winnie Cook and I would go over there and have coffee at the age of eight or nine.

One year we decided we’d go door to door singing to people for money. We sang the tune to the cigarette commercial Winston! Winston tastes good like- no, Winston’s taste bad like the one I just had! We would also sing Hello, Dolly! These were things we did because we had limited television!

Mr. Case

Across the street was Mr. Case. He sold antiques and was a carpenter and a furniture maker. He and his wife Grace were never able to have children. The village kids would go there every Saturday. I would go over there with Winnie Cook, or my brother Chris, and we would hang out in his shop. He would only let us sand. It was so depressing. We would ask, “Can I make something?” “No. Here,” and he’d give us something to sand. It was hysterical. He was so adamant. He had all of our heights on the doorway of the shop. I wanted so much to get that before they demolished the building, but I didn’t get it.

We would make our Christmas present there every year. You know my mother still has a wooden tissue box that Mr. Case made. We’d trade. I’d trade weeding his garden, which I hated, or cleaning his shop. I’d go around with a ShopVac and cleaned his shop for him while he would make our various and sundry Christmas presents for our families. He was so sweet.

I wanted in the worst way a wooden trunk to put all my horse stuff in. So I traded weeding his three gardens for this horse trunk. That was a long, long event. I think he finally graced half of the third tgarden. He’s said, “That’s fine.” I still have the trunk.

I also had a tree house across the street, where Stonebridge Dishes was, that I built with the help of Mr. Case. I used to measure the boards and drag them over to his shop. He’d saw them and I’d bring them back. Every year I would get the most incredible case of poison ivy because it wound up the trees. You’d think I’d learn, absolutely not!

Summer and Winter

I do remember, and I loved this, we went to St. Catherine’s Church in Little Compton in the winter and in the summer we went to St. John’s in Westport. I used to say we had a summer home and a winter home but we don’t move. We’d go to Little Compton in the winter and then come summer, we’d go to Elephant Rock Beach which is in Westport, and really never went up to the Commons. I didn’t go into Wilbur’s Store and the Commons Lunch until maybe twenty years ago. I’d never been. 

Based on an oral history interview with Stephanie von Trapp Derbyshire.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

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