Interview with Elizabeth Zettl


Interview with Elizabeth Zettl


Elizabeth Zettl was born in Croydon. Her father was a stockbroker and she had a sister who was ten years younger. At ten Liz went to school in Hillcotte in Eastbourne until she was 18. She went to college for six months to train as a secretary and then got a job as bursar’s secretary at a boys’ school in Stow where she met her husband.
In 1942 Liz was called up to work at Marconi checking outgoing goods, working 12-hour shifts. Liz remembered on VE Day the schoolboys went missing to celebrate in London.
Liz and her husband eventually moved to Buckingham. They both had an interest in motor racing and Liz worked at Silverstone on race control until old age.




Temporal Coverage

Spatial Coverage





00:53:02 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is Thursday the 26th of April 2018 and we’re here in Buckingham with Liz Vettle, Zettl I should say who is aged one hundred, and to hear about her life in this area but everywhere really. So what are your earliest recollections of life, Liz?
EZ: I was born in Croydon. And I can’t remember the name of the road and I remember we were half way up the hill and my grandparents were at the top. And I was allowed at the age of about five I think to walk up the hill and my aunt would have rung up my grandparents and they would have come out on to the front garden and watch me cross the road safely. And I think the next memory was we used to have a milkman with a milkman’s dray coming up and I went to straight to stroke the horse of course and it bit me. And nobody had told me to feed it like that. Flat. And as soon as that horse felt my hand he opened his mouth.
CB: Not too serious I hope.
EZ: Oh no. Nothing. Just a sort of nibbling. He didn’t do it. I mean people didn’t do animal things like that. They should have told me to keep it on my face, on my flat hand.
CB: What age were you then?
EZ: I suppose about fiveish.
CB: Yeah.
EZ: That sort of an age.
CB: Yes. And where did you go to school?
EZ: Hillcote in Eastbourne. Boarding school. Before that I went to Croham Hurst for about a year. That was in Croydon. As a day girl.
CB: And what do you remember about being a boarder at a prep school?
EZ: No. It wasn’t a prep school. It was a, the [pause] we moved from Croydon to Sanderstead. And they had to take me all the way to well Croham Hurst. And then I was about ten I think and my sister was going to appear on the scene. I think they wanted probably to get rid of me and so I was then sent to Hillcote in Eastbourne where I was just a normal boarder. And it was one of these little, I suppose grotty little schools. You just went there when you were about ten and you stayed there until you were about eighteen. And I was very happy there.
CB: What was the education like?
EZ: Medium I suppose. It was nothing special. it wasn’t important for women in my day. I don’t think it was so important. I mean you learned to say please and thank you and you learned your manners, and you didn’t shout in the crowd and that sort of thing. But whether two and two made four I don’t think was frightfully important. If you made it five you talked your way out of it somehow. No. I loved my school days.
CB: What subjects did you like best?
EZ: It was a tossup between English and history. I had no time whatsoever for the sciences. And particularly poetry. I’d been brought up by my father on Kipling.
CB: And what did your father do?
EZ: Stockbroker.
CB: And your mother had lived in the area as well had she? Or before they married.
EZ: They were, I don’t know exactly where my father was, though they were all roughly speaking in Croydon. My mother more or less in the centre. My father may have been something just on the edge. But they were. I don’t know how they met. I don’t know anything much about that part. All I do know is that my grandfather died just a week or a fortnight or so before their marriage. My grandmother had died in South Africa. That’s all I know about them. My father was an only child.
CB: And what about you? Did you have brothers or sisters?
EZ: I had a sister who was ten years younger than I was.
CB: What happened to her? Same school?
EZ: She died about five years ago. No. She went to another school. She and I were like chalk and cheese. She was so sure and interested in clothes. She was alright but you know we just didn’t, our paths didn’t really cross because I was away when she was, until she was ten. And then when I got home again she went to school. We got on very well but there was no real sister’s relationship between us because we, we both said to the same person you know, I wish we’d met more. Each other more because it would have been really rather nice. But we just didn’t have the chance.
CB: And quite a big age gap.
EZ: That was it.
CB: For friends.
EZ: Well, we didn’t even meet as friends because I’d gone to Stowe. I had a resident job you see and she stayed at home. And so we got on very well but we didn’t have that close bond that some sisters have.
CB: So you liked the school.
EZ: Oh I loved the school.
CB: You liked particularly English and history. How did that prepare you for work?
EZ: Not at all.
CB: What age did you leave school?
EZ: Eighteen. Life wasn’t so serious in those days and certainly not for women.
CB: No. So what did you do when you left school?
EZ: Well, my father said to me, ‘You’re qualified for university. I can just about afford to send you but you’ve got to promise me one thing.’ So I said, ‘What’s that?’ ‘You’ve got to promise me you’ll work and work hard.’ So I said, ‘Right daddy I will promise you one thing.’ So he said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘I’ll go to university. I’ll have a whale of a time and I won’t do a stroke of work.’ So he said, ‘No university.’ He said, ‘No university.’ He said, ‘Well, you’ve got to have something in case I get knocked over by a car or something.’ And so I found a little, the quickest, my mother was a bit of a flighty person wanting to take me around parties and things like that. My father kept his head on. And so he said, ’You’ve got to have something.’ So I found that the shortest training I could have, which was six months at a college at a place in London called Kerrsanders. K E R R S A N D E R S who trained secretaries. I became a secretary. I’ve never regretted it. My first job was a disaster. It lasted a fortnight. And the second job was out of this world. Why they engaged me I cannot think because I was a secretary at Stowe School to the bursar. And I think that in those day there were something like six married masters and boys of course. No girls. I had the whale of a time there. Absolutely adored it. What on earth would a degree have done for me? So many people want their children to have degrees so they can show it off.
CB: Yes [laughs] So you arrived at Stowe in 1938.
EZ: Yes. That’s right. Then in about 19 — I seem to, the dates may be a year out but not more. It was 1942, I think. I was called up and went to Marconi’s which in those days was in High Wycombe. In what had been a furniture factory. Nice people. Deadly job. I always wanted to work with engines and get my hands dirty. That sort of thing. And I was put in a job where I didn’t have a spot of dirt. And it was, it was goods outwards. Having to check the goods as they went out. That nothing had fallen off them or anything. And I was forced on some poor people who didn’t want to have me living with them. We got on very well but they did that in those days. You just, somebody, somebody went in to a house and said, ‘I’m bringing you someone to live with you for the rest of the war.’ The poor people couldn’t do anything about it. That was the worst part of it. Actually, we got on very well. I was very happy there. But whether I was happy there or whether I wasn’t would have been trouble. The first night I went they took me somewhere else. And they expected me to share a double bed with another girl I had never seen. So instead of doing what I was told I took the other girl who I’d never seen, got on the bus and went back to my parents with her. And then they were a bit narked with me but they understood and then they put us in next door houses which was nice because she was nice. I’ve lost touch with her alas. But it was a deadly. It was a deadly job that. It really was. Just checking bits of things that were perfectly all right. You never got a bit that wasn’t. You had to be there I think at 8 o’clock in the morning and you left at 8 o’clock at night or something. You had to be there at six in the morning ‘til six at night or something. I think you went off an hour earlier on Fridays. But you had to work until lunchtime on Saturdays. Some people were having to work on Sundays as well. I don’t think I ever did a Sunday. I was lucky because high Wycombe never had any bombs. We never heard any bangs or anything. But while I was at Stowe we had eight bombs there. Do you know that?
CB: Where did they fall at Stowe?
EZ: We had a delightful house master called Capel-Cure, and he was a very avid cricketer. And the poor man he built a little willow plantation because he wanted to make cricket bats when he retired. And the first one was plumb on his willows. And it was, do you know Stowe? Well, you know where the, there’s a partition between the two lakes? As you’re going away from the school the first one fell just to the right. Off where the middle bits cross those lakes and it went sort of along. I think there were eight bombs and they went on a sort of line. I think obviously what they were going for probably the school because if they had been slightly further up they would have got the school. But we used to have trouble there because you see you could black out as much as you like but you can’t black out the lakes when it’s a full moon. And the Jerries used to come around and see our lakes and then use those to dive in to Coventry. But to give them their due apart from that they never tried Stowe. We had one person who we thought was a German fellow who’d been at Stowe. He once, because this plane came and swooped right down almost head height over the cricket pitch and sort of waggled his wings then off it went again. The willow thing. That was a German bombing Coventry probably. I remember going to Austria and going out to a party there once. You know how you have these sudden dead bits in a party? Well, one of these places was absolutely dead. And I, trying to start the party going again said to somebody who was there, ‘Your English is absolutely super. Where did, you must have come over to England. Where did you go?’ And you could feel the atmosphere change. And then he smiled rather ruefully, ‘Well, I’ve never been to England but I’ve flown over it.’ Fortunately everybody laughed.
CB: And that got it going.
EZ: But I don’t know. No. I met my husband when I was sticking stuff all over the windows so that they didn’t go into fragments. And then about I think I told you ten days later the whole of the south front, north front, south front, the whole of the south front was blown with these bombs. And practically every single window came out but there were no splinters. I was put into the team in which my husband was and we were all sort you know a window with three people sort of business. And that’s how I met my husband.
CB: And what was he at Stowe?
EZ: Modern language tutor.
CB: How long had he been there when you met him?
EZ: I don’t know. I think about a couple of years perhaps. I mean he’d have been there longer. I would have been there a couple of years and he’d have been there probably about another eighteen months or something. So I went there in ‘38. He went there about ’36, I think.
CB: When the war started people from Germany, Austria and other countries were temporarily interned.
EZ: Yeah.
CB: What experience did he have of that?
EZ: He didn’t. He wasn’t interned. He was a British subject by then. And Roxburgh was an incredible man. You could, one of those people when you went into a room you could feel his presence. He was an absolute delight but he was the most [pause] what’s the word I want? The person with the most personality who I think I’ve ever met. Everybody was devoted to him. And I have a feeling he’d probably pulled the strings behind Ewald, because my husband was married first but his wife had left him before I married him and they went and they searched his house and didn’t find anything. And so he was left where he was. He just got on with it. The only thing was of course he wasn’t called up. So I mean —
CB: And the person you are talking about was the headmaster.
EZ: Yeah. A fellow called Roxburgh.
CB: Right. How many boys were there at the school in those days?
EZ: It’s difficult to say because a lot of them, about hundred of them I think took off and went to live with grandparents who were all in the States. So I think there were about sort of three hundred. Three hundred and fifty. But then when the war ended there were about five hundred or five hundred and fifty. That sort of [pause] that’s my recollection.
CB: Because there was wide spread evacuations in the big cities but one doesn’t think about it so much with schools in the middle of the country.
EZ: No.
CB: What contact did you ever have with the families or the boys who were evacuated?
EZ: Well, none because none were evacuated on to us as far as I remember.
CB: What I had in mind was that the evacuation was in several phases and the first one was because of the Phoney War was a damp squib and people went out and then came back again.
EZ: Yeah.
CB: Then the more serious one when the bombing started. And then things died down apparently in people’s minds so people came back. And I’m just wondering whether any stayed in the USA all the time or actually came back to Stowe.
EZ: That I don’t know. Because I don’t think, I think I was married and I wasn’t working then up at Stowe. That would be the end. I don’t know about that at all.
CB: No. At Stowe what accommodation did you have because it’s an all boys school and —
EZ: I had a bedroom and I shared a sitting room sort of thing with the headmaster’s secretary who was under the same thing.
CB: And which, which building was that in?
EZ: Grafton.
CB: So you met your husband putting the sticky on the windows.
EZ: Yes.
CB: What happened next?
EZ: Happened next?
CB: He started chatting you up regularly did he?
EZ: Well, I don’t think so. Not really. I think [pause] I think we said we’d get married within meeting each other after ten days.
CB: Was that quick or quick?
EZ: Well, it was reasonable I suppose. Never looked back on it. Put it that way.
CB: Where did you get married?
EZ: At Staines Registry Office. He’d been married before.
CB: Yes.
EZ: But his wife had left him. And I’d never been a person who wanted to be, when I was a child I was a bridesmaid to my aunt’s wedding. A big, you know white dress and this, that and the other and I said to my mother then apparently, ‘Mummy, I don’t want a wedding like that.’ And my mother said, ‘Why ever not, dear?’ ‘Because,’ I said, ‘I’d be too thinking am I going to trip over my dress? I wouldn’t be listening to what the parson said.’ And I’ve never wanted to be the centre of the picture. And I’ve never had much luck dressing up. Just occasionally. We used to wear long dresses to the dances. That was a different matter. But otherwise. No.
CB: So, there’s rationing on and you get married so how did the proceedings work? How many people were there?
EZ: That was nearly a disaster. If we hadn’t, we lived in Dadford in the Stowe house and my husband had lunch up at Stowe because I could hardly boil a kettle. I was never hungry. I’d been totally disinterested in food. I’d never done any cooking and the rationing was on its height. So life was a little bit difficult.
CB: No ready meals in those days.
EZ: No.
CB: So what did you specialise in in time?
EZ: I cannot remember because I always loathed cooking and I’ve never been interested in food. Give me a bar of chocolate and that’s another matter. But that’s about all I need.
CB: We share the same motivation there. Yes. When you left Stowe then your husband was still at Stowe because you’d been called up. So how did that work?
EZ: He wasn’t my husband then.
CB: Ah.
EZ: That worked because I was at High Wycombe and you could get from High Wycombe to Finmere and after a certain amount of, no I think I had a taxi that used to meet me at Finmere and take me to Stowe and I used to stay with another master and his wife over the weekend. And then the next weekend I’d gone by bus to Staines to see my parents. These were alternate weekends. Wait a minute. I’ve got an idea.
CB: Just pausing now.
[recording paused]
CB: Now, we’ve just been diverted by a very nice piece of chocolate cake. Thank you. But we were, that was prompted by the question about your wedding and how that went. So you were at a Registry Office. How many people were there?
EZ: My mother and father and my favourite aunt. Then what? A week later or something, it was in the middle of term time so we didn’t have a week. We went down to Eastbourne for a couple of nights.
CB: Yes.
EZ: And we, when we came back a week later or so we had a party for about twenty or thirty people in my parent’s garden.
CB: In Staines.
EZ: In Staines. Well, Laleham.
CB: Laleham. Yes.
EZ: Yes.
CB: And of course it’s a time of rationing so how did that go?
EZ: Well, it went. I don’t know. That was up to my mother. Nothing to do with me. I wasn’t living there you see.
CB: No.
EZ: So, I didn’t know how it went. I can’t remember. But it was alright.
CB: But you weren’t, there was enough food.
EZ: Well, I suppose so. You didn’t complain in those days if there weren’t.
CB: No. Quite. Going to your Marconi experience now. After the initial difficulty over how you slept then you were placed in you said housing.
EZ: Yes.
CB: With this girl next to you.
EZ: Yes.
CB: Different houses.
EZ: Yes.
CB: Were there, was there, were there several people in the house each with their own room or how did it work?
EZ: No. I suppose they were three bedroom houses. And then there was the owners of the house and a child and me.
CB: Oh right. And what about catering there?
EZ: Yes.
CB: So did they provide the food for you?
EZ: They provided. They got paid I think.
CB: Ah right.
EZ: So I had breakfast there. I suppose we had a canteen where I had lunch and I probably had supper with them. I can’t remember.
CB: I’m just stopping a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: I believe that when you were called up before you went to Marconi then you had some training. What was it and where was it?
EZ: That’s really quite ridiculous because I cannot remember a single thing about it except that I’ve always liked using my hands and when they asked me what I wanted to do I said, ‘Be an inspector.’ As I say I thought that meant inspecting factories. And so I, when I found out what it was it was too late to change it and so I was having to have, I think it was ten weeks or something on what to do. And then funnily enough we had at the end of training we had to do a little bit of manual work too and we had to have a, we had a square and we had to put little square hole in it and I came out second of all of them.
CB: Right.
EZ: Including the ones that had been trained to do that sort of thing. Well, I wanted to and they wouldn’t let me.
CB: You were talking also about the, being in the queue when you were allocated so what was that?
EZ: Well, allocated to go to Marconi’s.
CB: What I meant was that in the initial selection there was a lady who was interviewing you and you and another lady had opposite requirements.
EZ: That was, that was after our training.
CB: Yes. Right. So what was that exactly?
EZ: Well, there was this business when we had to do some work with our hands.
CB: Yes.
EZ: I really don’t know because it didn’t strike me much training. It was more common sense than anything else.
CB: But you said there was a girl in the queue in front of you.
EZ: No. That was when they had to choose when we’d had our training.
CB: Right.
EZ: We had to choose what, no. We didn’t have to choose. We then had to find out where we were going to be sent.
CB: Yeah. So can you just tell us that story then.
EZ: Well, there was this kid in the queue in front of me and she wanted to go on living at her parent’s home in Oxford and keep her hands clean so she could do her hairdressing which was her job in the evenings. I didn’t care two hoots what I would do if I got dirty or not. I always loved engines and cars and things. And they put me on the job that she wanted. And I didn’t like that job. I didn’t want it. I knew I wasn’t going to like it so I said straight away I said, ‘Look,’ I didn’t even know her but we’d been just chatting in the queue while we waited and I said, ‘Look, this lady wants to — ’ well I explained what happened. I said, ‘I don’t care two hoots. I want to go to a — ’ this other factory. And it was a tank factory and I’d gone to see the chief inspector there. And whether he applied for me or not I don’t know. He said he would because he said he’d never heard anyone who wanted to go to that factory. And however when it came to it they wouldn’t let us swap. We hadn’t been there or anything. We were just, you know we were handed out these things and told where we were to go and the ruddy woman just wouldn’t let us swap. There was no reason. It wouldn’t have made any difference to anybody. So [pause] the people then I think were people who were, I don’t know the people who sat and told you what to do you always felt were very bossy. They probably weren’t used to that sort of thing. They’d probably been housewives who’d never had a job before or something. [pause] Is any of this of interest or making news or anything?
CB: Yes. Good.
EZ: Oh.
CB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
EZ: It doesn’t strike me that this is very —
CB: When you got to Marconi did they give you some basic training there and what was it?
EZ: I was in goods, good outwards and I just had to check these things that were going out to see they were alright. I can’t remember what they were. A lot of them were probably were it seems you know needles going this, that and the other and they should go —
CB: Dials.
EZ: Dials. That’s the word I want. Yes.
CB: Did you have to put an electrical current through them?
EZ: No.
CB: Right.
EZ: Very, very dull. I mean as I said they were nice people but it was very, very dull.
CB: Were you allowed to talk?
EZ: Oh yes.
CB: While you were working.
EZ: Yes.
CB: And what sort of break times did you have. So you started you said you worked on a shift at eight. How would the shift go?
EZ: I think we had an hour off for lunch and that was it.
CB: Tea breaks in the middle of the morning and the afternoon?
EZ: I don’t remember.
CB: Because it’s a long shift. Twelve hours.
EZ: It was a long shift. All I remember was the very nice man who was in charge of the office next to mine but he could not stop swearing. He said, ‘Oh hello. Bloody good morning.’ That’s funny. ‘That’s bloody good.’ ‘Damned good day today.’ Couldn’t stop. And of course in those days people didn’t swear.
CB: No.
EZ: Not people from my background. They didn’t swear. And I was absolutely horrified. I don’t think he’d got quite, I don’t think he did anything worse than ‘bloody’ but that to me was absolutely horrendous.
CB: And so this went on throughout the war. When the war ended what happened next?
EZ: Isn’t that funny you know? I can’t remember. I can’t remember sort of saying goodbye or walking out. What happened next? I got married I suppose.
CB: You purposefully delayed getting married until the end of the war did you?
EZ: No. Because my husband had a first wife who’d left him.
CB: Ah.
EZ: And she’d gone back to Vienna and my husband was a master at Stowe. Right in the middle of the war he had to go up with another master from Stowe and prove that he was a master at Stowe and that he was telling the truth.
CB: To London.
EZ: Yeah. I don’t know where he went to in London but he had to prove that he was who he said he was. Whether that’s in any archives up at Stowe, up in London I do not know.
CB: But before the war you said he’d become a British citizen.
EZ: British citizen. Yes.
CB: Anyway.
EZ: Before I knew him. So the whole thing was probably quite unnecessary but they had to be careful.
CB: So fast forward now to after the war. Do you remember? That was VE day. Victory in Europe Day.
EZ: Yeah.
CB: Was the 8th of May.
EZ: That was a fun day.
CB: What do you remember about that. ‘45
EZ: Well, it happened on the day that Stowe started you see.
CB: The term started.
EZ: Term started.
CB: Yeah.
EZ: And there was a lot of boys coming from Scotland and Ireland and quite a long way away and they all went missing. They were all celebrating in London. Their parents didn’t know where they were. We didn’t know where they were. And they sort of rolled up one or two days later a bit bleary eyed [laughs] It was complete and utter chaos that day. I mean the relief was tangible. The one idiot man who lived in Finmere I think it was and of course if there was any trouble coming the church bells rang. And he rang them in the celebration for the end of the war [laughs] Dear, oh dear. You know if you wanted anything about the war just watch Dad’s Army.
CB: Very entertaining.
EZ: It’s only a little exaggeration. If you didn’t sort of take the killings that went on outside it was very much like that in England.
CB: Was there a Dad’s Army team at Stowe?
EZ: There were Dad’s Army teams all over the place I think. Yes. There must have been because I know one master got it in the neck because he got a bit, we used to have a lot of trouble overhead at Stowe simply because they were going in to, I told you from the lakes going in, and this master was told to send the boys into shelters. And in those days you didn’t have all these electronics things. It was up to various people who were in charge to know what bell. I mean it was sort of originally it was one bell for the end of class, two bells for the beginning of class and this was all adapted. And in the middle of an air raid on Coventry the headmaster said, ‘Just send the boys down to the shelters. It could get a bit nasty.’ And the idiot master pressed the wrong lot of buttons and sent the little lot we had for fire brigade up on to the roof in the middle of an air raid. He was not a popular master. Then of course we had the bombs at Stowe. And then we had another bomb which nobody seems to remember. Did I tell you about the third bomb? Just one. You know when you go up to Stowe and what’s it called? The Oxford Road. And it goes right across the front of Stowe. Not there. It was the far side. And if you go a little way along just a part of the gate that you see go into Stowe. And by that there used to be a little shed. And Farmer Davis had bought himself a new elevator. And we think what happened was a plane was going over, saw the elevator thought it was a company you see and dropped a bomb there. Well, he missed it but he got near enough to it to blow it on top of the shed. It was completely undamaged. And how the heck do you get I down again. I don’t know how they ever got it off the top of the shed. But nobody seems to remember that now.
CB: So the end of the war came. What did you do then?
EZ: I got married.
CB: You got married. How quickly?
EZ: I can’t remember. Do you know I can’t remember the date I got married. I haven’t got much memory for that sort of thing. Put it behind me. I got married and that was that. I think I got married in 1947. Yes. We had been tinkering about with the divorce. But then I didn’t do anything for a bit. Then what did I do? I must have done something. I wish you’d seen me a year earlier. My memory has gone so much quickly since then [pause] Well, I think I was on the reception at Stowe for a bit.
CB: You went back there.
EZ: Hmmn?
CB: You went back to there to do that.
EZ: I think so yes, because I do remember a lady coming up to me and said she wanted to speak. No. This must have been before the end of the war. She wanted to speak to the headmaster and there were no mobile telephones then. I said, ‘Well, he’s watching the rugger match up on the north front.’ I said, ‘Wander in and say to him whatever you want to say to him.’ She said, ‘Oh, yes. I will. I must see him you see because my husband committed suicide this morning but I’ll watch the rugger match first.’ I think that was the only time I had the little [laughs] voice went. That was exactly my reaction. The only time I’ve ever ever been lost for words I think.
CB: Extraordinary.
EZ: Apparently they’d lived apart for years or something, you know. I wasn’t to know that. I didn’t know whether to say congratulations or I’m so sorry. But there we are.
CB: So using your skill and judgement you just kept quiet.
EZ: That was a funny, one of the funniest moments of my career. Otherwise, I’m not a very interesting person at all.
CB: Did, did your husband become a housemaster?
EZ: No.
CB: So you never had a school house allocated to you.
EZ: Not a school, a house owned by the school but not a school house.
CB: Right,
EZ: No. He was a tutor,
CB: Yes. But —
EZ: It was the people who, I don’t say they had the brains of my husband but they weren’t so specified as my husband.
CB: And what was the house provided by the school like? It was next to the school.
EZ: I loved it. We wanted to be in Dadford.
CB: This was in Dadford.
EZ: What was their name? Phillipa and Chris. Do you know Chris and Phillipa? They live in it now. I can’t remember their name. Do you know them? Grooms Cottage. Up Dadford. That was my, we wanted to buy it but the school wouldn’t sell it in those days. I think they made a great mistake selling off all those houses actually because they must have been a great, especially when houses are so expensive it must have been wonderful to know that you were going to be able to rent a house there as well.
CB: Absolutely.
EZ: But by that time it was too late.
Other: Atkinson.
EZ: Hmmn?
Other: Atkinson.
EZ: Atkinson. That’s right yeah. I remember him as a boy and head of school. Then a master of the school. Yes. No. Then we saw, I’d been terribly lucky because since I was married I lived for six months in Bourton Mill which was at the end of a lease they must have had for it. Then we got this Dadford. And then we came here.
CB: In to Buckingham.
EZ: Yeah. So I’ve only had three moves and the first one was a nothing move. We moved in this big place. We walked into it. It had already been lived in and all furnished and all so all we had to do when we moved the first time for me was just to get rid of stuff because it was a smaller house.
CB: After you got married what interests did you pursue?
EZ: Well, I mean, motor racing. I don’t know if the motor racing started then. I worked for Silverstone. Yes. I forgot that. I worked at Silverstone. I retired at ninety two. I love motor racing. I’d love to have driven. I was too old to start. Fortunately my husband was the same. So we used to go up every single Saturday and every single weekend we got to Silverstone. Whatever there was.
CB: What role did you perform at Silverstone?
EZ: Race control.
CB: Quite a bit of power in that then.
EZ: Not really. No. You were on the telephones. You had four telephones. And they were the little groups on each corner with medical [unclear] Oh various things like that. And they, behind, standing behind us were the heads of the department and we were just on the telephones and we had to log everything that came in and everything that went out. And the bosses behind us had to deal with any emergencies that happened. I loved that job. I didn’t give that up until I was ninety two and I think I told you somebody gave me the wrong information and fortunately I picked it up. But no. Motor racing was always the first thing I was interested in. And of course dogs.
CB: So which dogs did you particularly like?
EZ: Dalmations.
CB: Right. And where did you get them from and what ages?
EZ: Where did I get them from? I can’t remember the first one. The first. Oh, the first one. I don’t know how I got it but I got it from a flat above a shop just outside Hampton Court.
CB: Oh.
EZ: How I heard about it I do not know. And that was Rash. That was that one. Up there.
CB: Yeah.
EZ: And then when he went I got Elliot and that was, he was the [unclear] one. And then they sort of well you see them sort of all around the room.
CB: And you had each one painted.
EZ: Yes.
CB: By a friend of yours.
EZ: Yes.
CB: Always the same painter is it?
EZ: Yes.
CB: And who was that?
EZ: Oh dear. I think it’s time you went isn’t it? [laughs]
CB: It is.
EZ: No. I can’t think of it. Well, I do know her name.
CB: It doesn’t matter. We’ll have a look.
EZ: Bostock.
CB: Bostock.
EZ: Yes. I know that.
CB: Yes.
EZ: Sally Bostock.
CB: Sally Bostock.
EZ: Sally Bostock. I know because I thought at one time she was a relation of Dr Bostock but there was no. Nothing. No. You are taxing my memory. I’ve been thinking about things I haven’t [laughs]
CB: Well, I think we’ll give you a rest. It’s very nice sitting next to your greyhound here.
EZ: No. I was perfectly happy. Really. I was only making a silly joke.
CB: Well, Liz thank you very much for a most interesting conversation and a lot of people will be intrigued because people have no concept of what happened in those days and what women did in contributing to the war effort.
EZ: Well, I suppose it was contributing but it was a job that I would have had. You know. I couldn’t have afforded not to work or my parents couldn’t have afforded it then. I think people don’t realise possibly what a difference that, was it ’23 or ’26? That big slump.
CB: ’26. Yes.
EZ: ’26.
CB: Going on to ’29.
EZ: Well, we had, unfortunately we had just bought a house in Laleham with six bedrooms and two bathrooms and my poor mother was used to having sort of servants and all found herself left with this and no morning help. And we loved it dearly so we staggered along with it. But the whole way of life for people in my money thing. It all rather sort of changed. I mean I don’t think I would have grown up with any idea of doing a job. No idea. It was my father who had the foresight to say, ‘Well, there might be a slump. We don’t know. If there is and I might lose my money you’ve got to have something so you can do it.’ And then of course thanks to his foresight, his foresight I was prepared. But I don’t know what would have happened if not. I think he lost about twenty thousand pounds in two days and that was an awful lot of money in those days. But no, I was, I’d been lucky all my life and the way it turned out. I’ve never wanted a lot of money. I mean yes I want to be able to pay the bills.
CB: It’s alright. It’s ok. Yes. I’ll just stop it there thank you.
[recording paused]
CB: With all those boys to look after that sort of wore you out I suppose in some ways, did it? When you were at Stowe.
EZ: Never. I loved it.
CB: Yeah.
EZ: I didn’t have, I didn’t have much touch, you see. I was on the telephone. Bursar’s secretary. And then my bursar left and I moved up in to the, it was when people were being called up I moved up on to the reception and that was lovely. Everybody coming in and everybody coming out and I could watch out of the window what was happening. I had a little office actually in the north hall then. Now it’s in the room next door which isn’t nearly such fun because you don’t see anybody except the people who are coming to see you. But oh no I’m one of these lucky people who have always had a job that I’ve liked. Or if I hadn’t have the job I liked I had people I liked doing the job with.
CB: Did you keep up with your sister and her children or —
EZ: I keep up with one of her children. She died about five years ago. She was ten years younger than I was. And I keep up with one of them. The younger one. She’s really nice. The other one’s a bit odd and she’s fifty nine now and she’s got Alzheimers.
CB: Oh dear. So soon.
EZ: Yes. She’s just. just going into it now. Its apparently a rather rare form of that but you can’t take your eyes off her. I mean she’s, in the middle of the night they stayed here some time ago. In the middle of the night, I’ve got two bedrooms and opposite the two bedrooms was the well you’ve been up there.
CB: Yeah.
EZ: To the loo. And she got lost.
CB: Oh.
EZ: Came into my bedroom instead. That was some years ago. So I think they think it’s because she had measles very, very badly apparently when she was young.
CB: Oh really. Yeah.
EZ: Well, I had measles. It didn’t matter. But that seems, that strain seems to have been awful.
CB: Well, Liz Zettl, you’ve got an appointment coming up so thank you very much indeed.
EZ: Well —
CB: For what you’ve said and we’ll stop there. Thank you.
EZ: Well, you can always come back.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Elizabeth Zettl,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 4, 2023,

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