...Ms. Macefield had little time for trendy food or fitness. Her interests were opera and Sinatra, Garbo on videotape or the classics in dusty hardback. She had history, too. If she let you in the door, she might recount her escape from a concentration camp while she was an undercover agent for the British during World War II.A fascinating back story emerges, complete with potential probate drama.
...'She was just full of stories and stories and stories about her past,' said Charlie Peck, whose friendship with Ms. Macefield began more than 20 years ago, after she gave him a collection of recordings of Benny Goodman, Paul Whiteman and other bandleaders on old 78s.
...'Everybody that’s come in and tried to talk about this has tried to create that image of her,' said Mike Semandiris, whose family has owned a chili parlor around the corner for more than 70 years. 'But she didn’t give a damn about preserving old Ballard. The lady just wanted to live in her house.'
Ms. Macefield was 86 when she died in June of pancreatic cancer. Six months later, her 108-year-old bungalow is cloaked by what will soon become an LA Fitness club and a Trader Joe’s, set to open next year.
Inside, bed sheets are still on the living room sofa where Ms. Macefield slept when she could no longer climb the stairs. Ceramic cows ornament the top of every appliance. A few copies of 'The Little House,' the children’s tale by Virginia Lee Burton of a country cabin swallowed by sprawling development, are in one corner. People she did not know would drop them off.
In a bookcase in a dark hallway there is another book, not well known like the others. In fact, it is unclear whether anyone other than its author has ever read 'Where Yesterday Began.'
Ms. Macefield paid to have her novel published in 1994, under the pen name Domilini. It is set against the backdrop of post-World War I Europe.
An introductory page begins, 'This story is for all those who have ever loved -- truly, deeply, irrevocably -- and in the thrust of disaster. For some, love simply dies -- and one moves on. But for a few, love is as lasting as the ages -- despite the impossibilities, the separation, the insured loneliness.'
The book is 1,138 pages long, not counting the musical references, from Scottish folk songs to a 1915 work by the English composer Albert W. Ketelbey, and a 16-page glossary of the French, German and Italian phrases sprinkled throughout. 'I think it was kind of a love story,' said Mr. Peck, the longtime friend. 'I never did read it.'
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