Donaldson, SC was once a sleepy little community just outside the city of Greenville. It was a community that shared its resources between farming and the textile industry. It was, that is, until the Air Force established a base, complete with hangars and run-ways there. Donaldson was initially known as Greenville Army Air base and was used by the United States Army Air Force's Third Air Force as a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber training airfield during World War II. Renamed Greenville AFB following the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in 1947, and later renamed Donaldson AFB, it was home to C-124 Globemaster II transports and called "The Airlift Capital of the World" for its role in the Berlin airlift, Korean War, and Cold War, being assigned to both Tactical Air Command (TAC) and the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). It was closed as an active USAF installation in 1963. The base is now known as Donaldson Center Airport and the Donaldson Center Industrial Park.
When Jerry and Lisa moved back to the Greenville area, they did so with mixed feelings. Jerry was happy to return to an area in which he had grown up as well as being close to his mother and family. Lisa had been promised a good job at the hospital in town as a registered nurse. They brought with them their two daughters, Claire and Rachel as well as their nanny, Taimi and her son Rick. Taimi and Rick had been with the family since before the move from Pamplico and were as much a part of the family as anyone else by now.
They had planned the move after Jerry had found a beautiful home in the Travelers Rest area, with a pond in which he and the kids could do some fishing on hot summer days. Four bedrooms, 2 baths It sat in a small valley on fifteen lovely acres with pasture for the horse. It even had a ready made chicken coop! (Jerry had several hens he kept for their eggs.) However, after selling their small farm in Pamplico, the widow that owned the property decided that she couldn't bring herself to sell, so they found themselves scrambling to find a rental til they could locate another property they liked.
Almost as a miracle, they stumbled across the farmhouse that sat on what later became the air base. It was a two story that had seen a hundred years of husbands, wives and children come and go. It had been expanded at least once, in the ‘forties when the owners had added a large ‘family room’ off the kitchen. Two baths, 4 bedrooms, living room with a large Craft stove and a huge eat-in kitchen as well as just the ambiance of a home this old made this a fine temporary residence. A beautiful, old clapboard with a covered porch across the front. A fixer-upper, but beautiful, just the same.
As you pulled off the side street when approaching the house, your first impression was of the grounds. A large, stately Magnolia tree greeted you in the circular drive with a boxwood hedge along the border. What had once been a well manicured lawn had long since gone to weeds and the dandelions had all but overtaken what portion the wild onions had not claimed. Oaks and pines dotted the landscape of the acre plus yard. A worn path that had been gravel at one time, led to the porch that was obviously intended for swings and rocking chairs. The family was taken by the sight at first glance. But this old place had much more to offer than stateliness and possibilities.
As the family moved their furniture and belongings from the U-Haul to the house, they began claiming their individual spaces. Claire and Rachel were immediately drawn to the bedroom off to the right at the top of the stairs while Taimi decided on the room at the far end of the upstairs hallway. Rick had already staked his claim to the room next to his "sisters". That left Jerry and Lisa with what was believed to have been the formal dining room at one time. This was located off the living room and the hall that ran from the front of the house to the back. Heavy drapes made for a workable petition for privacy from the living room and a door let into the hall. Just right.
The family found that moving in could be hard work and called it an early evening after setting up the beds. Unpacking and placement of the rest of the furniture could wait for the morrow.
Two in the morning and something woke Lisa up. A sound, maybe. But she was sure that something was not right. She and Jerry had taken the downstairs bedroom that was just off the living room. It also connected with the kitchen via a short hallway.
That was it. Not a sound, but a smell! It was the aroma of someone baking bread. It was wonderful, but she wondered what could have prompted Taimi to be up at this hour? Then another thought struck her. There was no oven for Taimi to bake in. Matter of fact, there was no stove at all since they had left theirs in Pamplico believing that any rental house would surely have a stove. So where was this smell coming from?
Lisa, always curious, switched on the small lamp she had placed on the floor next to the bed and made her way into the hall leading back by the kitchen. As she neared the rear of the house, the aroma grew until she was convinced that she would find loaves of fresh baked bread cooling on the table, stove or no stove. She entered from the hall to find .. nothing. She got up, fully awake now, and made her way down the hall to the kitchen. She peeked around the corner, not really sure what she expected to see. What she did see, however, was nothing. No non-existent person cooking on a non-existent stove with her non-existent apron hanging around her non-existent body. Even the smell seemed to disappear. It was gone so quickly that Lisa wondered if she had been dreaming it. After all, yesterday had been tiring and the snack they had all had before retiring didn't go far. Sure, that was it. Wishful thinking and hunger pangs.
She didn't say anything about it the next morning, knowing that she would be embarrassed for the others to find out her mind had been playing tricks on her. After all, she was a college educated, very logical person. She was not given to flights of fancy. It was actually Taimi that brought up the subject as she made breakfast on the two burner camp stove that had made the trip with them.
"Did anyone smell anything, last night?" she asked.
Lisa was immediately attentive. "Such as?"
"Well, it was weird", Taimi said. "It smelled like fresh baked. I thought about getting up to check it out, but then I heard one of you up and figured you were doing something. So I rolled over and went back to sleep."
Lisa then related her experience of the night before and she and Taimi agreed that it was strange but probably nothing to be concerned about. It may have been coming from a neighbor's house and just transported on the breeze. That is, until two nights later, when again the family had been busy all day unpacking and arranging things to suit them in the house. This time it was Jerry that woke to the wonderful smell of cooking. But not to bread baking, no it was spaghetti. It was of spaghetti sauce that had been cooking for several hours. Rich and full of garlic and herbs and spices. Wonderful, still, no stove. He woke Lisa (She just couldn't get a full nights sleep.) to make sure he was not imagining it. He wasn't. Oh, well.. back to sleep and figure it out in the morning.
These two episodes began a great time in this old farm house. Over the next year they had several events that we shall relate a bit later on. None of which caused any terror or danger, but were, none the less, a bit weird.
Speaking of weird, it so happens that Jerry is a relative of the Hendersons that we write so much about as well as being the son of Clara from the story ‘After the Game’. Hmm… Seems to run in the family.